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5 Forgotten Gems From Jay-Z

There are moments in an MC’s career that often go unnoticed despite how big they are. For Jay-Z, it’s been hard for him to stay under-the-radar in terms of lyrics. However, with over 10 studio albums under his belt, not every Jay song or verse has that global attention like “Dirt Off Your Shoulders”, “Big Pimpin”, “Song Cry”, or even “Ain’t No Nigga” has. For every radio cut, there are gems buried on the albums that only true Hov fans will and can appreciate.

Here are 5 Jay-Z gems that often go unmentioned

Peoples Court (DJ Clue: Backstage Mixtape)

Talk about a hidden gem from one of the greatest. “People’s Court” was slept-on. This track is truly for hardcore Jay fans as it never made it to any of his solo studio albums. This came from DJ Clue’s: Backstage Mixtape that accompanied the ever-popular Hard Knock Life Tour. Jay displayed lyrical wittiness that has him atop may list as the GOAT with bars like “No flow’s sicker/no cell can hold Jigga/ Since I dropped Reasonable Doubt/ no court can convict us/ No contest in a rhyme-fest/ I’m best/ Under oath raise my right hand/ and I spit it (Honest).”

Many Mc’s have claimed to be the best but to explain that in a court of law reference was remarkable. Back then, Jay was letting folks know that he was not only here to take the crown but also to stay.

Why We Die (Anarchy)

Jay has teamed up with DMX in the past and each time it has been deemed a classic. But this go-round, he entered the booth with X and Busta Rhymes on “Why We Die” off Busta’s Anarchy album. This is not a radio cut, nor was there a video, and for most, this track flew under-the-radar. But that doesn’t mean Jay didn’t make his presence felt with two other heavyweights.

“Ugh, yo, they say the good die young in the hood where I’m from/ I only got one question to that: Why the fuck am I here/ I look to the air, ask God, “Love me, please/
But in reality, only people that hug me is thieves.” Jay wasn’t playing on this track as he spoke about the emotional toll of growing up in the hood. Despite what many may feel, we’re surrounded by people who say they love us but at the same time those same people are the ones to end our life.

Do You Wanna Ride (Kingdome Come)

Jay has always spoken highly of his Day One’s in his songs. On “God Did”, he went into detail regarding his past and the present he and his friends are in now. But it was on “Do You Wanna Ride”, that Jay took a blank canvas and painted a picture of the friendship/bond between him and Emory Jones. Jones, at the time, was still serving time in Federal Prison, and for those who didn’t know who Emory was, Jay explained precisely who he was to him.

“We show success/ please live through me/ See I’m the eyes for Emory/ keep him alive/ (This is a collect call) So every time I press 5/ All he wanna hear is his boy talk fly/ Up in the fed, and still holdin’ his head/ So when he hits the streets he gon’ eat through this bread/ Now let’s ride.”

Ride or Die (Vol 2..Hard Knock Life)

Hip Hop has always been a battleground. In the late ’90s, there was a battle waging between Jay-Z and Mase. While neither really mentioned the other’s name, it was well-known in the Hip Hop community that jabs were being thrown by both artists. As good as Mase was in his heyday, he was no match for Jay. On Jay Z: Vol 2… Hard Knock Life, Hov came with a crushing verse on “Ride or Die” that put Mase in his place.

With his hits like “Hard Knock Life”, “Money, Cash, Hoes”, and “Money Ain’t a thing”, it was easy to forget the wordplay of “Ride or Die”. Over the years, the Jay Z and Nas beef has taken center stage as one of Hip Hop’s best battles but when Jay came at Mase with bars “Always gotta be the weakest nigga out the crew/ I probably make more money off yo’ album than you/ You see the respect I get every time I come through/ Check your own videos, you’ll always be number two/ Niggas talking real greasy on them R&B records”, you knew the gloves were off.

Meet The Parents (The Blueprint 2)

For years, many knocked the storytelling or lack thereof of Jay. But with “Meet The Parents”, he took it to another level. While it was not deemed a classic like “One Mic” by Nas, “Meet The Parents” was still something unique and yet, slept-on at the same time. It was a story regarding Isis, a hustler, and their son. From the start, Jay was in his bag on this one spitting bars like “Let’s take a trip down memory lane at the cemetery/ Rain, grey skies/ seems at the end of every young black life is this line/ Damn, him already?”

Hov put together a tale of what happens when black men are not in the lives of their sons. Isis felt the pain of Mike not being around and in the end, their son was killed by a gun pulled by his own father. This was an approach Jay took presumably after he was called out for not telling more stories in his records. “Six shots into his kin out of the gun/ Niggas be a father, you’re killin’ your son/ Six shots into his kin out of the gun/Niggas, be a father, you killin’ your sons.”



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