Producer: Rick Rubin
Album: The Black Album
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam


In the aughts, hip-hop production was somewhat of an afterthought for Rick Rubin. Rubin rose to prominence in the early '80s as co-founder of Def Jam Records and producer for LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys but he had moved on to work with artists in about every genre but hip-hop, including Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Although Ruben hadn't produced a traditional hip-hop record in almost ten years, Jay-Z was able to persuade Rick to get behind the boards to contribute a track for what was to be Jay's final album (Remember: rappers never retire. Ever). What ensued was nothing short of a masterpiece that was an obvious nod to Def Jam's yesteryears and the stripped-down sound Rick helped create.

The song plays off the multiple meanings of the word bitch, including: music critics, female dogs, and men who probably pee sitting down. Borrowing a hook from Ice-T and some bars from Bun B, Jay pulled no punches with “99 Problems.” It even incorporated a storyline from his days as a d-boy and his dealings with a K9 unit. Where so many artists try and fail to recreate a rock oriented sound (We see you Weezy!), Jay-Z overachieved, as “99 Problems” was an immaculately crafted throwback to the beginnings of hip-hop.