27. Jay-Z f/ Mary J. Blige "Can't Knock The Hustle" (1996)
Producer: Knobody, The Hitmen Album: Reasonable Doubt Label: Roc-A-Fella/Priority
If you're a newjack trying to break into the rap game, there's no better way to kick off your album than with a feature from Mary J. Blige. However, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul's record label, MCA/Universal, almost baller-blocked the feature from happening, as they thought it would be a bad look for their Queen to appear on a track with an lowly peasant. Luckily, industry vet Combat Jack was able to call in a favor and clear the vocals, but with no further involvement from Mary (including advertisements, music videos, etc).
No Mary J for the video? No problem. The big-budget, black and white, Hype Williams–directed clip portrayed Jay as a larger-than-life lady killer and all-around dapper don—proving that he needed to share the spotlight with no one. The imagery in the video would set the tone for how the public perceived Jigga throughout the rest of his career: Calm, collected, and untouchable.