Producer: Rick Rubin
Album: The Black Album
In the Aughts, hip-hop production was somewhat of an afterthought for Rick Rubin. Having risen to prominence in the early '80s as co-founder of Def Jam Records and producer for LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys, Rubin 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 Rubin 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 supposedly going 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 the stripped-down sound Rick helped create in Def Jam's yesteryears.
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.