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The 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Beats of All Time

84. Jay-Z "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" (1998)

Producer: The 45 King
Album: Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Despite being responsible for a mercifully short-lived trend of sampling showtunes, The 45 King's flip of this Annie cast recording provided Jigga with his first international hit. After seeing a commercial for a new Broadway run of the musical, Mark realized that the theme song would sound dope with some drums, and bagged the LP for 25 cents when he next spotted it during a digging mission at the Salvation Army. Originally intended for his own album, Kid Capri began playing a test-pressing of the beat while on tour with Jay-Z, who promptly contacted Mark James and purchased the track. Hard drums and an infuriatingly catchy sample gave S.C. the platform he needed to unleash the next stage of his plan for world domination.

Related: The 100 Best Jay-Z Songs

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