20 Underrated Jay-Z Songs

Jay-Z f/ Meli'sa Morgan "Can't Knock The Hustle (Fool's Paradise Remix)" (1996)

AlbumReasonable Doubt
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Priority
Producer: Irv Gotti
One of Irv Gotti's earliest production credits (at least, after a Mic Geronimo single) was "Can I Live" on Reasonable Doubt, which pretty much sums up Irv's take on rap music: Swipe something reasonably obvious (in this case, Isaac Hayes' cover of Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love") and flip it an in immediate, hooky way. There's nothing intricate or unexpected about it, but damn if it doesn't jam anyway. When he released his remix of "Can't Knock the Hustle," he stuck to this core idea, grabbing the primary groove from Meli'sa Morgan's '80s hit "Fool's Paradise" —the same song that Mary J. Blige was singing on the chorus.

By removing "Can't Knock the Hustle"'s original Marcus Miller sample, Irv made the song one step less clever. But in so doing, also made it more grippingly immediate, transforming the song from a darkly enigmatic street single to a bright, purposeful summer jam. This remix might have ultimately remained forgotten, but The Roots' called it back on Jay-Z's Unplugged effort, shifting to Irv's version partway through their performance—showing exactly what it provided that the original was missing. —David Drake

Tags: jay-z
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