Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

For a rapper who often likens himself to Michael Jordan, The Black Album was Jay-Z's moment in the clutch, and he delivered. Having released The Blueprint, The Blueprint II, The Best Of Both Worlds and the S. Carter Collection mixtape all in the preceding two-year span, Jay capped the run with one of the best albums of his distinguished career. The added pressure of The Black Albumbeing his supposed swan song didn't seem to faze him one bit.

Nearly 10 years later, The Black Album still boasts many of Jay-Z's biggest crowd-pleasers, including “Public Service Announcement,” “99 Problems,” "Encore," and "Dirt Off You Shoulder." Its greatness was bittersweet at the time—as Jay opted for retirement—but for a generation of rap fans, The Black Album is what elevated Jay from one of the best rappers alive to the greatest of all time.