It’s been a dozen years since Jay Z proclaimed, “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man.” The Brooklyn MC’s biggest commodity has always been his manipulation of the English language, which he’s parlayed into an empire. Over the course of 12 solo albums (including one double LP), four collaborative projects, a soundtrack release, and countless guest verses, Jay has undoubtedly moved a lot of verbal product. And when he speaks, people listen.
The mere mention of brand or trend by Hov on wax can cause a seismic shift in the culture. From the champagne wishes for Cristal on ice on Reasonable Doubt’s “Feelin’ It” to the public dismissal of throwback jerseys in favor of button-ups on The Black Album’s “What More Can I Say” to the overt appreciation of fine art on Magna Carta… Holy Grail’s “Picasso Baby,” Jay’s verbal co-signs are a tour de force of influence. Time and time again, he’s set the trends that we all follow.
With the release of his thirteenth solo album 4:44 upon us, it’s a fitting time to break down the language, life, and times of Jay Z, and give context to the people, places, and things in the God MC’s worldview. This is the Encyclopedia of Jay Z.