Thirteen solo studio albums. Over two decades in the game. The Only Rapper To Rewrite History Without a Pen has given us enough scripture off the dome to fill ten phone books. The detractors love to mention Jay-Z's missteps, but the math will always be on his side: the prolific material outweighs, heavily, any perceived duds. There are so many gems to sift through, the very idea of sitting down to definitively rank his material is daunting and anxiety-inducing—especially for a superfan. Ranking songs almost seems easy by comparison of what Angel Diaz and I set out to do. Verses? My God. Even the so-called "bad albums" still contain head-spinning bars that brim with new layers on listen 17. Then there are the iconic radio freestyles, remixes, and features.
If it were up to us, this list would be in the hundreds, and that'd still only account for the undeniable grade-As. Overt lyrical dazzlers versus mainstream-ready "dumbed down for double dollars." Multiple, equally excellent "Dead Presidents." New fare that was classic-on-arrival, like his show-stopping Meek Mill feature. We settled on 80, and believe me we'll be losing sleep over the other classics we could've added for weeks to come. But what we have here is undeniable, with zero pandering to widespread public opinion. Just the best of the best, hands down, after months of whittling. Your fave probably couldn't fill a 50.