45 Best Jay-Z Songs

Best Jay-Z Songs

Jay-Z is on the short list of the greatest rappers of all time. Also using pseudonyms Hova, Jiggaman, and S-Dot, he has dominated the airwaves, topped the charts, and collected Grammy after Grammy over the past four decades. Here are some of the best Jay-Z songs in no particular order.


“Who You Wit” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 1997

The Jay-Z style of the 1990s centered on boasting about women, money, and jewelry. The song “Who You Wit” from his album “In My Lifetime, Vol. 1” hits all three of those topics as Jay wows us with his lavish lifestyle. In addition, the song was used in the promotion of the movie “Sprung” from the same year, and Jay-Z found clever ways to incorporate its title in his lyrics.

“Jigga What, Jigga Who?” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 1999

Jay-Z is famous for his rapid-fire delivery, and “Jigga What, Jigga Who?” perfectly showcases that. He flashes his lyrical brilliance with a breathless flow, spitting bar after bar over a powerful Timbaland beat. The song features an uncredited feature from rapper Amil, who raps the chorus.

“Public Service Announcement (Interlude)” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2003

“Public Service Announcement (Interlude)” is a song from Jay-Z’s album “The Black Album.” The track developed a cult following and became one of his signature songs. Over a Just Blaze beat without a chorus, Jay drops two verses that remind listeners that he is one of the best rappers.

“Big Pimpin’” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2000

Jay-Z brags about having sexual relations with women and then abandoning them in “Big Pimpin’” from his album “Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter.” The song features guest verses from legendary southern rap group UGK and an unforgettable beat from producer Timbaland.

“Dirt off Your Shoulder” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2003

Jay-Z instructs his listeners to ignore the critics and haters on the track “Dirt off Your Shoulder” from his album “The Black Album.” The gesture of figuratively brushing dirt off your shoulder is an expression of self-confidence and pride. The song and accompanying dance moves became cultural touchstones.

“Roc Boys” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2007

Jay-Z toasts to his success in “Roc Boys” from his album “American Gangster.” The song is a celebratory boast about achieving wealth and success from a life of crime, drug dealing, and violence.

“I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)”

Song Year: 2000

“I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” is a playful, upbeat track from Jay-Z’s album “The Dynasty: Roc La Familia.” The song features producer Pharell Williams on the chorus, who also produces the track with his group The Neptunes. This song helped launch the wildly successful Jay-Z/Pharrell partnership over the following decades.

“God Did” by DJ Khaled featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, John Legend, and Fridayy

Song Year: 2022

“God Did” is technically a DJ Khaled track, but make no mistake: this is Jay-Z’s song. Hova jumps on this track from Khaled’s album “God Did” and unleashes a four-minute verse, taking listeners through his journey from drug dealer to billionaire. Jay-Z proves that at age 53, he hasn’t lost a step with his instantly-iconic verse.

“Brooklyn’s Finest” by Jay-Z featuring Notorious B.I.G.

Song Year: 1996

“Brooklyn’s Finest” is a song from Jay-Z’s debut album “Reasonable Doubt.” It features the late, great Notorious B.I.G., who, along with Jay-Z, is on the short list of the greatest rappers of all time. The two legends trade verses back and forth at a frenetic pace, with Biggie slipping in a subtle diss of his rival 2Pac.

“Umbrella” by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z

Song Year: 2007

Jay-Z leads off the track “Umbrella” from R&B singer Rihanna’s album “Good Girl Gone Bad” with a verse about his diamonds, wealth, and flying private G-5 jets. The song launched a Riri-Hova partnership, and the two would go on to collaborate on several more successful songs over the next decade.

“Can’t Knock the Hustle” by Jay-Z featuring Mary J. Blige

Song Year: 1996

“Can’t Knock the Hustle” is a song from Jay-Z’s debut album “Reasonable Doubt.” It features the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, in the chorus. The world was just getting to know Hova and his genius, complex lyrical ability in this song track about his experience in the drug trade.

“N***as in Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West

Song Year: 2011

Perhaps the most energetic song from Jay-Z’s stellar career, “N***as in Paris” with Kanye West, was the standout track from their collaborative album “Watch the Throne.” The song features two brief but powerful verses from Hova and Ye, no chorus, and a frenetic beat that is perfect for hyping up a crowd.

“Holy Grail” by Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake

Song Year: 2013

Jay-Z linked up with pop superstar Justin Timberlake for “Holy Grail,” the lead single from Jay’s album “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” The Timbaland-produced song is about the ups and downs of fame. The duo’s efforts on the track won them a Grammy Award for Best Sung/Rap Collaboration.

“Talk That Talk” by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z

Song Year: 2012

Jay-Z and Rihanna mastered the formula for a hit single with 2007’s “Umbrella,” so they decided to join forces again on 2012’s “Talk That Talk,” from Rihanna’s album of the same name. Jay starts out the track with a verse over a booming beat while Riri takes chorus duties and the second verse.

“The Takeover” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2001

Jay-Z is not a battle or diss track rapper, but he made an exception for this song from his album “The Blueprint.” It is a savage diss of his then-rival Nas. Hova eviscerates his fellow legend by claiming he no longer made good music. “The Takeover” is one of the greatest diss tracks of all time.

“Hey Papi” by Jay-Z featuring Amil and Memphis Bleek

Song Year: 2000

“Hey Papi” was Jay-Z’s contribution to the soundtrack for “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.” With Timbaland production, Jay delivers a breezy, boastful track about being a player, having money, and living a lavish lifestyle. Amil handles chorus duties while fellow Roc-A-Fella rapper Memphis Bleek adds a guest verse.

“What More Can I Say” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2003

“What More Can I Say,” from Jay-Z’s album “The Black Album,” was supposed to be Hova’s swan song. He announced his retirement from rap music with the release of the album, and in the song, he explains that he had already given everything he had to rap music. His retirement would obviously prove to be short-lived.

“99 Problems” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2004

Jay-Z linked up with legendary producer Rick Rubin on “99 Problems,” a song from his album “The Black Album.” It was inspired by Ice-T’s song from 1993 with a legendary verse that also references 99 problems and what ain’t one of them.

Among other things, Jay-Z raps here about the problems he’s lived through, such as a fraught confrontation with a police officer who pulled him over during his drug-dealing days. Interestingly, some of his lyrics describing the event accurately portray how to handle such situations from a legal standpoint.

“IZZO (H.O.V.A.)” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2001

“H to the Izzo” is an upbeat, celebratory anthem that served as the lead single from his album “The Blueprint.” In the Kanye West-produced song, Jay-Z celebrates himself and his success, coming up from his days dealing drugs and evading the violence of the streets.

“Excuse Me Miss” by Jay-Z featuring Pharrell

Song Year: 2002

Jay-Z left behind his misogynistic persona for “Excuse Me Miss” featuring Pharrell Williams. In the song, Jay smoothly spits his game to a woman, telling her that he is rich and successful and needs a woman to complete his life. Pharrell handled the chorus duties and produced the track with his group the Neptunes.

“Run This Town” by Jay-Z featuring Rihanna and Kanye West

Song Year: 2009

When Jay-Z and Rihanna team up on a track, it’s always magic. 2009’s “Run This Town,” from the album “The Blueprint 3,” is no exception. Rihanna handles chorus duties while Jay and Ye split the song’s three verses. “Run This Town” won the trio two Grammy Awards.

“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys

Song Year: 2009

“Empire State of Mind” is Jay-Z’s ode to New York City. The song from his album “The Blueprint 3” features singer Alicia Keys. “Empire State of Mind” introduces a mature, grown-up Jay-Z who has a newfound perspective on his role in the hip-hop industry. Hova explains that he sees himself as the modern-day Frank Sinatra.

“Can I Get A…” by Jay-Z featuring Amil and Ja Rule

Song Year: 1998

“Can I Get A…” by Jay-Z featuring Amil and Ja Rule epitomizes late 1990s hip hop. The classic track sees Jay-Z hypothetically ask if a woman would still be interested in him if he weren’t rich and successful. The song helped introduce the world to Ja Rule, who would go on to have a successful solo career.

“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z

“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 1998

“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” is a song from Jay-Z’s album “Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life.” The song famously samples the musical “Annie,” with the fictional orphanage children singing the chorus. The song is about the difficult times and violence Jay-Z experienced during his involvement in the drug trade.

“Where I’m From” by Jay-Z featuring Beanie Siegel

Song Year: 1998

Jay-Z takes listeners on a journey through his upbringing in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn on the song “Where I’m From,” from his album “Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life.” Hova paints a grim picture of an environment with inescapable gun violence. The song features his protege Beanie Siegel.

“Public Service Announcement (Interlude)” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2003

On an album filled with hits, “Public Service Announcement (Interlude)” may be the signature song. From Jay-Z’s “The Black Album,” PSA is a brief, boastful declaration of Hova’s greatness. Jay wanted to remind listeners just how good of a rapper he is. “Public Service Announcement” developed a cult following and became a fan favorite.

“Dear Summer” by Memphis Bleek

Song Year: 2005

“Dear Summer” is technically Memphis Bleek’s song, but Jay-Z is the sole performer on the track. The chorus-less song marked Hova’s triumphant return from his short-lived retirement. He raps uninterrupted for nearly three minutes over a Just Blaze beat, reminding the world of his lyrical prowess.

“Encore” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2003

“Encore” is a Kanye West-produced song from Jay-Z’s album “The Black Album.” Hova had marketed the album as his farewell tour from rap music, and “Encore” plays into that theme. In the song, Jay hints that he may unretire the way Michael Jordan did in the N.B.A. His prophecy ended up becoming true.

“Crazy in Love” by Beyonce featuring Jay-Z

Song Year: 2003

Future spouses Jay-Z and Beyonce teamed up for “Crazy in Love,” the lead single from Beyonce’s debut album “Dangerously in Love.” The song became one of the all-time pop classics and went on to win two Grammy Awards.

“Young Forever” by Jay-Z featuring Mr. Hudson

Song Year: 2009

Jay-Z got a little nostalgic on this track featuring Mr. Hudson from his album “The Blueprint 3.” In the lyrics, he raps about the need to slow things down and enjoy the moment while also promising his fans that he will be around forever and isn’t going anywhere.

“The City Is Mine” by Jay-Z featuring Blackstreet

Song Year: 1998

As its name boldly states, Jay-Z announced with “The City Is Mine” that he is now the king of New York City after the passing of his friend Notorious B.I.G. The first verse of the song is a dedication to Biggie, and Jay promises his late friend that he will keep his legacy alive by making great music.

“Money Ain’t a Thang” by Jermaine Dupri featuring Jay-Z

Song Year: 1998

Hova teamed up with Atlanta producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri for the 1998 “Money Ain’t a Thang” from Dupri’s album “Life in 1472.” The classic song hits all the cliches of rap music, from driving expensive foreign cars, having beautiful women around, and being rich and famous.

“What We Do” by Freeway featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Siegel

Song Year: 2002

“What We Do” is the lead single from Freeway’s debut album “Philadelphia Freeway.” The 1998 banger contains perhaps Jay-Z’s greatest guest verse of his career. In the song. Jay-Z gives a brutal depiction of his life in the drug dealing industry, including murdering witnesses of his crimes.

“Feelin’ It” by Jay-Z featuring Mecca

Song Year: 1997

“Feelin’ It” is a hit from Jay-Z’s debut album “Reasonable Doubt.” Hova adopts a breezy, deliberate lyrical flow on this track as he takes listeners on a journey through his lavish lifestyle. Hova talks about drinking Cristal champagne, wearing designer clothes, and his expensive jewelry.

“Fiesta (Remix)” by R. Kelly featuring Jay-Z and Boo & Gotti

Song Year: 2001

What happens when the king of R&B teams up with the top rapper in the game? We found out when R. Kelly released “Fiesta (Remix).” The club anthem track is a celebration of the partying lifestyle, with the duo talking about champagne and hanging with women until the early morning hours. Hova gave us one of the greatest guest verses of his career.

“Song Cry” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2002

“Song Cry,” the heartfelt 2002 rap ballad from Jay-Z’s album “The Blueprint,” is about as close as we will ever get to Hova showing emotion and feelings. The rapper temporarily sheds his misogynistic image as a playboy pimp and takes us on a journey through his failed romantic relationships. Still, he can never be seen crying – so he makes the song cry instead.

“HAM” by Jay-Z and Kanye West

Song Year: 2011

“HAM” is a song by Jay-Z and Kanye West from their collaborative album “Watch the Throne.” The acronym stands for “hard as a motherf***er.” It’s an intense, boastful diatribe about how fearsome and skilled the rap duo is. Over a frenetic beat, they spit some of the most intense verses of their careers.

“Is That Your Chick (The Lost Verses) by Memphis Bleek featuring Jay-Z and Missy Elliott

Song Year: 2000

Jay-Z’s protege Memphis Bleek released “Is That Your Chick (The Lost Verses)” in 2000. Hova jumped on the track and gifted Bleek with a mesmerizing guest verse, rapping his lyrics at a pace so fast it could rival Twista’s flow. Over a powerful beat from Timbaland, the trio created one of the best rap songs of the early aughts.

“Guilty Until Proven Innocent” by Jay-Z featuring R. Kelly

Song Year: 2001

“Guilty Until Proven Innocent” is a semi-autobiographical song from Jay-Z’s album “The Dynasty: Roc La Familia.” At the time of its release, Hova was embroiled in legal controversy surrounding his involvement in the 1999 Lance “Un” Rivera stabbing. Jay-Z pleaded his case in the song, explaining that the media was not giving him treatment in its rush to judgment.

“Ignorant Sh*t” by Jay-Z featuring Beanie Sigel

Song Year: 2007

Jay-Z found inspiration from the 2007 film “American Gangster” with Denzel Washington and recorded a concept album with the same name. “Ignorant Sh*t” featuring Beanie Siegel was a standout track from the album. In the song, Jay claps back at critics who felt his previous album, “Kingdom Come,” was not up to Hova’s standards.

“Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z

Song Year: 1999

Jay-Z proved that he could just as easily do a pop record as he did gangster rap records on Mariah Carey’s song “Heartbreaker.” With a playful guest verse, Hova shines with Carey in the song about relationships, breakups, and heartbreak.

“Dead Presidents II” by Jay-Z

Song Year: 1996

“Dead Presidents II” by Jay-Z is one of the standout songs from his debut album, “Reasonable Doubt.” Hova effortlessly glides over the piano-laced track and introduces the world to his lyrical ability and persona. The expression “dead presidents” refers to legal tender in the United States, which usually features deceased former presidents.

“Welcome to New York City” by Cam’ron featuring Jay-Z and Juelz Santana

Song Year: 2002

Although their relationship eventually deteriorated beyond repair, Cam’ron and Jay-Z were able to release one collaborative track during their time together at Roc-a-Fella Records. “Welcome to New York City” by Cam’ron featuring Jay-Z and Juelz Santana is one of the standout tracks from Cam’s album “Come Home with Me.”

“Money, Cash, Hoes” by Jay-Z featuring DMX, Beanie Sigel, and Memphis Bleek

Song Year: 1998

Over a Swizz Beatz beat, Jay-Z delivers gritty lyrics and clever wordplay in this hit song featuring DMX, Beanie Sigel, and Memphis Bleek. Sigel and Bleek drop off guest verses while DMX yells out his signature adlibs.

“Blue Magic’ by Jay-Z

Song Year: 2007

Jay-Z attributes much of his early success to his ventures in the drug dealing industry, so his fascination with the film “American Gangster” is no surprise. “Blue Magic” is about the heroin that Denzel Washington’s character Frank Lucas sold in the film. The song features a rugged beat and Jay-Z’s familiar tales of selling drugs.

Top Jay-Z Songs, Final Thoughts

Jay-Z’s longevity in the hip-hop industry is unprecedented. He has been one of the best rappers in the game since the early 1990s and is still producing exceptional music today.

He is undoubtedly one of the greatest rappers of all time, alongside his contemporaries Nas, Notorious B.I.G., and 2Pac, among others. While his song catalog has hundreds of hits, this list of his best songs is a fitting introduction to the legend from New York.

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