On Jay Z’s discography (1 of a series)
I got tired of not being able to more authoritatively comment on Jay Z’s oeuvre so I went through all of it in the last 6 months.
I’ll probably write more on this but I want to start with some over-all thoughts and maybe even elicit some response from people (I’m on Twitter @Tanjint) to inspire further writings on the series.
I’m not a big sports guy but I’ve heard a lot of people say this boxer Floyd Mayweather doesn’t really knock people out but he wins enough points throughout matches to win on technicalities. That’s Jay Z’s discography to me.
I’ll admit this is harsh – there ARE knockout undisputable classics in the collection: Reasonable Doubt, Blueprint 1 and 2, Black Album. Lots of near classics: 4:44, Vol.1, Vol.3, The Carters, Watch the Throne. Even more just good to solid albums: American Gangster, Kingdom Come, Vol.2. But if the bar is the “he’s the undisputed GOAT” then for me it’s hard to not think of discogs from other mainstream rappers that are actually more artistically successful for me as discographies and albums even if they didn’t do the numbers as Jay’s work (and even their big singles were not big like Jay’s big singles).
I’m thinking of Busta Rhymes and Common and frankly, if we eliminate the mainstream national success requirement and can bring in regional hip-hop vets from corners like Project Blowed and Anticon than I think there are even more rappers with artistically better discographies (with similar volume too, Myka 9 comes to mind) than Jay Z.
Those are debates I can and probably will explore in future writings but I say all this to say Jay Z has a solid claim to GOAT status because of how he achieves the over-all balance of artistry, success, cultural impact, growth, diversity, and volume. He doesn’t have the best discography but he is in the top most successful people to have achieved as deft an artistic catalog. He’s among the most artistically successful and talented people to be as financially successful as he is. So he may not have the biggest score on talent or numbers but that he has so much of both of them is profoundly impressive and his measure of both is still stratospheric compared to most.
I didn’t find his “bad” albums bad, just not as good as the classics. I’m thinking of Kingdom Come and Magna Carta. He doesn’t really have any projects that aren’t 2/3 good at least.
But yeah my initial impression is: Mayweather of rap, undisputed champ because of his wildly high and balanced over-all scores. Not because he has the best discog or is the best MC, though he is still an elite MC with a top-tier discog. And I concede that the argument for him as GOAT can absolutely be made, of this there can be no doubt. It’s a strong argument too. I’m just adding some wrinkles and qualifiers from my subjective view.
Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for Zus Entertainment, a Jooseboxx and Untapped Hip-Hop contributor, and member of the Inland Empire, California based nerdculture hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers