If you haven't figured it out by now, Jay Z logged into his Life + Times account today to post his personal rankings of his albums along with some brief commentary that provides context to the rankings. Check out the ranking then Keep Going for the commentary along with my personal thoughts. You'll also find a special edition of Mister Cee's lunchtime mix honoring none other than the Jiggaman himself.
1. Reasonable Doubt (Classic)All in all, his rankings are pretty damn solid (shocker, right?). There will always be a debate since this is so subjective, but the consensus (and I agree) is that the first and last albums are the most properly ranked.
2. The Blueprint (Classic)
3. The Black Album (Classic)
4. Vol. 2 (Classic)
5. American Gangster (4 1/2, cohesive)
6. Magna Carta (Fuckwit, Tom Ford, Oceans, Beach, On the Run, Grail)
7. Vol. 1 (Sunshine kills this album…fuck… Streets, Where I’m from, You Must Love Me…)
8. BP3 (Sorry critics, it’s good. Empire (Gave Frank a run for his money))
9. Dynasty (Intro alone…)
10. Vol. 3 (Pimp C verse alone… oh, So Ghetto)
11. BP2 (Too many songs. Fucking Guru and Hip Hop, ha)
12. Kingdom Come (First game back, don’t shoot me)
The biggest switch I would make is to push American Gangster into the four spot while also moving MCHG into the five spot. That would push Vol. 2 into the six spot. That is, until I look at the track listing and start running off joints like the obvious (Hard Knock Life, Can I Get A), the straight hot fire spitting (Reservoir Dogs), the complex (A Week Ago, Coming of Age II), the supreme shit talking (Ride or Die) and the underrated (If I Should Die). Skimming through the album as I type has me already second guessing myself and I just barely finished the sentence. So where does that leave things?
The easy and hard part to this all is that because he has sooooooo many joints, it becomes difficult to look at it from an album standpoint. So you have to start nitpicking to help determine your own rankings. I'll start by breaking down the easiest of the moves.
American Gangster pushes to the fourth spot simply because I find the album flawless. There isn't a joint on there that isn't a winner in my book. I can't even say that about the top three. Reasonable Doubt and Blueprint both have skippables if for no other reason than the ubiquity that came with heavy spins of Izzo and Aint No when they dropped. The Black Album on the other hand has a couple skippables, but gets a pass because joints like Encore, Lucifer and Allure are so powerful that they make you forget those other songs even exist. Vol. 2, while historic and the launch point to the Jay Z we know now, the album has a couple of flaws as well (Paper Chase anyone?).
That leaves MCHG, which many would easily say is overrated and only in my Top 5 because it's the newest/freshest album in the catalog. Here's what I'll say about the album. There are a lot of jewels laced throughout. And the perspective and plane that Jay Z spits from is going to go over a whole lot of people's heads because they either "skimming through" or simply not of age or mindset to grasp and understand them. I think as time moves forward people will look back on the album and see the genius of the album. Much like Reasonable Doubt.
Sidenote: According to my iTunes, I've listened to MCHG 22-31 times, depending on the song. The only exception is Holy Grail which comes in at a whopping SIX spins. So know that I really sat with the album.
What About the Rest?
Considering I've Roc'd the boat enough with the Top 5, I'm pretty solid with the remaining order. I do think that Hov gets his analysis wrong (bold right?) on Vol. 1. I happen to be in the vast minority, but I rock with Sunshine heavy. The problems with the album are the Lil Kim & Diddy and Blackstreet collabos. I Know What Girls Like is God-awful in my humble opinion while City is Mine is lyrically on-point, but terribly executed production-wise. I remember the era, so I understand why the track is they way it is. But man is it bad. Take those songs off and I think the overall perception of the album goes up tenfold.
Lastly, even though he doesn't necessarily say that Dynasty doesn't have joints, let me be clear to note that it did. I Just Wanna Love U still has us "singing off key" in club. And don't forget that Freeway's introduction to the world on 1-900-Hustler still gets folks mean mugging like they're "talking on the phone to hus-a-las!" Beyond the aforementioned songs though, the biggest thing I noticed about Dynasty is that the majority of the memorable songs (This Can't Be Life, Soon You'll Understand, Where Have You Been) are highly reflective and introspective. The rest are ok's and "wait, why was Hov on that poppy, west coast sound so heavy?"
As he done with every album, Jigga provided us with yet another gift. The debate had already been going on. He just upped it because not only are we discussing our personal ranking with friends, family and our respective social media audiences, we now also get to "debate" against the mastermind behind the albums. How real is that?
Enough of my thoughts, check out and enjoy Mr. Cee's B-Day mix: