5 Songs by JAY-Z You Must Hear

First thing you should know is that I am a failure. I was tasked with writing about JAY-Z top 5 songs and I have failed. I couldn’t do it. It was too difficult. A part of the reason is that JAY-Z has different kinds of songs: he got radio hits, he has love songs, he has street bangers, he has fun party songs. However you want it, HOV got it. 

After having a conversation with someone, I realized the hardest part was establishing the criteria for this list. I settled on something personal. These 5 songs are the songs I think everyone should hear. I asked myself, if I was introducing someone to JAY-Z and I only had 5 songs, what would I want them to hear?


These are those 5 songs:


1. What More Can I Say

The third song on The Black Album. This album was supposed to be his last one. After this one he did retire for a little bit but as this was his farewell, he deliberately crafted an album that gave us 14 songs of straight GAS! To be honest, the entire list could be filled with only songs from that album. The song opens with the voice of Russell Crowe from the film Gladiator screaming at the spectators, “Are you not entertained?” The music, the flow, the wordplay, etc. I mean, what more can I say?

2. Public Service Announcement

One of JAY-Z’s qualities as an artist is his ability to constantly infuse his music with autobiographical details. Obviously, to some extent, some of it is embellished and exaggerated for various reasons. Even still, it seems like there is something we are always learning about him when we listen to his music. Public Service Announcement is a reminder of just how far he has come. “Allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is HOV…” are his first lines and from there it’s all fire.

3.Can I Live

I came to JAY- Z and his music later. The first album I listened to was his 2006 album  KINGDOM COME, which was his first solo  album back from his retirement after The Black Album in 2003. I remember everyone not being high on Kingdom Come and I couldn’t understand why — until I listened to his first album entitled, Reasonable Doubt. That album was released in 1996 and one of the songs on it was Can I Live. As soon as i heard it, I knew this was my favorite rapper. There was something epic and grandiose. It felt like something I wanted to be a part of. He says in the beginning, “We offer our lives, what do you bring to the table?” And I have been wanting to be at the table ever since. 

4.I Did It My Way

Imagine this: the smooth vocals of Frank Sinatra over some smooth piano while JAY-Z just talks over it. It’s the intro to the song and it’s fun and cool and then the music drops like a sledgehammer to your chest. The first word JAY says is “gangsta…” and the entire song is JAY-Z describing what it’s like to navigate the upper exhelopns of his industry and society as a Black man. It ‘s poetry. Get into it.

5.Song Cry

JAY-Z is an underrated storyteller. This song is a perfect example of his ability to weave a tale in his music. It’s a love story and a tragedy and he weaves the story over a beautifully sampled track. I saw him perform this live a few years ago, and the emotionality of this one speaks. I don’t know what else to say. GO LISTEN!


I was going to do an honorable mention. But I’ve failed enough for today. These are my 5 and I’m sticking to it! (Though, if you name a JAY song that should replace one of these, I won’t disagree with you! LOL)

Let me know some of your favorite JAY-Z songs in the comments!!

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