“Some real, some faux
Some friends, some hoes
But no I, goes nowhere, it’s Hov”
Consistency and longevity! Probably the two most things Jay-Z throws in people’s faces when he makes his case for why he is the G.O.A.T. Can you blame him? The man has been dropping platinum albums since he first landed in 1996. Even his last offering; 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail went platinum. No other rapper has managed to maintain a certain level of success for so long.
His song “A Star Is Born” (which the lyrics above are quoted from) is a tribute to his consistency. The song is disguised as a tribute to all the big names that rap has witnessed since Jay arrived on the scene but in typical Jay-Z fashion he uses it as a chance to gloat about the fact he’s still here! Outlasting them all.
However there is one thing you probably didn’t clock about Jigga’s career. One thing his Stans probably haven’t clocked or are in denial about. One thing that almost all the rappers he name checks in the aforementioned song can lay claim to that he can’t. What’s this you ask? Well… Jay-Z has never and I mean never at any point in time been the hottest rapper in the game.
Now before you Jay-Z die-hards come at me crazy, let me clarify what I mean when I say “Hottest”. When I say hottest, I’m referring to being the biggest, the most popping, the most popular. I’m referring to having a period of time where you are undoubtedly the most dominant name in the game, representing an “era”. Well yeah believe it or not Jay-Z has never been or had any of those things. He’s always either been the second, third or fourth biggest rapper around through different phases of his career but never the biggest.
I can already here the rebuttals from salty Jay fans now, “But he’s got 13 number 1 albums though?”. True but have you noticed that Jay has never released an album the same week as another big name artist, giving him the edge in having the number 1 album of that week. Still think I’m spewing verbal diarrhoea? Cool, let’s go through different periods of Jay’s career.
When Jay entered in 1996 2Pac & Biggie were the two biggest rappers on the planet. In 97 After those two legends had both fallen Diddy came through and dropped a string of hit songs and the biggest selling rap album of that year (even if it was due to him milking biggie’s death). In ’98 which is the same year that Jay dropped his biggest selling album to date, Vol.2 HardKnockLife and became a crossover rap superstar, DMX came through and stole the spotlight by dropping not one, BUT TWO Number 1 albums that went on to sell over 5 milli each. Also a certain female rapper named Lauryn Hill dropped an album that went on to sell 19mil worldwide. Between 1999-2002 hip hop witnessed the rise and peak of the biggest star the genre has ever produced: EMINEM. In that period of time a slew of rappers came and went on to dominate the charts and have greater commercial success than Jay including: Ja Rule, Nelly and even Ludacris.
In 2003 when Jay decided to hang up his jersey and “fade to black” via a short lived retirement , 50 Cent came through and completely dominated the game in a way that no other rapper (apart from Eminem) had before him. In fact 50 recently said he believes the reason Jay retired was because of how big 50 was. The G-Unit Era was here and lasted for up until 2006. The same year Jay decided the game was missing him and came out of “retirement”. Now in that time since he returned, Jay-Z has still amazingly remained relatively popular and has dropped 4 platinum albums (including Watch The Throne with Kanye). However he still has never been the HOTTEST.
In 2007 Hip Hop’s then reigning champion 50 Cent lost his title when losing to Jay’s protege Kanye West in a sales battle that marked hip hop shift’s between gangsta rap being its most popular sub-genre and to a more “softer” alternative approach.
The following year witnessed the birth of the Young Money era and the coronation of Lil Wayne becoming the biggest name in the game when he dropped the 3x platinum ‘Tha Carter III’. A title he arguably held up to 2011/2012 and which was taken over and is still held by Weezy’s protege Drake. Just face it Stans, Jay-Z has never had an era. He just isn’t and has never been that big.
Jay Z is The Undertaker
For those of you who are wrestling fans, If I were to compare hip hop to the WWE, Jay-Z would be The Undertaker. The Undertaker is the longest actively performing wrestler in the WWE and is without a doubt its biggest most consistent draw. Jay-Z is the most consistently successful rapper of all time (13 number 1 albums, all platinum). However the Undertaker has never been the face of the WWE or been the representation of an ERA like Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, The Rock or John Cena. Kinda like Jay-Z hasn’t been the biggest rapper at any point in time right? In fact some say Jay has only remained relevant for so long by associating himself with whoever was the hottest artist at the time via touring, collaborations etc.
Some say he’s only relevant now because of his marriage to Beyonce (who is indeed a much bigger star than him internationally) and call him Mr Beyonce. However whatever the reason is for why he’s remained popular for so long, there is no denying that it is an impressive feat especially for a rapper and that Jay-Z is one of the greatest to ever pickup a microphone. In his own words “rappers came and went, I’ve been here from the start.” Anyways that’s just something I thought I’d point out folks *closes laptop, rubs hands like Birdman and smirks while anticipating a but-hurt response from Jay-Z stans*
Words by @NiftyNoel