Jay-Z’s 10 Greatest Verses Of All Time

MMD April 4, 2014 0
Jay-Z’s 10 Greatest Verses Of All Time

Today, Jay-Z is a cultural icon. He’s married to the most popular female songstress of the last decade or so, is worth half a billion dollars, and has seemingly won over the hearts of everybody in America, young and old, black and white. He’s performed at Glastonbury and met the President of the United States on more than one occasion. It’s hard to believe that just 18 years ago he was a hungry kid from the Marcy projects dropping his first album and freestyles alongside Big L on the Stretch and Bobbito show, an independent album no less. Jay was always destined for hip-hop greatness. It’s not everybody that gets a DJ Premier beat and a Biggie verse on their first album. Who knew he would make it so far? We’ve seen him evolve lyrically from a vicious battle ready MC, to a smooth rapper with a knack for seemingly endless premonitions, to the juggernaut he is today, rhyming about Tom Ford and fine art. Picking his ten greatest verses was definitely no easy task but we put it together. Check it out.


1. Dead Presidents/ Reasonable Doubt

If Jay-Z wasn’t involved in the streets in some way, shape, or form then he deserves an Oscar and a Pulitzer Prize. Dead Presidents, with its Nas sample and mellow beat was the platform for Jay to spit rhymes about living the street life and finally making it with clever wordplay and a sick flow. You can feel Jay’s hunger on this track and maybe that’s why this is the song that really put him on the map. Plus, who doesn’t love the spendin’ money since ’88 line?

Ah, who wanna bet us that we don’t touch leathers?

Stack cheddars forever, live treacherous all the et ceteras

To the death of us, me and my confidants, we shine

You feel the ambiance, y’all niggas just rhyme

By the ounce dough accumulates like snow

We don’t just shine, we illuminate the whole show; you feel me?

Factions from the other side would love to kill me

Spill three quarts of my blood into the street, let alone the heat

Fuck ‘em, they hate a nigga lovin’ his life

In all possible ways, know the Feds is buggin’ my life

Hospital days, reflectin’ when my man laid up

On the Uptown high block he got his side sprayed up

I saw his life slippin’; this is a minor set back

Yo, still in all we livin’, just dream about the get back

That made him smile though his eyes said, pray for me

I’ll do you one better and slay these niggas faithfully

Murder is a tough thing to digest, it’s a slow process

And I ain’t got nothin’ but time

I had near brushes, not to mention three shots

Close range, never touched me, divine intervention

Can’t stop I, from drinkin’ Mai-Tai’s, with Ty Ty

Down in Nevada, ha ha, papa, word life

I dabbled in crazy weight without rap, I was crazy straight

Patna, I’m still spendin’ money from eighty-eight, what?


2. Intro/ The Dynasty: Roc La Familia

I’m sure we’ll write many more installments of the column using many different artists and I can all but guarantee that an album’s intro will never be on here again. It just shows that Jay is capable of great things and it doesn’t hurt that Just Blaze made the beat. Jay, once again, takes us on his journey of, what could have been? Jay always had a knack for appreciating how lucky he is and what could have happened had just one small thing gone differently.

The theme song to The Sopranos

Plays in the key of life on my mental piano

Got a strange way of seein’ life like

I’m Stevie Wonder with beads under the doo-rag

Intuition is there even when my vision’s impaired, yeah

Knowin’ I can go, just switchin’ a spare

On the highway of life, nigga it’ll sharpen my sight

Oh! Keen senses ever since I was a, teen on the benches

Every time somebody like Enus was mentioned

I would turn green, me, bein’ in the trenches

Him, livin’ adventurous not worryin’ about expenditures

I’m bravin’ temperatures below zero, no hero

No father figure, you gotta pardon a nigga

But I’m starvin’ my niggas and the weight loss in my figure

Is startin’ to darken my heart, bout to get to my liver

Watch it my niggas, I’m tryin’ to be calm but I’m gon’ get richer

Through any means, with that thing that Malcolm palmed in the picture

Never read the Qur’an or Islamic scriptures

Only psalms I read was on the arms of my niggas

Tattooed so I carry on like I’m non-religious

Clap whoever stands between Shawn and figures

Niggas, say it’s the dawn but I’m superstitious

Shit is as dark as it’s been, nothin’ is goin’ as you predicted

I move with biscuits, stop the harder niggas actin too suspicious

This is, food for thought, you do the dishes

3. Bring It On feat. Sauce Money & Jaz-O/ Reasonable Doubt

A classic Rocafella track, Jay and company all murder this track but Jay stands above the rest. Some of Jigga’s best lyrics have been laid over the simplest beats and this is no exception. With the money and gangster references this is vintage Jay-Z and one of the standout tracks on his debut album.

Mannerisms of a young Bobby DeNiro, spent Spanish wisdoms

In a whip with dinero, crime organized like the pharaoh

I cream, I diamond gleam

High post like Hakeem, got a lot of things to drop

Brooklyn to Queens, I gotta keep my steam

Niggas wanna try to hem my long jeans

Uptown fiend for Jay-Z to appear on the scene

In the meanwhile, here’s somethin’ dope for y’all to lean

Liason for days on end

Money make the world go around so I made songs to spin

Can I Live, did dough, with my nigs, dividends flow

Like the Mississippi riv’, lookin’ jig

Can’t do for dolo, had to turn away when Tony killed Manolo

That’s real, mixed feelings like a mulatto

Thug thought he was O.G. Bobby Johnson

I played him like Benny Blanco, mano a mano

You ain’t ready, I find no trigger straight up shoot my guns

Horizontal, get your weight up, I am

Two point two pounds, you’re barely a hundred and twenty-five grams

Wouldn’t expect y’all to understand this money

Do the knowledge, do the few dollars, I’m due to demolish

Crews Brooklyn through Hollis to a hood near you, what the fuck?


4. The Watcher 2 feat. Dr. Dre & Rakim/ The Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse

Spit a stupidly hot verse and call in the Doc and Rakim. Jay definitely had the right idea on this one. He pulls no punches letting the youngn’s know what time it is. Jay had been on the top of the game for so long at this point that this verse was a long time coming. We also get more of a glimpse into Jay’s past and this song can just conjure up an image of a young Jay on a bus to nowhere with some precious cargo in a duffle bag.

Things just ain’t the same for gangsters

But I’m a little too famous to shoot these pranksters

All of these rap singers claimin’ they bangers

Doin’ all sorts of twisted shit with they fingers

Disrespectin’ the game, no home trainin’ or manners

I was doin’ this shit when you was shittin’ your Pampers

I was movin’ them grams ‘fore you knew what a hand that hand was

Duckin’ the vans, radars, the scanners

‘Fore you knew what hard white to tan was

I was hittin’ the turnpike, aight with the bammas

I was nice with my hands, ‘cause I’m nice with them hammers

I was prickin’ my finger ‘fore you knew what a Fam was

I had it laid out ‘fore you knew what a plan was

Three hundred mill’ later, now you understand us

Y’all ain’t see us comin’ through Vegas

You ever seen so much cham’ bust in one night

Grand fucked up one fight

I was on the Peter Pan bus

You was puttin’ Peter Pan up in your room, y’all fuckin with whom?

Allow me to retort

You cowards is just now learnin’ the shit that we taught

You niggas ain’t know about a Robb Report

‘Bout a high speed Porsche, i.e.

You niggas ain’t know how to floss ’til I came through the door

Like Eric B. for Pres respect me in this bitch

You can’t disrespect us ’cause you got a little check cut

You was suckin’ for so long, fuckin’ your little neck up

Now you too big for your britches, you got a few little bitches

You think you Hef, you just ridiculous

I blew breath for you bitches; I gave life to the game

It’s only right I got the right to be king

Niggas that got life really like what I sing

‘Cause they know what it’s really like, niggas feel my pain

Know the shit I don’t write be the illest shit that’s ever been recited

In the game word to the hyphen in my name

J-A-Y, Dash, Hoffa

The past, present, nigga the future, proper

The holy trinity of hip-hop is us

We give Dre his props but that’s where it stops

It’s the Roc


5. Song Cry/ The Blueprint

It’s not often that Jay really gets emotional on a song or even gives a glimpse into that side of his personality. He’s never comes across as vulnerable and in this verse, Mr. Big Pimpin’ tells the tale about how the ladies felt about him before the money. But leave it to Jay not to stay down for long as even in defeat it doesn’t take long to get back to victory.

On repeat, the CD of Big’s “Me and My Bitch”

Watchin’ Bonnie and Clyde, pretendin’ to be that shit

Empty gun in your hand sayin’, “Let me see that clip”

Shoppin’ sprees pull out your Visa quick

A nigga had very bad credit, you helped me lease that whip

You helped me get the keys to that V dot 6

We was so happy poor but when we got rich

That’s when our signals got crossed, and we got flipped

Rather mine; I don’t know what made me leave that shit

Made me speed that quick, let me see that’s it

It was the cheese helped them bitches get amnesia quick

I used to cut up they buddies, now they sayin’ they love me

Used to tell they friends I was ugly and wouldn’t touch me

Then I showed up in that dubbed out buggy

And then they got fuzzy and they don’t remember that

And I don’t remember you


6. Where I’m From/ In My Lifetime: Volume 1

One of Jay’s hardest tracks ever, and possibly the first time a rapper mentioned platinum on a song, Where I’m From goes hard. He tells the tale of living on the mean streets of Bed Stuy and what it took to get by. If ever anybody painted a vivid picture of their surroundings this was it.

I’m from where the hammer’s rung

News cameras never come

You and your man houndin’ every verse in your rhyme

Where the grams is slung, niggas vanish every summer

Where the blue vans would come, we throw the work in the can and run

Where the plans was to get funds and skate off the set

To achieve this goal quicker, sold all my weight wet

Faced with immeasurable odds still I made straight bets

So I felt some more something and you nothing check

I’m from the other side where other guys don’t walk too much

And girls in the projects wouldn’t fuck us if we talked too much

So they ran up to town and sought them dudes to trust

I don’t know what the fuck they thought, those niggas is foul just like us

I’m from where the beef is inevitable, summertime’s unforgettable

Boosters in abundance, buy a half-price sweater new

Your word was everything, so everything you said you’d do

You did it, couldn’t talk about it if you ain’t live it

I from where niggas pull your card and argue all day about

Who’s the best MC’s, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas?

Where the drugs czars evolve, and thugs are at odds

At each other’s throats for the love of foreign cars

Where cats catch cases, hoping the judge R and R’s

But most times find themselves locked up behind bars

I’m from where they ball and breed rhyme stars

I’m from Marcy son, just thought I’d remind y’all


7. Threat/ The Black Album

Threat is like an exercise in lyrical prowess. Up until this, Jay hadn’t showed this king of ability in a while. Not to say he wasn’t killing it but this song gave people a Reasonable Doubt version of Jay-Z on steroids. Between the wordplay, the flow, and cadence, this verse is a classic among classics.

Grown man I put hands on you

I dig a hole in the desert; they build The Sands on you

Lay out blueprint plans on you

We Rat Pack niggas, let Sam tap dance on you

Then, I Sinatra shot ya God damn you

I put the boy in the box like David Blaine

Let the audience watch, it ain’t a thang

Y’all wish I was frontin’, I George Bush the button

Front of all you in your car lift up your hood nigga run it

Then lift up your whole hood like you got oil under it

Your boy got the goods y’all don’t want nothin’ of it

Like, castor oil, I’ll Castor Troy you

Change your face or the bullets change all that for you

Y’all niggas is targets

Y’all garages for bullets, please don’t make me park it

In your upper level, valet a couple strays

From the 38 special, nigga, God bless you

8. D’Evils/ Reasonable Doubt

D’Evils is a hot song. With Snoop and Prodigy sampled into the chorus this track bangs hard and Jay has the subject matter to match as he talks about growing apart from a friend until the point that he needs to go. Drug dealing, murder, and bribing baby mothers all crammed into one verse. This is easily one of Jay’s best.

We used to fight for building blocks

Now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killing

The closest of friends when we first started

But grew apart as the money grew, and soon grew black-hearted

Thinkin’ back when we first learned to use rubbers

He never learned so in turn I’m kidnappin’ his baby’s mother

My hand around her collar, feeding her cheese

She said the taste of dollars was shitty so I fed her fifties

About his whereabouts I wasn’t convinced

So I kept feedin’ her money ’til her shit started to make sense

Who could ever foresee, we used to stay up all night at slumber parties

Now I’m tryin’ to rock this bitch to sleep

All the years we were real close

Now I see his fears through her tears

Know she’s wishin’ we were still close

Don’t cry, it is to be

In time, I’ll take away your miseries and make ’em mine, D’Evils


9. D.O.A. (Death Of Autotune)/ The Blueprint 3

This song made a lot of people angry. After a bit of a hiatus spent wearing glasses and letting his hair grow Jay re-appeared, as he does, to take over the game….yet again. Besides challenging every popular trend in hip-hop at the time and telling rappers to pull their skirt down and grow some balls he also references Sinatra. You can’t go wrong there.

This is anti-auto-tune, death of the ringtone

This ain’t for iTunes, this ain’t for sing-alongs

This is Sinatra at the opera, bring a blonde

Preferably with a fat ass who can sing a song

Wrong, this ain’t politically correct

This might offend my political connects

My raps don’t have melodies

This should make niggas want go and commit felonies

Get your chain tooken

I may do it myself, I’m so Brooklyn

I know we facin’ a recession

But the music y’all makin’ gon’ make it the Great Depression

All y’all lack aggression

Put your skirt back down, grow a set man

Nigga this shit violent

This is death of auto-tune, moment of silence


10. Guess Who’s Back Scarface feat. Beanie Siegel & Jay-Z/ The Fix

This is one of those Jay’s verses that people will love until the day they die. If it comes on in a club they bug out. If it comes on the iPod they get extra hype. And why not? It might not be the deepest verse he’s ever written but he credits his mom and drops typical slick Jay-Z lines. He lets everybody know why he’s the king in a way only Jay can do.

Guess who’s bizack?

You still smell the crack in my clothes

Don’t make me have to relapse on these hoes

Take it back out to taxin’ them roads

When I was huggin’ it, niggas couldn’t do nothin’ wit it

Straight from the oven wit it, came from the dirt

I emerged from it all without a stain on my shirt

You can blame my old earth, for the shit she instilled in me

Still with me, pain plus work

Shit she made me milk this game for all it’s worth

That’s right; these niggas can’t fuck with me

I’m callin’ guts every time, drag my nuts every time

Homey, we make a great combination don’t we?

Me and the Face Mob, every time we face off

Face it y’all, y’all niggas playin’ basic ball

I’m on the block like I’m eight feet tall

Homey, I’m in the drop with the AC on

That’s why the, streets embrace me dogg, I’m so cool

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