99 Problems

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For the Supernatural episode, see 99 Problems (Supernatural). For the single by Ice-T, see Home Invasion (album).
"99 Problems"
Single by Jay-Z
from the album The Black Album
Released April 27, 2004
Format 12" single
Recorded 2003 at
The Mansion
Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, California, USA
Akademie Mathematique of Philosophical Sound Research
Los Angeles, California
Genre East coast hip hop, rap rock
Length 3:54
Label Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Writer(s) Jay-Z
Norman Landsberg
Felix Pappalardi
Billy Squier
John Ventura
Leslie Weinstein
Producer(s) Rick Rubin
Jay-Z singles chronology
"Dirt off Your Shoulder"
(2004)
"99 Problems"
(2004)
"Big Chips"
(2004)
Audio sample
file info · help

"99 Problems" is the third single released by American rapper Jay-Z in 2004 from The Black Album. The chorus hook "I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one" is taken from the Ice-T single "99 Problems" from the Album Home Invasion (released March 23, 1993). The hook was coined during a conversation between Ice-T & Brother Marquis of Miami based 2 Live Crew.[1] Marquis later used the phrase in the 1996 2 Live Crew song "Table Dance". In the song, Jay-Z tells a story about dealing with racial profiling from a police officer who wants to search his car, dealing with rap critics, and dealing with an aggressor. The song reached number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Production[edit]

The track was produced by Rick Rubin, his first hip hop production in many years. Rubin provided Jay-Z with a guitar riff and stripped-down beat that were once his trademarks. In creating the track Rubin used some classic 1980s sample staples such as "The Big Beat" by Billy Squier, "Long Red" by Mountain, and "Get Me Back On Time" by Wilson Pickett. These songs were long coveted by early hip hop producers, in particular the drum beat from Big Beat,[2] used most famously by Run–D.M.C. on "Here We Go" in 1985 and by British rapper Dizzee Rascal a year prior to Jay-Z on his break-through hit "Fix Up, Look Sharp". It also featured on the popular Ultimate Breaks and Beats series.

The title and chorus are taken from Ice-T's "99 Problems" from his 1993 album Home Invasion. The song featured Brother Marquis of 2 Live Crew. The original song was more profane and describes a wide range of sexual conquests. Portions of Ice-T's original lyrics were similarly quoted in a song by fellow rapper Trick Daddy on a track also titled "99 Problems" from his 2001 album Thugs Are Us. Jay-Z begins his third verse directly quoting lines from Bun B's opening verse off the track "Touched" from the UGK album Ridin' Dirty.

Analysis[edit]

The song has been one of the most discussed songs of the decade. The second verse, describing Jay-Z's traffic stop, has received much more attention than the rest of the song.

The second verse was based on an actual experience of Jay-Z in the 1990s in New Jersey. Jay-Z wrote that in 1994 he was pulled over by police while carrying cocaine in a secret compartment in his sunroof. Jay-Z refused to let the police search the car and the police called for the drug sniffing dogs. However, the dogs never showed up and the police had to let Jay-Z go. Moments after he drove away, he wrote that he saw a police car with the dogs drive by. Jay-Z's contention that he was pulled over for being black was later confirmed to have been common practice by the New Jersey police.

In 2011 Southwestern Law School Professor Caleb Mason wrote an article with a line-by-line analysis of the second verse of the song from a legal perspective referencing the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, citing it as a useful tool for teaching law students search and seizure law involving search warrants, Terry stops, racial profiling, the exclusionary rule, and the motor vehicle exception.[3] The article notes the song lyrics are legally incorrect in indicating that a driver can refuse an order to exit the car[4] and that police would need a warrant to search a locked glove compartment or trunk.[3][5] In 2012, Professor Emir Crowne of the University of Windsor's, Faculty of Law wrote the Canadian Response to Professor Mason's article. In it, he concludes that Jay-Z's lyrics may be legally correct under Canadian Law.

While the song's meaning is widely debated, the chorus "If you're having girl problems, I feel bad for you son/I've got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one" was defined in Jay-Z's book, Decoded, as referring to a police dog.[6]

President Obama quipped, in his humorous monologue at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on April 27, 2013: "Some things are beyond my control. For example, this whole controversy about Jay-Z going to Cuba - it's unbelievable. I've got 99 problems and now Jay-Z is one." [7]

Reception[edit]

The song garnered widespread acclaim. The song came in at #2 on Rolling Stone's top 100 songs of the '00s. On the updated list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the song was added and came in at #172.[8] The song was listed at #14 on Pitchfork Media's top 500 songs of the 2000s (decade) and in October 2011, NME placed it at number 24 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[9]

Jack White has hailed the song, describing it as "the story of America ... in a nutshell, [it's] the story of all the struggles in America, black or white, [and of] class systems".[10]

The song won Best Rap Solo Performance at the 47th Grammy Awards.

Covers and performances[edit]

In 2008, the song was memorably covered by Barry Chuckle of British children's comedy duo The Chuckle Brothers as part of BBC Radio 1's Scott Mills show. Mills described the cover as "superior, in essence, to the original".

On January 21, 2009, Jay-Z performed the song as part of his set at the Staff Ball, the last official event of Barack Obama's inauguration. The ball was exclusively for 4,000 staffers who had worked on Obama's campaign. Jay-Z tweaked the lyrics to suit the historic atmosphere, and the crowd sang along: "I Got 99 problems but a Bush ain't one", replacing "bitch" with the name of the former President.[11] At a rally for President Barack Obama in November 2012 Jay-Z changed the lyrics of the song to "If you having world problems I feel bad for you son / I got 99 Problems but Mitt ain't one."[citation needed]

Eminem referenced the lyrics in his 'So Much Better' track, part of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 album, with "I got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one/ She's all 99 of 'em; I need a machine gun".[12]

Danger Mouse famously remixed this song with samples from "Helter Skelter" by the Beatles as part of his oft-bootlegged album The Grey Album. The track was also remixed with Linkin Park for the EP Collision Course, being mixed with the Linkin Park songs Points of Authority and One Step Closer.

Body Count combined the lyrics of Ice-T's "99 Problems" with the guitar riff from Jay-Z's "99 Problems" for the song "99 Problems BC" on the album Manslaughter.

Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea famously parodied the "99 problems but a bitch ain't one" lyric in their song Problem, in which Iggy Azalea says "I got 99 problems but you won't be one".[13]

In 2009, fellow rapper and collaborator Kid Cudi, referenced the song in the opening verse of his song Soundtrack 2 My Life with the line "I got 99 problems and they all bitches".

The singer Hugo recorded a bluegrass cover of the song in 2011.

Music video[edit]

The music video premiered in April 2004 and was directed by Mark Romanek. It received praises from critics such as Armond White,[14] and was nominated for four MVPA awards in 2005, of which it won three. It also won the MTV Video Music Awards for Best Rap Video, Best Director, Best Editing[15] and Best Cinematography, as well as gaining nominations for Video of the Year and Best Male Video. It was criticized, however, by the Humane Society of the United States for scenes in the video that glorified dog fighting.

The video is shot entirely black-and-white. It consists mainly of scenes filmed in Brooklyn, New York. These include:

  • Jay-Z and Rubin in a Lexus GS300 being stopped by the police (lyrical reenactment).
  • Jay-Z in the Marcy Houses housing project where he grew up.
  • Breakdancers and a group doing a rhythm choreography.
  • Jay-Z performing in a small club.
  • Jay-Z on the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • A woman putting on makeup.
  • Inmates of a prison in the Bronx known as Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center.
  • Rick Rubin walking with Vincent Gallo.
  • A funeral director making preparations.
  • A rabbi praying.
  • A dogfight with many spectators, and the owners of the dogs taunting them in preparation of the fight.
  • Members of Alpha Phi Alpha performing a complex Stepping routine.
  • Jay-Z's lawyer, facilitating bail then reacting to news of his death.a
  • An African-American motorcycle club performing street stunts.
  • Jay-Z being shot with multiple bullets by unseen assailants. This final scene was very controversial as music video networks normally remove any scenes with violent content. On MTV, every airing of the video featured an introduction by John Norris explaining why the network felt it was proper to air the video unedited. The introduction also featured Jay-Z explaining why he felt the scene was important to the video. Jay-Z also made a special introduction for BET. Jay-Z explained that the depiction of a shooting is analogous to the "death" of Jay-Z, and the "rebirth" of Shawn Carter.[16]

Track listings[edit]

99 Problems/My 1st Song[edit]

A-Side

  1. 99 Problems (Clean)
  2. 99 Problems (Main)
  3. 99 Problems (Instrumental)

B-Side

  1. My 1st Song (Clean)
  2. My 1st Song (Main)
  3. My 1st Song (Instrumental)

99 Problems/Dirt Off Your Shoulder, Pt. 1[edit]

  1. 99 Problems (Explicit)
  2. Dirt Off Your Shoulder (Explicit)

99 Problems/Dirt Off Your Shoulder, Pt. 2[edit]

  1. 99 Problems (Explicit)
  2. Dirt Off Your Shoulder (Explicit)
  3. 99 Problems (Video)
  4. Dirt Off Your Shoulder (Video)

99 Problems/Dirt Off Your Shoulder, Vinyl[edit]

A-Side

  1. 99 Problems (Explicit)
  2. 99 Problems (Clean)

B-Side

  1. Dirt Off Your Shoulder (Explicit)
  2. Dirt Off Your Shoulder (Clean)

Charts and certifications[edit]

On July 6, 2008, more than four years after the song's initial release, "99 Problems" entered at #35 (after reaching #12 on initial release) in the United Kingdom. This was attributed to Jay-Z's appearance at Glastonbury and the O2 Wireless Festival, two popular British summer music festivals.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ice-T Talks New Body Count Album, Jay-Z's Remake of "99 Problems" & Much More". Radio.com, YouTube. July 7, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ Rap Sample FAQ. Retrieved 29 November2013. the-breaks.com
  3. ^ a b Mason, Caleb (2012). "Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Verse 2: A Close Reading with Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps". Saint Louis University Law Journal (Saint Louis University School of Law) 56 (2): 567–85. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 111 (1977).
  5. ^ California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565, 580 (1991).
  6. ^ Jay-Z (2011). Decoded. New York: Random House. pp. 56, 61. ISBN 978-0-8129-8115-5. 
  7. ^ Boardman, Madeline (April 28, 2013). "Obama's '99 Problems' Joke At WHCD Jabs Jay-Z". The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 28, 2013. 
  8. ^ Hermes, Will; Hoard, Christian; Rosen, Jody; Sheffield, Rob (December 24, 2009), "100 Best Songs of the Decade". Rolling Stone. (1094/1095):59-62
  9. ^ 150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years, NME.com
  10. ^ Interview in Zane Lowe: Masterpieces 2010: Jay-Z - The Black Album, broadcast on BBC Radio 1, 7pm 23/11/2010.
  11. ^ "Jay-Z - 99 Problems But a Bush Ain't One @ Obama Staff Ball". YouTube. January 21, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Eminem – So Much Better Lyrics". 
  13. ^ "Ariana Grande - Problem Lyrics". 
  14. ^ "YouTube - (Part 14) Armond White on Jay-Z "99 Problems" - Mark Romanek". Tw.youtube.com. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  15. ^ Editor: Robert Duffy, Spot Welders
  16. ^ "Mark Romanek.com on "99 Problems"". Markromanek.com. Archived from the original on 12 October 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Chartverfulgong > Jay-Z > 99 Problems – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  18. ^ "Chart Track: Week 20, 2004". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  19. ^ "Archive Chart: 2004-05-22" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  20. ^ "Jay-Z Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Jay-Z. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  21. ^ "Jay-Z Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for Jay-Z. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  22. ^ "Jay-Z Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Pop Songs for Jay-Z. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  23. ^ "Jay-Z Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot Rap Songs for Jay-Z. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  24. ^ "End Of Year Charts: 2004" (PDF). UKChartsPlus. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  25. ^ "American single certifications – Jay-Z – 99 Problems". Recording Industry Association of America. March 27, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]