"Jenny from the Block" is a R&B and old school hip hop song, which lyrically is about Lopez not changing despite her level of fame and fortune, and never forgetting her roots and where she came from, The Bronx. The song was noted by critics for using a large amount of musical samples from songs such as 20th Century Steel Band's song "Heaven and Hell Is on Earth" (1975) and Boogie Down Productions' "South Bronx" (1987). It also contained an unaccredited sample from the track "Watch Out Now" (1999) by The Beatnuts, who later called Epic Records and Lopez out on this by releasing a song entitled "Confused Rappers".
While some critics praised the song and theme, others disregarded the lyrics as "silly" and "laughable". Despite this, the song became a commercial success, topping the charts in Canada, reaching number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 and charting within the top ten of several major music markets. The song's music video also caused controversy. It featured Lopez and her boyfriend at the time, Ben Affleck, who later credited the video with nearly "ruining his career", in several raunchy scenes through the paparazzi's point of view. The song has been referenced in popular culture and since its release, Lopez has been referred to as Jenny from the Block in the media.
This Is Me... Then was initially scheduled for a December 2002 release. However, "Jenny from the Block" featuring rappers Jadakiss and Styles P of The LOX was leaked by a pop station in Hartford, Connecticut, and later distributed to other stations owned by Infinity Broadcasting. In response, Lopez and Epic Records pushed forward the album's release date to November 26. Unlike her previous studio albums: On the 6 (1999) and J.Lo (2001), Lopez had a more "hands-on" role on This Is Me... Then. The album also had more of an adult-R&B sound. Musically, majority of the songs on This Is Me... Then were lyrically "dedicated" to her relationship with then-fiancé, actor Ben Affleck.The Age newspaper said the album was a "declaration" of love for Affleck. During an interview, Lopez said "I wrote a lot of songs inspired, in a way, by what I was going through at the time that this album was being made, and he [Affleck] was definitely a big part of that." Several critics highlighted that the album showed how "smitten" she was, and that the content was borderline "annoying".
During the production of the album, Affleck and Lopez were a prominent super couple in the media, and were dubbed as "Bennifer". Lopez stated "We try to make the best of it [sic] I'm not saying there's not times that we wish [we] could just be going to the movies and come out and there's not a crowd there waiting. You just want to spend your Sunday afternoon not working, but at the same time we both love what we do. If that's something that's part of it, then that's fine. We feel the love and we're very happy about it." The overexposure from the media and public interest in their relationship resulted in less admiration for their work and negatively affected their careers, in particular affecting the video for "Jenny from the Block".
"Jenny from the Block" is an uptempo R&B and old school hip hop song, with a running length of three minutes and eight seconds (3:08). The song is in the key of A minor. It was written by Lopez with Troy Oliver, Andre Deyo, Samuel Barnes, Jean-Claude Olivier, José Fernando Arbex Miró, Lawrence Parker, Scott Sterling and Michael Oliver. Along with Rooney and Oliver, Pole & Tone of Trackmasters produced "Jenny from the Block". The opening line of the song is: "Children grow and women producing, men go working, some go stealing, everyone's got to make a living", which is a sample of 20th Century Steel Band's 1975 song "Heaven and Hell Is on Earth". "Heaven and Hell Is on Earth" has been sampled by several others, including Salt-n-Pepa on their song "Heaven or Hell" (1993), Lauryn Hill on "Every Ghetto, Every City" (1998) and The Black Eyed Peas's song "Say Goodbye" from their album Behind the Front (1998).
Lyrically, the song "intones her modest childhood roots vowing she wishes to remain simple despite her diamonds" as she sings in the chorus: "Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got / I'm Still, I'm Still Jenny from the Block / Used to have a little now I have a lot / No matter where I go I know where I came from".Faith Hill would revisit the same theme of being true to one's roots in a country music context for her 2005 hit "Mississippi Girl," which many observers compared to "Jenny from the Block". "Jenny from the Block" also samples Boogie Down Productions's song "South Bronx" (1987) (known for starting The Bridge Wars) and Enoch Light and the Light Brigade's 1975 interpretation of jazz flautist Herbie Mann's selection "Hi-Jack". Lopez sampled the song from The Beatnuts track "Watch Out Now" (which also "Hi-Jack") from their album A Musical Massacre (1999) due to it having the same instrumental beat and same flute melody interpretation. Unfortunately, the Beatnuts were convinced that the sample from "Hi-Jack" was stolen from them without credit, and they subsequently criticized Lopez on the song "Confused Rappers", from their album Milk Me (2004). Additionally, they stated: "Anybody familiar with our music who heard Jenny From The Block knew it was a Beatnuts beat. There’s no getting around it. That’s a straight-up bite. It’s the same drums, the same flute, the same tempo... everything is our idea. If we never flipped that sample, there would be no Jenny From The Block". The main songwriter, Andre Deyo, wrote an ebook in 2013 called "Jenny & Becky From The Block". The book outlines where and how Deyo came up with each line in the song and his life experiences with the song.
The song received a mixed reception from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic negatively reviewed the song, writing: "her only attempts at street-cred are on the laughable lyrics to "Jenny From the Block," where she insists that success hasn't spoiled her yet and she's the same ol' Jen she's always been" and stated that the song is "silly". Sal Cinquemani from Slant said that called the song "infectious" and noted that: "Lopez tries to convince us she's still lil' Jenny Lo from the Bronx, is structured around a chunky casserole of samples including." Jon Caramanica, from The Village Voice, was more cynical with the song, saying: "'Jenny From the Block' continued the conceit of "I'm Real", from her last album, J.Lo, and "I'm Gonna Be Alright". Using the same flute sample the Beatnuts flipped for "Off the Books", a genuine Boricua classic (really, she researched it!), as well as a steady diet of "South Bronx!" yelps pulled from the Boogie Down Productions anthem of the same name, Jenny aims to fast-talk herself into authenticity. It matters not that guest rappers Styles and Jadakiss are from Yonkers, not the Bronx, or that the most humble thing about the accompanying video is, well, Ben Affleck."
James Poletti from Yahoo! Music was also negative, naming the song "agonising" and said that "this is a track so insulting in its cynical appropriation of hip-hop culture that you almost fail to notice that lyric: 'Used to have a little / Now I've got a lot / I'm still Jenny from the block.'" Tom Sinclair from Entertainment Weekly was more favorable, saying "On Jenny From the Block, Lopez insists that fame hasn't changed her, and seduced by the breezy pleasure of her new music, we're almost inclined to believe her". It was also listed as #93 on the list of the 100 Worst Songs Ever by Matthew Wilkening of AOL Radio, commenting that Lopez is "just your average girl, willing to risk a national TV gig over the size of her 'dressing-room compound.'"
On the US Billboard Hot 100, "Jenny from the Block" debuted at number 67 the week of October 12, 2002. In its second week, it jumped twenty-nine spots to 38. By October 26, "Jenny from the Block" had propelled to 17 on the Hot 100 during its third week. The following week on November 2, it moved to 16. By November 16, it had moved to 11. On November 23, during its seventh week on the Hot 100, it moved to a new peak of eight, becoming her seventh top-ten single. It also hit the top ten of the US Hot 100 Airplay chart, at nine. On November 30, in its eighth week, it moved to number four on the Hot 100 Airplay, and six on the Hot 100. By December 14, it peaked at three on the Hot 100, where it remained for three weeks, and also jumped to three on the Airplay chart. Three weeks later, on December 28, "Jenny from the Block" remained stalling at three on the Hot 100 and the Airplay chart. For three weeks it had been blocked from the top spot of both charts by Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Missy Elliott's "Work It". It peaked at two on the US Mainstream Top 40 Pop Songs and 22 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
In Australia, "Jenny from the Block" made its debut inside the top ten at number eight on December 1, 2002. On January 5, 2003, it moved to its peak of five, where it remained for two weeks, and spent a total of sixteen weeks on the chart. It was eventually certified platinum by ARIA for sales exceeding 70,000 units. The song peaked atop the BillboardCanadian Hot 100, becoming her third number-one there following "If You Had My Love" (1999) and "Love Don't Cost a Thing" (2001). In Italy, it debuted at its peak of number four on December 21, and remained on the chart for sixteen weeks, all of which it remained in the top ten for; exiting on March 6, 2003. In New Zealand, it debuted at 49 on November 11, 2002; it peaked at number six on December 8 and spent a total of sixteen weeks on the chart. It was certified Gold by RIANZ for sales of 7,500 copies. It peaked at number two in Spain on December 24, 2002. In the United Kingdom it peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart, becoming her ninth top-ten hit there, as well as her fourth song to peak at three. In France, "Jenny from the Block" peaked at number five and was certified gold by SNEP for sales of 263,000 copies. In Norway, the song debuted at number six and peaked at five. It has been certified Platinum there for sales of 10,000 copies. The song was certified gold in Belgian by the IFPI for sales of 25,000.
Lopez and Affleck on a yacht during the controversial music video for "Jenny from the Block".
The music video was directed by Francis Lawrence. The video's theme is about the media invading Lopez's life, especially her relationship with then-boyfriend, Ben Affleck. The video was filmed in several cities over a month-long period from October 1–24, 2002. It was premiered on MTV's TRL on November 5, 2002.
The video starts with Jennifer and Ben cuddling in their apartment and is intercut with scenes of Lopez performing while the rest of the clip's scenes are from the point of view of surveillance cameras and the paparazzi's camera lenses. The clip begins with a view from the security cameras in Lopez and Affleck's apartment, showing them talking with friends and kissing. The rolling time appears on the right side of the screen. Lopez then plays a song on her Mp3 player and dances in front of the window, where the paparazzi from elsewhere zoom in to. She is also seen performing in front of bright lights on the streets of New York City with Jadakiss and Styles P in different outfits. Vehicles and people (extras) are seen in the background. Separate scenes show her on a yacht sailing in the ocean, spending time sun baking naked with her friends and with Affleck; and later, swimming in the ocean. Lopez and Affleck are having lunch at a restaurant; Lopez looks upset, while Affleck is eyeing the paparazzi holding the camera. They are later at a gas station, where the paparazzi have followed them. She is seen in the recording studio in a building. Lopez is then seen at a jewelry store buying an expensive watch. Outside, she is seen eating a popsicle and biting her fingernail. At the recording studio, "Jenny from the Block" stops playing and she sings "Loving You", and the song resumes. Lopez is also captured taking a high-fashion photo shoot and with Affleck by their pool.
There is also a second version of the video where Styles P and Jadakiss' raps are cut out. Instead, when in the original video Jadakiss and Styles P do their rap, the video changes to Jennifer Lopez and a band performing the chorus of "Loving You" in a building. Then Jennifer sees the paparazzi watching them perform, and the video cuts back to "Jenny from the Block".
Speaking of the video, Melissa Ng of The Spectator wrote: "Before celebrities become stars, they dream about gaining fame, fortune, and being in the spotlight [sic] Jennifer Lopez released a video for her single, Jenny From the Block. The video is basically about how she cannot find privacy with her fiance Ben Affleck. A lot of glamour is associated with fame and fortune; however, along with that glamour comes the loss of privacy." In October 2004, Lopez was reportedly trying to have the video blocked from television channels such as VH1 and MTV; as it featured her ex-fiance. In 2008, during an interview Affleck said that he nearly "ruined" his career by starring in the clip, "If I have a big regret, it was doing the music video. But that happened years ago. I've moved on." Affleck also said he doesn't blame Lopez for his career downfall, "It not only makes me look like a petulant fool (to blame Lopez), but it surely qualifies as ungentlemanly? For the record, did she hurt my career? No." Speaking of the video, Justine Ashley Costanza of International Business Times wrote in 2012: "Back when Lopez was engaged to the wholesome actor, she decided it would be best to make a video about how hard their lives were. Poor J-Lo couldn't lounge on her yacht, be adored in a hot tub, or wear her $1 million engagement ring without someone taking her picture. It's not easy being overly wealthy superstars. The video's premise shows Lopez dealing with the perils of fame the only way she knows how...by taking off most of what she's wearing. It all turned out okay though because once Gigli was released, Bennifer finally got their privacy."
In the past decade since the song's release, Lopez has been nicknamed "Jenny from The Block" in the media, a name news reporters and journalists often use.
American recording artist Becky G recorded a cover version of the song, entitled "Becky from the Block". The song's accompanying music video was shot in Los Angeles on March 6, 2013 and made its world premiere on Vevo on April 8, 2013. Lopez and Casper Smart made a cameo towards the end of the music video. The lyrics of this version are significantly different from the original.ET described the version to have "give(n) Jenny's NY-based tune a West Coast slant".