The Black Album (Jay Z album)

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The Black Album
Studio album by Jay Z
Released November 14, 2003
Genre Hip hop
Length 55:32
Label Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Producer Jay Z (exec.), Damon Dash (exec.), Kareem "Biggs" Burke (exec.), Kanye West, Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Timbaland, Eminem, Rick Rubin, The Buchanans, 9th Wonder, Luis Resto, Aqua, Joseph Weinberger, DJ Quik
Jay Z chronology
The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse
The Black Album
Kingdom Come
Singles from The Black Album
  1. "Change Clothes"
    Released: November 4, 2003
  2. "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
    Released: March 2, 2004
  3. "99 Problems"
    Released: April 27, 2004

The Black Album is the eighth studio album by American rapper Jay Z, released on November 14, 2003, by Roc-A-Fella Records. It was advertised as his final album before retiring, which is as a recurring theme throughout the songs,[1] although Jay Z resumed his recording career in 2006. For the album, Jay Z wanted to enlist a different producer for each song, working with Kanye West, The Neptunes, Timbaland, Rick Rubin, and 9th Wonder, among others.

When The Black Album was released, it received widespread acclaim from critics. In its first week, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 463,000 copies in the United States. It became Jay Z's top selling record of the 2000s decade, and by July 2013, it had sold 3,516,000 copies in the US. The Black Album was promoted with a retirement tour by Jay Z and three singles that also achieved Billboard chart success, including the top-ten hits "Change Clothes" and "Dirt Off Your Shoulder".


Jay-Z said The Black Album would have a different producer for each track, and early magazine advertisements listed a series of numbers (representing tracks) and a producer for each number. Dr. Dre and DJ Premier were originally supposed to be among these producers; however, they did not make the final cut.[2] The final album did feature a variety of producers, although Roc-A-Fella producers Kanye West and Just Blaze produced two tracks each, in addition to the two produced by frequent Jay-Z collaborators The Neptunes.[citation needed]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[3]
Entertainment Weekly B+[4]
The Guardian 2/5 stars[5]
Mojo 5/5 stars[6]
MSN Music A[7]
NME 8/10[8]
Pitchfork Media 8/10[9]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[1]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4.5/5 stars[10]
USA Today 4/4 stars[11]

Jay-Z had announced that The Black Album would be his final record and went on a retirement tour after its release.[12] When it was released, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 463,000 copies in its first week.[13] According to Billboard, it became Jay-Z's top selling record of the 2000s and the 136th highest selling record of the decade in the United States.[14] By July 2013, the album had sold 3,516,000 copies in the US.[15]

The Black Album received widespread acclaim from contemporary critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, it received an average score of 84, based on 19 reviews.[16] AllMusic's John Bush claimed Jay-Z was retiring at his peak with the album.[3] Vibe magazine said it was remarkable as an apotheosis of his genuinely thoughtful songwriting and lyrics "delivered with transcendent skill",[17] while Steve Jones from USA Today said even with "top-shelf work" from elite producers, the album was elevated by Jay-Z's uniquely deft and diverse rapping style.[11] Writing for The A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin felt Jay-Z returned to "brevity and consistency" on an album that demonstrated his lyrical abilities and, more importantly, hip hop's best producers.[18] Jon Caramanica wrote in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) that The Black Album was both "old-school and utterly modern", showcasing Jay-Z "at the top of his game, able to reinvent himself as a rap classicist at the right time, as if to cement his place in hip-hop's legacy for generations to come".[10]

In a less enthusiastic review for Rolling Stone, Touré argued that The Black Album was slightly inferior to Jay-Z's best records, namely Reasonable Doubt (1996) and The Blueprint (2001).[1] Dave Simpson from The Guardian was more critical, dismissing the music as "an aural equivalent of that old American favourite, the schmaltzy biopic."[5] In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave the record a back-handed compliment: "[Jay-Z] raps like a legend in his own time—namely, Elvis in Vegas".[19] Nonetheless, he was impressed by the stretch of songs from "Encore" to "Justify My Thug" and wrote in a retrospective review for MSN Music that "the fanfares, ovations, maternal reminiscences, and vamp-till-ready shout-outs were overblown at best", but they have come to sound "prophetic" because of the entrepreneurial success and fame Jay-Z continued to achieve after The Black Album: "He's got a right to celebrate his autobiography in rhyme because he's on track to become a personage who dwarfs any mere rapper, and not only can he hire the best help dark green can buy, he can make it sing."[7]

In 2005, The Black Album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album,[20] losing to Kanye West's The College Dropout at the 47th Grammy Awards.[21] It was also ranked number 349 in Rolling Stone‍ '​s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[22] Pitchfork Media ranked The Black Album at number 90 on its decade-end list of the top 200 albums from the 2000s,[23] while Slant Magazine ranked it seventh best on a similar list.[24] In 2012, Complex named it one of the "classic" records of the previous decade.[2]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Producer(s) Length
1. "Interlude"   Just Blaze 1:22
2. "December 4th"   Just Blaze 4:32
3. "What More Can I Say"   The Buchanans 4:55
4. "Encore"   Kanye West 4:11
5. "Change Clothes" (featuring Pharrell) The Neptunes 4:18
6. "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"   Timbaland 4:05
7. "Threat"   9th Wonder 4:05
8. "Moment of Clarity"   Eminem, Luis Resto (co.) 4:24
9. "99 Problems"   Rick Rubin 3:55
10. "Public Service Announcement (Interlude)"   Just Blaze 2:53
11. "Justify My Thug"   DJ Quik 4:05
12. "Lucifer"   Kanye West 3:12
13. "Allure"   The Neptunes 4:52
14. "My 1st Song"   Aqua, Joe "3H" Weinberger 4:45

Sample credits[edit]


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2003) Peak
Belgian Albums Chart 97
Dutch Albums Chart 66
French Albums Chart 66
German Albums Chart 47
Norwegian Albums Chart 18
Swedish Albums Chart 41
Swiss Albums Chart 29
UK Albums Chart 34
US Billboard 200 1
US Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums 1
US Top Rap Albums 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2004) Position
US Billboard 200 11


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[25] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[26] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[27] 3× Platinum 3,516,000[15]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Preceded by
Shock'n Y'all by Toby Keith
Billboard 200 number-one album (first run)
November 23, 2003 – November 29, 2003
Succeeded by
In the Zone by Britney Spears
Preceded by
In the Zone by Britney Spears
Billboard 200 number-one album (second run)
December 7, 2003 – December 13, 2003
Succeeded by
The Diary of Alicia Keys by Alicia Keys


  • Executive producers: Shawn Carter, Damon Dash, Kareem "Biggs" Burke
  • A&R direction: Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshua
  • A&R: Lenny S.
  • A&R direction/join venture: Darcell Lawrence
  • A&R administration: Rob Mitchell
  • Recording administration: Rob Mitchell
  • Mastering: Tony Dawsey
  • Marketing: Shari Bryant, Amber Noble
  • Management: Roc-A-Fella Management
  • Art direction and design: Robert Sims
  • Principal photography: Jonathan Mannion
  • Additional photography: Lenny "kodak man" Santiago, Walik Goshorn
  • Legal counsel: Michael Guido, Jennifer Justice
  • Business affairs for Roc-A-Fella Records: Michael Seltzer, Ian Allen, Antoinette Trotman, Jeff Kempler
  • Sample clearance agent: Eric Weissman

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Touré. Review: The Black Album at the Wayback Machine (archived April 1, 2009). Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  2. ^ a b "Jay-Z, The Black Album (2003) — 25 Rap Albums From the Past Decade That Deserve Classic Status". Complex. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Bush, John. Review: The Black Album. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  4. ^ Drumming, Neil. Review: The Black Album. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  5. ^ a b The Guardian review
  6. ^ Mojo (London): 104. January 2004. 
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (September 9, 2011). "Jay-Z". MSN Music. Microsoft. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  8. ^ Columnist. "Review: The Black Album". NME: November 22, 2003. (Transcription of original review at talk page)
  9. ^ Review: The Black Album. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  10. ^ a b Caramanica, Jon (2004) "Jay-Z". In Christian Hoard (ed.). The Rolling Stone Album Guide: 424–425.
  11. ^ a b Jones, Steve. Review: The Black Album. USA Today. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  12. ^ Toure. Superstardom is Boring: Jay-Z Quits Again. New York Times, 2003, p. AR33.
  13. ^ "Back In 'Black': Jay-Z Swan Song Bows On Top". Billboard. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  14. ^ Decade-end Charts. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-05-29.
  15. ^ a b Paine, Jake. "Hip Hop Album Sales: The Week Ending 7/7/2013". HipHop DX. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  16. ^ The Black Album (2003): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  17. ^ Editors, The. "Review: The Black Album". Vibe: 120. January 2004.
  18. ^ The A.V. Club review
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 13, 2004). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York: Village Voice Media). Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  20. ^ Grammy Award Nominees. Retrieved on 2011.05.10.
  21. ^ Grammy Award Winners. Retrieved on 2011.05.10.
  22. ^ 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Jay-Z, 'The Black Album' | Rolling Stone
  23. ^ Pitchfork staff (September 30, 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 100–51". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved October 1, 2009. 
  24. ^ Slant staff (February 1, 2010). "The Top 100 Albums of the 2000s: 10–1". Slant Magazine. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Canadian album certifications – JAY Z – The Black Album". Music Canada. 
  26. ^ "British album certifications – JAY Z – The Black Album". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter The Black Album in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  27. ^ "American album certifications – JAY Z – The Black Album". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]