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 11, 2003
  2. "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
    Released: January 13, 2004
  3. "99 Problems"
    Released: April 13, 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 promoted as his final studio album, which serves as a recurring theme,[1] although Jay-Z returned to solo recording with Kingdom Come in 2006.

The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 463,000 copies in its first week.[2] The Black Album has sold 3,516,000 original copies in the United States as of July 2013.[3] It produced three singles that attained Billboard chart success, including Hot 100 top-ten hits "Change Clothes" and "Dirt Off Your Shoulder".

Upon its release, The Black Album received acclaim from music critics. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album at the 47th Grammy Awards,[4] ultimately losing to Kanye West's The College Dropout.[5] The album was ranked #349 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[6]

Jay-Z had announced that The Black Album would be his final album. He went on a retirement tour following the release of the album, but he later came out with releases of various songs and collaborations.[7]

Release and promotion[edit]

Jay-Z said the 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.[8] 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.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[9]
Robert Christgau A[10]
Entertainment Weekly B+[11]
The Guardian 2/5 stars[12]
Mojo 5/5 stars[13]
NME 8/10[14]
Pitchfork Media 8/10[15]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[1]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4.5/5 stars[16]
USA Today 4/4 stars[17]

The Black Album received widespread acclaim from music critics; it holds an aggregate score of 84 out 100 at Metacritic.[18] Mojo magazine called it "magnificent",[19] while Vibe said "it's monumental because it's a culmination of Jigga's natural thoughtfulness delivered with transcendent skill.".[20] AllMusic's John Bush stated, "If The Black Album is Jay-Z's last, as he publicly stated it will be, it illustrates an artist going out in top form",[9] while "Steve Jones of USA Today believed that even with "top-shelf work" from elite producers, "it's Jigga's trademark lyrical dexterity and diversified deliveries that put him on a level all his own."[17] Q was also impressed by Jay-Z's boastful raps: "He excels at flashy cadences and unexpected turns of phrase."[21] In a review for The A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin said Jay-Z returns to "brevity and consistency" on an album that demonstrates his lyrical abilities and, more importantly, hip hop's best producers.[22] Jon Caramanica wrote in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) that The Black Album is "old-school and utterly modern", as it shows 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".[16]

In a less enthusiastic review for Rolling Stone, journalist Touré felt The Black Album is slightly inferior to Jay-Z's best records, namely Reasonable Doubt (1996) and The Blueprint (2001).[1] Dave Simpson of The Guardian was more critical and dismissed the music as "an aural equivalent of that old American favourite, the schmaltzy biopic."[12] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album an "honorable mention", citing "99 Problems" and "My 1st Song" as highlights and writing that Jay-Z "raps like a legend in his own time—namely, Elvis in Vegas".[23] He was more impressed in a retrospective review, particularly by the stretch of songs from "Encore" to "Justify My Thug", and said that although "the fanfares, ovations, maternal reminiscences, and vamp-till-ready shout-outs were overblown at best", they now 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."[10]


Pitchfork Media ranked The Black Album at number 90 on its list of the top 200 albums of the 2000s,[24] and Slant Magazine ranked it number 7 on its list of the Top 100 Albums of the 2000s.[25] According to Billboard, the album is Jay-Z's top selling album of the 2000s and the 136th highest selling album of the decade in the United States.[26] In 2012 Complex named the album one of the classic albums of the last decade.[8]

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


Chart (2003) Peak
U.S. Billboard 200 1
U.S. Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums 1
U.S. Top Rap Albums 1[27]
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 & 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. ^ "Back In 'Black': Jay-Z Swan Song Bows On Top". Billboard. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  3. ^ Paine, Jake. "Hip Hop Album Sales: The Week Ending 7/7/2013". HipHop DX. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  4. ^ Grammy Award Nominees. Retrieved on 2011.05.10.
  5. ^ Grammy Award Winners. Retrieved on 2011.05.10.
  6. ^ 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Jay-Z, 'The Black Album' | Rolling Stone
  7. ^ Toure. Superstardom is Boring: Jay-Z Quits Again. New York Times, 2003, p. AR33.
  8. ^ a b "Jay-Z, The Black Album (2003) — 25 Rap Albums From the Past Decade That Deserve Classic Status". Complex. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Bush, John. Review: The Black Album. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  10. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (September 9, 2011). "Jay-Z". MSN Music. Microsoft. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  11. ^ Drumming, Neil. Review: The Black Album. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  12. ^ a b The Guardian review
  13. ^ Mojo (London): 104. January 2004. 
  14. ^ Columnist. "Review: The Black Album". NME: November 22, 2003. (Transcription of original review at talk page)
  15. ^ Staff. Review: The Black Album. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  16. ^ a b Caramanica, Jon (2004) "Jay-Z". In Christian Hoard (ed.). The Rolling Stone Album Guide: 424–425.
  17. ^ a b Jones, Steve. Review: The Black Album. USA Today. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  18. ^ The Black Album (2003): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  19. ^ "Review: The College Dropout". Mojo (London): 102. May 2004. 
  20. ^ Editors, The. "Review: The Black Album". Vibe: 120. January 2004.
  21. ^ Q (London) (January): 108. 2004.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ The A.V. Club review
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 13, 2004). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York: Village Voice Media). Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  24. ^ Pitchfork staff (September 30, 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 100–51". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved October 1, 2009. 
  25. ^ Slant staff (February 1, 2010). "The Top 100 Albums of the 2000s: 10–1". Slant Magazine. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  26. ^ Decade-end Charts. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-05-29.
  27. ^ Rap Albums : Dec 09, 2006 | Billboard Chart Archive

External links[edit]