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The Black Album (Jay-Z album)

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The Black Album
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 14, 2003
RecordedJuly – October 2003
GenreEast Coast hip hop
Jay-Z chronology
Blueprint 2.1
The Black Album
Unfinished Business
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. It was released on November 14, 2003, through Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings. It was advertised as his final album before retiring, which is also a recurring theme throughout the songs,[1] although Jay-Z resumed his recording career in 2005. For the album, Jay-Z wanted to enlist a different producer for each song, working with Just Blaze, Kanye West, the Neptunes, Eminem, DJ Quik, Timbaland, 9th Wonder and Rick Rubin, among others. The album also features a guest appearance by Pharrell Williams.

The Black Album was promoted with a retirement tour by Jay-Z. It was also supported by three singles: "99 Problems", also the Billboard top-ten hits "Change Clothes" and "Dirt off Your Shoulder". The album received widespread acclaim from music critics and was a massive commercial success. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 463,000 copies in its first week. It became Jay-Z's top selling record of the 2000s decade, and was certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2023. The songs "Encore", "Dirt off Your Shoulder", and "99 Problems" are all on the mashup EP, Collision Course with Linkin Park.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyB+[4]
The Guardian[5]
MSN Music (Expert Witness)A[7]
Rolling Stone[11]
USA Today[12]

The Black Album was met with widespread critical acclaim. 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.[2] 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",[13] 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.[12] 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.[14] 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".[15]

Some reviewers were less enthusiastic. In Rolling Stone, Touré determined that The Black Album was slightly inferior to Jay-Z's best records, namely Reasonable Doubt (1996) and The Blueprint (2001).[11] 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".[16] Nonetheless, in a retrospective review in 2011, Christgau stated that he was impressed by the stretch of songs from "Encore" to "Justify My Thug" and thought "the fanfares, ovations, maternal reminiscences, and vamp-till-ready shout-outs were overblown at best" at the time of its release, but they came to sound "prophetic" because of the entrepreneurial success and fame he continued to achieve afterwards. "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," Christgau wrote, "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,[17] losing to Kanye West's The College Dropout at the 47th Grammy Awards.[18] It was ranked number 349 on Rolling Stone's 2012 edition of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, and rose to number 155 on the list's 2020 edition.[19][20] Pitchfork ranked The Black Album at number 90 on its decade-end list of the top 200 albums from the 2000s,[21] while Slant Magazine ranked it seventh best on a similar list.[22] In 2012, Complex named it one of the "classic" records of the previous decade.[23]

Commercial performance[edit]

The Black Album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 463,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Soundscan.[24] This became Jay-Z's sixth US number one album.[24] Another note on the alter was that the Black Album also blocked the soundtrack to the Tupac Shakur documentary, Tupac: Resurrection, and the G-Unit debut album, Beg for Mercy, from the top position. Both albums charted at numbers two and three respectively.[25] In its second week, the album dropped to number four on the chart, selling an additional 288,000 copies.[26] In its third week, the album climbed to number one on the chart, selling 288,000 more copies.[27] In its fourth week, the album dropped to number ten on the chart, selling 124,000 copies.[28] On August 16, 2005, the album was certified RIAA Certification triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of over three million copies.[29] As of July 2013, the album had sold 3,516,000 copies in the US.[30] 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.[31]

Three singles were released from the album and appeared on the Billboard charts. "Change Clothes" and "Dirt off Your Shoulder" both reached the top 10 of the Hot 100, while "99 Problems" peaked at number 30.[32]


In December 2004, Roc-A-Fella Records released The Black Album on vinyl with no beats underneath Jay-Z's lyrics, spurring producers and DJs to rework his farewell disc into creations such as The Brown Album and even The Grey Album, by Los Angeles producer Danger Mouse, which combines Jay's words with music from the Beatles' self-titled album (also known as the "White Album"), breaking with the Roc-A-Fella's tradition of not releasing acappella 12-inches, so producers could "remix the hell out of it."[33]

Several notable reworkings were released but of all the remixed albums, The Grey Album was the most popular. The hype around The Grey Album gained notoriety when EMI attempted to halt its distribution despite approval from Jay-Z and the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.[34] EMI ordered Danger Mouse and retailers carrying the album to cease distribution.[35] Music industry activist group Downhill Battle responded by coordinating Grey Tuesday, an electronic civil disobedience event held on February 24, 2004. Participating websites posted copies of The Grey Album for free download for a 24-hour period in protest of EMI's attempts to prevent distribution of the mashup on the grounds that sampling is fair use and that a statutory license should be provided in the same manner as if an artist were to perform or record a cover version of a song. Hundreds of websites publicized the event with 170 hosting the album for download. Over 100,000 copies were downloaded on that day alone.[36] The legal repercussions of the protest were minimal; a number of the participants received cease and desist letters from EMI, but no charges were filed in connection with the event.

Track listing[edit]

All song samples, writing and production credits are according to the album booklet.

1."Interlude" Just Blaze1:21
2."December 4th"
Just Blaze4:33
3."What More Can I Say"
The Buchanans4:55
5."Change Clothes" (featuring Pharrell Williams)The Neptunes4:18
6."Dirt off Your Shoulder"Timbaland4:05
8."Moment of Clarity"4:24
9."99 Problems"
10."Public Service Announcement (Interlude)"
  • Carter
  • Smith
  • Raymond Levin
Just Blaze2:53
11."Justify My Thug"DJ Quik4:04
  • Carter
  • West
  • Hugh Perry
  • Armend Cobi
  • Maxie Smith
  • Carter
  • Williams
  • Hugo
The Neptunes4:52
14."My 1st Song"
  • Aqua
  • Joe "3H" Weinberger

Track notes[edit]

  • ^[a] signifies an additional producer
  • "What More Can I Say" features additional vocals by Vincent 'Hum V' Bostic
  • "Encore" features additional vocals by John Legend, Don Crawley, Leonard Harris and Kanye West
  • "Change Clothes" features additional vocals by Pharrell Williams
  • "Threat" features additional vocals by Cedric the Entertainer
  • "Justify My Thug" features additional vocals by Sharlotte Gibson
  • "Lucifer" features additional vocals by Kanye West

Sample credits[edit]


Adapted from AllMusic.[37]

  • Aqua – producer
  • Marcella Araica – assistant
  • Vincent "Hum V" Bostic – vocals
  • David Brown – engineer, mixing assistant
  • Shari Bryant – marketing
  • Buchannans – producer
  • Kareem "Biggs" Burke – executive producer
  • Shawn Carter – executive producer, liner notes, primary artist, producer
  • Demacio Castellon – engineer
  • Cedric The Entertainer – guest artist, vocals
  • Don Crawley – vocals
  • Damon Dash – executive producer
  • Tony Dawsey – mastering
  • DJ Quik – mixing, producer
  • Danee Doty – vocals
  • Jimmy Douglas – mixing
  • Eminem – mixing, producer
  • Sharlotte Gibson – vocals
  • Walik Goshorn – photography
  • Leon Harris – vocals
  • Keenan "Kee Note" Holloway – bass
  • Ken "Duro" Ifill – mixing
  • Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshua – A&R
  • Just Blaze – producer
  • Gimel Keaton – engineer, mixing
  • Steve King – bass, engineer, guitar, mixing
  • Jason Lader – programming
  • Darcell Lawrence – A&R
  • John Legend – vocals
  • Jonathan Mannion – photography
  • Rob Mitchell – A&R
  • The Neptunes – producer
  • 9th Wonder – producer
  • Amber Noble – marketing
  • Felix Pappalardi –
  • Luis Resto – keyboards, producer
  • Rick Rubin – mixing, producer
  • Lenny Santiago – A&R, photography
  • Andrew Scheps – engineer, mixing
  • Robert Sims – art direction, design
  • Chris Steflene – assistant engineer
  • Michael Strange Jr. – engineer
  • Darrell Thorp – mixing
  • Timbaland – producer
  • Richard Travali – mixing
  • Joseph Weinberger – producer
  • Eric Weissman – sample clearance
  • Kanye West – producer, vocals



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[59] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[60] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[29] 4× Platinum 4,000,000

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Toure. Superstardom is Boring: Jay-Z Quits Again. New York Times, 2003, p. AR33.
  2. ^ a b "Reviews for The Black Album by Jay-Z". Metacritic. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Bush, John. "The Black Album – Jay-Z". AllMusic. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  4. ^ Drumming, Neil (November 24, 2003). "The Black Album". Entertainment Weekly. New York. Archived from the original on April 20, 2019. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Simpson, Dave (November 21, 2003). "Jay-Z: The Black Album". The Guardian. London. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  6. ^ "Jay-Z: The Black Album". Mojo (122). London: 104. January 2004.
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (September 9, 2011). "Jay-Z". MSN Music. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  8. ^ "Jay-Z: The Black Album". NME. London. November 22, 2003. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  9. ^ Schreiber, Ryan; Pemberton, Rollie; Goldstein, Hartley; Mitchum, Rob; Bowers, William; Chennault, Sam; DiCrescenzo, Brent; Dahlen, Chris; Plagenhoef, Scott (November 16, 2003). "Jay-Z: The Black Album". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  10. ^ "Jay-Z: The Black Album". Q (210): 108. January 2004.
  11. ^ a b Touré (November 19, 2003). "Jay-Z: The Black Album". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 1, 2009. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Jones, Steve (November 16, 2003). "Jay-Z goes out on top of his game". USA Today. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  13. ^ "Review: The Black Album". Vibe. No. 120. January 2004.
  14. ^ The A.V. Club review
  15. ^ Caramanica, Jon (2004). "Jay-Z". In Hoard, Christian (ed.). The Rolling Stone Album Guide. New York City: Simon & Schuster. pp. 424–425. ISBN 9780743201698.
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 13, 2004). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved August 26, 2012 – via robertchristgau.com.
  17. ^ "Grammy Award nominees in top categories". USA Today. Associated Press. February 7, 2005. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  18. ^ Grammy Award Winners. Retrieved on 2011.05.10.
  19. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 22, 2020.
  20. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Jay-Z, 'The Black Album'". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2009.
  21. ^ Pitchfork staff (September 30, 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 100–51". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
  22. ^ Slant staff (February 1, 2010). "The Top 100 Albums of the 2000s: 10–1". Slant Magazine. Retrieved March 21, 2010.
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  26. ^ "Britney In Her 'Zone' Atop Billboard 200". Billboard. November 26, 2003. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  27. ^ "Jay-Z Back Atop The Billboard 200". Billboard. December 3, 2003. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  28. ^ Joe D'Angelo (December 10, 2003). "Diary of Alicia Keys Enters Billboard Chart At #1". MTV. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  29. ^ a b "American album certifications – JAY Z – The Black Album". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved July 12, 2023.
  30. ^ Paine, Jake (July 10, 2013). "Hip Hop Album Sales: The Week Ending 7/7/2013". HipHop DX. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  31. ^ "Decade-end Charts". Billboard. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  32. ^ Gantt, Kareem (October 16, 2014). "Back in the day review: Jay-Z: 'The Black Album'". AXS. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  33. ^ Reid, Shaheem (January 26, 2004). "Remixers Turn Jay-Z's Black Album Grey, White and Brown". MTV.
  34. ^ York, Jillian C. (April 24, 2014). "The fight to protect digital rights is an uphill battle, but not a silent one". The Guardian. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  35. ^ Rambarran, Shara (2013). "'99 Problems' but Danger Mouse Ain't One: The Creative and Legal Difficulties of Brian Burton, 'Author' of The Grey Album". Popular Musicology Online. 3.
  36. ^ Rimmer, p. 130
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  49. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  50. ^ "Official R&B Albums Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  51. ^ "Jay-Z Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
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  54. ^ "Top Billboard 200 Albums – Year-End 2003". Billboard. January 2, 2013. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
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  56. ^ "Top 50 Global Best Selling Albums for 2003" (PDF). International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 17, 2008. Retrieved February 1, 2023.
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  59. ^ "Canadian album certifications – JAY Z – The Black Album". Music Canada.
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  1. ^ John Lennon is credited to the Lennon-McCartney partnership although McCartney wrote this particular song solo.

External links[edit]