Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life

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Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Studio album by Jay-Z
Released September 29, 1998
Recorded 1997–1998
Genre Hip hop
Length 61:43
Label Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Producer Jay Z (Executive) , Kareem "Biggs" Burke (Executive) , Damon Dash (Executive) , Swizz Beatz, DJ Premier, The 45 King, Timbaland, Stevie J, Irv Gotti, Erick Sermon, Kid Capri, Damon Dash, Jermaine Dupri, J-Runnah, Lil' Rob, Darold Trotter, Mahogany Music
Jay-Z chronology
In My Lifetime, Vol. 1
Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter
Singles from Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life
  1. "Can I Get A..."
    Released: September 1, 1998
  2. "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)"
    Released: October 27, 1998
  3. "Money, Cash, Hoes"
    Released: November 9, 1998
  4. "Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99)"
    Released: March 1, 1999

Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life is the third studio album by American rapper Jay-Z. It was released on September 29, 1998, by Roc-A-Fella Records.

In the liner notes of the album, Jay-Z gives his thoughts on various tracks. The lyrics to the fast paced "Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99)" are also included.


Speaking in December 1998 to noted UK urban writer Pete Lewis of the award-winning Blues & Soul, Jay described the background to the album's lyrical themes: "Primarily I see myself as so much more than a rapper. I really believe I'm the voice for a lot of people who don't have that microphone or who can't rap. So I wanted to represent and tell the story of everybody who's been through what I've been through, or knows somebody that has. I also wanted to speak about our lifestyle to people who - though they may live, say, in the suburbs and not be part of that world - still want to know about it and understand it."[1]

Commercial success[edit]

It is Jay-Z's best selling album as of 2013 and was certified 5x Platinum by the RIAA in 2000. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 350,000 copies in its first week.[2] By 2013, the album had sold 5,400,000 copies in the United States.[3]


Several tracks in this feature a rougher sound than the glossier Bad Boy production on In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, most notably the three tracks produced by Ruff Ryders beatmaker Swizz Beatz. With the exception of Stevie J on "Ride or Die," Bad Boy producers play no role in Vol. 2, though Jay-Z enlisted Timbaland, Jermaine Dupri, and Irv Gotti for a more pop-oriented sound on three of the albums' singles. This would also be Jay-Z's last album to feature his mentor Big Jaz.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[4]
Christgau's Consumer Guide (3-star Honorable Mention)[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[6]
IGN 8.3/10[7]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[8]
NME 6/10[9]
Q 3/5 stars[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[11]
The Source 4.5/5[12]

In a contemporary review for Playboy, Robert Christgau deemed Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life a progression from its predecessor, featuring more noticeable beats that would appeal to listeners other than just hip hop aesthetes. He highlighted the title track's "audacious Annie sample" and the production of Swizz Beats, whom he believed took influence from postminimalist composers such Steve Reich and Philip Glass. "And whatever Jay-Z's moral values", Christgau wrote, "the man knows how to put words together and say them real fast."[13] He later gave it a three-star honorable mention in his Consumer Guide book, indicating "an enjoyable effort that consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure".[5] In The A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin said the record was "an uneven if worthwhile" album whose best songs "strip gangsta rap of its superthug bravado and replace it with a more nuanced understanding of the human emotions behind the gangsta facade".[14] Q called it "the epitome of mainstream hip hop" at the time.[10]

Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life was later ranked number 46 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums from the 1990s.[15]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, and featured rappers. 

No. Title Producer(s) Length
1. "Intro - Hand It Down" (performed by Memphis Bleek) DJ Premier 2:56
2. "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)"   The 45 King 3:58
3. "If I Should Die" (featuring Da Ranjahz) Swizz Beatz 4:55
4. "Ride or Die"   Steven "Stevie J" Jordan of The Hitmen 4:48
5. "Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99)" (featuring Amil & Big Jaz) Timbaland 3:53
6. "Money, Cash, Hoes" (featuring DMX) Swizz Beatz 4:46
7. "A Week Ago" (featuring Too $hort) J-Runnah 5:00
8. "Coming of Age (Da Sequel)" (featuring Memphis Bleek) Swizz Beatz 4:21
9. "Can I Get A..." (featuring Amil & Ja Rule) Irv Gotti, Lil Rob 5:09
10. "Paper Chase" (featuring Foxy Brown) Timbaland 4:34
11. "Reservoir Dogs" (featuring The LOX, Beanie Sigel & Sauce Money) Erick Sermon, Darold "POP" Trotter*; Rockwilder** 5:19
12. "It's Like That" (featuring Kid Capri & Liz Leite) Kid Capri 3:45
13. "It's Alright" (featuring Memphis Bleek) (bonus track) Damon Dash, Mahogany Music 4:01
14. "Money Ain't a Thang" (featuring Jermaine Dupri) (bonus track) Jermaine Dupri 4:13

* Indicates co-producer
** Ghost produced by Rockwilder

Sample credits[edit]

Intro (Hand It Down)

Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)

  • "It's The Hard Knock Life" from Annie

Money, Cash, Hoes

  • "Theme of Thief" from Tohru Nakabayashi & Y. "Dolphin" Takada (from the Golden Axe soundtrack)

A Week Ago

Reservoir Dogs

  • "Theme from Shaft" by Isaac Hayes
  • "24- Carat Black (Theme)" by 24 Carat Black
  • "Know How" by Young MC

It's Like That

It's Alright

Money Ain't a Thang

Chart history[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[21] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[22] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[23] 5× Platinum 5,000,000^

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

Chart procession and succession
Preceded by
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
by Lauryn Hill
Billboard 200 number-one album
October 17, 1998 – November 20, 1998
Succeeded by
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
by Alanis Morissette

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lewis, Pete. Jay-Z: A B&S classic interview December 1998, Blues & Soul
  2. ^ Reiss, Randy (October 14, 1998). "Jay-Z's New Hard Knock Life Has A Golden Week". 
  3. ^ http://www.complex.com/music/2013/05/the-50-best-selling-rap-albums/jay-z-vol-2-hard-knock-life
  4. ^ Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life at AllMusic
  5. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. Macmillan. pp. xvi, 149. ISBN 0312245602. 
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Jay-Z". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0857125958. 
  7. ^ "Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life - IGN". Music.ign.com. 2003-11-11. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  8. ^ Baker, Soren (1998-10-10). "Jay-Z Offers Intense Tales of 'Life' and the Street - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  9. ^ "NME Album Reviews - Volume 2... Hard Knock Life". Nme.Com. 1999-01-18. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  10. ^ a b "Review". Q. December 2000. p. 144. 
  11. ^ The New Rolling Stone Album Guide - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  12. ^ "Music: Vol. 2, Hard Knock Life (CD) by Jay-Z (Artist)". Tower.com. 1998-09-29. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (November 1998). "Beck, Jay-Z". Playboy. Retrieved September 4, 2016. 
  14. ^ Rabin, Nathan (2002-03-29). "Jay-Z: Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life | Music | MusicalWork Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  15. ^ "100 Best Albums of the Nineties". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 4, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Canadian Albums Chart - November 14, 1998". Billboard. 
  17. ^ http://www.charts.org.nz/showitem.asp?interpret=Jay%2DZ&titel=Vol%2E+2%2E%2E%2E+Hard+Knock+Life&cat=a.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ "Billboard 200 - October 17, 1998". Billboard. 
  19. ^ "Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums - October 17, 1998". Billboard. 
  20. ^ Geoff Mayfield (December 25, 1999). 1999 The Year in Music Totally '90s: Diary of a Decade - The listing of Top Pop Albums of the '90s & Hot 100 Singles of the '90s. Billboard. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Canadian album certifications – JAY Z – Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life". Music Canada. 
  22. ^ "British album certifications – JAY Z – Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  23. ^ "American album certifications – JAY Z – Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]