Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life

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Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Studio album by Jay-Z
Released September 29, 1998
Recorded 1998
Genre East Coast 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
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[1]
The A.V. Club (favorable)[2]
Robert Christgau (3-star Honorable Mention)[3]
IGN (8.3/10)[4]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[5]
NME (6/10)[6]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[7]
The Source 4.5/5 stars[8]
Yahoo! Music (favorable)[9]
Washington Post (favorable)[10]

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

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."[11]

Commercial success[edit]

It is Jay-Z's best selling album as of 2013 and was certified 5x Platinum by the RIAA in 2000 and won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 1999. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 350,000 copies in its first week,[12] and also went to #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, marking the first of nine consecutive chart-topping albums on both charts to date from Jay-Z, excluding collaboration albums. Upon its release, the album received generally mixed to positive reviews from most music critics, while hip hop purists felt his aims to be a crossover success had compromised the quality and complexity of his music. As of 2013, the album has sold 5,400,000 copies in the United States.[13]

The album ranked #46 on Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Albums Of The 90's."[14]

The album received critical acclaim from music critics, and JAY Z himself ranked it as his 4th best album.


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.

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 [Bonus Track]" (featuring Memphis Bleek) Damon Dash, Mahogany Music 4:01
14. "Money Ain't a Thang [Bonus Track]" (featuring Jermaine Dupri) 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

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)[20] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[21] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[22] 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. ^ Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life at AllMusic
  2. ^ Rabin, Nathan (2002-03-29). "Jay-Z: Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life | Music | MusicalWork Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  3. ^ "CG: jay-z". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  4. ^ "Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life - IGN". Music.ign.com. 2003-11-11. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "NME Album Reviews - Volume 2... Hard Knock Life". Nme.Com. 1999-01-18. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  7. ^ The New Rolling Stone Album Guide - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  8. ^ "Music: Vol. 2, Hard Knock Life (CD) by Jay-Z (Artist)". Tower.com. 1998-09-29. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  9. ^ http://ca.music.yahoo.com/read/review/12035256. Retrieved June 25, 2009.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  10. ^ "Jay-Z's School of `Hard Knock'; He Belabors the Obvious, Disses the Competition. But His Fluid Flow Keeps Him at the Top". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. 1998-10-28. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  11. ^ Lewis, Pete. Jay-Z: A B&S classic interview December 1998, Blues & Soul
  12. ^ Reiss, Randy (October 14, 1998). "Jay-Z's New Hard Knock Life Has A Golden Week". 
  13. ^ http://www.complex.com/music/2013/05/the-50-best-selling-rap-albums/jay-z-vol-2-hard-knock-life
  14. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-best-albums-of-the-nineties-20110427/jay-z-vol-2-hard-knock-life-20110505
  15. ^ "Canadian Albums Chart - November 14, 1998". Billboard. 
  16. ^ 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)
  17. ^ "Billboard 200 - October 17, 1998". Billboard. 
  18. ^ "Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums - October 17, 1998". Billboard. 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ "Canadian album certifications – JAY Z – Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life". Music Canada. 
  21. ^ "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
  22. ^ "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]