Hard Knock Life, Vol 2: The Album That Introduced JAY Z To The World

“Hard Knock Life Vol 2” turns 20 years old today. 

Those who knew Shawn Carter pre-Vol 2 were familiar with the emcee and his 1996 classic “Reasonable Doubt”. Vol. 2 was highly anticipated as “In My Lifetime Vol 1”, while solid, wasn’t considered a banger in Jay-Z’s catalog. 

But a year later, on September 29th, 1998, “Hard Knock Life” dropped and JAY Z was introduced to the world.

To give sports fans a comparison, let’s look at the 5 Tool Player In Baseball, which Is defined as:

The ideal position player (non-pitcher) in baseball is an athlete who excels at:
1. hitting for average
2. hitting for power
3. base running skills and speed
4. throwing ability
5. fielding abilities

In relation to Hip Hop, it can be applied to rappers who can do it all (lyrics, flow, production, visuals and ability to collaborate) and do it all well over a career or in an album. Considering Hovs love for numbers, and the 40/40 Club, it would be fitting if we analyzed Vol 2s four radio singles and how it demonstrated his range as a perfect emcee.

Can I Get A…w/ lyrics

I like this song cause it has a lot of swear words in it! Go Jay-Z!!! Plz rate and comment plus dont forget to subscribe!!! Here are the lyrics: [Jay-Z] What?

Can I Get A…
By Jay-Z featuring Ja Rule and Amil

The Irv Gotti and Lil Rob produced track was ice cold and gave Hov the freedom to flow staccato. Featured on the blockbuster “Rush Hour” soundtrack, this song also served as a brief introduction for the masses to Amil and Ja Rule. Rules baritone closer verse, followed by his fire debut single “Holla, Holla,” jump-started his flirtation with crossover success.  

Plus, the video still holds up.

Jay-Z – Hard Knock Life (LIVE)

Jay-Z – Hard Knock Life (live)

Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)
By Jay-Z

Vol 2 was powered by an Annie sample that would turn into an undeniable earworm that traveled from the hood to the burbs and up the Billboard charts. The single with the same name of the albums visual popped on screen, depicted by a hot day in BK with Hov walking through the hood. With kids and families singing the hook of the Broadway classic, it was jarring at the time. Yes, black people love Annie too and with this song, they fell in love with it again.

JAY-Z – Money, Cash, Hoes ft. DMX

Music video by JAY-Z performing Money, Cash, Hoes. (C) 1998 Roc-A-Fella Records, LLC

Money, Cash, Hoes
By Jay-Z featuring DMX

The clip above is mislabeled, but if we were ever owed a music video from the past, Money, Cash, Hoes would be at the top of my personal list. While the singles name definitely doesn’t stand the test of time, the bars do. The energy was palpable and the chemistry between Hov and DMX was electric. 

This was a pre-Showtime! Swizz Beatz product where he provided a stripped down beat filled with bass and key runs that would become the foundation for this signature style. Hovs delivery was smooth while Xs was controlled chaos. You cant pay enough for that.

JAY-Z – Jigga What, Jigga Who

Music video by Jay-Z performing Jigga What, Jigga Who. (C) 2006 Roc-A-Fella Records, LLC

N***a What, N***a Who (Originator 99)
By Jay-Z featuring Big Jaz and Amil

Vol 2s radio track entitled “Jigga What, Jigga Who” was an introduction, or re-induction, to the flow that made Jay Z a rappers rapper. The spaceship that Timbaland produced this beat in allowed Hov to dance double and triple time with his wordplay all over the album’s fourth and final single.

The special effects for the music video are 20 years old, but at the time were trippy AF. This track also served as a then olive branch with Big Jaz/ Jaz -O. Hov was a protege of Jaz-O and spit his scene-stealing verse on “Hawaiian Sophie”.  Beef over bad deals and money were officially laid to rest when Jaz collaborated on Hovs 2017s 4:44.

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