Nas has Illmatic. Tupac had All Eyez on Me. Biggie had Ready to Die. Kanye has My Dark Twisted Fantasy and College Dropout. Mos Def has Black on Both Sides.
What’s the classic Jay-Z album? For every person who swears by Reasonable Doubt, there are an equal number of people who stand by Blueprint or The Black Album, or even, now, stupidly, Blueprint III. But all of them have flaws, and all of them have their rightful detractors.
And here’s the thing with Jay-Z: There is no easy answer, because he’s probably the best rapper of all time without one true classic album. He’s the best singles artist in the history of rap, and that’s not even remotely debatable: Jay-Z’s greatest hits album is the best greatest hits comp maybe ever.
But what does it mean that he doesn’t have a singularly “classic” album? Nothing really. He’s won. He’s the richest rapper, he’s got the best life, and I suspect he doesn’t give a fuck that none of his albums is THE defined classic. Because none of his albums is the accepted classic, it’s probably helped extend his career; he’s not constantly being evaluated against one specific album. That’s probably one of the smallest good things about being Jay-Z.