Jay-Z: Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life (1998). Superstardom Awaits
B. Cox and Domo review Jay-Z's third album Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life as it turns 25. Looking to improve on his commercial success from Vol. 1...In My Lifetime, Jay-Z looked to bring on new producers to give his album the commercial shine without the sound being overglossed. In for this album, production wise was the likes of Swizz Beats and Timbaland to go along with mainstays DJ Premier, Irv Gotti, Erick Sermon and others. The album featured a distinct commercial sound more appropriate for his flow and style as well as the trademark gritty beats and street tracks that was a hallmark of his style from his debut.
On Vol. 2, Jay also showed how versatile his flow was, showing that he could rap four different ways on four different radio smashes. The album featured four singles: "Can I Get A..." featuring Amil and Def Jam labelmate Ja Rule, the 'Annie' sample assisted banger "Hard Knock Life", "Money, Cash, Hoes" featuring DMX and "Nigga Who, Nigga What?" featuring his mentor Big Jaz (Jaz-O). All singles saw considerable commercial success and became drivers for the album to become his best selling album to date at almost six million copies. It is credited as the album that propelled Jay-Z to becoming a hip-hop superstar and would set the table for a three year run that would solidify his status as the best rapper in the game.
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