Jay Z - Discography

Annotated list of Jay Z's albums through the years

Jay Z is undeniably one of the most important artists of our generation. His career has flourished with hit after hit. Need proof? Here's an annotated overview of Jay Z's discography.

'Reasonable Doubt' (1996)

© Roc-a-Fella

By all creative standards, Jay-Z's first album was his best. Before

Reasonable Doubt
Reasonable Doubt

was both an honest narrative of the ills associated with street life and an unrepentant defense of it.

'In My Lifetime Vol. 1' (1997)

© Roc-a-Fella

Considering that Jay was only supposed to record one album,

In My Lifetime
Vol. 1

produced classics like "Where I'm From" and "Streets Is Watching."

'Vol. 2 Hardknock Life' (1998)

© Roc-a-Fella

By now, Jay-Z the gully hustler has been polished to utmost luster. To that effect, he encountered his biggest commercial success with Vol. 2, thanks to anthems like the sing-along "Hard Knock Life," "Money Ain't a Thang" and "Can I Get A..." The album earned Jay his first No.1 debut, en route to an impressive 5.5 million records sold. Not to mention a Grammy for Best Rap Album.

'Vol.3...Life & Times of S. Carter' (1999)

© Roc-a-Fella

Jigga's ambivalent part-thug, part-seductive personality is largely at play here. The poignant production is also a big part of the success recipe. DJ Premier, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, and Rockwilder all contribute some hard-hitting anthems. Standout cuts include: "It's Hot," "Big Pimpin'," and "Do It Again."

'The Dynasty: Roc-La-Familia' (2000)

© Roc-a-Fella

In an attempt to capitalize on his popularity, Jay assembles his protégés Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, and others for this lackluster compilation. Still,

The Dynasty

managed to debut at No. 1 and went on to be certified platinum.

'The Blueprint' (2001)

© Roc-a-Fella

It's impossible to exaggerate the grandness of

The Blueprint
The Blueprint.

'The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse' (2002)

© Roc-a-Fella

This should have been named

The Curse After the Gift
The Blueprint 2.0.

'The Black Album' (2003)

© Roc-a-Fella

Ah, the much trumpeted farewell album. If

The Black Album

had ended up being Jay-Z's final lap, one could safely conclude then that he went out with a loud bang. Jay's eighth studio album gave rise to instant hits like "99 Problems" and "What More Can I Say," as well as the concert favorite "P.S.A."

'Kingdom Come' (2006)

© Roc-a-Fella

When Jay announced his retirement in 2003, no one believed him. Many saw the move as a scheme to build up anticipation for his next release. Enter

Kingdom Come

, an album in which Mr. Carter exchanged street clothes for a three-piece suit. Jigga's comeback album was rife with bragfests on anchoring boardroom meetings and paying more taxes than most will make in a lifetime. A big "huh" moment ensued among his audience, many of whom were still scraping up for their first car. Luckily, gems like "Kingdom Come," "Do U Wanna Ride" and "Minority Report" kept the album from being a dud.

'American Gangster' (2007)

© Roc-a-Fella

After seeing an early version of the Ridley Scott-directed movie

American Gangster

, Jay-Z decided to record a complementary concept album of the same title. Highlights include "Say Hello," "American Dreaming," and "Blue Magic" (a bonus track).

'The Blueprint 3' (2009)

© Roc Nation

Jay-Z concludes his

Blueprint 3

on 9/11/09. Kanye contributes a total of 7 tracks, with Timbaland and No. I.D. manning the boards on the other songs. It's a solid effort, but fails to match the intensity of the original disc.

'Magna Carta... Holy Grail' (2013)

Mgna Carta Holy Grail
Magna Carta... Holy Grail. © Roc Nation/Universal

During Game 5 of the 2013 NBA Finals, Jay-Z announced a new album, . It debuted on July 4th, with production from Pharrell, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland and guest vocals from Nas, Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean, and Beyonce. As part of his #newrules campaign, Jay teamed up with SAMSUNG to give away a million free copies of the album. Magna Carta... Holy Grail was certified platinum upon its release.