Jay Z released his eighth studio album, The Black Album, on November 14, 2003. This album was supposed to be Jay’s last, with every song making huge statements on his impending retirement, along with locking in 10 different producers for the 14 songs on the album. As we all know by now–and knew not too long after the album was released–this was far from Hov’s last musical endeavor. He’s proven time and time again that he could still die a musical hero without having to see himself become a villain–14 years into his retirement, 47-year-old Jay Z is rapping just as skillfully as the 27-year old we fell in love with.
This special occasion marks a very interesting numerical anniversary for the Brooklyn legend, as well. While in the middle of his North American tour for his latest album 4:44, the already ubiquitous repetition of 4’s throughout his life is continuing through this anniversary. Not only does The Black Album have 14 tracks, but it was released on November 14th–and on top of that, 2017 marks the 14 year anniversary of the project. These numbers coinciding with the promotion for his album all about numbers could all just be a cool coincidence, but knowing how on-the-nose Jay Z is with literally everything, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think he had this anniversary in the back of his mind as an Easter egg.
The Black Album‘s 14th anniversary comes as a surprise, mostly because the music isn’t 14 years removed from our culture. Arguably Hov’s album with the most hits–and honestly, maybe just one of the albums with the most hits ever, period–so many tracks on this project are still just as relevant today as they ever were. “December 4th” is brought up every year on Jay’s annual birthday tributes, “99 Problems” is the anthem for everybody who probably doesn’t listen to any other Jay Z, and “Lucifer” remains one of the best tracks Kanye West has ever produced. It’s impossible to name any number of songs on the album without leaving something out, unless you pay special attention to every single one.
Though Jigga made a point of enlisting diverse producers and using different flows on every song, the album still flows like a truly classic, well-sequenced project. It takes a true professional to make classics that not only top charts and have quotables for days, but transcend time to remain relevant so many years later. Congratulations to Jay on not only a truly legendary career, but to 14 years of legendary retirement.