How Many Albums Does Jay-Z Have?

Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, is an iconic rapper and producer, entrepreneur, and husband to Beyoncé Knowles.

From rough beginnings in Brooklyn’s Marcy projects, to becoming the man Forbes now calls him “hip-hop’s first billionaire,” Jay-Z, though normally not a big talker, has a lot of stories he could tell from his 50 years of life so far. 

With such hits such as “Big Pimpin,” “99 Problems,” and “Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z has been pumping out music for over 20 years and shows no signs of stopping. Whether he is releasing more solo albums or collaborating with others, he’s constantly creating.

Jay-Z released his first album in 1996

Jay-Z performs onstage
Jay-Z | Brian Ach/Getty Images for Something in the Water

Jay-Z once appeared briefly at the age of 20  on MTV’s show Yo! MTV Raps! alongside other rappers in 1989. It wasn’t until 1996, however, that his first album, Reasonable Doubt came out. It was released with the label Roc-A-Fella, created by Jay-Z and his friends Damon Dash and Kareem Burke. The label went on to create a clothing brand, Rocawear, as well.

Now, Jay-Z has produced 13 solo studio albums and a handful of collaborative albums. His most recent album, 4:44, came out in 2017.

Jay-Z’s had a difficult past 

Jay-Z has had a rough life surrounded by drugs, guns, and violence. Some of the bigger stories from his past are as follows: At 12, he shot and injured his brother who was addicted to crack a the time. He dealt drugs himself from the age of 16 to 22.  On separate occasions he’s been shot at, arrested for gun possession, and infamously lost his friend, rapper Biggie Smalls to gang violence.

In the midst of his overwhelming surroundings, was rap and hip-hop to help him through. He started rapping at around 9 years old, a gift, he said, that came easily to him.

When GQ Britain asked in 2005 why white people in Britain would listen to him, despite his subject matter, Jay-Z responded that his authenticity and vulnerability can appeal to anyone: “From my very first album, I’ve been vulnerable. I’ve always given parts of me, parts of my life – good, bad, ugly. I’ve never put up this image as a super-thug. Also, some people just like the music.”

When asked what it was like growing up in the projects he used this analogy: crabs in a barrel. He said, “They pull each other down, trying to get up.”

Jay-Z announced his retirement several albums ago

Jay-Z’s 8th album, The Black Album, released in 2003, was meant to be his last. Rolling Stone writer Charles Holmes thinks otherwise, 15 years later writing that the retirement announcement was nothing more than a brilliant marketing move on the part of Jay-Z.

The Black Album was the moment Shawn Carter perfected selling Jay-Z as a product, one that’s reinvented every few years. It’s a sales model that will last until his actual retirement, something we may never see,” he wrote.

Responding to similar claims at the time, that the retirement was never genuine, Jay-Z disagreed and said he could think of other ways to get attention.

The album features “99 Problems,” a song Vulture ranked #11 out of his 285 songs.

What are some of Jay-Z’s best songs?

According to Billboard rankings, Jay-Z’s 2003 collaboration with Beyoncé, “Crazy in Love” held the number 1 Hot 100 spot for eight weeks, longer than any of his other songs or collaborations. His top 9 songs, according to Billboard, were all collaborations with other artists. His number 10 song, the solo, “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” held the number 1 spot for 5 weeks in 2004.

Vulture’s ranking took a more in-depth look at the songs and placed “Can I Live” from his first album in the number 1 spot calling it, “all sonic dramatics and verbal acrobatics.”

The worst song according to Vulture? #285: “Anything” with Usher from the album Kingdom Come, which was described as “an ode to amateur night at the strip club.”

Though his last solo album was released in 2017, Jay-Z is featured heavily in an album that just dropped days ago: A Written Testimony, Jay Electronica’s long-awaited debut album.

Jay Electronica signed with Jay-Z’s company, Roc Nation, in 2010 but has only released singles until now.