When you speak on JAY-Z, you’re talking about a titan of the game, a lyrical powerhouse with a penchant for prolific partnerships that have defined and redefined the sound of hip-hop across decades. Hova’s far-reaching influence is woven into the very fabric of the genre, his collaborations often becoming defining moments not just in his expansive career, but in the careers of those who’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with him on tracks that have become etched in the annals of music history.
Think about the seismic shifts caused when Brooklyn met Harlem on “Brooklyn’s Finest” with The Notorious B.I.G. or the industry-shattering collab with Alicia Keys on “Empire State of Mind” that became an anthem for a city and beyond. Then there are sonic masterpieces where JAY-Z and Kanye West – or ‘Ye’, as we know him now – changed the stakes with joints like “N***as In Paris” and “Otis,” where they’re not just rappers, but global icons engaging in lyrical sparring on some next-level brotherhood vibe. The roster is heavy with influence from powerhouses like Rihanna, Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, and Eminem, each collaboration a testimony to JAY-Z’s Midas touch and his unerring ear for game-changing partnerships.
A dive into his collaborations is a journey through a hall of fame of hip-hop royalty. Tracks crisply produced, featuring beats by legends, and verses that could only come from the cream of the crop; each one is a brick in the empire JAY-Z has built. And while some joints stand out as epochal, others serve as subtle reminders of his versatility and the subtle nuances of his ability to adapt and thrive alongside any artist, across any beat or theme.
JAY-Z has collaborated with this massive list of great artists:
The Notorious B.I.G.
Mary J. Blige
So let’s get into the songs list. From “Gotta Have It” to “Empire State Of Mind,” here are the top 50 best JAY-Z collaborations ranked.
50. Lost One
The song captures the raw essence of life, fame, relationships, and loss, tying together personal narratives that resonate with poignant authenticity. JAY-Z checks his ego at the door and grapples with the reality of his own choices, dissecting the complexities of success and its toll on personal relationships. He acknowledges the heartrending loss of his nephew, which hits him with a profound sense of guilt and regret.
49. Real As It Gets
Jigga man unapologetically re-introduces himself in this track, reminding everyone not only of his wealth, but also of his influence on the game. He has a sharp rebuke for those he perceives as fake and lays claim to the authenticity of his craft. The lyrics touch on his past dealings on the streets, yet it’s clear he’s moved beyond that reality, yet not forgotten it.
48. The City Is Mine
The lyrics of the song are a testament to JAY-Z’s dominance in the hip-hop industry and his larger-than-life persona as he claims his stake over the city. The song presents a lyrical narrative documenting his ascent to hip-hop royalty, reinforcing his indomitable spirit and unwavering belief in his abilities.
47. This Can’t Be Life
Unlike the flashy bravado of some of his other tracks, JAY-Z here chooses to lay bare his vulnerabilities and hardships. The lyrics reveal an artist born in harsh conditions (‘born in sewage’) but destined to make impactful music (‘born to make bomb music’). The comparisons in the flowing lyrics indicate a life of resilience and adaptability (‘Flow tight like I was born Jewish’) even amidst tough circumstances.
This joint off his twelfth studio album, “Magna Carta… Holy Grail”, is a masterpiece that sees Hov navigating the tumultuous waters of his own history and the broader African diaspora. The lyrics, as layered as they come, interweave haunting narratives of slave ships with contemporary imagery of opulence and success. It’s a stark juxtaposition, as Jay contrasts the historical suffering of his ancestors with his present-day affluence, embodying the hopes and struggles of generations.
45. A Star Is Born
Teaming up with J.Cole, JAY-Z uses his platform to highlight the cyclical nature of the game. He acknowledges the rise and fall of various artists in the rap scene, illustrating how each artist had their moment in the limelight, their time to shine brightly before passing the torch to the next. Hov’ salutes each era, each big name in the rap universe, from Ma$e to Kanye West, from Lil Wayne to Eminem, illustrating his deep respect for the artists who helped shape the industry.
44. The Watcher 2
A posse cut featuring Truth Hurts, JAY-Z, Dr. Dre and Rakim. Throughout the track, the artists exchange insightful verses about their unique experiences within the industry, highlighting the highs and lows of fame and the sheer hustle and ambition it takes to stay relevant in the game.
43. Illest Motherf***** Alive
It’s a lyrical showcase that pits Jay-Z’s accomplishments against his peers, spinning a tale of unmatched success and influence. From referencing icons like Bill Russell and Michael Jordan to highlighting his own wealth and status, Jay-Z reminds us of his place at the top of the hip-hop pyramid.
42. Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99)
In this flavorful joint, Hova couples his sharp wit with an audacious bravado, punctuating his lyricism with pointed questioning – “Nigga what, nigga who?” This serves as a taunt towards his competitors, suggesting they are not even worth recognizing. In the song, Jay addresses his lifestyle before fame – from the gritty, bullet-ridden streets of Brooklyn to his grandeur living after succeeding in the rap industry.
41. Money, Cash, Hoes
The track plunges into the relentless pursuit of these treasures and the highest stakes that come with it. Jigga displays his raw energy, the unapologetic swagger that nearly defies gravity, painting a vivid picture of his journey through a life full of perils and pleasures. He throws down the gauntlet, taking head-on the critics who might dare question his ascendency.
40. Can’t Knock The Hustle
It’s a masterwork of braggadocio and ambition. In the song, Hova sets up the blueprint of his hustle, detailing his strategies for achieving wealth and status. He lays bare his hunger for success, outlining short-term financial goals born out of necessity, and vividly illustrating the high stakes of the game he’s dedicated to.
39. The Joy
The song features Pete Rock’s soulful sample of Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You,” setting the nostalgic tone. JAY-Z’s verses are introspective, offering a raw glimpse into his life beyond the limelight. He ruminates on his experiences in the streets of Brooklyn, and the ghosts of the children he never had, taking on societal issues like planned parenthood in the hood.
38. Feelin’ It
The song tips the hat to JAY-Z’s unapologetically high life, filled with Cristal and expensive cars, while also acknowledging the grim reality that gave birth to his ambition and dreams. With his slick wordplay and vivid imagery, Jay paints a detailed picture of his luxurious lifestyle, describing the thrill of fast cars and expensive liquor. Yet, he doesn’t shy away from the undercurrent of fear and insecurity that accompanies the hustler’s lifestyle.
37. Brooklyn’s Finest
It’s a gritty ode to their shared home borough, painting a vivid picture of life on Brooklyn’s streets. This track is imbued with thick East Coast braggadocio, masterful storytelling, and indelible lines that stick to your mental palette like Brooklyn brew.
36. Always Be My Sunshine
The track is an ode to a romantic relationship, painted with opulence and intricate imagery, capturing JAY-Z’s experience with a woman. Their shared luxury lifestyle is depicted through references to Versace, jewelry, and sushi in a Japanese restaurant. The strong bond between them is suggested by the woman’s loyalty to Jay even in a hypothetical situation of him going broke.
35. Already Home
The complete lyricism of the track is steeped in defiance and a deep sense of individuality as Jay reminds the game that he’s already conquered it and sits comfortably at the top. In essence, he’s “already home”, unbothered by the cheap shots and subtle jabs from detractors.
34. Run This Town / Posthumus Zone
JAY-Z, with his razor-sharp lyrics and dynamic flow, poses a rhetorical question – who’s gonna run this town tonight? This question becomes an audacious declaration of his unshakeable intent to reign supreme in the hip-hop industry. The song is about the relentless pursuit of success and power, layered with the intoxication of victory and dominance.
33. Part II (On The Run)
Holy Grail”. Notably featuring his queen Beyoncé, the song embodies a modern tale of Bonnie and Clyde, throwing down the narrative gauntlet of an outlaw’s love story told in the face of adversity. It speaks to the deeply human desire to stick with your partner, pulling each other up when society tries to pull you down. It’s a rollercoaster exploration of a love that’s willing to cross lines, face danger, and rebel against ‘the system’.
In the song, Jay-Z recounts his rise from the gritty streets of Brooklyn to the top echelons of hip-hop, narrating his journey with rugged authenticity. He flexes his opulent lifestyle with mentions of high-end liquor brands, luxury hotels, and his sneaker game. There’s a certain boastful confidence that’s palpable in the track, reflective of Jay’s monumental success.
Through empathetic storytelling, JAY-Z captures his mother’s struggle of living as a closeted lesbian and applauds her courage to live openly, expressing acceptance and love in the face of societal shame. The first verse sees JAY-Z nostalgically recall his transition from driving Bentley Azures to owning a billion-dollar empire, revealing his rise to fame wasn’t fueled by superficiality but by a determined will to succeed.
30. Welcome To The Jungle
The track is an introspective and raw confession of the emotional toll his traumatic experiences have taken on him. The tumultuous landscape is constantly referred to as a jungle, signaling a wild, ruthless and survival of the fittest environment. The mention of his family’s deaths and his struggle with depression gives the song a somber tone.
29. Who Gon Stop Me
The lyricism is both a celebration of his journey to success and a defiant challenge to anyone doubting his prowess. References to the Holocaust gives a shoutout to the resilience of people who have suffered and speaks to Hov’s determination to thrive against all odds, while his juxtaposition of opulent luxury—black cards, black cars—highlights his success in a white-dominated industry.
28. Made In America
This song serves as both a powerful affirmation of their achievements and a homage to their roots. The verses are laced with narratives about their respective journeys – bouncing between personal, social, and cultural motifs to recount their rise from the streets to stardom. JAY-Z invokes the spirit of Black excellence through the mention of influential figures like “Sweet King Martin” (Martin Luther King Jr.) and “Sweet Brother Malcolm” (Malcolm X), tying his success in America to their indomitable struggle for equality and justice.
27. That’s My Bitch
In this collaboration, Hov utilizes potent imagery, and raw emotion, showcasing his definitive swagger. The track revolves around Hov’s unabridged expression of possessiveness and intense admiration for his significant other. The entire narrative of the song is wrapped in metaphors and clever wordplay, with references to high art, culture, and a unique perspective on relationships – a characteristic staple in JAY-Z’s lyrical arsenal. Implicitly, the song is also a testament to JAY-Z’s commitment to uplifting black women, challenging the typical white-centric ideals of beauty.
26. Izzo / In the End
This joint is a pivotal moment in Hov’s illustrious career, where he intertwines his ascension in the rap game with Linkin Park’s emblematic “In The End” backdrop. It’s an exploration of struggle and triumph, a narrative that has shaped the genre in manifold ways. Jigga’s lyrics are undeniably autobiographical, gliding through his journey from hustling in Virginia to becoming an icon ‘for shizzle.’ He flips his past into a slick wordplay, painting vivid imageries of his obstacles and eventual victories.
The song opens with a reflection on his journey from bondage to riches, tapping into the ancestral roots of African royalty and opulence. JAY-Z credits his penchant for luxurious items to this deep-seated history, asserting that the desire for ‘shiny things’ is in his DNA.
24. Family Feud
The song represents a meditation on Jay’s personal growth and the evolving dynamics of his familial and professional life. Key themes include wealth, familial legacy, generational tensions, and the transformative power of self-actualization. The lyrics detail his journey from the rough streets of Brooklyn to becoming a billionaire mogul, while also confronting the hatred and jealousy this engenders.
23. New Day
Hov spits bars about his future son, candidly expressing his hope that the kid won’t have to struggle with the same issues he did. He raps about his fear of paparazzi invasion, his commitment to being a better father than his own was, and his hopes for his son’s personality and values.
22. On To The Next One
The lyrics encapsulate Jay’s hustle and relentless progression while flipping a disdainful bird to those stuck on his past work, encouraging them to “buy my old albums”. Throwback jerseys are out; tailored suits are in. He equates his status upgrade to his switch from gold watches to platinum Rolexes. Swiping at the haters, Jay throws shade about people worrying about his wealth while he’s hanging with Oprah in the projects.
The track is a percussive onslaught, underlined by an assertive sample of Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam”. As JAY-Z narrates his journey from the projects to the pinnacle of success, he reinforces the grit and determination that brought him this far. He brags about his hustle, dismisses all pretenders, and manages to weave in subtle nods to his past, his contemporaries, and aspirants. The lyrics – they drip with defiance, resilience, and a tenacity that underscores the true essence of JAY-Z.
20. Dirt off Your Shoulder / Lying From You
This track seamlessly weaves JAY-Z’s iconic “Dirt off Your Shoulder” with Linkin Park’s “Lying From You,” creating an anthem that resonates with gritty lyrical play and raw emotional energy. JAY-Z, always the king of cool, delivers bars that are all about triumph over adversity, brushing off haters like crumbs on a lapel. The Roc’s head honcho schools us on how to maintain swagger under pressure, reinforcing his status as a hustler turned business mogul.
19. Caught Their Eyes
Hov comes correct, spitting verses that delve into the deception he’s witnessed throughout his career. He reflects on the perils of trusting appearances, throwing shade at those who’ve shown their true colors behind closed doors. Jay’s narrative recalls moments of grief and betrayal that leave scars, yet it’s his resilience in the face of this two-faced world that hits hardest.
18. Murder To Excellence
The track is a gripping juxtaposition that swings from the grim statistics of street homicides to the lavish halls of success. Jay-Z and ‘Ye shine a stark light on the pressing issue of Black-on-Black crime; With Hova sounding the alarm on the alarming mortality rates in urban communities and the bleak realities facing African American youth. As the narrative shifts, the focus broadens to celebrate Black opulence and progress, donning the spirit of excellence as the new age’s garb.
17. Lift Off
Weaving through symphonic backdrops and futuristic soundscapes, this track from ‘Watch the Throne’ serves as an anthem for those aiming for the astronomical heights of success. JAY-Z and Kanye take turns charting their journeys, filled with challenges and achievements, as they propel towards the stars – a metaphor for the pinnacle of their careers. The audacity of their ambitions is clear; they’re not just playing the game, they’re changing it, taking the culture to a ubiquity beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
This joint isn’t just a song; it’s a lyrical bout, with both legends bringing their A-game. It’s off the iconic “The Blueprint” album and it’s where JAY-Z dives deep, unloading about his struggles, the hypocrisy of society, and the critique he faces. Taking shots at his naysayers, Hov defends his rep against accusations that he’s forgotten his roots. He’s unwavering, declaring how he maneuvered from the corner to the corner office, remaining true to his artistry while cashing in on success.
15. Jigga What / Faint
This track from the “Collision Course” EP marries J’s street-savvy rhymes with Linkin Park’s charged-up instrumentation and Chester Bennington’s impassioned vocal riffs, showcasing a crossover that’s both innovative and unapologetic.
14. Holy Grail
He maps out a terrain filled with superficial highs and devastating lows, comparing his predicament to icons like Mike Tyson and Kurt Cobain, whose stars burned bright but at great personal cost. With Justin Timberlake bringing that soulful touch on the hook, the joint oscillates between love and hate, desire and regret, symbolizing Hov’s complex relationship with celebrity.
13. Can I Get A…
Hova isn’t one to mince words; he’s putting the significant others on blast, demanding to know if their affection is conditional. The verses highlight a theme common in the streets and in the game: materialism versus authenticity. Amil takes the baton with her brassy expectations for a partner, bringing a fierce female perspective to the dialogue. She’s all about that high-maintenance life, making it crystal clear – no currency, no company.
12. Points of Authority / 99 Problems / One Step Closer
Hov’s streetwise narratives from “99 Problems” lay down a verbal blueprint over Linkin Park’s aggressive, nu-metal instrumentation, with Mike Shinoda’s and Chester Bennington’s raw hooks amplifying every bar. This track from their collaborative EP “Collision Course” wasn’t just Jay spitting about the complexities and challenges of his life and legal battles; it was also about defiance and resilience, striking back against any force that tried to hem in his ambition.
11. Young Forever
This JAY-Z track with Mr. Hudson on the hook, ain’t just about stuntin’ with flashy whips and luxury—nah, it’s deeper. Jay’s painting pictures of never-ending youth, that state of mind where you’re king of the block, where time’s grip ain’t nothing but a number. It’s a toast to the joys of life, a laid-back reflection amidst the grind, where sippin’ wine and kickin’ it is the daily gospel.
10. Gotta Have It
This track is a sonic representation of their commercial and cultural reign during the “Watch The Throne” era. In the lyrics, Jay and Ye trade bars that are both boastful and introspective, magnifying their larger-than-life personas and the luxurious lifestyles that come with being at the top of the game. The backdrop for their lyrical sparring is a mix of soulful samples and crisp beats, giving it that swanky vibe.
9. Big Pimpin’
Alongside UGK’s Bun B and the late Pimp C, paints a picture of high-rolling escapades over a hypnotic Timbaland beat that skips with Middle Eastern inflections. The narrative is unapologetic; it’s about living large and dismissing attachments with a cold magnate’s precision.
8. 03′ Bonnie & Clyde
True to their larger-than-life personas, Hov and B turn the track into a modern tale of two outlaws taking on the world, fully laden with the opulence and fame that defines their life. JAY-Z lays down verses expressing unshakable solidarity in the face of all challenges, painting a picture of a partnership that’s as much about enduring love as it is about shared glamour and high stakes. Beyoncé’s velvety affirmations echo the sentiment, claiming a space as equal parts confidante and co-conspirator, unbreakable in loyalty and love.
“Otis” isn’t just any track—it’s the epitome of luxury rap served up by two of the game’s most illustrious players, JAY-Z and Kanye West. This joint is a flex anthem that samples the soul-man Otis Redding, with Hov and ‘Ye trading verses like heavyweight champs exchanging blows. They’re spittin’ about their untouchable success, the unrivaled swag they’ve brought to the culture, and the opulent lifestyle that’s got everyone doing a double-take.
6. Why I Love You
JAY-Z, with the assist from his throne-sharing compadre Kanye West, navigates the treacherous tides of loyalty and betrayal. The two hip-hop monarchs lay down verses that echo Shakespearean tragedy, painting a picture of a ruler’s solitude as his empire crumbles from the inside.
5. No Church In The Wild
JAY-Z and Kanye West come together like a summit of hip-hop heavyweights throwing down lyrical wisdom mixed with existential questions. The joint is more than a song; it’s a sonic essay that delves into the nature of power, belief, and morality. The duo contemplates the value of traditional institutions and societal norms, questioning the relevance and authority of religion in a lawless, primal environment. JAY-Z takes to the mic with his trademark cool, dissecting the facade of piety and the contradictions that lie within the human struggle for purity in a world riddled with sin.
4. Run This Town
In this track, Hov lays out his domination in the rap game, painting a picture of success with stark, grandiose imagery of all-black attire, representing sophistication and an elite status. Rihanna’s hook adds a haunting yet motivating layer to the song, her vocals delivering a sense of urgency and addiction to power and success. Kanye comes through with a verse dripping with bravado, juxtaposing luxury with relatability, and highlighting his rise from the average Joe to a peak of fame where privacy is golden and every move is scrutinized.
3. Numb / Encore
Both an anthem and a confession booth, slamming together bravado and vulnerability. JAY-Z lays down his claim to the throne, measuring his success and influence, touching on his unstoppable rise from Brooklyn to the world stage. It’s a victory lap for the MC who sees his status as both unattainable and undeniable. On the flip side, Linkin Park’s chorus injects a dose of emotional exhaustion, a cry from being weighed down by expectations and lost in the facade of fame. The juxtaposition is raw and resonant, speaking to the pressures of staying on top in a game that constantly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” This collision of sounds and sentiments made “Numb / Encore” a crossover hit, proving once again that JAY-Z’s kingdom isn’t just hip-hop—it’s music at large.
2. Ni**as In Paris
This track off “Watch The Throne” ain’t just a song; it’s a cultural moment, a victory lap in sneaker-and-leather form, feel me? They’re flexing on levels most can’t even fathom, talking about wealth and success with a nonchalance that’s pretty much the definition of swag. You can almost see them, two titans of hip-hop, brushing dirt off their shoulders in the middle of Paris.
With Yeezy’s production slicing up a chant that goes harder than a migraine, we’re getting snapshots of their reality – one where dropping 50K is pocket change, where they’re moving ball teams across the country, and where their problems are champagne problems. They’re ticking off references faster than you can catch ’em: MJ, Mike Tyson, luxury brands – they even take a moment to reflect on the absurdity of it all. It’s a track that celebrates their peak, but also toys with the surreal circus that is fame and fortune. In the end, “Ni**as In Paris” is about two dudes who climbed the mountain, planted their flag, and didn’t forget to have a damn good time doing it.
1. Empire State Of Mind
Hov navigates through his early days in Brooklyn, giving nods to the legends like Biggie Smalls and the cultural melting pot that raised him. It’s a track where every bar is drenched in the city’s legacy, from the street corners of Broadway to the glistening heights of Tribeca.
Alongside Keys’ soaring chorus that captures the spirit of the city’s hustle and the dreams created within its concrete jungle, JAY-Z’s verses articulate the NYC experience. He celebrates the achievements like making the Yankee cap a cultural icon and the pursuit of success in the shadow of the city’s bright lights. “Empire State of Mind” isn’t just a song; it’s a state of being, embodying the relentless ambition and the seductive promise of making it in the city that’s a proving ground for dreamers and doers worldwide.