OK, so the retirement didn't last long. Jay-Z's vaunted "farewell record" is still one of the greatest albums by the rapper who is (if he says so himself) "pound for pound . . . the best to ever come around." With a phalanx of production all-stars on hand (Just Blaze, Kanye West, the Neptunes, Timbaland), Hova gazed back and gloated — retelling the story of his rags-to-riches rise ("From bricks to billboards, grams to Grammys"), brushing the dirt off his shoulders, and body-slamming the critics, the police and just about everyone else in the walloping rap-rock epic "99 Problems." He should retire more often.
• Rolling Stone's Original 2003 Review