Jay-Z: 50 Greatest Songs

With a rhyme career going since the late Eighties, Jay-Z's songs have been reflective, pop, confessional, hard-edged and indelible. Here are his best

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46. "Empire State of Mind" feat. Alicia Keys (2009)

By at least one measure, "Empire State of Mind" is the biggest record of Jay-Z's career: He had never topped the Hot 100 as a lead artist until he released this collaboration with Alicia Keys, the final Number One hit of the 2000s. "Jay hit me up like, 'I feel like I have this record that's going to be the anthem of New York,'" Keys, another Big Apple native, explained to MTV. "He's like, 'The piano, the way the style [is], the whole flow, and it couldn't be the anthem of New York without you.'" "Empire State of Mind" loops the dramatic, golden opening motif from a towering slice of orchestral soul – in this case, the Moments' "Love on a Two-Way Street" – to great effect. Jay-Z touts his credentials as the "new Sinatra," while Keys aims for universal uplift: "These streets will make you feel brand new/Big lights will inspire you."

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