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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36. Jay-Z and Beanie Sigal feat. Scarface, "This Can't Be Life" (2000)

An early Roc-A-Fella beat from Kanye West relied on disembodied vocal samples crying out from soul music history, while Jay – then a notoriously callous rapper – delivers a touching reflection on the painful origins for his show business pursuits and passions. It's no slight to him to suggest Beanie Sigel and Scarface steal the show. The song's a powerful rendering of the nuances and complexities of pain, Beanie showing it through a lens of exhaustion ("I'm tired of trying to hide my pain behind the syrups and pills") and Scarface managing to envelop love, spirituality, community and loss on the head of a pin.

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