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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28. "So Ghetto" (1999)

By the time of 1999's "So Ghetto," producer DJ Premier had shifted from the epicenter of hip-hop's sonic "now" to a respected traditionalist. At this point a formula was cleanly in place, but relative to the R&B-echoing pop sound of Timbaland elsewhere on this album, Premier's sound vibrated with hard-edged urgency. Over a guitar loop from Ennio Morricone's Le Ruffian soundtrack, punctuated with otherworldly sound effects from kaiju monster King Ghidorah, Jay's toughness is expressed not through aggression – his performance has that unbothered reserve that sold the best material of his peak – but in the brash lyrical details: "We tote guns to the Grammys, pop bottles on the White House lawn."

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