33. "Threat" (2003)
Jay-Z wanted his retirement album to show that he was leaving hip-hop in fighting shape. So all pressure was on new collaborator 9th Wonder of hot underground group Little Brother, who came on board to produce "Threat" after he tried booking DJ Premier. "Now you can argue this," 9th told Complex, "but what he was trying to tell me in so many words was, 'I want you to be like what Premo was to me on my other albums.' And I was like, 'Whoa, you're going too far now, Jay.'" But 9th pushed himself, as he flipped an R. Kelly sample, added piano stabs and cued silences to punctuate Hov's winding, heart-stopping wordplay.