Jay-Z Reflects On "Hard Knock Life" Album 14 Years Later

Jay-Z waxes nostalgic about his most successful album.

Jay-Z was recently reminded in an interview with MTV News that Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life turned 14 years old on Saturday (September 29), causing the Hip Hop superstar to reflect on what made the album such a hit.

"It was just so pure," said Jay, who explained that during the recording of the album was the time when he met a then-teenage Swizz Beatz. 

"I wanted Dame Grease, 'cause he was workin' on the DMX album [It's Dark And Hell Is Hot]. I was like, 'Where's the guy that's making all of those songs?'"

Darrin "Dee" Dean, Co-CEO of DMX's label, suggested that Hov work with Swizz instead, but Jay was skeptical. "I'm like, 'Nah don't try and play me with the nephew.'"

It turned out that the meeting was a fortuitous one. "He came in, he played those songs. We went from my office to the studio, we made four records ... From there, the body of the album was in place."

Watch the interview below:

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81 Comments

  • Anonymous

    Who do people realistically call the Goat then? Jay is still doing it so he's got to be mentioned in the top three. Eminem is the most popular, sales and fan wise, so he is either 1 or 2. A case could be made for Wayne based on his popularity. Forget Pac and Biggie. They're dead, and especially in the case of Big, he had two albums. No way you can crown someone the best when they didn't live long enough to have a full body of work.

    • Anonymous

      Em, Pac, Nas are all well above jay z..wayne shouldnt even be mentioned in the same breath as these greats! I agree with you on biggie though...

  • Anonymous

    All of his "Volume" albums are trash. Just crossover pop garbage.

  • Anonymous

    Jay knew what people wanted to hear from him and that's why he always succeeded. Most of his albums aren't classics, but it also depends on how you define a classic.

    • Anonymous

      Mostly agree with you^..i think he is one of the greatest..but he's not in 2pac, Biggie, Nas, Eminem's calibre as far as classic albums..I think the blue print is his most complete album..reasonable doubt isnt a classic by a long way, and his only other good album was the black album - which isnt a complete album...BUT having said that his delivery, flow and word play are up there with the best. and his influence on the game gives him some point. he's top 10 no doubt..not the GOAT by a long way!

    • Anonymous

      well a classic is defined regarding the genre of music you talk about. if it's hip-hop, the main criterions are good lyrics, punchlines, wordplays, a MESSAGE, good beats, an original concept for the whole album, and being able to keep this criterions together from the first track to the last to me jay-z never fulfilled all these criterions on none of his albums. he might have time to time a good beat, some good punchlines and wordplays here and there, a message on a few tracks but that's it. therefore i never considered none of his albums a "classic" and that's why he is not the GOAT some people pretend he is.

  • Anonymous

    Who's he kidding..that album was trash!! Blue Print, Reasonable doubt and black album are the only jay z albums worth a re-listen.

    • wu wear

      true story. 'sides those 3 albums he don't got one that's less than 75% wack

    • Anonymous

      No doubting that Jay is one of the greatest..but Blueprint, black album and reasonable double are his best albums. the rest are average..

    • Anonymous

      ^nothing on Vol 2 went over anyone's head. Lyrically that is one of his most shallow albums. No surprise that it sold the most.

    • Anonymous

      Jay's lyris go over your head. That's all. Don't blame one of the genre's most refined lyricists for your stupidity though.

  • Anonymous

    LOL @ people saying his last good album was American Gangster when it shits on most rapper's existences while being at the low bottom of Jay's great albums.

  • Jay

    Jay-z's top 5 best albums imo: 1) The Blueprint 2) The Black Album 3) Reasonable Doubt 4) In My Lifetime 5) American Gangster

    • Anonymous

      Yea Kanye put the blueprint on with his beats... (most of em)

    • Anonymous

      The Blueprint is overrated as fuck, never understood the overwhelming love for it, the beats carried Jay's ass for the whole album, it was one of the most half-assed performances of an all time great I've ever heard. Dude's performance on RD, Vol. 1, The Dynasty, TBA, AG >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> BP.

  • dhruv

    JayZ is honestly a really great lyricist. But he's admitted several times that he only made commercial tracks to appease the radio and stuff. He even said it in the song Hard Knock Life. I don't know why people hate him so much. Reasonable Doubt may not be a classic among all circles, but it definitely is one of the iconic albums of the 90s, and the lyricism in that album is so complex, that people still can't figure out all the metaphors and shit Jay was talking about. Yeah Vol1 was worse than shit, and Kingdom Come, BP2 and 3 had absolutely no structure, but even Jay admitted that about those albums. BP1, Black Album, Reasonable Doubt, and Vol2 had Jay focus completely on the albums and nothing else, and that's where he shines. He makes songs for the backpackers and others who appreciate lyricism, and then makes commercial tracks for the girls and radio fans. So don't write off Jay as overrated, because he figured out the blueprint for success and he made it happen.

  • Toastah

    Jay-Z gonn be the only 70yr old rapper selling dope to little kids in a wheel chair in Brooklyn.. praise the lord.. amen

  • dockevoc

    this album is trash...pure, wack, pop bullshit...not a good song on it

  • Fuck Dead Presidents

    "...his debut album was the sh!t" Am I the only one on this planet that thinks Reasonable Doubt is GARBAGE!?

  • Gladys Knight

    Shawn's best = The Blueprint Shawn's worst = Vol. 3

  • Fuck Marcy

    Yeah right, Money Cash Hoes is very pure.

  • JD

    No other rapper that has to deal with so much unwarranted hate. People will go out of their way to dismiss this dude by any means necessary, writing NOVELS about a guy, who is, according to them, overrated as fuck. Why do you need to bring up so many (ridiculous) reasons to convince somebody about your opinion Jay (considering that he is so incredibly overrated)? That should tell yall something.

    • @Anon #4

      "how you're trying to discredit one of Hip Hop's greatest artists" so according to you as soon as someone does not share some people's opinion about jay-z being one of the greatest are discrediting him ?? i'm surprised you didn't call me yet a YMCMB fan or a rick ross stan. fuckin asshole

    • Anonymous

      Not you writing about him, but the way how you're trying to discredit one of Hip Hop's greatest artists speaks volumes about Jay's position in the game.

    • Anonymous

      wow i never thought about the fact of me writing about some rappers would prove there "greatness" you dumb fuck

    • Anonymous

      He must be big enough for you to come on here and write several worthless, self-ethering comments about a guy who you claim is wack and overrated.

    • Anonymous

      calm down bitch ! jay aint that big it's just people tryin to get things right where it belong. and jay-z being overrated is one of them

  • Anonymous

    for me his debut album was the sh!t and then he had a major dip until the blueprint and then suddenly i could sort of see what all the jay stans where seeing up until the black album. american gangster was dope but the rest well.. he straight fell off imo. his earlier work had three hit songs per album and the rest filler.!

  • kuku

    american gangster was his best

  • insanemacbeth

    i kind of agree with most of the comments, here. 'HARD KNOCK LIFE' is not one of his better works. the best thing about this album for me, was the cover. with the BENTLEY AZURE.

  • Anonymous

    mr. d@ck sucking lips foh

  • Anonymous

    Jay-Z has like 5 albums worth listening to, this one isn't one of them. If he was spitting like he was on Reasonable Doubt he would be top 5 no doubt.

  • Anonymous

    without ja rule jay-z won't be shit

  • Anonymous

    jay need ja rule in his life to make a classic album

  • Anonymous

    All those people who can't stop to shit do nothing but proving it even further that he's a legit GOAT contender.

    • Anonymous

      yeah just like lady gaga and justin bieber would come up in a discussion where it's argue about the best pop artist. fuck outta here bitch ass faggot and keep ridin jay's dick cause obviously you enjoy that

    • Anonymous

      Hating in it's pure essence. Well, go outside sometimes and try to hear how many times Jay will come up in most GOAT discussions. But don't count the bitter assholes, like you, who let their bias take control of their perception. Fucking idiot.

    • Anonymous

      dickriding in its pure essence

  • Anonymous

    i gotta agree with yall ! jay got a few hit songs here and there. but when it comes to a whole album this dude's catalogue is trash !! but dont get me wrong ! hay-z can rhyme and he has some good wordplay time to time but as an emcee and looking to his catalogue, he's too overrated i can name at least five mc's who can outshine him from a distance : pharoahe monch, scarface, eminem, nas, gza

    • Anonymous

      I agree with that EM comment. Dude has one okay album.

    • @Fuck Houston

      you're just an embarrassment to yourself the next time just shut the fuck up. it would be good for everybody's sakes

    • Fuck Houston

      ^^ You must be from Arkansas or some other trash ass state. Scarface is the truest definiton of wack. Dude can't grab one's attention, sure he got some rhymes, but his voice is annoying and he can't flow for shit.

    • White People Deserve To Die

      Fuck that cracker and this house negro Jay. Scarface is the best MC you mentioned, all of his albums are great back to back.

    • Anonymous

      So, this goes both ways. Let me mention Reasonable Doubt and The Black Album, so I guess that should scrap Jay from your list?

    • Yes really

      Marshall mather lp was alrite eminem show was str8 garbage

    • Anonymous

      really ??? so the marshall mathers lp and the eminem show were not matching his skill level according to you ?? fuck outta here.

    • Anonymous

      Eminem destroyed the point of your whole comment. He's THEE prime example of an emcee not being to able come through with even albums that meet his skill level.

  • Anonymous

    it is probably one of the most overrated album ever !! what the fuck he talkin bout "a classic" album ???! this shit is not worthing a 2/5

  • Anonymous

    Most of Jay-Z's albums are trash when you think about it...This is mos def in the top 3 worst.

    • L

      lets not forget vol.1 if it wasnt for bad beats selection that would be another one lyrically its on point blueprint 2 slim that into 16 songs another classic just saying and im a hiphop to the core not biased i listen to all and jay does hod his own i think alot a people now hate jay because he dont spit like he did on resonable doubt but if he did yall be like he not that man anymore from marcy so something gotta give hes a business man now lets face it quit groaning about what he not doing now and focus on what he has done other mcs aint bringing it like they used to either jay not the only one

    • L

      jay has 4 albums that can be called a classic only one with that catalogs from this 90's era and still living is Nas and Ghostface that's facts reasonable doubt the blueprint black album and american gangster i know jay of late been coming up short but jay for the most part other than nas and ghostface been the most consistent on a major label eminem great lyricist yes but since Eminem show hes been only good on guest appearances just keeping it real

    • Jay

      Dawg I agree most of Jay's albums are mediocre.....But as the comment below me says...Vol. 3, The Blueprint 2, Kingdom Come, Watch the throne & The Blueprint 3 are worse. And the r kelly albums as i said lol Vol.2 was commercial but hard as hell

  • Anonymous

    Jay's weakest album. Yep I said it.

    • Gay-Z

      "i've personally never understood why it gets so much flack" Then you a dickrider. Anyone with half a brain can understand that album is G-A-R-B-A-G-E

    • Chandler

      Let's keep it real y'all. Jay cannot hold down an entire album. He might have a few hot songs but then the rest is pure filler. That's why I never considered any of his albums classics. Reasonable Doubt for example have those singles and that's it; the rest of the disc is trash.

    • Anonymous

      The Blueprint 3 wasn't even an all-together bad album... i've personally never understood why it gets so much flack

    • Jay

      ^^Don't forget that wack ass Watch the Throne and the r kelly albums....Vol.2 is FAR from Jay's worst

    • Anonymous

      So you prefer Vol. 3, The Blueprint 2, Kingdom Come, & The Blueprint 3 over Vol. 2?

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