The Black Album turns 15.
Fifteen years ago, Jay-Z released his classic, eighth studio album, The Black Album.
In a series of interviews for Tidal, the album’s contributors spoke on the making of the project and what it’s meant to them through the years.
In a recent interview on Tidal, Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke, who co-executive produced the album opened up about how he felt hearing Jay-Z address the murder of his brother, Robert ”Bobalob” Burke.
The song that I was probably most moved by was ‘Lucifer.’ I wasn’t around the whole time of The Black Album because my brother just got killed. ‘Lucifer,’ the last verse, it was actually about my brother Bob… A lot of people today say that’s one of their favorite songs, but they don’t understand who he is talking about. They love the beat, and they love how JAY is flowing on it, but I don’t know if they really understand the lyrics. At that time, it actually angered me because just coming in the studio and hearing that… And now that the album has aged, I am able to appreciate it and I love the fact that he kept my brother’s memory alive.
He added, “I’m at a place of forgiveness right now.”
9th Wonder, who produced “Threat,” said,
The album and the placement that changed my career. I learned so much from the session. Probably the biggest thing I learned is that I was working with the Greatest Rapper of All Time.
Just Blaze, who produced “Interlude”, “December 4th”, and “Public Service Announcement,” said,
“The Black Album, along with Fade to Black was a career defining period of time for me personally and professionally. From going through the process of recording and putting the album together, to performing it just weeks later at Madison Square Garden was beyond surreal… “PSA” (which almost never happened) ended up becoming one of the highlights of that night. Everyone in the audience knew every word and was losing their minds. I wasn’t surprised, but I was in awe and stunned regardless. For me, the fact that it went on to become one of his hallmark songs is a blessing, but it’s also a testament to the synergy and energy we created in the culture at that time.
Timbaland, who produced “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” said,
JAY challenges me to create great music that matches his masterful flow. The session for “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” was no different, but as soon as everyone heard that beat, the energy exploded and we knew it was going to be a big one.
Cedric The Entertainer , who appeared on “Threat,” reflected on how he thought he wouldn’t end up making it on the album, saying,
I had actually tried to pitch him an idea from Beverly Hills Cop, like, ‘Is this the man who did this and that for hip-hop?’ He was like, ‘Yo that’s funny, but I need something that’s like threats; that’s almost like a mad rapper.’ He left and I was in the studio with Guru and started recording all these ideas, never thinking I was going to make the album. He called me a little while later and told me I made it. It was exciting, and so that’s how I made The Black Album.
Hov’s mother Gloria Carter, who appeared on the song “December 4th” and on the 4:44 track “Smile,” wrote,
You have touched lives and have helped young people achieve their full potential. Keep doing what you do, so proud!
Ivie is a Nigerian-American, native New Yorker, and journalist covering culture. Usually on-air, on deadline, and on point. @ivieani