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 Jay-Z: What More Can Say

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— by Shaheem Reid, with reporting by Sway Calloway

Jay-Z's career is about to slip away. The world will never know Shawn Corey Carter as Jay, Hov, Jigga, Iceberg Slim, S. Dot or any of his other aliases. There will be no Roc-A-Fella, no platinum jewels to match the slew of platinum plaques, no Beyoncé by his side, no Mayback Benz, no Bentley coup, no spitting a myriad of flows on wax and no laying stake to the title of greatest to ever get on the mic. Instead of big pimpin', it's about to be big time — as in a stiff prison sentence.

"The year is '94 and my trunk is raw, in my rearview mirror is the mutha----in' law."
"99 Problems"
It's 1994, two years before Shawn makes himself known to the masses with his classic debut, Reasonable Doubt. Back in '94 the lanky Brooklynite was a coke dealer, and on this day, S.C. is a little more comfortable cruising the pavement than he should be, considering his cargo. All of a sudden, his car gets stopped by police.

It doesn't matter why the "Jakes," as Shawn refers to them, pulled him over. What's racing though his mind is what will happen if the officers find out what's in the car.

"They were waiting for a K-9 to come," the now-reformed hustler, nine years removed from his run-in with law, remembers while sitting in his main recording home, New York's Baseline Studios. "But police can't search your glove compartment or your trunk if it's locked. You need a warrant for that. They can just search where your eyes can see, and I knew that. That, I think, got me out of it, that intelligence. But they were waiting for a dog to come. If the dog smells [drugs], then they have the right to impound the car. I think the dog was on another job or really far and the officer was just like, 'Get out of here!' "

Close call, but Jay survives, and goes on to record his instant classic Reasonable Doubt. His ability to flip metaphors and intricately weave stories on the LP pushes the project into the realm of the other classics of the day, like Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, Nas' Illmatic and Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. The album vaults Jay-Z onto hip-hop's main stage.

Almost a decade later, Shawn Carter is preparing to step down from that stage. But not before one last hurrah, The Black Album. 

  "I just felt like, 'What more can I say.' "
 "I just felt like, 'What more can I say,' " Jay, sitting in a swivel chair in front of the boards of the studio, rationalizes about his stepping away from the mic. "I'm in the comfort zone as far as making the music. I know how to structure a song. I know how to construct a verse. I know all the little tricks. I know when people are going to sing along. I've been doing that 10 albums straight. I'm a young guy, and I still have to challenge myself in life. I have to step outside my comfort zone. That's just part of being alive."

There will be no quietly fading into oblivion when Jay bows out of life as a rapper. Just as his pride won't let him stay in the game until his skills diminish, it also won't let him leave the game without the fanfare befitting a living legend. There's no question in his mind: Girls will scream for him, men will roar with approval, all will be misty-eyed with nostalgia and the proverbial trumpets will blare as he stomps out on his own terms. There will be a victory lap consisting of a monumental concert at New York's Madison Square Garden, an autobiography called "The Black Book," another version of his S. Carter Collection Reebok sneaker and a second Rock the Mic tour, all to come in the weeks and months after The Black Album.

  "La, La, La
(Excuse Me Again)"
Rock The Mic Tour
"I don't really think Jay-Z should retire," P. Diddy says. "I can't really digest that."

"Jay-Z ain't going nowhere, man," Ludacris laughs. "He might be able to tell y'all that. I don't think Jay is going nowhere."

You can't blame his peers and fans for being a little skeptical. After all, in 1996 Jay said that Reasonable Doubt would be his first and only album. He also threatened to call it quits when he was releasing Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life and The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. This is the same guy who, just a couple of years ago, said, "I can't leave rap alone, the game needs me." Still, Hov says this time he's not selling wolf tickets.

"Some people are in denial," Hov continues about his career termination. "Some people are like, 'I never seen it happen before.' I never seen it happen before either. No one has ever left at the top of the game and really, truly left. A lot of people get addicted to fame. That's been the good thing about me, I've never been that person that really wanted to be in the spotlight. My love has really been for the music. I'd rather be able to eat my spaghetti without a camera over here [in my face]." 

Next: For the first time, Jay opens up about his relationship with his father ...
Photo: Roc-A-Fella

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  "Change Clothes"
The Black Album

  "Excuse Me Miss"
The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse

  " '03 Bonnie & Clyde"
The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse

  "Song Cry"
The Blueprint

  "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)"
The Blueprint

  "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)"
The Dynasty: Roc La Familia

  "Big Pimpin'"
Vol. 3 ...The Life and Times of S. Carter