After Jay Z announced his retirement from rap with the release of his eighth studio LP, The Black Album, he came back like Jordan wearing the 4-5 shortly thereafter. Since then, he’s released 2009’s The Blueprint III, 2011’s Watch the Throne and this year’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, nabbed Elvis’ record for #1 albums and took home a whopping 13 golden Grammys.
But a #TBTMTV look-back at Hov’s memorable 2003 appearance on MTV’s “Total Request Live” may have also been a major piece of the un-retirement puzzle. On the episode, Hov premiered the music video for the Pharrell Wiliams-assisted single “Change Clothes” and is presented with a retirement plaque by “TRL” VJ Quddus.
“We’re all such fans of you and your career and your music that ‘TRL’ wanted to give you something to remember us by,” Quddus said. “We were hoping that you would look at it one day and have it inspire you to come back to the game.”
“Wow,” Jay said, admiring the plaque, while wearing one of his signature Roc-A-Wear varsity jackets. “That’s wonderful, that’s money.”
Rap fans know now that Jay was crying wolf about collecting his hip-hop pension, but back then, the “Encore” MC was pretty convincing about hanging up his mic to become a business, man.
“I just really wanted to just go through the whole career,” Jay said. “This[is] like my most introspective album. I just really wanted to dig deep, even deeper than Blueprint.”
Sentimental critics unanimously agreed that Jay cemented his legacy on his “farewell album” and praised his lyrical dexterity and delivery, which, not so coincidentally, was what stood out about the rap classicist’s landmark debut, Reasonable Doubt.
“When I started to make The Black Album, I didn’t want to make no videos … it’ll just be an artistic thing,” Jay said. “But I had to give the people one last go ’round and I just really wanted to treat my first album like I treat my last album. I wanted to take the same approach, just have fun.”
In hindsight, with standout tracks like Timbaland’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” the Rick Rubin-produced “99 Problems” and the get-the-party-started anthem, “Public Service Announcement (Interlude),” the rapper born Shawn Carter’s supposed swan song is better than originally rated, especially for the poignant contribution by his mother Gloria on “December 4th.”
“I had to trick her to do that,” he admitted, laughing. “It was her birthday and she was having a party at my club, the 40/40. So I was like, why don’t you meet me at the studio and we can go over to the club together? Then when she got to the studio, I just put on the music and was like, ‘You see those empty spots? Why don’t you say something right there?’ And she said something and I kept it.”