Today In Hip-Hop: Jay Z’s ‘Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life’ Was Released 15 Years Ago

On this day, September 29, in hip-hop history…


 1998:  Before the Tom Ford suits… Before he rubbed elbows with the President… Before he even met his world-famous wife, Shawn Carter was the hottest act in rap and the coolest man on the planet. In September 1998 with a show-stopping sample from a Broadway show to lead the way, Jay Z dropped Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life and nothing quite has ever been the same in American pop culture.

It is true that many consider Jay Z’s 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt, to be the finest effort of his career and over the years, it’s become fashionable for fans and critics to state you were down with Jigga from day one. Numbers don’t lie. Although it won respect in the streets and sold solidly at the time, Reasonable Doubt was relatively small potatoes compared to many of Jay’s contemporaries when it came to sales. Vol. 2 was his undeniable breakthrough on a mainstream level, selling over five million copies and becoming Jay’s highest-selling album to date.

While the album was criticized at the time for it’s overtly mainstream bent and less intricate flows, Vol. 2 contains some of Jay Z’s most indelible songs to-date. The Annie-sampling title track, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” is often considered one of the greatest rap singles of all-time while hits like “Can I Get A…,” “Nigga What, Nigga What (Originator 99),” and “Money, Cash, Hoes” kept the album on the charts for months.

15 years later, Jay Z is arguably rap’s most legendary figure, continuing to sell millions of records with the release of his 12th studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and hobnobbing with President Barack Obama. Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life‘s legacy is the moment that finally powered Jay Z to the mainstream.

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

  • Slim Joe

    i still bump that shit!!! one of my fav jay albums

  • Peso

    This album is a classic to me or close to it. First Jay Z album I listened to and he’s been my favorite all-time ever since. I don’t think in a 8 album span (Jay Z golden era) from 96-2003 that any rapper, emcee, lyricist or whatever could ever match that greatness EVER. I’d put them 8 album (not even including American Gangster) up against anybody, anytime, anywhere for any reason

  • Darren

    Akon … He missed it this time

  • BrianRaider

    And Anotha 1 Good Shit BJ!!!

    I Didn’t See What This Was Rated In XXL. The Mag Was Only A Year Old Then. Jay-Z Is On The Cover Of The Coveted 1st Issue Of XXL. I Need That Issue! This Is A Classic LP!!! Love This Album!!!! Favorite Song Paperchase!!! Tims Bio & Vol.2 Were The Start Of The Triumphant One 2 Punch Of Timbaland & Jay!!! Tim & Jay Are As Good As Snoop & Dre!!!

    • Peso

      Jay & Pharrell, Jay & Swizz, Jay & Kanye…I agree with Tim, there connection is priceless. It’s crazy to think MCHG is the first album that Tim had a hand in most of the production with outside help from a few other producers.