Last week, we broke down the first decade of Kanye West’s career, which featured Yeezy's development during his run of six platinum solo albums in ten years, an accomplishment only matched by Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and Nas. 'Ye’s big brother, Jay Z, dominated the late 1990s and early 2000s by releasing eight platinum solo albums in his first decade in the game (really, due to his short retirement, his first seven years), and hip-hop watched Hov evolve from his drug-running past in Reasonable Doubt to the multi-million dollar marketing of The Black Album.

Since then, Mr. Carter has released four more platinum solo albums (five if you count Watch The Throne), become a father to the beautiful Blue Ivy, reach billionaire couple status with his wife Beyoncé, and strike business deals that only he could have envisioned back in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects. But before he became the $500 million man he is now, Jigga had to earn hip-hop’s throne, and he did so by releasing almost an album a year straight out of the gate. Join XXL for look back at the humble beginnings of Jay Z’s career. Can’t knock the hustle. —Christian Bonoan

Previously: Breaking Down Kanye West’s Six Platinum Solo Albums

AlbumReasonable Doubt
Release Date: June 25, 1996
First Week Sales: 43,000
Major Singles (Billboard Hot 100 peak): ): "Dead Presidents" (N/A); “Ain’t No Nigga” (50); “Can’t Knock The Hustle” (73); “Feelin’ It” (79)
Platinum Certification Date: Feb. 7, 2002
XXL Rating: XXL
Album Producers: Knobody, Sean Cane, Ski Beatz, DJ Clark Kent, DJ Premier, Irv Gotti, Peter Panic, & K-Rob
Biggest Rap Album Competitor: Tupac, All Eyez On Me; Nas, It Was Written; Fugees, The Score; OutKast, ATLiens
Memorable Remixes/Feature Verses: Foxy Brown, “I’ll Be”
Top News Headlines: Jay-Z Partners With Damon Dash and Kareem Burke To Start Roc-A-Fella Records

Jay-Z - In My Lifetime

AlbumIn My Lifetime, Vol. 1
Release Date: November 4, 1997
First Week Sales: 138,000
Major Singles (Billboard Hot 100 peak): “Sunshine” (95); “Wishing on a Star” (N/A); “The City Is Mine” (52); “A Million and One Questions” (N/A)
Platinum Certification Date: February 5, 1999
Album Producers: DJ Premier, Teddy Riley, Chad Hugo, The Hitmen, Ski Beatz, Track Masters, Anthony Dent, Big Jaz, Puff Daddy
Biggest Rap Album Competitor: The Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death; Wu-Tang Clan, Wu-Tang Forever; Will Smith, Big Willie Style
Memorable Remixes/Feature Verses: Changing Faces, "All Of My Days"
Top News Headlines: Island Def Jam Acquires 50 Percent Ownership In Roc-A-Fella Records For $1.5 million

AlbumVol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Release Date: September 29, 1998
First Week Sales: 352,000
Major Singles (Billboard Hot 100 peak): “Can I Get A..." (19); “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” (15); “Money, Cash, Hoes” (N/A); “Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99)” (84)
Platinum Certification Date: November 2, 1998
Album Producers: DJ Premier, The 45 King, Swizz Beatz, The Hitmen, Timbaland, J-Runnah, Irv Gotti, Lil Rob, Erick Sermon, Rockwilder, Kid Capri, Dame Dash, Jermaine Dupri
Biggest Rap Album Competitor: Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill; OutKast, Aquemini; DMX, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood; Juvenile, 400 Degreez
Memorable Remixes/Feature Verses: Jermaine Dupri, “Money Ain’t A Thang”; Another Level, “Be Alone No More”; Juvenile, “Ha”; DMX, “Blackout”
Top News Headlines: Jay Z Stars In Streets Is Watching
Hip-hop Fans Recognize Hov As Potential Heir To The Notorious B.I.G.’s Throne Following Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life

AlbumVol. 3... Life And Times Of S. Carter
Release Date: December 28, 1999
First Week Sales: 463,000
Major Singles (Billboard Hot 100 peak): “Jigga My Nigga” (28); “Girl’s Best Friend” (52); “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)” (65); “Things You Do” (N/A); “Big Pimpin’” (18)
Platinum Certification Date: February 7, 2002
XXL Rating: XL
Album Producers: Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, DJ Premier, Rockwilder, DJ Clue, Irv Gotti, Lil Rob, K-Rob, Darrell Branch, Ken Ifill, Russell Howard, Sean Francis, Chauncey Mahan
Biggest Rap Album Competitor: Eminem, The Slim Shady LP; Dr. Dre, 2001; Mobb Deep, Murda Muzik
Memorable Remixes/Feature Verses: Mariah Carey, “Heartbreaker”; Ja Rule, “Holla Holla”; DMX, “It’s Murda”
Top News Headlines: Jay Z Wins Best Rap Album Grammy For Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life, Boycotts Awards
Jay Z And Dame Dash Create Rocawear Clothing Brand
Jay Z Is Arrested After Being Linked to Stabbing In NYC Club

AlbumThe Dynasty: Roc La Familia
Release Date: October 31, 2000
First Week Sales: 557,789
Major Singles (Billboard Hot 100 peak): “I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me)” (11); “Change The Game” (86); “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” (82)
Platinum Certification Date: December 4, 2000
Album Producers: Just Blaze, Rick Rock, The Neptunes, Kanye West, Bink!, Rockwilder, Memphis Bleek, B-High, T.T.
Biggest Rap Album Competitor: Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP; OutKast, Stankonia; Nelly, Country Grammar
Memorable Remixes/Feature Verses: Memphis Bleek, “Is That Your Chick”; Angie Martinez, “Mi Amor”; Mya, “Best Of Me”; Busta Rhymes, “Why We Die”; Da Ranjahz; “Event Horizon”
Top News Headlines: Jay Z Pleads Not Guilty To Stabbing Charges, Is Hit With Three Years Probation

AlbumThe Blueprint
Release Date: September 11, 2001
First Week Sales: 427,000
Major Singles (Billboard Hot 100 peak): “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” (8); “Girls, Girls, Girls” (17); “Jigga That Nigga” (66); “Song Cry” (N/A)
Platinum Certification Date: October 16, 2001
XXL Rating: XXL
Album Producers: Kanye West, Just Blaze, Bink, Timbaland, Eminem, Poke and Tone
Biggest Rap Album Competitor: Nas, Stillmatic; Ludacris, Word Of Mouf; Tupac, Until The End Of Time; Ja Rule, Pain Is Love
Memorable Remixes/Feature Verses: Memphis Bleek, “Do My...”; Missy Elliott, “One Minute Man”; Beanie Sigel, “2001”
Top News Headlines: The Blueprint Is Released The Same Day As The World Trade Center Tragedy
Jay Z Unplugs For MTV Series
Jay Z Feuds With Prodigy, Nas

AlbumThe Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse
Release Date: November 12, 2002
First Week Sales: 545,000
Major Singles (Billboard Hot 100 peak): “03 Bonnie & Clyde” (4); “Hovi Baby” (N/A); “Excuse Me Miss” (8)
Platinum Certification Date: December 10, 2002
XXL Rating: XL
Album Producers: Darrell "Digga" Branch, Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Timbaland, Charlemagne, Kanye West, Heavy D, Big Chuck, Ron Feennster, Jimmy Kendrick, No I.D., Dr. Dre
Biggest Rap Album Competitor: Eminem, The Eminem Show; Eminem, 8 Mile Soundtrack; Nelly, Nellyville; Nas, God’s Son
Memorable Remixes/Feature Verses: Freeway, “What We Do”; Scarface, “Guess Who’s Back”; Cam’ron, “Welcome To New York City”
Top News Headlines: Rumors Surface Hinting At A Relationship Between Jay Z And Beyonce
Jay Z Teams Up With R. Kelly For The Best Of Both Worlds

AlbumThe Black Album
Release Date: November 14, 2003
First Week Sales: 463,000
Major Singles (Billboard Hot 100 peak): “Change Clothes” (10); “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” (5); “99 Problems” (30)
Platinum Certification Date: February 17, 2004
XXL Rating: XL
Album Producers: Just Blaze, Kanye West, The Neptunes, Timbaland, 9th Wonder, Eminem, Rick Rubin, The Buchanans, DJ Quik, Luis Resto, Aqua, Joseph Weinberger
Biggest Rap Album Competitor: 50 Cent, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’; G-Unit, Beg For Mercy; OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Memorable Remixes/Feature Verses: Beyonce, “Crazy In Love”; Pharrell, “Frontin’”; OutKast, “Flip Flop Rock”; Mary J. Blige, “Love & Life Intro”; Talib Kweli, “Get By”; Panjabi MC, “Beware”; Joe Budden, “Pump It Up”; Dead Prez, “Hell Yeah”; Memphis Bleek, “Hypnotic”
Top News Headlines: Jay Z Retires From Rapping
Jay Z Opens Up 40/40 Club In NYC
Jay Z Teams Up With Nokia For Album Release
Reebok Launches S. Carter Collection
Jay Z Films Retirement Concert, Fade To Black

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