Jay Z may be more invested in delivering music than making it at this point, but there would never have been a TIDAL without the extended come-up that preceded it. Reasonable Doubt bled into In My Lifetime and then the dynasty just kept growing. When The Blueprint rolled around Hov demanded his own lane, The Black Album proved his music had become a cultural event.

Now it’s 2015, Hov is 45, and his first album is almost 20. It’s also been at least ten years since Jay informally ushered in the “Suit And Tie” era of his career—”I’m not a business man, I’m a business man” is probably the most-quoted lyric of his career by now—and yet he’s still rapping. Few other emcees have developed and progressed so conspicuously in the public eye. We might be less surprised to see Jay Z standing alongside Warren Buffet than to find him in the booth at this point, but his music has formed a narrative the whole way.

With that in mind, we compiled 50 of Jay Z’s best verses. While it’s not presented in chronological order, every track here is a reminder of how far he’s come. And he’s still bringing us along for the ride.

 

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Jay Z Before & After Source:Getty

2. Jay Z – Feelin’ It

“Since diapers, had nothing to live for like them lifers but / Making sure every nigga stay rich within my cipher.” – Jay Z

3. Jay Z – Glory

Beyonce And Jay-Z Sighting In Paris - June 4, 2012 Source:Getty

“The most beautifulest thing in this world / Is daddy’s little girl / You don’t yet know what swag is but you was made in Paris.” – Jay Z

4. Jay Z – The Takeover

Jay Z in concert Source:Getty

“A wise man told me don’t argue with fools / Cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who / So stop with that childish shit, nigga I’m grown / Please leave it alone – don’t throw rocks at the throne.” – Jay Z

5. Jay Z – Public Service Announcement

Jay Z: Magna Carter World Tour Concert Source:Getty

“I’m like, Che Guevara with bling on, I’m complex / I never claimed to have wings on.” – Jay Z

6. Jay Z – Dirt Off Your Shoulder

Jay Z At Tidal Source:Getty

“I paid a grip for the jeans, plus the slippers is clean / No chrome on the wheels, I’m a grown-up for real.” – Jay Z

7. Jay Z – I Just Wanna Love U

“Okay, hot Hov’, too hot to hold / Ladies love me long time like 2Pac’s soul.” – Jay Z

8. Jay Z feat. Eminem – Renegade

2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival - Day 3 Source:Getty

“See I’m influenced by the ghetto you ruined / That same dude you gave nothing, I made something doing.” – Jay Z

9. Jay Z feat. Amil & Beanie Sigel – Do It Again

“The game is ours, we’ll never foul out / Y’all just better hope we gracefully bow out.” – Jay Z

10. Jay Z – Lost One

“And I ain’t even know how it came to this / Except that fame is / The worst drug known to man / It’s stronger than, heroin.” – Jay Z

11. T.I. feat. Jay Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne – Swagger Like Us

“School of hard knocks: I’m a grad / And that all-blue Yankee is my graduation cap.” – Jay Z

12. Jay Z feat. Lenny Kravitz – Guns And Roses

“They giveth and they taketh life is cruel that way / But even a broken clock is right at least two times a day.” – Jay Z

13. Jay Z – Hovi Baby

“They say a midget standin’ on the giant’s shoulder can see much further than the giant / So I got the whole rap world on my shoulder they tryin to see further than I am.” – Jay Z

14. Jay Z – Beach Chair

“Life is but a dream to me / Gunshots sing to me/ These other guys with lullabies don’t mean a thing to me.” – Jay Z

15. Jay Z – Dope Man

”F— the system / At Lady Justice I blaze nine / Your Honor, I no longer kill my people / I raise mine / The soul of Mumia in this modern day time.” – Jay Z

16. Jay Z – Allure

“But the allure of the game, keeps calling your name ‘ To all the Laura’s of the world, I feel your pain / To all the Christies in different cities and Tiffany Lanes.” – Jay Z

We all hustlers in love with the same thing

17. Jay Z – What More Can I Say

“Far from a Harvard student, just had the balls to do it / And no I’m not through with it.” – Jay Z

18. Jay Electronic feat. Jay Z – Shiny Suit Theory

“In the world of no justice and black ladies on the back of buses / I’m the immaculate conception of rappers-slash-hustlers.” – Jay Z

19. Rick Ross feat. Jay Z & Young Jeezy – Hustlin’ Remix

“We don’t resort to violence, we on resorts and islands / With linen shorts and shades, ‘case they thought you was lyin’.” – Jay Z

20. Talib Kweli feat. Mos Def, Jay Z, & Kanye West – Get By Remix

“Claimed I was ready to die / Promised never to cry / Held it all inside / Reality was too much to take so I / Kept my mind fried.” – Jay Z

21. Saigon feat. Jay Z – Come On Baby

“You ain’t crazy, don’t you play me, don’t you know it’s Jay-Z / When Internets ask who’s the best, why won’t you say me? / Don’t you hate me? C’mon baby, wasn’t all gravy.” – Jay Z

22. Sade feat. Jay Z – The Moon And The Sky Remix

“As God as my witness, timing was my mistress / I guess it’s in the stars for me to love you from a distance.” – Jay Z

23. Jay Z – Brooklyn We Go Hard

“I Jack I rob I sin / Aw man I’m Jackie Robinson / ‘Cept when I run base / I dodge the pen.” – Jay Z

24. Jay Z & Kanye West – Niggas In Paris

Tidal Launch Event NYC #TIDALforALL Source:Getty

“It’s only right that we be fair / Psycho, I’m liable to be go Michael / Take your pick, Jackson, Tyson, Jordan, Game 6.” – Jay Z

25. Jay Z feat. Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Memphis Bleek – 1-900-Hustler

“And if you free tomorrow night we can meet and discuss price / FYI, I never been robbed in my life.” – Jay Z

26. Jay Z – No Church In The Wild

Jay Z Before & After Source:Getty

“I’m wondering if a thug’s prayers reach / Is Pious pious cause God loves pious? / Socrates asked whose bias do y’all seek? / All for Plato, screech.” – Jay Z

27. Jay Z – Streets Is Watching

“I felt like life was cheating me / For the first time in my life I was getting money / But it was like my conscience was eating me / Was this a lesson God teaching me? ” – Jay Z

28. Kanye West feat. Jay Z – Diamonds

“People lined up to see the Titanic sinking / Instead we rose up from the ash like a phoenix / If you’re waiting for the end of the Dynasty sign / It would seem like forever is a mighty long time.” – Jay Z

29. Jay Z – Soon You’ll Understand

2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Inside Source:Getty

“Now it’s too late, we got a little life together / And in my mind I really want you to be my wife forever.” -Jay Z

30. Jay Z feat. Beanie Sigel – Where Have You Been

“Will never ask mommy, ‘Why daddy don’t love me? / Why is we so poor?, why is life so ugly? / Mommy why is your eyes puffy?’ / Please don’t cry everything’ll be alright.” – Jay Z

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