Fifteen years ago this week will forever be earmarked as an important time for hip-hop and the music industry. Jay-Z released The Black Album, his eighth studio album that introduced a new definition of the color "black" (beauty, soul and prestige instead of doom and gloom) and propelled him to legendary status.
The Black Album—released Nov. 14, 2003—put Shawn Carter's powerful combo of authentic street cred and lyrical prowess on display in what was supposed to be his retirement album, a farewell to solidify his drug-dealer-turned-mastermind-lyricist status and to prove everyday hustlers can achieve their dreams. "From bricks to Billboards, from grams to Grammys," raps the Brooklyn-bred MC on "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."
Diehard hip-hop enthusiasts and critics showered the album with praise back then, with the complete work of art immediately earning him a Best Rap Album Grammy nomination and the single "99 Problems" winning the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. Commercially, it spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. And over the past decade and a half, The Black Album continued to attract critical acclaim on Rolling Stone's list of "500 Greatest List of All Time" and Complex's list of "25 Rap Albums From the Past Decade That Deserve Classic Status."
The Black Album's longevity and lasting influence on modern hip-hop artists contributed to Jay-Z becoming the first rap artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017. Its impact is still strong today, so this is our "Public Service Announcement," so to speak, to remind you of one of the most important hip-hop albums of our time.