For no discernible reason, I’ve been on a Jay Z kick lately. As I've been bumping everything from Reasonable Doubt to “Devil Is A Lie,” making damn sure to skip Magna Carta Holy Grail, I’ve noticed something: Jay loves to count. Loves it.
Drugs, money, Samsung phones, TIDAL subscribers, you name it he’s counted it. His rhyme book is The Phantom Toll Booth.
But with so many songs and so many albums, Jigga's love of numbers can get lost. It’s the kind of thing you don't really notice until someone points it out to you and then it's all you can hear. My decision to conduct one of our trademark Absurdly Detailed Investigations, to help bring his mathematical habits to light, was a no-brainer.
Here are my very scientific findings...
- “Dead Presidents II”
- “Dead Presidents III”
- “99 Problems”
- “30 Something”
- “Lost Ones”
- “22 Two's”
- “2 Many Hoes”
- “8 Miles and Running”
- “Part II (On the Run)”
- “The Watcher 2”
- “My 1st Song”
- “A Million & One”
- “Pop 4 Roc”
Damn, that's a lot of numbered tracks. Jay Z loves numbers so much he even uses them 4 adverbs. But this isn’t about numbers in song titles, this is about Jay literally just listing numbers off in his raps, and when you talk about Jay Z counting things, Magna Carta Holy Grail (sadly) has to be the first album that comes to mind. It’s basically the rap equivalent of Scrooge McDuck. Some might even call it the... holy grail of Jay Z counting.
On “F.U.T.W” Hov raps, “Make a million another million/let my niggas make a million 'til we all check a billion” like he has money OCD, which maybe he does. Still, it's not exactly what I was talking about since it's mostly just Jay Z saying “million” one million times. He’s not outright counting like he does on the very next song, "Somewhereinamerica."
But…but....that’s not good math? He just Anchorman-ed the shit out of this. He missed $17 million! Note to self, never let Jay Z do my taxes. One minute I’d be off by a few dollars and the next I'm sitting in a cell next to Bernie Madoff. This line is pretty much the embodiment of the whole album and where Jay is as a rapper. He literally has nothing else to say anymore so he just started counting things to fill space. He even finds ways to break millions down by counting them with more numbers. Hov-ception.
Take, “Run This Town” for example:
It’s only natural that The Blueprint 3 has some heavy math, considering in a way it's Jay counting in album titles. You thought "Run This Town" was going to be the only one? You clearly didn't listen to "Reminder." Not that I blame you, that song is awful. Jay counts on that track so many times. There's “10 #1 albums in a row,” “Then write sixteens in between runnin sixteen,” “I destroy your 4.0's And Benz 500s,” and of course, the moment where he just counts off a bunch of years...
"'96, '97, '98, '99 / 2000, 2001 and beyond / '02, '03, '04, '05 / '06 and 7, '08, '09"
It’s a step up from counting money, right?! Oh, he’s not done counting money? Cool. Even when it’s not his song he still can’t help but count. On “Clique” Jay raps "Turn that 62 to 125/125 to a 250," and how about the hook on “Seen It All”?
“Hear the 20s, 50s, hundreds, the money machine clickin'”
I can’t knock it though, that song is pure fire. It’s good to hear Jay get back to those drug-dealing days, I mean we all know he has no use for a money machine anymore, now he just gets paid in Samsung rollover minutes and Basquiat paintings. On “Drunk In Love” he substitutes counting millions for counting jet trips; not nearly an edgy. At least he got the sequence right (looking at you “Somewhereinamerica”).
Magna Carta Holy Grail? "Seen It All"? "Drunk In Love"? I know this seems like a millionaire's midlife crisis, but counting things has been a Jay staple since back in the day. How about “U Don’t Know”? Jay was most certainly counting during the first Blueprint era.
Man, how much better is “U Don’t Know (Remix)” than the original? I'd say one million, two million, three million, maybe even four million times better. Anyhow, sticking around that first Blueprint, Jay was even counting when he was dissing Nas, throwing out numbers left and right to try and confuse him. Little did he know Nas is no stranger to math raps.
"You said you've been in this 10, I've been in it 5 - smarten up, Nas / 4 albums in 10 years, nigga? I could divide / That's one every...let's say 2 / 2 of them shits was due I was "nah," the other was Illmatic / That's a one-hot-album-every-10-year average"
Ready to feel old? The Black Album will turn 13 this year, which means that 13 years ago Jay was counting on “Threat.”
"Yeah, I done told you niggas 9 or 10 times stop fuckin with me..."
On a semi-unrelated note, watch this Decoded episode with 9th Wonder. He breaks down the beat and tells a cool story about the above ad-lib.
And this wouldn't be a proper Jay Z article without an Illuminati conspiracy, right? Well, break out the tinfoil hats and turn your pyramids upside down. On “Niggas in Paris” Hov raps, “Jackson, Tyson, Jordan, Game 6,” followed shortly thereafter by “Let’s get faded, Le Meurice for like six days,” both of which follow the line, “The Nets could go 0 for 82.” Game 6. 6 Days. 0 plus 8 minus 2 equals 6. 666? We have an Illuminati winner.
See, I told you Jay Z loves math. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though. After all, you do know who his ghostwriter is, right? I know you heard that reference track...