(Via The Fader)
The Black Album was something larger than music; it was a cultural event. In seven years, Jay Z had transitioned from full-time hustler to a hip-hop mogul and one of the world’s most powerful pop culture influencers. He sold out Madison Square Garden with the speed of a seasoned rock veteran. His love for button-down dress shirts at the time ushered in a wave of hip-hop’s cohabitation with the fashion industry and inspired legions of impressionable youth to abandon the throwback sports jerseys Jay himself had championed a year prior. And yet, it was all coming to an end; leading up to its release in 2003, The Black Album was billed as Jay Z’s final album, with the implication that the rapper would go on to focus on the other entrepreneurial endeavors that were beginning to define his output just as much as music had. That never happened, but it was a very real sentiment at the time, and one that largely informed the ornate, boundary-pushing production of the album. By speaking with a number of core contributors to The Black Album, we tried to capture the unwavering spirit of an icon determined to make his mark on history.