Chart Peak: 2
The American emcee Jay Z first charted in the UK in 1997 and until this year was probably still best known here for his Xmas '98 No.2 hit 'Hard Knock Life'... This collaboration with Destiny's Child diva Beyoncé gave him another massive No. 2 success in January 2003.
The second track on Now 54 to feature a member of Destiny's Child collaborating with a rapper, and the first of three appearances for this particular pairing; indeed the release of this track was seen at the time as the first public acknowledgement of their relationship. It wasn't the first hit for Beyoncé outside the group, as she'd had a solo Top 10 with 'Work It Out' the previous year but it was still part of her staking out the territory for her proper solo career and perhaps trying to make her image a little less squeaky-clean. Conversely, it's a relatively poppy track for Jay-Z, without descending to the novelty levels of the kids-musical-sampling 'Hard Knock Life' or 'Anything'.
It's another track I surprised myself by liking as I hadn't been much interested in Destiny's Child and, as somebody who doesn't hate rap music but doesn't consistently like it either, I'd never liked anything Jay-Z did before and I'm not a big fan of the whole gangster-chic thing either. In fact I subsequently saw the film Bonnie And Clyde and was quite disappointed. Kanye West was responsible for the semi-organic production with live guitars played over the beat from a Tupac song called 'Me And My Girlfriend' (not a big fan of him either, actually) as well as the obvious borrowing from 'If I Was Your Girlfriend' by Prince. I think part of what I like is the thing you'd least expect from Jay-Z (or Kanye West), a touch of humility. He even says in as many words "I ain't perfect..." even if he continues with the line "nobody walking this earth's surface is". Still, that little trace of humour and the fact that he seems to be talking more about the closeness of the protagonists than boasting about any of their exploits gives it a charm you rarely detect in rap of this era. I'm still not quite sure what the sound effect over the chorus vocal is supposed to imply but I'm kind of used to it now. Of all the acts on Now 54 these two are probably the biggest stars in 2015, with Beyoncé even appearing as a guest vocalist on the newly released Now That's What I Call Music! 92.
Also appearing on: Now 56, 65
Jay-Z also appears on: Now 37 [with Foxy Brown], 55, 67 [with Rihanna], 74 [with Rihanna and Kanye West], 75 [with Mr Hudson]
Beyoncé also appears on: Now 66, 67, 68 [with Shakira], 73, 74, 92 [with Naughty Boy and Arrow Benjamin]
Available on: The Blueprint 2 The Gift & The Curse (Edited Version)
Charting 1997: 27th December
6 years ago