VOICE OVER: Rudolph Strong
WRITTEN BY: Don Ekama
And you thought his rapping was good! For this list, we'll be looking at the most popular tracks by other artists that credit Jay-Z (or his real name, Shawn Carter) as a songwriter. Our countdown includes “Brown Skin Girl”, “Still D.R.E.”, “Break My Soul”, and more!
Top 10 Songs You Didn’t Know Were Written by Jay-Z
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Songs You Didn’t Know Were Written by Jay-Z.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most popular tracks by other artists that credit Jay-Z (or his real name, Shawn Carter) as a songwriter.
What’s your favorite song from the rapper? Let us know in the comments.
#10: “Lemme Get That” (2007)
The music relationship between Jay-Z and Rihanna goes way back. Indeed, it was the hip-hop mogul who gave a fresh-faced Rihanna her first recording contract, signing her to Def Jam, a company he was president and CEO of at the time. While her first two albums did pretty well commercially, it was her third effort “Good Girl Gone Bad” that cemented Rihanna as an international pop star. Jay-Z famously featured on the album’s lead single “Umbrella.” But, he would also lend his writing talents to some deep cuts, such as “Lemme Get That.” Jay-Z’s influence is glaring here, as Rihanna spits her flow like a true emcee, backed by the thumping Timbaland-produced beats.
#9: “Memphis Bleek Is…” (1999)
After co-founding Roc-A-Fella Records in the mid 90s, Jay-Z signed on Memphis Bleek as one of his first artists. Bleek became a protégé of his label boss, making his recorded debut on Jay-Z’s “Coming of Age.” Jay-Z served as the executive producer on Bleek’s debut album and also co-wrote the lead single “Memphis Bleek Is…” The track became a moderate success in the U.S., peaking within the top 40 of Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart. This helped garner attention for Bleek in the music industry and also helped him develop credit within hip-hop circles. It’s worth mentioning that many thought this song was a diss to Nas, due to its similarities with his single “Nas Is Like.”
#8: “Brown Skin Girl” (2019)
Beyoncé feat. Saint Jhn, Wizkid & Blue Ivy Carter
Hailed by Oprah Winfrey’s magazine as “unapologetically and fearlessly Black”, “Brown Skin Girl” was Beyoncé's ode to dark-skinned women. The song was co-written by Jay-Z and marked an international collaboration between Beyoncé, Guyanese-American rapper Saint Jhn, and Nigerian artist Wizkid. This definitely was a bit of a family endeavor, given that it also featured Blue Ivy, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s daughter. We bet it was so affirming, not only to be on a track that encourages Black girls to love their skin, but also on one that was co-written by both her parents. Upon its release as a single from the soundtrack album “The Lion King: The Gift,” the number received rave reviews from music critics and inspired a social media challenge that quickly went viral.
#7: “I Got That” (2000)
Amil feat. Beyoncé
New York-based rapper Amil rose to popularity in the late ‘90s after signing to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella records and appearing on his hit single “Can I Get A…” Two years later, Jay-Z joined in penning her debut solo single “I Got That,” which also featured Beyoncé in one of her first-ever solo outings. As Roc-A-Fella’s First Lady, Amil’s debut single was, fittingly, a girl power anthem about independence. While it was only a moderate success, it showcased Amil’s versatile rap flow, which was surely a product of Jay-Z’s tutelage. The song may have slipped through the cracks among other rap heavyweights, but it marked the start of a personal and professional relationship between Jay-Z and his future wife Beyoncé.
#6: “Enough Cryin” (2006)
Mary J. Blige
Although he’s known as a hip-hop artist, Jay-Z’s songwriting is by no means limited to that field. R&B icon Mary J. Blige sought his skills in crafting “Enough Cryin,” the third single from her Grammy-winning album “The Breakthrough.” The song, which was a top 40 hit in the U.S., described Blige processing her emotions after a turbulent relationship. She even brings on her alter ego, Brook Lynn, who delivers a scathing rap verse towards the end of the track. While it’s not quite clear who inspired the song, Blige has admitted that the events surrounding her failed engagement to Jodeci vocalist K-Ci directly influenced the music video.
#5: “Big Bad Mamma” (1997)
Foxy Brown feat. Dru Hill
Early on in her career, Foxy Brown scored a hit when she was featured on Jay-Z’s “Ain’t No Playa.” The track was instrumental in establishing both rappers as rising stars in the hip-hop industry and was the beginning of a collaborative relationship between the two. Brown’s debut album “Ill Na Na” featured the single “Big Bad Mamma,” which was written by Jay-Z and Leon Haywood, as well as the songwriting and production duo Trackmasters. With a unique flow and undeniable swag, Brown spits braggadocious lines in her verses and allows Dru Hill to do the horn-tooting for her in the chorus. The song peaked at #53 on the Hot 100, making it her second highest charting single as a lead artist.
#4: “All My Love” (1998)
Queen Pen feat. Eric Williams
After making her music debut contributing featured vocals to the 1996 Blackstreet hit “No Diggity,” Queen Pen began recording her first album. The album was mostly written and produced by Pen and Blackstreet member Teddy Riley, with additional songwriting help from none other than Jay-Z. This buttery-smooth collaboration became a critical and commercial success, which was praised for its infectious nature. It reached number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and number 11 on the UK Singles Chart, where it would fluctuate within the top 100 for over a month.
#3: “Still D.R.E.” (1999)
Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg
After an unintended seven-year music hiatus in the 90s, there was a lot riding on Dr. Dre’s comeback album, “2001.” To create the perfect lead single, Dre brought in Jay-Z for a writing session that first produced a rather superficial song “about diamonds and Bentleys.” But this wasn’t quite what Dre wanted, and frankly, it wasn't what he needed. Thankfully, Jay-Z gave it another go, and managed to write the entirety of “Still D.R.E.” in what was reportedly just 20 minutes. Although a moderate hit initially, it received critical acclaim for showcasing a formidable Dr. Dre in his return to glory. The song also found renewed success in 2022, after it was performed as the closer at the Super Bowl LVI (56) Halftime Show.
#2: “Coming Home” (2010)
Diddy – Dirty Money feat. Skylar Grey
Written by Jay-Z, Skylar Grey, J. Cole and Alex “da Kid” Grant, “Coming Home” was Diddy’s redemption song. Although it wasn’t initially written for him, the song’s lyrics were tweaked after Diddy indicated his interest in the material. And, when you listen to this version of the track, it’s hard to even believe it was written for anyone else. The introspective hip-hop ballad references key moments in Diddy’s life such as the loss of his close friend and label signee, the Notorious B.I.G. Critics praised the lyrical composition of the song and its textured production, which was also handled by Jay-Z and Grant.
#1: “Break My Soul” (2022)
On June 20th 2022, Beyoncé threw the internet (and dance clubs around the world) into a frenzy with the release of “Break My Soul.” Put out as the lead single from her seventh album “Renaissance,” the song was co-written by the star herself, with help from a few other people, including her husband and longtime collaborator Jay-Z. The dance floor-ready track talks about finding oneself again after a turbulent period, a message which resonated with audiences around the world, many of whom were still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a worldwide hit, reaching the top 20 in a plethora of countries and uniting listeners on the universal need to “release the stress” and “forget the rest”.