Header Ads

Discography Check: Roc-A-Fella Records(1996-2007)



By @TrueGodImmortal 







It's the Roc! Once upon a time, there was the unstoppable force that was Roc-A-Fella Records. Led by the three headed monster of Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Damon Dash, and Kareem "Biggs" Burke, The Roc was one of the most dominant forces in hip hop over the years. They would build up a roster that would eventually grab a stronghold on the game, as well as create a long line of albums that would captivate the world. The Roc existed at the highest level of the game and while some short lived artists never got to put out an album, the ones who did have themselves a place within the Roc-A-Fella discography. Today, we look back at the history of Roc-A-Fella and their catalog. Let's get into it.

*Jay-Z- Reasonable Doubt(1996)


-The essential debut from Jay. What more could I say about this classic that hasn't already been said? Flawless album, the best thing Jay has released and the starting point for it all. Period. Pay homage.

*Christìon- Ghetto Cyrano (1997)


-The duo of Allen Anthony and Kenni Ski would make an album that in some ways is an underground classic. Songs like the hit "I Wanna Get Next To You" and of course, "Bring Back Your Love" are remembered for their infectious nature. It seems as if this album isn't always thought of by the average fan when you think of The Roc, but before Rell was their go to R&B singer, Christìon provided the smooth sounds.

*Jay-Z- Vol. 1 In My Lifetime (1997)


-I have said in a previous article that this is Jay's most slept on album and I continue to believe that. Jay brings the greatness on this project despite a bit of a shiny suit element added to his music, and provides us with the classics such as "Imaginary Player", "You Must Love Me", "Where I'm From", and of course, the somber "Lucky Me". There is an element of vulnerability and honestly displayed in some of these tracks, which gives us rare poignant moments from Jay. Revisit this album and you'll see what I mean.

*Streets Is Watching Soundtrack(1998)


-This was the precursor to the takeover for The Roc in many ways. They funded their own independent movie so to speak, and then released their own soundtrack. This is a significant release in the catalog due to the era it released and what it represented going forward. With the Jay, DMX, and Ja Rule track "Murdergram", we seemed primed to have a new supergroup on the horizon. That didn't pan out unfortunately, but it was monumental to even tease the idea. Other tracks on here such as "Celebration", "Only A Customer", and "Love For Free" are extremely solid. A truly dope soundtrack.

*Jay-Z- Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life(1998)


-I have always felt this album was a tad bit overrated. Some would consider it a classic and while it is Jay's highest selling album, a classic it is not. A bit boring in certain spots, despite being "high energy", this album saw Jay utilize a formula that couldn't lose in the mainstream. He made hits, street anthems and everything under the sun to win and it worked. With 5 million records sold, hits all over radio and a newly superstar status, this is Jay's breakthrough album hands down. "Reservoir Dogs" has to be on the standout tracks, as well as the "Hard Knock Life" track and "Ride or Die". There are certainly a few classics on that album, but it misses the mark for me on many occasions.

*DJ Clue- The Professional(1998)


-There's no denying that Clue was one of the premier DJs in the world during this era. He brought the mixtape formula to an actual album and it worked well here. Nas contributed with the solid "Queensfinest", Jay and Ja gave us some "Gangsta Shit", Fabolous makes one of his first appearances, DMX appears twice, and the "Fantastic 4" bring that official shit, as Cam'ron, N.O.R.E., Canibus, and Big Pun provide us with some dope lyricism for the streets. A solid release from Clue.

*Memphis Bleek- The Coming of Age (1999)


-Bleek was supposed to the next one up. He was the guy who was supposed to be the star of the Roc after Jay retired. The only issue was that he wasn't a lyrical wordsmith or capable of wearing the crown. That takes nothing away from his ability to make hits or catchy tracks, but Bleek was young and limited at the time. Despite the subject matter being limited to your standard street shit, Bleek provides some bangers with "Memph Bleek Is....", the Ja Rule assisted "Murda 4 Life", "What You Think Of That" featuring Jay, and the Beanie Sigel assisted "My Hood To Your Hood". This was a solid release as well, just limited in content.

*Jay-Z- Vol. 3 Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)


-A lot of people dislike this album. I have never understood why. It is not a classic by any stretch and there's not one verse by Jay here that is one of his true greatest, but this album actually knocks. He worked with different producers here and provided a more street edge than his last two albums did. After the 5 million selling Vol. 2, Jay would hit with yet another multi platinum album, this one going triple platinum, which is still one of his biggest selling albums ever(I believe it is his 2nd or 3rd highest selling album). Some of the tracks that work here are of course the huge hit featuring UGK titled "Big Pimpin", the Juvenile assisted "Snoopy Track", "Come and Get Me", "Dopeman", and the amazing sound of Premo and Jay together, for the classic "So Ghetto" track. Regardless of what the talk is, this track is one of the most solid in Jay's career period and this album is actually pretty dope. Especially on revisits. Longevity.

*Beanie Sigel- The Truth(2000)


-Beans is one of the most underrated MCs of our time. Lyrically, he's raw and rugged and gives you more depth than anyone from the Roc could. Harsh realities, the streets and their pitfalls, Beans always talked directly to that. His debut is a prime example of that, as evidenced on songs like "What Ya Life Like" and my personal favorite "Die". Beans brings a few filler tracks, but overall The Truth might be one of the top 3 releases from the Roc that's NOT by Jay.

*DJ Clue Presents Backstage The Mixtape(2000)


-When the film Backstage was released, I remember watching it and being captivated by the candid scenes of all my favorite rappers on stage and backstage just having fun on tour. This soundtrack of sorts features some great music, with the slept on Outkast track "Funkanella", the Cash Money banger "Millionaires", and of course the remix of Mya's hit "Best Of Me", where Jay comes and steals the show. A solid release, with some rare gems here.

*Amil- All Money Is Legal(2000)


-I consider this the forgotten album of the Roc. The overall album is entirely lackluster and there's a lack of cohesion throughout and very limited subject matter. Amil didn't provide many bangers or lyrical prowess, but this album is almost worth it for one song, and that's the amazing "4 Da Fam", which shows Bleek, Beans, and Jay at their lyrical best. There are a few decent tracks here like the Just Blaze produced "Heard It All" and "That's Right" both featuring Jay, just not enough fire.

*Jay-Z- The Dynasty: Roc La Familia(2000)


-I've always felt this album doesn't get enough credit. Truthfully, it was a compilation more than a Jay album, as Jay doesn't even appear on some tracks himself, but it was marketed as a Jay album to give it more publicity and bigger sales. It worked, but regardless there are classics on this album. "Parking Lot Pimpin", "Soon You'll Understand", "Where Have You Been", "Change the Game", "Get Ya Mind Right Mami", "I Just Wanna Love You (Give It To Me)", "This Can't Be Life", and that list actually goes on!! This album might be one of Jay's best overall, as he blended mainstream content and hits with street tales and a few introspective personal tracks as well. It felt like the beginning of the next era for Jay. It was.

*Memphis Bleek- The Understanding (2000)


-On Bleek's first album, his content was limited. This was also the case for his 2nd album, but I faithfully played this album for a few weeks after it released. Bleek had a number of bangers here like "We Get Low", the "My Mind Right Remix", the Beans assisted "Hustlers", "They'll Never Play Me", and of course the huge hit "Is That Your Chick". A solid effort and an improvement from his first album.

*DJ Clue- The Professional Part 2 (2001)


-If it worked once, it can work again, right? Well, leave it to Clue to bring us another fire mixtape album, though this one isn't as dope as the first. Clue doesn't give us as many bangers, though Jay does come through with a dope freestyle, Nas provides some dopeness, Mobb Deep supplies some of that Murda Muzik, not to mention a Eminem, Royce Da 5'9 and Method Man track. Some really good music here, just a bit inconsistent overall.

*Beanie Sigel- The Reason (2001)


-Beans followed up his debut with this banger, that's not AS dope as his first, but is still dope in its own regard. This came during what I consider the prime of the Roc, as the year 2000 and beyond seemed to be when they were unstoppable. Tracks like "Nothing Like It", "Think It's A Game", "Get Down", "Mom Praying", and of course the heartfelt "Still Got Love For You" complete this album and make it a truly solid listen. Beans provided a better balance then previously on this album and it worked. There are personal tracks, street bangers and even some catchy hit songs here, which is rare to see from Beans (check the first single). A truly solid effort from the Broad Street Bully.

*Jay-Z- The Blueprint (2001)


-The Roc has gotten a ton of classics from Jay. This could be his finest hour. To many, it is without a doubt. While I do enjoy his other albums, there aren't many in his catalog that compares to The Blueprint. This is either Jay's 2nd or 3rd best album, as he continues the artistic growth he began on The Dynasty and creates something that sounds like a masterpiece. From the soulful production of Just Blaze and Kanye West to the lyrical focus he displays in a majority of the tracks, Jay is at his best on this album. The stirring soul of "Never Change", coupled with his honest lyrics about his team and his life, to the fire back at haters on "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)", the laid back and smooth demeanor displayed on "Girls, Girls, Girls", as well as the focus to win on "U Don't Know". Jay would spar lyrically with Eminem on "Renegade", tell his life story seemingly on "Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)", verbally murder the competition on "Lyrical Exercise", throw shots at Prodigy and Nas on "Takeover", before showing a rare moment of sadness and despair on the beautiful "Song Cry". There's not many weak spots on this album, if any at all. Jay creates a timeless album here and this is easily top 3 overall from The Roc.

*Jay-Z- Unplugged (2001)


-During this whole Blueprint period, Jay was become more introspective. It only seems fair that he would do a live Unplugged album to match with that whole change in introspection. This album is significant just because of the risk it took for a business mogul hip hop artist to perform his music with a live band while still keeping his core in tact. The best part of this album? The hidden track at the end "People Talking", another rare Hov gem that doesn't get mentioned enough.

*State Property Soundtrack(2002)


-I loved the State Property movie. Though not a cinematic masterpiece, it was hilarity to the max and featured some classic scenes without a doubt. The soundtrack though? 20 times better than the movie and that's not even an exaggeration. I don't think there's really one weak track on this album at all to be honest with you. From the knocking Freeway and Beans hit "Roc The Mic", to the Young Chris, Sparks, and Oschino banger "Do You Want Me", to the Beans classic "Don't Realize", there is nothing but greatness on this album. I would dare say this is a classic, as the replay value for this album is top notch.

*Jay-Z and R. Kelly- Best of Both Worlds (2002)


-Many people hate this album. I personally don't. I love this album. I think it's exactly what it should be. Fun. Now, a lot of folks were expecting some type of Blueprint meets 12 Play mash up, but how would that even work? They created a fun album full of possible hits and if it wasn't for R. Kelly having his issues and the infamous tape pop up, this would have done much more than just going platinum. "It Ain't Personal" might be the absolute best track here as it is reflective and soulful while the booming "Honey" remains without a doubt, my favorite song on this album. It isn't what you consider a classic, but it is a fun listen.

*Cam'ron- Come Home With Me (2002)


-We just covered this album so I'll be brief. Cam would join The Roc and proceed to release what is still likely his best album. From the two huge singles in "Oh Boy" to "Hey Ma", this album is a solid listen throughout and you get a glimpse of the brilliance of Cam. There are anthems all throughout the album and enough bangers for even your most close minded hip hop fan. Solid album.

*Paid In Full Soundtrack (2002)


-This soundtrack was 2 discs. One of classic 80's tracks to fit the mood of the film, and one disc with current Roc-A-Fella artists making tracks. The disc with new music has some amazing tracks on it with the Roc anthem "Champions" over one of my favorite all time Kanye West beats. There's the bumping "1, 2, Yall" with Bleek, Geda K and Jay, and Jay contributes a solo track here with "Don't You Know". Jay even appears on a track with State Property and Cam titled "Roc Army", which is another fire track. This soundtrack has some filler, but it's definitely slept on and features some of the dopest music we've seen from the Roc.

*Jay-Z- The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse (2002)


-This album should have been the best thing Jay ever released. Unfortunately, this was not. A bloated double album with much more filler than need be, BP2 has some great songs on it, but it gets drowned out sometimes in the sea of filler. For every "Meet the Parents" or "Hovi Baby", there's an unnecessary song right after or two of them. A solid effort if reduced to one disc, but at 2 discs, it's just overkill. Lyrically though, Jay was on fire actually, but couldn't quite get it together for this album. Though, "Excuse Me Miss" still knocks.

*Freeway- Philadelphia Freeway (2003)


-The solo debut from the bearded Philly MC with the sick flow, this album is a classic to me. Freeway might be the most underrated rapper in the Roc because his output for them far exceeds most of the other artists. This debut features the classic Jay and Beans assisted "What We Do", the banger "Flipside", and a ton of other fire tracks that give you a truly complete album. The production on this album is also top notch as well.

*The Diplomats- Diplomatic Immunity (2003)


-Another double album from The Roc, but this one doesn't suffer as bad a fate as BP2. The Diplomats were never lyrical giants and sometimes their music could be a bit corny or forced, however this project was more than solid. It has a good amount of filler too, but production wise the Heatmakerz showcase their greatness and it helps to carry the album for the most part. Just Blaze does his thing without a doubt on "I Really Mean It" and "Built This City" and it is no shortage of comedy on this album. The Diplomats bring a good mix of comedy, bangers, and that beautiful soulful production that carried their tracks. It works very well here.

*State Property- The Chain Gang Vol. 2 (2003)


-Sometimes the follow up is nowhere near as good as the first. Unfortunately, this would be the case for State Property, as this album is not bad by any stretch, but it lacks the cohesion and classic feel that the first had. Still, tracks like "Rolling Down the Freeway", the Beans and Jay collab "It's On", "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" by the Young Gunz and a few other tracks were truly solid. Not a bad effort, just didn't compare to the first for some reason.

*Juelz Santana- From Me 2 U (2003)


-Now, I've never been completely sold on Juelz as a solo rapper, and while his skill level was never the greatest, I found this album very entertaining. The main ingredient for that entertainment and the album being cohesive is significant yet simple: production. The Heatmakerz might be the biggest secret weapon in hip hop because that soulful style spawned so many classic beats on this album. My favorite songs on this album are "My Problems (Jealousy)", "Down", and "How I Feel" and it is honestly for the production. Great production on this album.

*Jay-Z- The Black Album (2003)


-Many people call Jay's first "retirement" album a classic. I do not personally. However, it is an amazing effort with solid music throughout. From "December 4th" to the knocking sound of "Lucifer", to the flawless nature of "Allure", this album has some of Jay's best music ever. It's a shame that he couldn't replace a few bland tracks with some of the other dope songs that came from those sessions, but regardless, Jay has some true greatness on this album and it is definitely one of his better albums.

*Memphis Bleek- M.A.D.E. (2003)


-Bleek stepped it up on this album I can't even lie. Lyrically he improved. Production was dope all around and he seemed to grow and mature with this album. The strongest song he has is the Just Blaze produced and Jay and Beans featured "Hypnotic". If you decide to only listen to one song off this album, that's the one.

*Kanye West- The College Dropout(2004)


-Kanye came into the Roc making soulful records. Who would have thought he would become the 2nd or 3rd best artist on the label? Who would think that he would debut with a classic album that would change hip hop and become just as big of a star as his boss? This album is beautiful, with songs like "Spaceship", "Never Let Me Down", "Two Words", "Family Business", and the classic final track "Last Call". My only gripe with the album is the inclusion of the Luda assisted track and some of the skits, but otherwise, this is a flawless album without question.

*Young Gunz- Tough Luv (2004)


-This album from the Young Gunz might be one of the more slept on albums released via the Roc also. Chris and Neef go back and forth via the title track, as well as create an anthem for the ladies on "No Better Love", and this project is all around dope. There are only a few weaker tracks, but production and lyrical wise, this is a very good album without a doubt.

*Jay-Z & R. Kelly- Unfinished Business (2004)


-The less said about this album, the better. I included it to make fun of one song.... BIG CHIPS!! There aren't really any great songs on here, just remixes of the songs they did before and this one falls way short of the first one, which says a LOT. I don't even think there was a reason for this album besides trying to do a Best of Both Worlds tour and we see how that turned out.

*Cam'ron- Purple Haze (2004)


-I just covered this album recently so I'll keep this brief as well. Purple Haze is a dope collection of Cam songs, but truth be told, within the Roc discography it doesn't stick out. It's a good album and the production is great as always with any Dipset project, and while I play this album more than his debut Roc release, it doesn't have the impact of it.

*Memphis Bleek- 534 (2005)


-This is the beginning of the end for the Roc. This album from Bleek was slept on, yet isn't that great if that makes any sense. The strongest song on this album? Not even a Bleek track, it's Jay's solo "Dear Summer" classic, which for some reason is on Bleek's album. The Roc solidarity wasn't there anymore however and this project you could tell. With no Dame and Jay together, this album lacked that feel. Outside of "Dear Summer" however, Bleek did have a few bangers with "Smoke The Pain Away" and "Straight Path". Not much else was solid here, but Bleek still managed to give us a few classic tracks to add to his catalog.

*Young Gunz- Brothers From Another (2005)


-Once again, the Roc was slowly falling apart. There wasn't a team feel after Jay became president of Def Jam. It just deteriorated and as a result, the music suffered. Outside of "Set It Off", "It's The Life", and "Grown Man Pt. 2", this album truthfully falls flat in many ways. You could see the change in the Roc and it showed musically in the songs, though the production did not disappoint much.

*Teairra Mari- Roc-A-Fella Presents Teairra Mari (2005)


-I remember her first single. I remember seeing her. I remember liking how she looked. I remember thinking the beat of her first single was cool. I heard the album. I didn't really like anything I heard. She was cute, had a youthful presence back then, but this album is horrible. Production is okay, but the songs are truthfully terrible. There's nothing more I can say.

*Kanye West- Late Registration(2005)


-Hands down, the greatest Kanye album ever. Ever. I don't care how much you people claim MBDTF is, it doesn't compare to this masterpiece. This album is flawless from beginning to end and even the final song "Late" can be considered as the best song on the entire album, and it was a hidden gem. I haven't heard an album that truly could rival this from Kanye and it is the only life that The Roc had during this time, but Kanye stepped out of the shadow of the Roc and into his own right as the star. He became the man in hip hop with this album and has never really looked back since. From "Heard Em Say" to "Gone" to many other tracks here, this album could do no wrong. It holds a very high place in the Roc discography.

*DJ Clue- The Professional Vol. 3 (2006)


-This was an interesting album as I think Clue went to the well one too many times. Some solid songs here, but also some unnecessary songs here. This project felt really unnecessary and I can't think of much that stood out except "The Gold" by Mobb Deep. The rest fell short.

*Jay-Z- Kingdom Come (2006)


-The return from retirement album by Jay. We just did a review of this one a few days so go back to that review and revisit this album in its entirety. I'll say this much however: it has good moments and some terrible moments. A rather lackluster effort from Jay and disappointing especially since it was his return album.

*Kanye West- Graduation(2007)


-You could say at this moment that Kanye was a bigger star than Jay. He was everywhere and involved in a beef with 50 for promotion for their albums releasing on the same day. This album was pretty solid, though not a true classic, Kanye made stadium music and was able to create timeless songs like "Everything I Am", "I Wonder", and "Flashing Lights". A great release, but yet another sign that the end of the Roc was here as no one really from the Roc was featured and you could see the family aspect of the Roc was gone. Regardless, Kanye made a very damn good album here.

*Jay-Z- American Gangster (2007)


-This is really the return from retirement for Jay. He came with a classic here and was rhyming like it was 1996 again, which in his case is a good thing. So many timeless songs here, with "Party Life", "Pray", and "American Dreamin" being my favorites. I did a review on this album a few months ago and called it a classic and I'll do so here as well. It is Jay's 2nd or 3rd best album hands down. True greatness.

*Freeway- Free At Last (2007)


-When I said that Freeway was the most slept on artist in the Roc, this is why. This album was just as good as his debut. With 50 Cent helping to executive produce it with Jay, this album just sounds amazing. The production, the songs, the overall feel and cohesion, this is a near classic as well. This would be the true last hurrah for the Roc between Jay, Kanye, and Free. All we needed was one more classic Beans album and we would be in business again.

*Beanie Sigel- The Solution(2007)


-Unfortunately, Beans created an album that really didn't work. This album wasn't terrible but compared to his previous three, this one was sloppy and felt a bit forced. There are some solid songs and production, but it seems that a Beans album without the visionary genius of Dame and Biggs to help with it just doesn't work. After this point, Roc-A-Fella would transition over to Roc Nation essentially, which is basically the new era of Roc-A-Fella, but it's never been the same. Regardless, the legacy of the Roc is always solidified within their run and within this discography.

-True

No comments

Powered by Blogger.