A Look Back at the Album

Jay-Z burst onto the New York hip-hop scene in 1996 with his debut album Reasonable Doubt. At the time, Jay-Z was following in the footsteps of The Notorious B.I.G., his fellow Bed-Stuy rapper who had become a star in his own right. The following year, Jay-Z released his sophomore album In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, which came at a pivotal time for hip-hop as a whole.

Jay-Z | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jay-Z released ‘In My Lifetime, Vol. 1’ after the death of The Notorious B.I.G.

In the mid-1990s, The Notorious B.I.G. had already become a well-known rapper, while Jay-Z was working to launch his own career. Jay and Biggie had similar lives growing up: they both hailed from Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and both sold drugs to make ends meet before getting into music. Before Biggie’s death, he and Jay were friends, and Biggie even conceded before his death that Jay-Z rapped better than he did.

The rap world was upended forever in March 1997 after the death of The Notorious B.I.G., just six months after the death of his onetime friend Tupac Shakur.

In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 was certified platinum. It was supported by the singles “(Always Be My) Sunshine” with Foxy Brown and Babyface and “The City Is Mine,” the latter of which reached No. 14 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart.

Jay-Z completed his trilogy in the following two years, releasing Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life and Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. S. Carter in 1998 and 1999, respectively. His seminal sixth studio album The Blueprint arrived in September 2001.

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‘In My Lifetime, Vol. 1’ followed his hit debut ‘Reasonable Doubt’

In an interview with MTV at the time, Jay-Z admitted that he hadn’t originally planned on making a second album, with his only LP being Reasonable Doubt. “Reasonable Doubt was like an introduction,” he said in the interview. “In My Lifetime is more detailed and more in-depth … [and] much more personal.”

He also explained in a 2012 MTV interview how The Notorious B.I.G.’s death played a role in the recording of the album.

“A lot of different songs were influenced by what was happening,” he said. “[‘The] City Is Mine,’ the first verse, you could just hear it. I think two hooks on there came from songs that he [The Notorious B.I.G.] had previously recorded.”

“This album wasn’t fun to me like Reasonable Doubt, because it was like, it seemed really slow to me, and I didn’t set out to do that, just looking back now and listening to it now,” he said.

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Jay-Z was haunted by the album

Jay-Z has continued to reflect on In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 a quarter century after its release. Back in January 2022, Questlove responded to a fan who expressed their thoughts on In My Lifetime single “Sunshine” and how it didn’t seem to get the shine it deserved back then.

“Our main argument is his hate for Vol 1. He is embarrassed for trying to make a monster and not putting numbers up. But A LOT of this LP contains his best moments,” Questlove said in a tweet. “Fight me.”

Jay-Z responded with his own thoughts. “Agreed,” he said. “More so, I know what could have been, so it haunts me.” He also revealed how the album’s recording process started out in 1996: “‘Streets Is Watching’ was the first song made!”

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Source: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/jay-z-in-my-lifetime-vol-1-25th-anniversary-look-back-album.html/