The Black Album was tipped to be Jay Z’s curtain call, even though he infiltrated the airwaves with Reasonable Doubt only eight years prior. And what an encore it would have been, had The Black Album actually been the final chapter in the Brooklynite’s discography.

Jay pulled together a revered collective of production masterminds for this opus. Roc-A-Fella affiliates Just Blaze, Timbaland and The Neptunes were present, as was his once-humble label-mate and signee, Kanye West. Eminem, DJ Quik, Rick Rubin and 9th Wonder were along for the ride as well, spawning cult classics such as ‘Moment of Clarity’ and ’99 Problems’ – just two of the hits to come from the album.

While The Black Album was somewhat more commercial than his previous work, it was this project that launched Jay Z into the big leagues; here was where he made hip-hop into a household genre, selling out Madison Square Garden on the success of this album – a first for any hip-hop artist. Needless to say, with chart toppers like the Pharrell-assisted ‘Change Clothes’ and Timbaland’s iconic ‘Dirt off Your Shoulder’, retirement just wasn’t an option for Jigga man. To depart on a high such as this would have been a crying shame.

Pinpointing the best track on the album is a tough feat, but ‘Encore’, produced by Kanye West, has to be in with a shot. The soul-infused song and its infectious chanting was stadium ready, guaranteed to be enjoyed by fans around the world.

With Kanye prepping the release of his official debut album, the soundscape he bestowed on Jay for what would hypothetically be his bow out from the industry was enough to encourage hip-hop connoisseurs to look ‘north west ‘ to see what else the backpack-wielding kid from Chicago had up his sleeve.

The Black Album was – and still is – one of the jewels in Jay Z’s crown, and thankfully its reception made him reconsider stepping away from the mic and out of the booth forever.