Today in 2003, Jay-Z released his eighth studio album, The Black Album. At the time, Hov faked us out with a retirement announcement that we now know to be false — he has released five studio albums since then. Even though it wasn’t a retirement, it was definitely the conclusion of an era; after giving us an album a year since 1996, Jay-Z slowed his pace drastically.

The album’s three singles, “Change Clothes,” “Dirt off Your Shoulder” and “99 Problems,” peaked at No. 10, No. 5 and No. 30, respectively. Interestingly enough, the lowest-charting single from that album is arguably its most enduring track and widely considered to be a classic.

With over 3.5 million copies sold in the US alone, The Black Album is one of Jay-Z’s most successful LPs. Watch the video for “Change Clothes” (featuring Pharrell Williams) below — because even though it is the least-remembered of the album’s singles, I will always be partial to a melody.

Today in 2008, Beyoncé released her third studio album, I Am… Sasha Fierce. The double-disc project had one CD with only ballads and another with more up-tempo songs. Sasha Fierce is an alter ego that Bey had introduced to us early in her solo career, describing her as a more in-your-face version of herself.

That era of Beyoncé’s career got off to a controversial start when BC Jean, the co-writer and original performer of  “If I Was a Boy” — one of the album’s two lead singles — kicked up hella dust about the song being released without her permission. At the time, she had made social media posts complaining about the song being stolen from her, but an agreement was eventually reached.

Less than two years prior, it had been revealed that Beyoncé didn’t write “Irreplaceable” despite being credited as on of its songwriters. She has since been described as having done “vocal arrangement,” but it was the beginning of her reputation as being a little shady behind-the-scenes. The “If I Was a Boy” incident made things worse, and then months after that, Chrisette Michele  revealed that “Ego” — another single from the album — had been offered to her prior to Beyoncé recording it; she also revealed that the version she had been presented was identical to Bey’s version, except for one key difference: Beyoncé wasn’t credited as a writer. However, the version on Sasha Fierce listed Bey as one of its writers.

These anecdotes are necessary because they help provide some context about the perception of Beyoncé as an artist and why some people are obstinate in their refusal to give her the respect she deserves. It also explains why she is now especially diligent in crediting contributors to her music — “Hold Up” from Lemonade has 15 credited songwriters.

Anyway, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get to the good stuff. I Am… Sasha Fierce saw Beyoncé raise the bar as an artist. Her musical range expanded and her live performances got even better. She had already established herself as the best in the game, but this era was certainly a reinforcement.

The Sasha Fierce era also showed us that you could make an iconic music video without breaking the bank. The “Single Ladies” video, which Bey has described as one of the cheapest she ever made, was by far the biggest video of the year. The song also became her fifth No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and her last until 2017).

I Am… Sasha Fierce would go on to spawn a total of four top 10 hits in the US and sell over eight million copies worldwide. The album would also net Beyoncé six trophies at the 2010 Grammy Awards — a record that still stands as the most wins in one year for a female artist. Among her wins was the award for Song of the Year, which is major when you consider how the Recording Academy shuts out black contemporary artists from the general categories.
The Grammys have gotten dubiously stingy towards Beyoncé in the years since, but despite that, her profile has gotten larger and larger. Today, she is now considered one of the greatest artists of all time, and any fair observer would agree that she has earned every single bit of that respect. All hail the Queen.

Below is my favorite song from I Am… Sasha Fierce, “Halo.”

I feel like all the random live performances I’ve ever posted have been by Miguel, but I can’t help that he’s so dope. A few weeks ago, he performed an amazing rendition of “Banana Clip” on Austin City Limits,s and it would be unkind if I didn’t share it with everyone I could. Thank me later.

As if 23 tracks weren’t enough, Lil Wayne just added a few more songs to Tha Carter V. “In This House” features Gucci Mane and samples Frank Ski’s “Whores in This House”; we get a new version of “What About Me,” now featuring Post Malone; and Tay Keith fucks these niggas up on “Hasta La Vista.” Listen to all three tracks below.



“In This House” (featuring Gucci Mane)


“What about Me” (featuring Post Malone)


“Hasta La Vista”

Sade is back with “The Big Unknown,” which is off the Widows soundtrack. It is classic Sade. I’m not opposed to it at all, but it kinda got me thinking: How many musical acts do we allow to stick to the same sound for 35 years without accusations of “playing it safe?” Not many, but we seem to make that concession for artists that give us “earthy” vibes. It’s Sunday, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Listen to “The Big Unknown” below.

I have a love/hate relationship with U2. On one end, they have quite a few songs that I love, but on the other, they’re the holders of countless Grammys that they don’t deserve. Ah well. I guess my anger is better directed at the trash-ass voting members of the Recording Academy.

“Stuck in a Moment” was written as a fictional conversation between lead singer Bono and Michael Hutchence of INXS, who committed suicide in 1997. I was today years old when I learned that little factoid, but now that I know, it makes the song that much more special.

The song peaked at No. 52 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it was a lot more successful outside of the US. It also won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Check it out below.

https://youtu.be/emFUtuotHL4