20 Years of ‘Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter’

20 Years of ‘Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter’

Jay-Z’s fourth studio album, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter, dropped exactly 20 years ago today.

This album has a weird place in history. It’s not widely considered to be among Hov’s best work; however, one of his signature songs, “Big Pimpin’,” comes from this album, so it has a bit of a claim to classic status.

Vol. 3‘s lead single, “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)” (featuring Beanie Sigel and Amil), failed to crack the top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, and its follow-up, “The Thing That U Do” (featuring Mariah Carey), didn’t even chart — mainly because Hov’s record label neglected to promote the song, forgoing a CD single (which was essential at the time) and even a music video.

Just a year after having his biggest hit at the time with “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” Jay-Z attempted to recreate the magic on Vol. 3‘s third single, “Anything.” Much like “Hard Knock Life,” “Anything” samples a popular song from a musical — “I’ll Do Anything” from Oliver! — and has a hook sung by a child. It is perhaps the most nakedly formulaic song Jay-Z has ever released.

Vol. 3 finally cracked the top 20 with “Big Pimpin'” (featuring UGK), its fourth single in just four months. As far as party-on-a-boat music videos are concerned, “Big Pimpin'” is one of the greats. It also captures simpler times, when Jay-Z and Damon Dash were on good terms and Roc-A-Fella was still intact.

Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter was Jay-Z’s second No. 1 album in a row — he will go on to have a No. 1 album in each following year until 2003, and as of 2019, has an unbroken streak of 11 solo No. 1 albums. Vol. 3 sold over three million copies in the US alone and is Hov’s third-best seller.

Even though “Big Pimpin'” is the marquee track from Vol. 3, “Anything” is the clear winner. Yes, it was an obvious attempt to replicate a prior success, but we don’t care. It slaps and has aged beautifully. Check it out below.

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