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The Book of Hov: 48 essential Jay-Z quotes

"This is food for thought, you do the dishes."


“How you rate music that thugs with nothing relate to / I help them see their way through it, not you."

It was in 2001 when JAY-Z rhymed that line on the Eminem-featured "Renegade," a standout on his critically-acclaimed opus The Blueprint. While unpacking the poignancy of the quoted rhyme in his 2010 book "Decoded," Hov contemplated the concept of perception and truth.

"I always wondered how they could try to pin down and attach a rating to music that was really helping people understand their own lives," he wrote. "Truth is a constraint… It's that element of truth that makes the songs deeper than just entertainment, that make the music a light that can help people see their way through a hard life."

For well over two decades, 20 summers, 13 studio albums, and an encyclopedia-length of verses, Jay has dutifully brandished the power to transform the personal into the universal. He's been there, seen it all, and drove through the fork in the road. Within these chapters, no matter the highs and lows, he's been able to share a million dollars worth of game for $9.99.

So, as today (December 4) marks Shawn Corey Carter's 48th birthday, we scrolled through and dug up 48 psalms from the Book of Hov to not only reiterate his penchant for delivering truth, but also celebrate the significance and endurance of these words. Remember, "This is food for thought, you do the dishes."

1. "I was born to dictate, never follow orders" — "U Don't Know," The Blueprint (2001)

2. "A man that don't take care his family can't be rich" — "Family Feud," 4:44 (2017)

3. "Generational wealth, that's the key" — "Legacy," 4:44 (2017)

4. "Nobody built like you, you design yourself"— "A Dream," The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)

5. "A loss ain't a loss, it's a lesson" — "Smile," 4:44 (2017)

6. "Death before dishonor, and I tell you what else / I'll tighten my belt 'fore I beg for help" — "Justify My Thug," The Black Album (2003)

7. "Only God can judge me, so I'm gone / Either love me or leave me alone" — "PSA," The Black Album (2003)

8. "Standing back from situations, gives you the perfect view" — "Anything," Vol. 3... The Life & Times of S. Carter (1999)

9. "What's seldom shown is the good part"— "Don't You Know"

10. "9 to 5 is how you survive, I ain't tryna survive / I'm tryna live it to the limit, and love it a lot" — "D'Evils," Reasonable Doubt (1996)

11. "What's better than one billionaire? Two / Especially when they're the same hue as you" — "Family Feud," 4:44 (2017)

12. "You can try to change but that's just the top layer / Man, you was who you was 'fore you got here" — "PSA," The Black Album (2003)

13. "'Til you own your own, you can't be free" — "I Got the Keys," DJ Khaled's Major Key (2016)

14. "We all fish, better teach your folk / Give him money to eat, the next week he's broke" — "Never Change," The Blueprint (2001)

15. "Strive for what you believe in, set goals and you can achieve them" — "Anything," Vol. 3... The Life & Times of S. Carter (1999)

16. "Can't be scared to fail, searching perfection" — "On to the Next One," The Blueprint 3 (2009)

17. "Men lie, women lie, but numbers don't" — "Reminder," The Blueprint 3 (2009)

18. "Can you really match a triple platinum artist buck by buck by only a single going gold?" — "A Million And One Questions," In My Lifetime Vol. 1 (1997)

19. "Look a man dead in his eyes, so he know you talk truth when you speak it / Give your word, keep it" — "New Day," Watch the Throne (2011)

20. "Respect the game that should be it/What you eat don't make me sh*t" — "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)," The Blueprint (2001)

21. "Males shouldn't be jealous that's a female trait" — "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)," The Blueprint (2001)

22. "I will not lose" — "Change the Game," The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)

23. "Fuck perception, go with what makes sense" — "Moment of Clarity," _The Black Album (2003)

24. "Sometimes you need your ego, gotta remind these fools / Who they effin' with" — "Bam," 4:44 (2017)

25. "Chains is cool to cop, but more important is lawyer fees" — "Never Change," The Blueprint (2001)

26. "Success is like lust, she's good for the touch/She's good for the moment but she's never enough" — "History" (2009)

27. "When you succeed, prepare to be crucified" — "Most Kingz" (2010)

28. "Time waits for no man, can't turn back the hands" —"Regrets," Reasonable Doubt (1996)

29. "When the grass is cut, the snakes will show" — "Blueprint²," The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)

30. "Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week" — "Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)," Kanye West's Late Registration (2005)

31. "Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, I mean, that's the foundation for everything great" — "Oprah's Masters Class" (2009)

32. "Excellence is being able to perform at a high level for a long period of time" — "Oprah's Masters Class" (2009)

33. "In order to survive, gotta learn to live with regrets" — "Regrets," Reasonable Doubt (1996)

34. "They say you can't turn a bad girl good / But once a good girl's gone bad, she's gone forever" — "Song Cry," The Blueprint (2001)

35. "America try to emasculate the greats" — "F.U.T.W.," Magna Carta... Holy Grail (2013)

36. "Whoever said illegal was the easy way out / Couldn't understand the mechanics and the workings of the underworld, granted"— "D'Evils," Reasonable Doubt (1996)

37. "Can't be too safe cause niggas is two-faced/ And they show the other side when they catch a new case" — "A Week Ago," Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (1998)

38. "Black entrepreneur, nobody did us no favors / Nobody gave us shit, 'We Made Us'" — "I Did It My Way," The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)

39. "Soon as I sell too much, watch them turn on him / Cause that seem to be the shit that'll earn for them" — "So Ghetto," Vol. 3... The Life & Times of S. Carter (1999)

40. "Only god can judge me, so either love or leave me alone" — "PSA," The Black Album (2003)

41. "Sure books can guide you/But your heart defines you" — "Beach Chair," Kingdom Come (2006)

42. "Life ain't no rosebuds / A couple of speed bumps, you gotta take yo' lumps" — "A Ballad For the Fallen Solider," The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)

43. "Mama ain't raised no fool / Put me anywhere on God's green earth, I'll triple my worth" — "U Don't Know," The Blueprint (2001)

44. "Life is a trip so sometimes we gon' stumble / You gotta go through pain in order to become you" — Kanye West "Power (Remix)" (2010)

45. "If every nigga in your clique is rich, your clique is rugged / Nobody would fall, 'cause everyone would be each others crutches"— "Feelin It," Reasonable Doubt (1996)

46. "One day you're up, next day you're down / Long as you stay the same, it'll come back around" — "Sweet," American Gangster (2007)

47. "Don't be good my nigga, be great" — "F.U.T.W.," Magna Carta... Holy Grail (2013)

48. "Fear not when, or fear not why / Fear not much while we're alive / Life is for living, not living uptight" — "Young Forever" Blueprint 3 (2009)

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