Jay-Z’s eighth studio album was released on November 14, 2003. Hov and Roc-A-Fella Records promoted it as his finale where he would fade in black. Retirement is a recurring theme throughout the songs; and since this was supposed to be Jigga’s last album for each song he used a different flow and rhyme pattern, showcasing his technical ability and perfection he achieved at something, which he later would dedicate a song to.
Hov originally had the idea for The Black Album in 1998, and he wanted close friend DJ Premier to produce all of the tracks. It never eventuated, but he revisited the concept for his 2003 retirement album and wanted to enlist a different producer for each track. In the end Hov ended up with 10 different producers across the 14 tracks. Dr. Dre and DJ Premier were originally supposed to be on that list, but didn’t end up making the cut. A young up-and-comer named Kanye West produced two tracks for the album—“Lucifer” and “Encore.”
The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and sold 463,000 copies in its first week. It has since been certified triple Platinum with sales of over 3.5 million. Roc-A-Fella Records would produce the Fade to Black documentary surrounding the recording of the album and Hov’s retirement tour.
TBA received positive feedback by the critics:
Pitchfork – 8/10
Rolling Stone – 4/5
Metacritic – 84/100 overall critics score, 87/100 overall user score
Revolt TV examined the making of the record: