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Our commenting section is self-policing, so if you see a comment that violates our ground rules, flag it (mouse over to the far right of the commenter's name until you see the flag symbol and click that), then we'll review it. Children will love to learn all about Jay Jay the Jet Plane and the gang from Tarrytown Airport in this tabbed board book. To understand how I could possibly make such a bold statement, allow me to put the claim in context. In Where I’m From, Jay-Z says, “I’m from where niggas pull your card-and argue all day about, “Who’s the best MC- Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?” If you ask most Hip-Hop heads from the east coast that are 30 and over who is their favorite MC, they’re likely to name one of these three MCs or someone else from the five boroughs that makeup the Big Apple. It may be a little different now with the younger generation out here, but when I was coming up, it was pretty much a consensus in this part of the country that the best MCs were from the east coast, and the cream of the crop, the best of the best-came out of New York. I love all kinds of Hip-Hop but I’m a big fan of criminality rap ( artists like Biggie, Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface, etc.) when it’s used brilliantly to make insightful statements and observations about life and ambition as Jay-Z does on Can I Live.
The best rap songs ARE the ones about undeterred personal ambition; songs that tell a compelling and balanced story of success and struggle, joy and pain, courage and fear. The “ambition song” connects with us and enables us to connect to each other regardless of our backgrounds. Songs about personal ambition have a connection to listeners that are more vital and of greater importance than political views, dancing at the clubs, snuggling up with your boo or pretending like you’re Al Pacino playing the role of Tony Montana in the film Scarface. Throughout my book, I take songs (over 90 of them) from Jay-Z’s catalog and go into detail, line by line, revealing how his words about his hustle can inspire and impact YOUR hustle.
Once you get caught up in your success, you can lose perspective, especially if you come from a humble background.
I’ve always felt that with this one line Jay-Z pretty much summed up the criminal mentality, when a hustler is in “the game” strictly for profit.
When you have the right mindset your physical environment won’t keep you from accomplishing your goals and realizing your dreams (living in a crime ridden and poverty stricken ‘hood but still determined to go to college or start your own business, for example). Every fan loves this line because it clearly resonates with how most of us feel when it comes to our personal lives.
Still, most of us prefer to play things “safe” but just because you’re living doesn’t mean that you’re alive. This is a rather cryptic line and like many of Jay’s lyrics, it can be interpreted in several ways, but from my perspective, this line ties back to the “Don’t be fooled, my game is mental” line in the first verse.
Jay-Z states that the “streets” provides a negative influence on how he and his crew spend money.
Some of the most attentive listeners may miss the true point of this line, at least as it relates to you and I. We all have dreams of being wildly successful in life but most of us aren’t ready, willing and able to deal with the “tedious” pursuit that is a MUST in order to make great things happen. We just took a look at lyrics from one of Jay-Z’s classic songs and applied his words about the drug game to any hustle in the game of life.
Right from the very beginning of the song, before he starts rhyming, Jay-Z talks about “hustling out of a sense of hopelessness”.
Lastly, Jay’s flow and the musical track for the song should be noted- the sample of " target="_blank">Isaac Haye’s “Look of Love” is pure soul yet jazz-like. I dedicate a large portion of who I am today and all the things I've accomplished to this song, to the universally applicable street smarts that Jay-Z has taught me. His best song, but seriously, it isn't better than half the songs on Illmatic, his lyricism is great, probably top 10. Discover the hidden gems and the REAL meaning of Jay-Z's lyrics written by a dedicated Jay-Z fan himself!
Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Shaped like their favorite characters, these board books make learning simple concepts fun! Each tab has a picture of the character described on that page, so children can easily flip back and forth between their favorite characters!



Jay-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt, (where Can I Live appears) was released in 1996-my era.
Though the DC area is the “where go-go music lives”, we’ve always been heavily influenced by New York Hip-Hop. I don’t deny it, in fact, I embrace it, just like my former co-worker from Texas embraces his southern bias-as you should embrace your bias because that’s apart of your identity.
He’s my favorite MC-hands down, therefore, that definitely plays a factor in my choice of greatest rap song of all time. The blueprint for greatness when good is not enough (that is inspired by the song lyrics of Jay-Z), I write extensively on how Jay-Z’s lyrics about his life’s experiences have a connection to the experiences that we all have-his most insightful rhymes are words of wisdom and can serve as inspiration in our own personal lives.
The best rap songs are NOT dance records because they move butts not ideas; lyrically they tend to lack skill and substance. The song is not merely about a hustler’s experiences in the illegal drug trade; it’s about a man’s relentless pursuit of success in order to fulfill his lofty ambitions. When you’re working hard-and smart, and having success, people see this and they’re not always in a celebratory mood.
Don’t allow yourself to be “sidetracked”, easily distracted by physical temptation or anything else that will keep you off your grind. Your success will have you feeling like you’re invincible without fully realizing the potential roadblocks ahead in your life’s journey.
Jay tells us that being physically constrained doesn’t “trap” his mind from “moving” and being free-to conceive and plan new ways to get paid and become successful. Your mind is your most powerful asset, not your body, and you can use the power of your mind to overcome any situation. I was just a year out of high school when Can I Live came out and when I heard this line it struck a nerve in me instantly because these words were how I felt back then (and still do).
Many of us will take great risk and make what would be imaginable sacrifices in the eyes of most, in order to live enormous.
I don’t know about you, but I rather die knowing that I hustled hard and lived life to the fullest than to carry on without purpose, making little to no progress. You can’t have true swagger without having true substance and this comes from personal development of the mind. In this verse, Jay rhymes about the dangers of success; the results of an ambitious yet reckless mindset. He “keeps one eye open” not just on the lookout for trouble- he also does this so that he never misses an opportunity! Jay’s flow-the rhyme & rhythm, tone and cadences-in his vocals, perfectly fit the track.
To me, Reasonable Doubt beats out illmatic as the best album of all time and there shouldnt even be an argument whether Hova is the greatest of all time. The struggle, the hard work, and flaunting niggaz off every single day with maybachs and veyrons mathafuckas!!!! This 16-page board book is the perfect introduction to Jay Jay, his friends, and the exciting world where they live! Our region was one of the first areas to hear the new joints coming out of the Tri-State area before it reached others parts of the country.
If I’m going to pick one song, how can I not choose my favorite song by my favorite artist? The best rap songs are certainly NOT love ballads because most MCs seem almost incapable of expressing themselves honestly about romance and relationships. Be clear: Jay-Z rhymes about the in-and-outs of the drug game BUT in his words are principles about overcoming struggle and achieving success-that are universal. It doesn’t mean they want to do you physical harm, but you must be aware of people’s perceptions of your success.
You can get “clapped from closed feet” (both in the physical and philosophical sense) anytime you’re around certain people in a certain environment that’s counterproductive to your goals and ambitions. It may seem as if you have “escaped” your afflictions but the truth is life is a continuous grind and full of highs and lows. In your life you should always have an “expectation for dips” and in light of the expectation, you MUST be prepared for setbacks and failures.


To be a “fiend” in this context is to be someone addicted to the pursuit of success, determined to achieve it at any cost. Many of us are “bonding” with the “merchants of excess” (such as jewelers) in order to keep up with the Joneses. To prevent himself from being a victim of his own ambition, he “stepped it up another level”.
You may be ambitious, but if your mindset is reckless and unstable you’re defeating the purpose of your hustle. The song takes the experiences of one of the most “despised” figures of society-the drug dealer- and reveals how his ambition closely resembles ours.
Its soulful sound and lyrics about the intense pursuit of success in the midst of constant struggle, makes Can I Live the musical embodiment of the black experience in America, but its timeless tale about undeterred ambition inspires and connects all points of the globe. Because of BP3 people wana write him off and say he's a commercial rapper, but the album right before that, American Gangster was so unbelievably great. Whether the subject is “Who the greatest album of all time?”, “Who is the greatest producer of all time” or the most heated- “Who is the greatest MC of all time?”, the debate on the streets and on the web gets red hot. With thousands and thousands of songs recorded since rap’s beginning in the late 70’s, how can we possibly come to a consensus on the top 10 greatest rap songs much less the greatest single one? Can I Live is my favorite song on Reasonable Doubt (Dead Presidents II being a close second). He and I had a debate one day about MCs and he spent a hour ranting and raving about the greatness of some MC from Texas-I can’t even remember the rapper’s name, I thought my boy was crazy! Stating that the greatest song of all time is by my favorite artist is admittedly narcissistic. The best rap songs are NOT “gangsta tales” because they’re unrealistic and few can actually relate to scenarios that you only see in movies. But if you act on these thoughts and ideas (“if driven wrong”), you‘re “sure” to face tough consequences.
He had to give much deeper thought to his hustle-and act decisively, in order to avoid the traps that so many others succumb to. It’s hard for any true hustler, regardless of his hustle, to meditate because a hustler has trained himself to move fast, both in mind and body.
But you have lieutenants in your life when it comes to your ‘hood, your career, your business, etc. Jay has the whole package, his lyricism is second to none along with his flow and word play.
You must understand motive behind the words and actions of others-and adjust; managing and controlling conflict accordingly. He’s stating that one day you can be on top and then fall-fast, abruptly and without warning, so you better be prepared.
This line implies the advantage of having a strong intellect and mental toughness during the pursuit of success. This line actually tells hustlers to slow down a bit, because a steady, focused and refined mind can take any hustle to the next level.
There’s absolutely no way anyone can declare one rap song as the greatest of all time, right? Then, you’ll end up making crucial decisions in haste that can tragically change the course of your life.
Seek out relationships with those who share your will to make an impact-who can bring something of value to the table in terms of expertise and experience in the pursuit of a common goal: success. But if you’re truly ambitious, you can relate to the song’s swagger and its message, which is just as relevant today as it was in ’96.
I mean old school rap, songs that are dedicated to the struggle a man has to go through to rise from an destitute environment to the top of the world, songs like Can I Live. If you’re in your teens or 20’s, you’re likely to see Jay-Z as an “old ass” rapper (as Lil Wayne would say) and your experience with his music is more Empire State of Mind than Can I Live.



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