Throughout the song's triptych of verses, Jay Z confronts his adversaries with swagger and defiance. But it's the second verse that especially stands out. As he recounts a run-in with the law, Jay-Z deftly switches perspective between the police officer and himself. In a virtuoso example of rhyming and storytelling, Jay-Z enters a battle of wits with the officer:
Officer: "License and registration and step out of the car. Are you carryin' a weapon on you I know a lot of you are?"While Rick Rubin's album version is great, Danger Mouse's mash-up of the song, with the Beatle's "Helter Skelter," is brilliant. Unfortunately, as Danger Mouse didn't actually secure the rights to the two songs, it's also very illegal.
Jay-Z: "I ain't steppin out of shit all my paper's legit"
Officer: "Well, do you mind if I look round the car a little bit?"
Jay-Z: "Well my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back. And I know my rights so you gon' need a warrant for that."
Officer: "Aren't you sharp as a tack, you some type of lawyer or something? Or somebody important or somethin'?"
Jay-Z: "Nah, I ain't pass the bar but I know a little bit. Enough that you won't illegally search my shit"
Whatever the version, the lyric, not the music, is the star of "99 Problems." And for that, Jay-Z has earned the right to swagger.
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