“99 Problems” by Jay-Z

Back in the day when “99 Problems” came out, Jigga may have indeed been dealing with “99 problems”, but a b–ch damn sure wasn’t one of them. And whereas that may sound like a misogynistic statement, the verses of the track are about anything but women. 

And even as far as the rest of the chorus goes, what the vocalist is actually doing is sympathizing with other guys who may be “having girl problems”. But as for him personally, Jigga has more important things, if you will, to worry about than romantic issues.

For instance, let’s take his music profession into consideration. He feels that there are “rap critics” who are intentionally out to spoil his name. This is a topic he also addressed in “Renegade” (2005), how people have a tendency to hastily categorize his songs in the “money, cash, hoes” category. 

But this time around, what he’s saying is that if they too had come up from the same type of challenging economic background that he had, then they would be constantly celebrating having made it also. So Jigga’s response, basically, is that they can kiss his behind.

Other Issues

And Jay-Z has issues with ration stations also. The way he presents that scenario is that they try to blackmail him, as in if doesn’t perform at their shows, then they won’t play his songs on air. And to them he also levies a don’t-give-AF response, with Jigga expressing a similar lack of respect for rap magazines. 

In the case of the latter, it’s like they use his image in the name of generating revenue for themselves. And his point in calling all of these entities out is to let them know that he’s not stupid, as Jay knows the games they’re playing. And as for us, the listeners, we can classify music critics, radio stations and hip-hop magazines as being amongst Mr. Carter’s “99 problems”.

Police Racially Profiling Him

Then the rapper harps back to 1994 to allude to the type of legal BS he has to go through.  As the story goes he’s chillin’ in a pimped out SUV, and here comes law enforcement pulling him over. 

In other words, he’s being racially profiled by the cops due to being a young, Black, well-paid man – the type that police generally perceive as drug dealers. But of course, they don’t tell him that. Rather they accuse Jigga of “doing 55 in a 54” speed zone, i.e. slightly, if even, breaking road rules.

But the narrator knows his rights. On top of that, this is Jay-Z we’re talking about here, so of course he’s lawyered up. Thus he uses those advantages to resist their request to illegally search his vehicle. So the police likewise give him a hard time, by making him remain on the side of the road until they can bring in a K-9 to sniff the car out. 

And whereas this tale may be exaggerated a bit, the implication is that it isn’t meant to be factual per se. Rather the vocalist is trying to illustrate how law enforcement is also amongst his “99 problems”.

Jay-Z explains "99 Problems"

Don’t Tempt Me!

And of course, there are also the more conventional types of beef which rap fans are familiar with, i.e. the one based on the streets. In this particular case, it is someone that keeps talking junk, quite vociferously, about Jay-Z. 

Now Jigga compares this individual to a woman. And what he means by that is whereas dude may talk a lot, Jay knows that he isn’t the type to bust shots if beef actually jumps off. But by contrast, Jigga is pretty much ready to unleash bullets upon dude, as well as his homeys. 

But given his celebrity status, the rapper knows that if he actually did engage in such an act, the media would have a field day with it. And Jay-Z references an actual stabbing he committed to prove the point. 

On top of that, due to his skin color, if he does end up getting arrested on a charge like that, then he’s going to have to pay a hefty amount of dough to make bail. So this verse concludes by acknowledging hard heads as one of Jigga’s problems as well as a warning to such individuals, that the last thing they really want him to do is resort to the gat.

What Jigga’s “99 Problems” is all about

So whereas Jay-Z really only mentions five or so “problems” directly, he does get the main idea effectively across. And no, more realistically speaking that wouldn’t be that he doesn’t have issues with women. Rather it would be more along the lines of, more simply put, Jigga’s life not being an easy one, and as such he doesn’t have time to mind romantic matters.

Lyrics to "99 Problems" by Jay-Z

Writing Credits for “99 Problems”

Jay-Z penned “99 Problems” himself. However, he received assistance in that regard from several other writers, including the likes of the below:

  • Norman Landsberg
  • Bernard Freeman
  • Felix Pappalardi
  • William Squier
  • Leslie Weinstein
  • Tracy Marrow
  • Fredrick Rubin
  • Alphonso Henderson
  • John Ventura

“99 Problems” was produced by the cofounder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin

Was “99 Problems” a single release?

Yes. It was his third single from the album, “The Black Album”. April 27 of 2004 was it’s official date of release.

Chart Performance:

  • UK (2)
  • US (30)

Covers

Below is a list of some of the artists who have covered this Jigga classic:

  • Lange Frans (2004)
  • Alphacat (2012)
  • Pearl Jam alongside Jay-Z (2013)
  • Tay Watts (2015)
  • Can You Flow? (2007)

Sampling

“99 Problems” happens to be one of Jigga’s most sampled tracks.

  • Tyler, the Creator – “Pigs” (2013)
  • T.I. – “99 Problems (But Lil’ Flip Ain’t One)” (2006)
  • Kid Cudi – “Soundtrack 2 My Life” (2009)
  • K-Dot – “Young & Black” (2009)
  • Hugo – “99 Problems” (2010)
  • Girl Talk – “Oh No” (2010)
  • Ariana Grande – “Problem” (2014)
  • Anne-Marie – “2002” (2018)

Lawsuit/Controversies

Jay Z sued an Australian retailer, “The Little Homie”, for trademark and copyright infringement for making reference to “99 Problems” and a name similar to his in their children’s alphabet book, “A B to Jay Z”.

Awards/Honors:

In 2005, video for the song, “99 Problems” won awards at the MTV Video Music Awards in the following categories:

  • “Best Rap Video”
  • “Best Editing”
  • “Best Director”
  • Best Cinematography”

It was also nominated for, “Best Male Video” and Video of the Year”.

99 Problems

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