“Renegade” by JAY-Z (ft. Eminem)
Renegade ranks amongst the best rap duets ever made. It was dropped at a time when both Jay-Z and Eminem were more or less at their peaks. This was especially true for the latter artist. For instance, at least one prominent website has deemed this track “the best Eminem song ever”. That is an amazing declaration considering that Jay-Z is actually the headline vocalist. In fact when this song came out, he was embroiled in a dispute with fellow music superstar Nas. And on the diss track Ether (2001), Nas claimed that ‘Eminem murdered Jay-Z on his own track’. That was another way of saying that Eminem’s verses significantly outshined those of Jay-Z. And for Nas to be bold enough to actually make such a statement against one of the greatest rappers ever is a testament to just how focused Slim Shady was on this track.
Meanwhile the title of the song lends to the idea of the two featured artists being ‘renegades’, i.e. counter-cultural figures.
And truth be told, it’s not like Jay-Z’s lyrics are lacking. Rather this song also proves to be one of his most-memorable lyrical outings, whereas the rapper recounts how his ghetto-based upbringing fashioned him into the lyricist he is today. Indeed Jigga is a hustler because as a youth he “had to hustle”, as the family did not have enough funds and guidance to get by. As such, he is not appreciative of people who negatively criticize his music and character without properly going through his lyrics to ascertain what he is actually saying. But at the same time, he is more than willing to accept the title of “renegade”, as within the context of this song it is indicative of the artists’ insistence to keep it real.
And that is the same notion which Eminem is exerting, even if he does not get as autobiographical as his collaborator. He knows that the songs he drops have offended authority figures. But the reason they’re concerned isn’t so much due to his lyrical content as it is the fact that their own children love Slim Shady. And he attributes this dichotomy to, once again, a dedication to keeping lyrics authentic. In fact he labels parents as hypocrites based on the notion that they denounce the same actions they themselves engaged in during their youth. Then he commences his second verse pretty much exerting that he is a “modern-day” prophet. So the insinuation is that someone like him being so influential is more indicative of the state of society than anything else. And he concludes by, like Jay-Z, noting that he came “from the gutter”, i.e. ghetto. And to him, his music career is primarily about making money.
So putting all of the lyrics together, we can argue that the thesis sentiment of Renegade is the artists’ willingness to say “anything” on record. Yes, what they do say may offend some people. But at the end of the day their efforts are more about authenticity and generating income than anything else. And the reasons they’ve come to adopt such dispositions is largely due to the types of environments they were or are in.
Facts about “Renegade”
The writers of this song are Jay-Z, Eminem and Eminem’s steady lyrical collaborator, Luis Resto. And Eminem also served as the producer of the instrumental.
This track originally came out as part of Jay-Z’s iconic The Blueprint album on 11 September 2001. The release of that project was a joint effort between Def Jam Records and Roc-A-Fella Records. And in 2005 Renegade was also featured on Curtain Call: The Hits, an Eminem compilation album.
Renegade went on to be certified Gold by the RIAA, despite the fact that it was not released as a single.
It has been put forth that the reason Eminem was able to outperform Jay-Z on Renegade was because he was familiar with the song longer than Jigga. You see, Renegade was originally a collaboration between Slim Shady and fellow Detroit-based MC, Royce da 5’9”. But due to the two of them signing with different labels, Royce was only able to use one Eminem collab on his debut album. He chose the track Rock City (2002) which also served as the title song for that project.
Meanwhile Jay-Z was desiring to drop his own collaboration featuring the viral Eminem. And it was Slim Shady who suggested that Jigga jump on Renegade since they only had limited time to put a track together. So with Royce’s approval, Jigga replaced da 5’9”s verses with his own.
In late-2019 Eminem was embroiled in his own bitter feud, this time around with rapper/comedian Nick Cannon. And on a diss song Cannon dropped against Slim Shady entitled Pray for Him (2019), he actually interpolated Renegade.