99 Problems

99 Problems


In Decoded, Jay states he used “99 Problems” to confuse critics and point out their own ignorance by hiding a deeper story behind a superficial chorus.

The chorus hook “I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one” is taken from the Ice-T single “99 Problems” from the album Home Invasion (1993). The hook was coined during a conversation between Ice-T & Brother Marquis of Miami-based 2 Live Crew.

Jay went old-school for the beat—he linked with Def Jam Recordings co-founder Rick Rubin, who was a key producer of seminal, hard-hitting beats for the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC and other early rap icons. This song samples the classic breakbeat from Billy Squire’s “Big Beat,” popular with many tunes from that era.

The video became controversial for its ending, where Jay gets shot in a metaphorical end to his rap career. The clip was only aired with a disclaimer in which MTV’s head of programming defended its artistic value.

If you have time to read it, here’s a 20 page analysis of the second verse by a law professor, discussing its legal accuracy.