Motiv8: 8 Especially Ambitious Songs From Jay-Z

Jay-Z’s resume runs deeper than rap. The lyricist is much more than his music, but also a  best-selling author, TV/film producer, and not to mention a multi-million dollar mogul. It’s apparent Hov wears a variety of hats, including his staple New York Yankee fitted, but are we missing one? Could it be possible to crown him as a motivational speaker as well?


Many, like myself, have named him as one of the greatest rappers of all time. But, his greatness goes beyond his bars. Jay is considered one of the greats because of his ability to push his listeners to be great. In his 20 year career, he’s crafted a discography full of ambitious anthems that bring out your inner most hustler as soon as you hear it.

Check out eight of the greatest songs from Hov that make you motivated.

Can’t Knock the Hustle


Rap fans said hello to Hova with “Can’t Knock the Hustle” as the first track of his first album, “Reasonable Doubt,” along with his enamoring encouragement. He accelerates what drives him and showcases how his attitude is unstoppable. Jay not only wants his hustle respected, but also reflected. “You ain’t having it? Good, Me either. Let’s get together and make this whole world believe us,” says Jay-Z, as he hails out for other hustlers to come together too. This song marks the beginning of Jay’s motivational ways in his music.

Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)


Jay makes a theme song that’s thorough in every borough with “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).” As a product of Marcy projects, he connects with hustlers in hoods just like his by sharing his relentless rags-to-riches story through raps. Throughout the song, Hov delivers plenty of passionate lyrics that display his determination, including “When my situation ain’t improving, I’m tryna murder everything moving.” Those hungry for success can sniff out Hov’s call to action as he enlists other entrepreneurs on this song:

I’m from the school of the hard knocks, you must not
Let outsiders violate our blocks and my plot
Let’s stick up the world and split it 50/50 (Uh-huh)
Let’s take the dough and stay real jiggy (Uh-huh)
And sip the Cris’ and get pissy-pissy
Flow infinitely like the memory of my nigga Biggie (BABY!)

In addition to his sermon through song, Jay found a way to pave the way for other artists on Hard Knock Life. After getting the sample cleared from the 1982 musical-film “Annie,” Jay-Z negotiated a deal for future rappers to use it as well. In fact, rapper Nipsey Hussle used elements from the original song in a track off of his debut album released this year entitled, “Hussle & Motivate.”

It’s Like That


Jay-Z continues to spit with a winning spirit on his album “Vol. 2. ” with “It’s Like That.” He exudes clear confidence and lets everyone know he’s coming for the competition in this track. “My motto is simply I will not lose,” Hov says as he’s showing no signs of slowing down his success. This exact attitude is one that’s full of aspiration, which has kept Hov and those who hear him with an appetite for more.

Watch Me


“Guess who? Fresh off of Volume 2,” we have H-O-V and D-R-E in “Watch Me.” The two future Forbes Five listers team up for a track all about living life to the fullest. Hov is known to kick knowledge on ways to better your business but here he’s showing you the best way to burn your bread instead. In his own unique way he motivates others to get this money as he says all the cool ways he spends his. All the lyrics dedicated to live your best life are located in the first verse:

You gotta pop that styles, rock that watch dial
See that Benz? Cop that now
Drop that top down, they gon’ kill us anyway
Them cops Uptown hit homes with forty-one rounds
Live your life, get your ice
She been with you since day one nigga, trick on your wife
Spend that dough, when in doubt, take that trip
She ain’t living for the moment homie? Shake that bitch
He that cool, he can’t take you nowhere? Leave that fool
Be that rude if he that cool
Save for what? Ball til your days is up
This place is fucked, all type of AIDS and such
How they make it where you afraid to fuck
They gave us drugs then turned around and investigated us
Life is short, then you on life support
So in between it all, I’mma say I seen it all. Watch me

Diamonds From Sierra Leone Remix


On the Diamond’s Remix, Ye swore he smashed, but big bro came through and kicked his ass! Hov dropped some serious gems on the remix to Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone.” He had bars big enough to make the cut for your most inspirational Instagram caption in his featured verse:

The pressure’s on, but guess who ain’t gonna crack?
Ha ha, pardon me, I had to laugh at that
How could you falter when you’re the Rock of Gibraltar?
I had to get off the boat so I could walk on water
This ain’t no tall order, this is nothing to me
Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week
I do this in my sleep
I sold kilos of coke, I’m guessing I can sell CD’s
I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man!
Let me handle my business, damn!

So Ambitious


On his eleventh studio album released in 2009, Jay-Z pairs with Pharrell on “So Ambitious” for The Blueprint 3. Here, Hov shares stories of those who doubted him from humble beginnings and how he kept his hustler’s spirit. So Ambitious is a timeless tale to motivate anyone who’s been told no, including Mr. Carter.  Despite being faced with immeasurable odds, he still made straight bets.  In this song, he mentions the many people who were certain he would fail, from his teacher, his uncle, record label executives, and even his own former business partner and friend. A huge takeaway from this track was the tunnel vision Jay-Z had on his ambition after being turned away. How you might ask? In his third verse he says, “I went from pauper to the president, cause every deal I ever made set precedents.” Jay-Z has left a significant impression from his biggest versus to business ventures and is constantly roving his naysayers wrong every step of the way.

Who Gon Stop Me?


After hearing Jay-Z’s daughter Blue Ivy say, “Never seen a ceiling in my whole life” on her infamous freestyle, I’m sure that’s something she learned from her dad. Jay-Z has several songs where he mentions that he’s certain there’s no ceiling, with one of them being “Who Gon Stop Me?” On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s joint album, “Watch the Throne,” their song “Who Gon Stop Me” is where they state the sky is the limit. Jay sees beyond barriers in his verse as he says “beat the odds” and “beat the feds.” An undefeated anthem such as this makes perfect for a workout playlist. If the words won’t move you the bass-rattling beat will be sure to shift your spirits as well.



Jay-Z continues his efforts to uplift and unite with “F.U.T.W.” The opening lines are enough effort to encourage almost anyone:

Don’t be good my nigga, be great
After that government cheese, we eating steak
After the projects, now we on estates
I’m from the bottom, I know you can relate

Fuck up the world
Just fuck up this world
Fuck up the world

Me and destiny got a date…

Hov aims to bring out the best in black men by using his story of coming up from bricks to Billboards, grams to Grammy’s, O’s to opposite of Orphan Annie. Additionally, pays homage to other legends who have produced similar motivational messages, such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.


Any Jay-Z songs that you consider inspirational? Inscribe your best one in a comment.



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