"Motherfuckers say that I'm foolish, I only talk about jewels," spits Jay-Z, in the opening lines of Blueprint's "Renegade." "Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?" And thus begins one of the greatest collaborations of all time, in which two legendary emcees deliver top tier verses on both a technical and thematic level. Taking to an uncharacteristically haunting beat, Jay weaves a tale of the complex dynamic between the ghetto and those that milk its residents for entertainment. Never hurrying his words, Jay rides the beat like only he can, blending impeccable imagery with insane multisyllabic rhyme structures - "pocket full of lint, not a cent, lotta inn-ocent lives lost on the project bench."
There's something to be said about the context surrounding "Renegade's" arrival. Originally intended as a Bad Meets Evil track (the Royce version is out there for your enjoyment), Em ultimately contributed the track to Jay's 2001 classic, marking the project's lone collaboration. Coming off the release of both Marshall Mathers LP and Devil's Night, Em's public persona was that of a hip-hop antichrist, reviled by the mass media and the bane of suburban parents. On "Renegade," however, Em foreshadowed The Eminem Show to come, opening up in a shockingly mature and satirical fashion. "Go to war with the Mormons, take a bath with the Catholics in holy water," he spits, his flow absolutely magnetic. "No wonder they try to hold me under longer."
With both emcees turning in magnificent performances and a chilling call-and-response chorus, there are some who would comfortably name "Renegade" among the greatest songs ever written. Poetic, darkly comedic, and lined with scathing societal commentary, "Renegade" is one of many crowning achievements on an album fueled by excellence. Happy birthday to The Blueprint, a classic through and through.
The renegade, you been afraid I penetrate pop culture
Bring 'em a lot closer to the block where they pop toasters
And they live with they moms, got dropped roadsters
From botched robberies, n**as crouched over
Mami's knocked up cause she wasn't watched over
Knocked down by some clown when child support knocked
"No, he's not around," now, how that sound to ya? Jot it down
I bring you through the ghetto without riding round
But that ain't the case, see, it's a matter of taste
We as a people decide if Shady's as bad as they say he is
Or is he the latter, a gateway to escape?
Media scapegoat who they can be mad at today
See, it's as easy as cake, simple as whistlin' Dixie
While I'm wavin' the pistol at sixty Christians against me
Go to war with the Mormons, take a bath with the Catholics
In holy water, no wonder they tried to hold me under longer
I'm a motherfuckin' spiteful, delightful eyeful
The new Ice Cube, motherfuckers hate to like you