We often see the past through rose-colored glasses. In the case of hip hop, this is especially true of the '90s, an era in which the genre matured into a richly diverse, fully realized art form and a genuine commercial force. The '90s also saw the rise of hip hop's most beloved stars, including a silver-tongued slickster from Bed-Stuy named Jay Z.

This list primarily explores the four albums Jay Z released in the '90s: Reasonable Doubt, In My Lifetime Vol. 1, Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life, and Vol 3... Life and Times of Shawn Carter. Click through the gallery to listen to 10 of the best tracks from '90s-era Jay Z.