GET REASONABLE DOUBT (Roc-A-Fella/Priority, 1996) Jay-Z emerges as a fully formed talent on his stunning debut. He muses about the glory and grit of the hustler lifestyle, bringing a surprisingly thoughtful and humane view.
GET VOL. 2...HARD KNOCK LIFE (Roc-A-Fella, 1998) Fueled by the ''Annie''-sampling title track, ''Vol. 2'' speeds Jigga's transformation from gangsta-rap hero to pop icon. Beats by producers like Timbaland ensure his continued presence on dance floors.
GET VOL. 3...LIFE AND TIMES OF S. CARTER (Roc-A-Fella, 1999) The big-pimpin' CEO secures the best beats and cameos you can buy. The result: over-the-top hip-hop peppered with bluster and paranoia. The message: mo' money, mo' problems.
FORGET THE DYNASTY ROC LA FAMILIA (Roc-A-Fella, 2000) Outside of the charming Neptunes-produced single ''I Just Wanna Love U,'' this is a brooding, mean-spirited, and mostly dull entry in the J-Hova canon, stuffed with forgettable posse cuts.
GET THE BLUEPRINT (Roc-A-Fella, 2001) Energized by a public feud with Nas, Jay-Z creates the sharpest CD of his career -- stocked with moving recollections (''Song Cry''), humor (''Girls, Girls, Girls''), and roof-raising party jams (''Izzo'').
FORGET THE BLUEPRINT 2: THE GIFT & THE CURSE (Roc-A-Fella, 2002) Somewhere inside this overproduced two-CD set lies a great album. But as is, 2 self-destructs because of its more-is-more approach.