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More than ten years on from the release of Jay-Z's "99 Problems", super-producer Rick Rubin – the guy who made the beat for the track – has revealed that the chorus for the hit came from comedian Chris Rock, who in turn stole it from the lesser known Ice T song of the name. Is nothing sacred anymore?
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Rubin said, "'Chris was like, Ice-T has this song, and maybe there's a way to flip it around and do a new version of that.' And I told Jay Z the idea and he liked it. The Ice-T song is about 'got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one,' and then it's a list of him talking about his girls and what a great pimp he is. And our idea was to use that same hook concept, and instead of it being about the girls that are not his problem, instead of being a bragging song, it's more about the problems. Like, this is about the other side of that story."
At the time, Rubin admitted that "he didn't really listen to much hip–hop". "99 Problems" was his first hip-hop production in years and ended up reaching number 30 on the Billboard charts.
But while Chris Rock may have come up with the idea for the chorus, Jay-Z's verses on the song attracted a lot of attention by themselves, including the famous lines "So I pull over to the side of the road/ And I heard 'son do you know what I'm stopping you for?' / Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low?". In 2012, university professor Caleb Mason wrote a fabulous deconstruction of the song regarding the legal accuracy of the lyrics (you can read it here).
You can check out Ice T's take on his own 99 problems, here:
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot