How Chris Rock and Ice-T Inspired Jay Z's '99 Problems'
Rick Rubin claims chorus was entirely the comedian's idea
More than a decade after Jay Z released his ubiquitous hit "99 Problems" – the third single from his 2003 "farewell" release, The Black Album – the track's producer, Rick Rubin, has revealed the role that comedian Chris Rock played in its creation. The chorus, he told New York, was an idea Rock took from a 1993 Ice-T song also called "99 Problems."
"[Chris] said, 'Ice-T has this song, and maybe there's a way to flip it around and do a new version of that,'" Rubin said. "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."
Rolling Stone previously reported that, at that point in time, Rubin – who produced records by the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC in the Eighties – had grown disinterested with hip-hop by the turn of the milennium. "I hadn't really listened to Jay Z's music before I worked on the track," he said. "I don't listen to very much hip-hop. But I really liked Jay. He has a great spirit." He was consistent in what he told New York: "It was really fun. He was incredibly inspiring as a lyricist. We worked on a lot of ideas, and then he honed in on the track that felt most exciting to him."RollingStone.com