In 1997, Jay-Z's follow-up, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, peaked at #3 and helped establish his career and mainstream success. In spite of the success, Jay-Z's image was tarnished by a perceived pandering to mainstream sales, and a watering down of his sound. The next year, Jay-Z released Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, continued this evolution towards a pop-oriented market. This included several huge singles, including "Can I Get A...", "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)", "Jigga What?", "It's Alright" and "Money Ain't a Thang".
In 1999, Jay-Z released Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter, which was another big hit in spite of continued criticism for his pop-oriented sound, and a large roster of collaborators that many felt crowded out Jay-Z himself. His next album, Dynasty Roc la Familia, was originally intended as a collaboration album with many guests from Roc-a-Fella's roster, including Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and Amil, as well as Scarface, Just Blaze, R. Kelly, Kanye West, The Neptunes and Snoop Dogg.
2001's The Blueprint was another huge hit for Jay-Z, and included tracks insulting Prodigy (Mobb Deep) and Nas. The latter responded with his own track, and the pair's rivalry escalated into one of the most famous rap rivalries since the East Coast/West Coast feud of the mid-1990s. The Blueprint featured only one collaboration, with Eminem on "Renegade".
This was followed by an Unplugged album, and collaborating with R. Kelly on Best of Both Worlds. Jay-Z returned in 2002 with The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse, a sprawling double-album.
In 2004, The Black Album was controversially remixed with The Beatles' White Album, by DJ Danger Mouse. It is called "The Grey Album." An a capella special edition of The Black Album, sporting a red CD case, was consequently released.
It is rumored that he will attempt a comeback as S. Carter.