In 1999, Jay-Z dueted with Mariah Carey on "Heartbreaker", a song from her seventh album, Rainbow. This is also the first album where Jay-Z utilizes a more soulful sound than his previous albums. Nas responded with a diss track called "Ether" and Jay-Z straightaway added a verse to "Takeover" which dissed Nas and would start a feud between the two rappers.
Jay-Z reported on MTV that Mark Pitts had settled the feud between him and Nas.
His first official rap single was called "In My Lifetime", for which he released a music video. Hard Knock Life which spawned the biggest hit of his career at the time, "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)".
An unreleased music video was also produced for the B-side "I Can't Get with That." and, with Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, created Roc-A-Fella Records as an independent label in 1995. The album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, and was generally favored by critics. He relied more on flow and wordplay, and he continued with his penchant for mining beats from the popular producers of the day such as Swizz Beatz, an upstart in-house producer for Ruff Ryders, and Timbaland. The album proved successful and sold over 3 million copies. 3's most successful single was "Big Pimpin'", featuring UGK.
The album spawned two massive hit singles, "Excuse Me Miss" and "'03 Bonnie & Clyde", which featured Jay-Z's future wife Beyoncé.