In October 2003, JAY-Z announced that his eighth studio album would be the last solo effort of his career, a proclamation that caught the full attention of the music world. Although Jay-Z had previously threatened to hang up the mic and ride off into the sunset after the release of his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, this retirement appeared to be more than real, with the rapper going as far as documenting the road to the finish line in his Fade to Black flick. Released on Nov. 14, 2003, The Black Album was the equivalent of Michael Jordan's Game 6 shot over Bryon Russell in the NBA, giving Hov what could have been a storybook finish to his career. However, Jay-Z famously came out of retirement less than a year later, teaming up with R. Kelly for Unfinished Business before returning in 2006 with his ninth solo set, Kingdom Come.
Scarface - 'Emeritus'
Prior to the unveiling of his tenth studio album, Emeritus, reports surfaced that Houston rap legend Scarface no longer had the desire to continue his career as a recording artist, news that came to the dismay of the rap world. Released on Dec. 2, 2008, Emeritus captured Scarface going out on a high note, closing the curtain in grand fashion. Calling in Lil Wayne, Bun B, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Bilal and additional collaborators to help cap off his legendary run, the former Geto Boy showed his ability to coexist with the more formidable spitters out of the south, even at an advanced age.Supreme solo performances on High Powered,” “It’s Not A Game” and the blistering title-track round out the proceedings, resulting in a strong body of work. Fortunately, Scarface's retirement was ultimately a reprieve, with the Geto Boy returning in 2010 to service the streets with his mixtape, Dopeman Music.
Too Short - 'Gettin' It'
The first instance in which an artist claimed to be walking away from the rap game occurred in 1996, when Oakland rap pioneer Too $hort revealed plans to exit stage left after the release of his tenth album. The ploy paid dividends for $hort, as Gettin' It would go platinum and cause rappers from all corners of the country to reach out for collaborations, most notably The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. When the dust settled, Too $hort's sabbatical ended just three years later, when the raunchy orator dropped Can't Stay Away, a clear indication he still had a few tricks up his sleeve.
Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) - 'December 99th'
As one of the mercurial talents of his generation, Mos Def's waning interest in rap is no secret, with the Bed Stuy native only releasing four solo studio albums in the span of a decade, a snail's pace by rap standards. So it was no surprise that in January 2016, more than a half-decade since his last full-length project, Yaasin Bey revealed that December 99th, his forthcoming collaborative album with producer Ferrari Sheppard, would cap off his career. Sharing the news via a post on Kanye West's website, Bey later released Dec 99th on December 21, 2016, exclusively on TIDAL. But contrary to his initial retirement statements, Bey has since announced plans to release a new Black Star album, a collaborative project with Mannie Fresh, as well as another solo album, titled Negus in Natural Person.
A Tribe Called Quest - 'The Love Movement'
Breakups in hip-hop are akin to divorces, with rap fans (its children) suffering the most in the end. One split that rocked the culture was A Tribe Called Quest's decision to cut ties whilst in the midst of recording and promoting their fifth studio album, The Love Movement. In spite of the album's title, all love appeared to be lost within the core of the group, particularly between members Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, who had become embroiled in a feud dating back to the group's 1996 release, Beats, Rhymes, Life. The Love Movement, which arrived on Sept. 29, 1998, effectively pulled the plug on what many argue to be the greatest rap group of all-time. Fortunately, time heals all wounds and A Tribe Called Quest were able to move beyond their differences and head in the studio to begin recording their reunion album, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, prior to the death of Phife Dawg on March 22, 2016.
Ma$e - 'Double Up'
Arguably the most shocking example of a rapper closing the curtains at the height of their career, Ma$e abruptly announced his exit from the game to dedicate his life to Christianity. The news, which came during an April 1999 appearance by Ma$e on Funk Flex's HOT 97 radio show, came less than two years after the multi-platinum success of his debut album, Harlem World, and months before the release of his anticipated sophomore album, Double Up. While some have speculated about the true reason behind Mase's retreat, the Lenox menace would return in 2004 with the aptly titled comeback album, Welcome Back, ending one of the more lengthy retirements in rap history.
Master P - 'MP Da Last Don'
During the height of No Limit Records' reign over the rap game in spring 1998, label-head and franchise artist Master P told anyone who would listen that his seventh studio album, MP da Last Don, would be the final album in his discography; The CEO and budding mogul was primed to tend to his business as an executive while pursuing other interests. Upon its release on June 2, 1998, MP da Last Don debuted atop the Billboard 200 and tallied over 4 million units sold, making it the biggest commercial success of Master P's career. However, Master P's retirement talk was brief, as he doubled back a year later with his 1999 album, Only God Can Judge Me.
Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor II: The Greatest Rap Album Part 1
One of the more notorious artists to threaten retirement is Lupe Fiasco, who has toyed with taking his rhyme book and go home on numerous occasions with the first time occurring in 2008 while frustrated with his label, Atlantic Records. The second and more notorious instance of Lupe mulling his future in rap came in 2012 when the rapper announced he would be leaving the game after the release of Food & Liquor II: The Greatest Rap Album Part 1. The news came as a result of Lupe's disenchantment with rap due in part to a verbal altercation with fellow Chicago native Chief Keef and proved to be premature as Lupe would drop the Lost in the Atlantic mixtape one year later.