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Jay-Z’s Debut, Reasonable Doubt, Turns 25 Today!



Happy Birthday to a game-changing album!

In 1996, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and his Roc-A-Fella label gave us his debut album, ‘Reasonable Doubt,’ forever changing Hip-Hop.  Whether you look at it in the scope of mafioso rap, Jay-Z’s catalogue, or 90’s music, ‘Reasonable Doubt’ is unquestionably one of the best Hip-Hop albums ever made.

Along with MF DOOM, Ghostface Killah, and Scarface, among others, Jay boasts some of the best longevity in the whole rap game.  With such a long career stacked with classic after classic, ‘Reasonable Doubt’ might remain his best.  What’s wild is that Hov drops his debut at age 26, significantly later than many MC’s get their start.  The time not spent rapping was spent hustling so that he and his friends could eventually rap.  All of that time and pressure-formed the diamond that is ‘Reasonable Doubt.’

While this LP is one of the foundational building blocks of the mafioso rap subgenre, it’s significantly more honest.  Hov uses many of the tracks to rap about his real-life hustles and ambitions over the classiest possible beats.  For the pitch-perfect production, Hov employs names likes Irv Gotti, Ski, Clark Kent, and of course, DJ Premier.  The chemistry between them and Jay makes for perfect songs each time.

“No question, Jay-Z got too many answers”

While it would take a whole album review to cover even half of the significance of the songs, we must pay tribute to these classics.  There’s of course the lead single, ‘Ain’t No N***a’ with Foxy Brown and ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ with Mary J. Blige.  However, tracks 3-8 are in the conversation for the greatest six-track run on a rap album.  Here, we have ‘Brooklyn’s Finest (feat. Notorious B.I.G.),’ ‘Dead Presidents II,’ ‘Feelin’ It,’ ‘D’Evils,’ ’22 Two’s,’ and ‘Can I Live.’  Each of these is a classic in its own right.

There isn’t enough space on any web page to fully discuss the brilliance and the impact of Jay-Z’s phenomenal debut record but we’re happy to discuss it at any chance we get!

Jason Heilbronner | Twitter@JasonHeilbronn1 

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