Reasonable Doubt 20 Year Anniversary
When Jay-Z released “Reasonable Doubt” 20 Years Ago, few could foresee the career that Jigga would eventually realize. On the 20 Year Anniversary of it’s debut we take a look back at a classic debut and what many consider another Hip-Hop masterpiece.
We first hear Jay-Z on his mentor Jaz-O‘s track “Hawaiian Sophie,” then a couple more appearances with Jaz-O, Original Flavor, and Big Daddy Kane’s “Show & Prove” posse cut. Jigga began a career of hustling both in the studio and in the streets and hasn’t stopped – even after achieving a very high level of success.
On June 25th, 1996, “Reasonable Doubt” was released and it’s ‘mafioso’ theme raps were a sign of the times and the direction the industry was headed. With production primarily handled by Ski & DJ Clark Kent, as well as DJ Premier, Knobody, Irv Gotti, Peter Panic and even Big Jaz (Jaz-O) himself, the album showcased Jay-Z with features from Mary J Blige, Notorious BIG, Foxy Brown, Sauce Money, Jaz-O and protege Memphis Bleek.
Reasonable Doubt (Roc-A-Fella Records)
“Can’t Knock The Hustle” feat Mary J Blige
The first track off the album and a Scarface intro from ‘Pain In Da Ass’ – “Can’t Knock The Hustle” was the third single released from the album and one of the most successful. Knobody produced the joint and was a relative unknown at the time. This marked one of his first forays into rap. Mary J stepped in to do the hook after hearing the song. She came up with the lyrics for her part on her own.
“Brooklyn’s Finest” feat The Notorious B.I.G.
Wanting to show the world he was as talented as Biggie, “Brooklyn’s Finest” became a Hip-Hop anthem that showcased the two MC’s trading lines back and forth as each tried to “one-up” another. DJ Clark Kent produced the track. The two would go on to become “Kings” in their own right, with Jigga taking the reigns after the passing of BIG. Biggie would not be featured on another Jay-Z album until after his death.
“Dead Presidents II”
Flippin’ a Nas sample “Dead Presidents II” solidified Jay-Z as a lyricist and up and coming Hip-Hop heavyweight. Released first as a promotional single, the album version featured different lyrics and went on to be certified gold by the RIAA in June of ’96. Ski was also responsible for production on this track. ‘Dead Presidents’ would come back around during the Jay-Z vs Nas feud in the early 2000’s with Jay declaring:
“You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song”
“Feelin’ It” feat Mecca
Another Ski produced track and the fourth and final single released is “Feelin’ It” featuring Mecca. According to Ski, the track was originally meant for Camp Lo but after demanding the track, Jay used the style and flow of the previous lyrics and made it his own. Ski admitted “I didn’t want to give it to him, but I had to because I knew he was going to be the man at the time. So I said, “Fuck it, take the record.” It really was me and Suede from Camp Lo, the flow and everything, the way he was flowing on it. That’s the way we was flowing on it. So he just took the whole thing.”
14 tracks deep, there’s no filler. Songs like “D’Evils” produced by DJ Premier and “Coming of Age” the first appearance of Memphis Bleek are also standout tracks. Two decades later there’s isn’t much not to like, even though you may skip through some tracks that you didn’t previously.
Jay reportedly left a record contract with Payday Records to form Roc-A-Fella Records with Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke as he felt he would be able to market himself better. 20 years later the result is that of a hollywood movie.
What’s your Opinion of “Reasonable Doubt”??
Dopest Tracks?? A Hip-Hop Masterpiece??