"96 and forever, roc a block, roc a fella" - Jay-Z "Feeling It"
Reasonable Doubt released June 25th 1996
Another album 20th aniversary is upon us, alot of classic albums came out twenty years ago, and this album I am going chit chat about is definitely a classic inthe hip-hop realm. This album became the blue print to telling the tales of the street hustler. Unfortunatley some rap artist lived a life less than desirable prior to their road to success in rap. The debate of the glorfication of the drug game in hip-hop is still widely debated to this day.
That is a conversation for another day and time, before he was signing athletes to his managment company and molding artist, before Tidal streaming serivces. In 1996 retired drug dealer Shawn Carter and his friends Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke was on the rise with their record label Roc A Fella records. There was only one artist on the label at the time and the artist at the time was Shawn himself aka Jay-Z
Reasonable Doubt was suppose to be the first and last album made by Jay-Z and then there was the volumes, the dynasty, the infamous blueprint, the black album, the retirement, out of retirement, break up of Roc A fella. He married the biggiest artist in the world, had a child. He became a mogul, and he wanted reasonable doubt to be his last album, yeah we see how that worked out.
What made this album interesting is that it had a polish film quality feel to it, if it was movie it would have been a black and white gangsta film. This album came out time during the height of Eastcoast/Westcoast beef. Roughly eighty something days before Tupac passing and a month before Nas dropped his sophmore album "It was written" in the grand scheme of things it was interesting time for east coast hip-hop.
What caught my attention to this album was that it was not the usual bravado that comes with rap music. Jay -Z word play is very witty, his flow is cohesive and his delivery is on point, even if he was rapping about the most simplest thing. As a listener it may have required one to gather a dictionary. Pay attention more in english class, this album made me want to understand hyperbole and double entandre just a little bit more.
The production of this album went from a symphony type sound a mix of soul samples that complemented one another. Take "Dead Presidents" for example like the video, the song it self sounded and felt like a cold winter day in New York. At the time I was a resident in New York State, I was very familar with what a cold winter day felt like. The sound of the piano laced with Nas voice sampled from his song"the world is yours" on the hook meshed together made this one of the most stand out records on this album.
Songs like "Coming Of Age" feat Memphis Bleek felt and sounded a like warm summer day in New York State. In the summer time on the east coast, that when everyone brought there new toys (cars) out. There was always an gurantee of someone creeping up the street in their new big body benz or new cadillac with a bad ass sound system to boot. Jay and Memphis trade verses back and forth, like big brother and little brother conversation.
Then there was the funk and bass to the tune of "Aint no N**ga" feat a young Foxy Brown, talking to ish to one another. This song was out during the spring and summer of 96, the olympic games was happening in atlanta, it was hot out, every car that rode pass was playing it, BET rap city always showed it. And it was also on the Nutty professor SDTK.
Let's back track to the beggining with a man who sounded similar to scarface, not the rapper but the movie character. The man in question went by the name "Pain in da azz" his intro that basically told the local corner boys to have Jay-Z money by the end of week or it was a wrap. And then after intro it let lead into the the infamous "la di da da" hummed by none other than the queen of hip-hop soul Mary J. Blige.
Also let's not forget the dopest collaboration on the album was brooklyn finest that also started off with a pain in da azz intro and the song also featured the late Notorious B.I.G. Jay-Z returned the favor on the Biggie song "I Love The Dough" off the life after death CD. Two friend who grew together in brooklyn made it off the streets. However that was short lived for B.I.G he was gunned down in Los Angeles March 1997. What probably would have been a better watch throne album between the two instead of the one with Kanye.
After Reasonable Doubt success followed for Jay-Z which led him to become one of the biggest titans in the music industry beyond hip-hop. Jayz fans always debate the ranking of his albums but one everyone can agree on is that the first album is a classic and is always ranked at number one.
Peep Video from Complex News below via their Youtube channel: