It was 25 years ago on this day (June 25th) that Jay Z dropped a timeless classic, Reasonable Doubt.
It’s important to note that this album wasn’t always heralded as the masterpiece it is today! Once upon a time, Jay Z was a mid-level rapper with one hit record and severely slept-on. Jigga even mentions it himself on the title track to his 3rd album, “Hard Knock Life“; “I gave you prophecy on my first joint, and y’all all lamed out/Didn’t really appreciate it, til’ the second one came out“. That wasn’t entirely true, either. RD didn’t really get It’s props until ’98-’99, even 2001 gave it some steam when he announced his retirement.
Below are some facts, stories and key factors in the making and receiving of Reasonable Doubt.
Foxy Brown/The Nutty Professor
“Ain’t No Nigga“, the single from Reasonable Doubt that also ended up on The Nutty Professor Soundtrack, served as a spotlight for fellow Def Jam signee, Foxy Brown. She shined on a few feature prior to this, like the notable LL Cool J track “I Shot Ya (Remix)“, also featuring Prodigy, Fat Joe and Keith Murray, but this was her breakout. She ran away with this track. Foxy broke the traditional 16 bar format and went OFF, grand slamming with loaded bases from Jigga.
The Notorious B.I.G
BIG and Hov had gotten really cool through the legendary DJ Clark Kent (even though they went to the same high school, along with Busta Rhymes and DMX. Go figure.). B.I.G not only appeared in “Ain’t No Nigga” video, but also in the video to the first single from RD, “Dead President’s II“. You know, the one that Nas didn’t show up to that caused a riff… Anyway, Biggie also appeared on the album’s third track “Brooklyn’s Finest“. That’s a BIG co-sign.
Mary J. Blige
In 1996, when you go into your local Sam Goody and look at the tracklisting and see Mary J. Blige on the FIRST track, you may be inclined to walk out with that tape. MJB gave one of her best performances ever. Seeing Mary, along with The Nortorious on his debut definitely made Hov look legit in the industry. Maybe I’m just speaking personally. QUICK STORY: My first CD (not tape. I’d bought tapes) was between 2Pac Me Against The World and Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt. I only had enough money for one, and I spent 30 minutes making a decision but ultimately Pac’s star power won out. Me Against The World was a great album, but if I had to make that decision today, it may go another way.
Jaz-O perfected the loop for “Ain’t No Nigga”, which apparently was harder than it looks. A batch of producers tried and failed, but Jaz-O brought it home, and subsequently landed on the hook. Not to mention Jaz-O properly introduced Jay-Z to the world. It was really fitting that he’d end up on that track. He also appeared on “Bring It On” with Sauce Money.
Photographer, John Mannion tells it was his idea to step outside of the box for the cover shoot. According to him, rappers at the time were rocking “Versace suits and linen”. Mannion was inspired by a book called Evidence by Luc Sante which had black and white pictures of Mafia players taken by the NYPD. Apparently, there was an original shoot because Mannion refers to the RD photos we know as “reshot”. John would go on to do all of Jay’s album art up to The Blueprint, but this was their first and possibly most memorable collab.
Grand Opening, Grand Closing
This was famously supposed to be Jay Z’s one and only album. He was to go into “executive mode” after this LP, handing the reigns over to Memphis Bleek and other Roc-A-Fella Records artists. Maybe it was the lukewarm reception that made him keep going, maybe it was the love of the game. Maybe it was seeing his peers take rap music to new heights, but whatever the case, we’re grateful he didn’t stop here. If he had, though; If Reasonable Doubt would have been the one and only Jay Z album, what would rap look like? What would Jay look like and what about The Roc, one of the most historic labels in Rap history? This may deserve a G-HOLY.com ‘What If:’ article. Hmmm…
A track called “Tell Me How It Feels” was left off of RD, simply because it went missing during the mastering process, according to Clark Kent. He recalls the track featuring a female rap artist named Black Widow, who also was set to feature on “Ain’t No Nigga”, until Clark suggested his cousin Foxy Brown close the track. Kent says the missing track would have fit perfectly on the album, but would it? Reasonable already had a pretty long runtime, and did Jay say anything there that he didn’t say on the other tracks? The world may never know. CK mentions only 5 souls have heard the track since its recording. Wow.
We were actually going to rate the album, review style, but who needs another 10/10 rating for Reasonable Doubt? #RD25