June 25, 2020

Jay-Z "Reasonable Doubt" (June 25, 1996)

"With the release of his Roc-A-Fella debut LP, Reasonable Doubt, Shawn Carter (a.k.a. Jay-Z) moves from hip-hop sidekick to Mafia-style front man, blowing up the spot with vivid tales about the economic reality fueling what's left of contemporary ghetto politics. In terms of subject matter, Jay-Z isn't saying anything new. It's the same ol' criminal melodrama that you hear on so many rap LPs nowadays. Titles such as "Friend or Foe," "Politics As Usual" and "Can't Knock the Hustle," featuring Mary J. Blige on vocals, could have been on any number of hip-hop wannabees' LPs, but what makes these tracks stand out here is the slick way Jay-Z flips lyrics. He flows like he's conversing of street survival. His lyrics create cuttingly clever rhymes that ride bomb tracks provided by Clark Kent, Primo, Big Jaz and others with effortless perfection. In addition, Reasonable Doubt has guest spots filled by Brooklyn's Finest playa, Notorious B.I.G., the velvet smooth Foxy Brown, Big Jaz and newcomers Memphis Bleek and Sauce Money. The down side of the album is that while Jay-Z has great MC skills and slamming beats, he mars the LP with an almost religious disrespect for women with songs like "Cashmere Thoughts" and "Ain't No Jigga." Aside from that, Reasonable Doubt has some really thought-provoking songs. Two of my favorites are "Regrets" and the outright eerie "D'Evils." On the latter song, Jay-Z delves into the conspiratorial powers behind the eye on the dollar bill, suggesting that they are the real culprits controlling the ill behavior of so many poor people committing crimes in America. Overall, Reasonable Doubt is a very solid LP. And while many around the country may want to indict Jay-Z for his gender politics and violent content, I seriously doubt if any of them would have a chance of convicting the brother for dropping a wack album." - The Source, 8/96 // Listen HERE and as always, hit the tags for a lot more content.