When Jay-Z’s debut album was released in 1996, he wasn’t a newcomer or rookie. He was a 26 year old self-made hustler, trying to get his label off the ground. While Nas and Biggie enjoyed instant success off the release of their highly influential debuts, Reasonable Doubt bided its time and aged like a fine wine, hitting platinum six years after its initial release. Slowly becoming an impactful record in hip-hop.
Hova embodies the rise of a kid from the ghetto, who stays true to his grassroots. If Illmatic and Ready to Die represent the grimy street raps on the hot NYC corner, then Reasonable Doubt represents the air-conditioned, executive business rooms where huge deals are done. Jay-Z’s biggest strengths have always been his wordplay and butter-smooth flow, and each song is unique in its own way while staying true to one core theme: a hustler’s ambition;
VERDICT — A near-perfect hustler’s LP. Jay-Z differentiates himself from his grimy, street-corner NYC counterparts. Showing us an authentic perspective from a businessman; a player; a kingpin; but ultimately, a man filled with as much regrets as clout.
RATING: 9.7 — SUPERB
Best Track: Politics As Usual.