Classic Day – The Don Of New York

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It is hard not to understand the strategy and sound of modern hip-hop without first looking at the root and seeing where the foundation had begun. Past the rhyme schemes and styles of early rap, Jay-Z was on the entrepreneurial work of creating a hustler lifestyle that conflicted with some of the earliest renditions of music history.

The debut record, Reasonable Doubt is an opening of the golden flood gates for the New York MC that was able to combine the strength of empire backgrounds with the influence of self-preservation in the dreariest parts of the busiest city in the world. It opens with a Mary J. Blige feature and a callback to perhaps hip-hops most important movie, Scarface. The reworking to incorporate Jay-Z as the big boss creates this aura behind him as “Can’t Knock The Hustle” creates a smooth, but rhythmically engaging work. It is an incredibly soft touch with hardbody raps that knocks heads and illustrates this personal grip. As Reasonable Doubt continues on however, each track becomes more and more of an experience through poetry and percussion.

“Politics As Usual” is a flashy boost with catchy and street-smart Jay-Z who went under the original moniker of Jaÿ-Z as the cameraman showing his home of skyscrapers and jewels. “You ain’t seen money in your life when it comes to this cheese y’all like Three Blind Mice… My portfolio reads: leads to Don Corleone, nigga, please. 10-year felon, heavy on the wrist, I faze yous with the diamond flooded Jesus and blind your facials.” It is a one-two punch that leads in the listener as the instrumentation goes through this rather classy display of power, but then the rapping aspect is clean and aggressive.

One of the strongest displays of Jay-Z’s musical ability comes from a near-final track, “Regrets” where he is his most human and almost relatable even when describing situations the audience has never seen. “I sold it all, from crack to opium in third person, I don’t wanna see ‘em. So I’m rehearsin’ with my peoples how to G ‘em.” Jay-Z then takes the Peter Panic produced beat to another level when he reaches his second verse and describes utter torture from his mind. “You gotta take it, can’t take it, I keep it authentic. My hand got this pistol shaking, cause I sense danger like Camp Crystal Lake and I don’t wanna shoot him, but I got him trapped.” It shows this growth between being the child-like wonder and the light in someone’s life, to then taking another and being the darkness that comes from a smoking gun.

It is a perfect send-off into the finale of the record where Jay-Z rounds out 15-tracks and nearly an entire hour of music under his belt. In 1996 when the record would first hit the scene, Jay-Z took Reasonable Doubt to another level and successfully orchestrated a musical takeover that proceeds even 20 years later.

Listen To Reasonable Doubt Here!!! – Spotify/Amazon/iTunes

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