Reasonable Doubt [Explicit] Explicit Lyrics
Audio CD | Extra Tracks, Reissued
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Jay-Z, Reazonable Doubt, back by popular demand, classic debut album from arguably The Greatest MC Of All Time. This title has previously scanned 1.4 million units. Jay-Z's classic debut is a compelling reflection on his life as a hustler. It's invested with an uncommon complexity and candor that has noticeably faded in his later material. Armed with clever phrasing and sly deadpan wit, Jay-Z navigates indulgent romp "Can't Knock the Hustle", thought-provoking introspection Regrets, and devastating street-corner soliloquies "Friend or Foe" with savvy composure. The beats on Reasonable Doubt, provided by the likes of DJ Premier & Ski, are as irresistibly slick as his persona. "Brooklyn's Finest," his mic-passing session with his friend Notorious B.I.G., takes on a torch-passing significance in the wake of Biggie's death. That song, and the entire album, foreshadows Jay-Z's subsequent ascension to kingpin status.
Jay-Z's classic debut is a compelling reflection on his life as a hustler. It's invested with an uncommon complexity and candor that has noticeably faded in his later material. Armed with clever phrasing and sly deadpan wit, Jay-Z navigates indulgent romps ("Can't Knock the Hustle"), thought-provoking introspection ("Regrets"), and devastating street-corner soliloquies ("Friend or Foe") with savvy composure. The beats on Reasonable Doubt, provided by the likes of DJ Premier & Ski, are as irresistibly slick as his persona. "Brooklyn's Finest," his mic-passing session with his friend Notorious B.I.G., takes on a torch-passing significance in the wake of Biggie's death. That song, and the entire album, foreshadows Jay-Z's subsequent ascension to kingpin status. --Del. F. Cowie
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Jay-Z often said that the messages of this album were misunderstood by the general public from the day it was released. There's good reason for that: this is not an album for a casual hip-hop listener, not an album to dance to, and certainly not feel-good music. The songs don't follow mainstream formats: the verses aren't consistent lengths, the hooks are often either one liners or refrains in the music itself, and the production is anything but mainstream. While some of the beats are masterpieces, others fall flat, and there are stretches of 2 or 3 songs at a time that can sound the same if you aren't paying attention.
All of that being said, however, the album is still a classic. What makes it a classic is not catchy hooks and beats that make your head bop. Reasonable Doubt is classic because of it's complexity--it represents underground rap at it's finest, detailing the complex ethical dilemmas of being a street hustler. In the recording of this album, Jay-Z was still immersed in street life enough to write about it's gritty details, but able to step back enough to realize the broader consequences his actions were having on his community. Metaphors that take a few seconds for him to spit can spark intellectual conversations that last for hours upon closer examination, and these metaphors are often flying by so quickly that it's easy to miss one while thinking about the last. Subsequent albums by Jay-Z lacked this level of lyrical complexity, primarily because he knew that Reasonable Doubt went over a lot of people's head. If you love to analyze lyrics, this album will bring you hundreds of hours of enjoyment. However, if you want music that's humorous, catchy, and uplifting, you probably won't want to listen to more than the first 3 or 4 songs. And there's nothing wrong with that--there's a reason why everybody loved the Blueprint (except maybe Nas). However, that simply wasn't the point of this album.
Can't Knock The Hustle(w/ Mary J. Blige)-5/5
Politics As Usual-4.5/5
Brooklyn's Finest(w/ Notorious B.I.G)-5/5
Dead Presidents II-5/5
Feelin' It(w/ Mecca)-5/5
Can I Live-5/5
Ain't No N****(w/ Foxy Brown)-4/5
Friend Or Foe-5/5
Coming Of Age(w/ Memphis Nleek)-4.5/5
Bring It On(w/ Jaz-O and Sauce Money)-5/5
Paid In Full-Rakim
Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous-Big L
Me Against The World-Tupac
Straight Outta Compton-N.W.A.
Enter The 36 Chambers-Wu-Tang Clan
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx-Raekwon
Ready To Die-The Notorious B.I.G.
We Are The Streets-The LOX
The Marshall Mathers LP-Eminem
Criminal Minded-Boogie Down Productions
Doe Or Die-AZ
The album is centered around the theme of hustling and the life of a hustler. Jay-Z had been living that life since 1988 and many refer to Reasonable Doubt as the Hustler's Bible, so to speak. It starts off with "Can't Knock the Hustle" with Mary J. Blige. The beat is perfect for the lyrics and Jay drops bombs. "Brooklyn's Finest" with BIG is one of hip-hop's greatest collaborations. Jay and BIG go back and forth and just tear the track to shreds. They come hard with metaphors, punchlines, and their sick flows. The beat is produced by Clark Kent. Now, my favorite track "Dead Presidents II" is just unbelievable. The production on this track by Ski is some of the best you'll ever hear. It samples Lonnie Liston Smith's "Dreams of Tomorrow" and compliments Jay's style perfectly. I would say this song is one of hip-hop's best (almost on the level of TROY). As for the lyrics go, it's basically about getting your money and going against all odds in order to acquire it. Another highlight for the LP is the Premo produced "D'Evils". Lyrically, this track is one of Jay's best ever. At the end of Jay's verse he says: "And even if Jehova Witness bet he'll never testify", need I say more? It would probably take several listens to understand all of the underlying lessons in this track. Basically put though, it's telling you to that you must be willing to do anything to accomplish your goals and dreams. Whether it be fame, wealth, or whatever. On "22 Two's", Jay-Z spits straight fire throughout the Ski-produced beat and if you pay attention you'll realize that Jay uses the word two/too/to 22 times on the song. Pretty clever. Another track I love is "Cashmere Thoughts". Some fans criticize the beat on this song but it's dope to me. Jay spits his verses in his laid back, smooth, mafia style flow. Check the lyrics: Eroll Flynn, hot like heroine/young pimps is thorough when I pimp through your borough and/I gotta keep your tricks in tact, cause I walk like a pimp, talk like a mack. "Bring it On" features Jay's mentor Jaz-O and fellow Brooklyn mc Sauce Money. The beat is amazing and is done by none other than DJ Premier. Listen to the verses on this song and prepare to be amazed. "Regrets" is a sort of melancholy track and Jay talks about that you have to learn to live with regrets when you live this lifestyle. The beat was an excellent match for the mood. It was the perfect clincher for the original version of Reasonable Doubt. The album ended on a perfect note. I can't think of many that ended better.
The only downside of the album is "Can I Live II". This track wasn't part of the original Reasonable Doubt, it was added as a bonus with the 1999 reissue. The song isn't bad but I just feel that "Regrets" ended the album perfectly and "Can I Live II" just ruins the vibe of it. It seems out of place and you can tell that it's not truly a part of Reasonable Doubt.
Bottom line: Many artists had touched on hustling before Reasonable Doubt but none went this deep into the subject. Jay really brought you the soul of a hustler on this LP and it is without a doubt his best work. It plays out like the musical version of a Scarface/Godfather type movie. Even an artist of Jay's caliber can't meet or exceed the quality of this LP again. It has a combination of great production AND lyrics unlike most of today's music which often has one or the other. This is one of hip-hop's masterpieces and I recommend it to everyone. Even the casual hip-hop listeners.