Wednesday, December 21, 2011

248. Reasonable Doubt. JayZ. The best businessman in Rap.

Album: Reasonable Doubt
Artist: Jay Z
Year: 1996
Genre: Rap


  1. Can't Knock The Hustle
  2. Politics As Usual
  3. Brooklyn's Finest
  4. Dead Presidents II
  5. Feelin' It
  6. D'Evils
  7. 22 Two's
  8. Can I Live
  9. Ain't No Nigga
  10. Friend Or Foe
  11. Coming Of Age
  12. Cashmere Thoughts
  13. Bring It On
  14. Regrets

A criminal past definitely doesn't prevent a musician from forging a successful career. Just because you may have done some naughty things in your earlier life (drug dealing, murder, light treason etc) doesn't mean you can't rise above it and sell records. Of course the way you go about it depends on what genre you're moving into. If you're going to be a country artist then you have to use your shady background as a chance to show off your contrition and need for redemption, if you're going to go into pop then it's probably a good idea to hire a PR agent to try and keep it quiet but if you're trying to move rap records then your criminal past serves as inspiration and gives you some much needed street cred.

Jay-Z started life as a crack dealer in New Jersey, selling drugs on street corners and generally hustling. I'm sure he showed a genuine sense of dedication to his craft and was among the districts finest purveyors of illicit substances but I'd be surprised if anyone saw him selling crack and thought "One day that kid is going to own a clothing label, a series of sports bars and a percentage of Aresenal Footbal club". (In fact I'd be surprised if there was any kid growing up in America anywhere who was widely tipped to become a key investor in a UK soccer club). And yet JayZ has managed to turn a talent for saying things rhythmically into a massive global business empire worth millions of dollars. He's worth more than half a billion and is among the most powerful people in the music industry worldwide.

That's the power of Rap music that middle class white people like myself will never fully understand. Rap is about the American dream. It's about celebrating a downtrodden past and how music enables rappers to overcome poverty and become not just well off but absurdly and ridiculously wealthy. The most respected rappers in the world are the ones who go from literal rags to riches and it explains why someone like Tom Felton (Harry Potter's Draco Malfoy) could never be a rapping success with his home in Surrey and his background singing in choirs.

Reasonable Doubt might provide you with an opportunity to celebrate the idea of the drug dealer made good. The kid from the streets who could barely afford clothes who went on to own a clothing company. Or it might just be another rap album you don't need to hear. It depends on which narrative you want to enjoy.

Highlight: Dead Presidents II
Lowlight: Regrets

Influenced by: Old school rap and a need to rise up from the streets.
Influenced: Some white middle class boys.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "People should just accept the fact that hip hop is headed to the grave and heavy metal will once again rule the world.HEAVY METAL RULES FOREVER!!!"

-I'm sorry was there a time when Heavy Metal ruled the world? I think I slept in that day and missed it.

So is this album guilty of brilliance or is there some reasonable doubt? Let me know below.

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