When Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt first hit the streets in 1996, response to the album was less than lukewarm. Evidently ahead of its time, it failed to reach platinum status until 2002, and The Source awarded it a retrospective five mics in 1998. Selling 420,000 copies its first year, it only managed to peak at No. 23 on the Billboard chart.
Unable to draw interest from labels, Hov created his own Roc-A-Fella imprint with Damon “Dame” Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke to release the project that would eventually springboard his ever lucrative career.
The album is now considered by many to be Jay Z’s finest work detailing hustling, lavish lifestyles and the culpability associated with living a life of sin. Recorded at D&D Studios in Manhattan, legendary beatmakers Ski Beatz, DJ Premier and Clark Kent helped provide a classic backdrop filled with Jazzy pianos and brass.
Not only did the final product introduce the rap game to one of the greatest self-made MCs of all time, but it also paved the way for the future Roc dynasty consisting of Memphis Bleek, Freeway, Beanie Sigel and Kanye West. Even more noteworthy was the fact that it marked the end of Jay’s drug dealing and the beginning of his life as a full-time musician.
“I officially quit during the recording process of Reasonable Doubt. I had been trying to hold on to two branches, and I said, ‘I’m going to put my all into the music, to make a legitimate life for myself.’ I never turned back,” Jay told The Guardian in 2010.
Keep clicking to discover ten facts about the iconic album.