20 years ago, a young man by the name of Shawn Carter released one of the most important debut albums that we’ve listened to in our lifetimes. Reasonable Doubt quite possibly changed the course of hip-hop catapulting the career of Jay-Z, who at the time was only known as the Jaz’s sidekick. From the album cover to the songs featured on this album, this record is the greatest re-branding that has ever been done in the world of hip-hop, to the point that no one remembers this.

At the time the labels didn’t realize what they had and neither did critics because it was so far removed from who Jay was at the time. As a young rookie in 96, everyone knew that he had talent, but he wasn’t cool. He definitely wasn’t the guy we spent the 2000s with, who dictated the course of pop culture and rap for so long that it’s weird to not imagine him at the top anymore. Reasonable Doubt only earned 4 mics from The Source when other New York rap acts like Nas and A Tribe Called Quest got 5 mics slapped on their debut projects from ’94 and ’90, respectively. Jay’s album had only sold 420,000 copies by the end of 1996 during the years when albums received platinum plaques like they were giving them away. People really just thought it was a “solid album” but no one could have imagined the longevity that Reasonable Doubt would be ultimately capable of. In 2016, however, it’s hard to find an album that has aged with the grace of Jay’s debut project. And as its legend grew, so did that of Jay-Z, as you could see that the album was the embodiment of his career till now. Smooth, eloquent and with a clear vision on the horizon that he’s reaching for, this album is an important insight into the career of Jigga and is also an important chapter in the hip-hop history books.

Cause you can’t knock the hustle.