It hit me today that most kids may only know this clean-cut Jay.

This tailored suit wearing, businessman, post-Beyonce Jay-Z. With his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, having dropped 20 years ago, DJ Matman figured it was a debut worth exploring. After all, two decades is mighty long time, and Tumblr quotes tell me that we’re “under no obligation to be the same people we were a year, a month or even 15 minutes ago.” Jay-Z’s changed, to say the least.

He’s a husband and family man now. Twenty years changes a man, changes his music. In Jay’s case, maybe 20 years grew him up. Maybe made him more refined. Opened his mind about a few things. Twenty years did for Jay what 20 years is supposed to do.

Reasonable Doubt

When this DJ Matman mixtape auto played onto my SoundCloud timeline, I heard a young Jay I had forgotten about. “Big Daddy Kane’s hype man” Jay. According to Wax Poetics, in this tape are all things Reasonable Doubt: 

“To mark the 20th anniversary of Jay Z’s classic debut LP Reasonable Doubt, our buddy DJ Matman has put together this fine mixtape featuring album tracks, alternate versions, interview snippets, and original sample material.”

 

Reasonable Doubt was a game-changer, maybe now more so than then, and solidified a young kid’s place in the rap industry. In hindsight, it established Jay as a stand-alone artist, apart from those he came up with but still very much a result of the game that created him. Reasonable Doubt absolutely tells a story and this mixtape tells a bit of the story behind the story– the first solo chapter of a Scarface-esque “up from nothing” narrative. It went from being Jay’s lowest charting album on Billboard to being what some would argue is his best work. Check the tape below and judge for yourself how time has aged the album, and Mr. Carter, himself.

“He loved the American Dream. With a vengeance.”