Hip Hop was, and still is a huge part of my life. The good rappers, the ones with something to say are poets. Some are more articulate than others. Some take you to that place they intended their music to take you. Some make you feel part of the nightmare that they are vocalising. I love words, and anyone who has a way with words will always claim a piece of my heart. I guess my love for words comes from wishing to have the ability to have a way with words. I’m one of those twerps who, getting information from- it’s like getting blood out of a stone. If you must find out how I feel about you, ask me to write you a poem or song. Some I have found the heart to actually say it to, in my own way. Hip Hop taught me how to be honest in a way that I didn’t know a person like me could. What kind of person am I? I ask myself that more than I should. So, Hip Hop became another outlet for me during secondary school.
I got into Jay-Z’s music two years after Reasonable Doubt came out. I think I was reading Vibe magazine (I had a subscription for it, I was cool!) I was just in awe of this article about him. I was drawn into everything he said. I felt connected to a person who I had never listened to- but it was enough. So, I saved up and bought Reasonable Doubt. Within the first few weeks of owning it, I ruined it. It got scratched because I played it to death. But I knew..I just knew that I was listening to one of the greatest records ever. It goes beyond being a brilliant debut record. It became the blueprint of how Hip Hop should be, at that time. I own every Jay record. He became a massive obsession, he still is. I can quote every song on Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint. The Blueprint got me through hell and back. Song Cry broke my heart then, and it still does now. If I could list the people who influence me- Jay would be right up there. To make something out of nothing, I respect you with all I have. Do what you must, and stay true to your heart. To yourself.
I love Jay because regardless of race, religion, background, anything- you can relate to at least one of his songs. Reasonable Doubt just did something to me that maybe a teenager growing up on an Island in the middle of the Irish Sea wasn’t meant to relate to. But I could. It was the frustration and his way with words that just hit me right in the heart.
The samples used on this record are insane. It should be a crime to sample so good. My personal favourite sample has got to be The Look Of Love by Isaac Hayes on Can I Live, which is probably one of the stand-out tracks on the record, I mean check this out for a lyric:
“It gets tedious,
So I keep one eye open like, C-B-S.”
If you don’t know, the CBS logo is of one eye. Smart right? Of course. Jay doesn’t really jot down his lyrics, he memorisies them. He’s more than a rapper, more than a poet. The man is a bloody lyrical genius. Just when you think you’ve heard something stunning, he pulls out another line that just blows your mind. The songs on Reasonable Doubt cause you to pull a mental face and just nod your head to every single beat. You spot the samples, causing you to hear the original in a way that is different from to how you used to.
There’s so much honesty on this record. With the honesty comes life lessons (Regrets) and pain. This record can teach anyone all they need to know about life. From being slapped in the face with disappointment to how you deal with it. Foxy Brown and Biggie appear on this record. Big deal, right? Mary J Blige too. Going by this, there’s no way you can deny just how powerful this debut record was, and still is. It’s one that so many rappers still label as a huge influence. If Jay can do it, then anyone can? Well, maybe not. Has there really been anyone as big as him since? I’d put Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common right up there as being as influential. But Jay..Jay took it to the mainstream. Showing that Hip Hop isn’t all a big show-off stunt, you know? Theres’s so much depth, so many layers to it. You cannot ignore a movement that is louder than a battle cry.
From a personal perspective, this record caused me to go way back with Hip Hop. It fueled my obsession with Eric B & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Kurtis Blow. I went back and listened to what influenced Jay, and just studied it all. When I wasn’t doing school-work, I was researching all I could about Hip Hop. I found it to just be so brutally fascinating. I was immersed in the culture of it, and what it was capable of. It was bringing people together from all walks of life- so how on earth could this genre be classed as a menace to society? It pained me to hear people disrespect this genre by saying it was all about degrading women and bragging about what you had, and how you got it. They were missing the point. The mainstream was parading Hip Hop about in a degrading way, totally missing the point and ignoring those that were being true to the genre.
I managed to sort of fix my copy of Reasonable Doubt, it still skips a few tracks at times. But it is still one of the most important records in my life. It just drove me to be obsessed with words. How they are written down and how you say them. Jay’s lyrics on Reasonable Doubt, well..I will always stand-by declaring it shows him at his best. Sure his records after have been incredible but there is something about Reasonable Doubt that just blows my mind harder than his other records. The production is out of this world, Jay’s lyrical delivery is stunning. I could praise this record until my mouth drys and I come close to running out of words.
If you’ve heard it/own a copy, then you know just how perfect it is. It is how a debut record should be: going against everything and being unlike anything you have ever heard before.