Album Review | JAY-Z – Reasonable Doubt

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Y’all remember how when Kanye West was about to drop The Life Of Pablo I had to rush to get all of his albums done beforehand? That’s exactly what’s happening right now with JAY-Z. He just announced that his next album, 4:44, will be released on June 30th. It’s entirely produced by No I.D., and will of course be exclusive to Tidal. So yeah. It’s impossible for me to review every single album before 4:44 comes out, but I’m gonna try to finish at least one album every single day, so you shouldn’t have to wait too long for my thoughts on it. I was able to finish Kanye’s discography pretty quickly, so I doubt this’ll be too hard. Speaking of Kanye, I’ll also finally be reviewing Watch The Throne once I get to that point chronologically. Anyway, this album was released on June 25th in the year of our Lord 1996. It’s often mentioned as one of the best Hip Hop albums of all time, and it’s a lot of people’s favorite JAY-Z album, and, from what I’ve heard, it’ll probably end up being my favorite album from him too. As a lot of you may know, I’ve never really been much of a JAY-Z fan. I’m really not that familiar with most of his work. I’ve only heard some of the big singles. I’ve always thought of JAY-Z as one of the most average & generic MC’s who just happens to be lucky enough to work with the best producers. I guess it kinda makes sense that I’d think he’s generic if damn near ever other MC uses his music as a prototype. I just find a lot of his content boring. His flow is cool a lot of the time, but not enough so that it makes him standout amongst other rappers in my opinion. I also think his voice can be really fucking annoying. I don’t think he’s a bad musician tho. I just don’t think he’s that great as an actual MC. Obviously when you factor in things like success and the ability to make well-written songs he stands out more. It’s just incredibly rare that I’m impressed with his skill when it comes to actually rapping. That’s not the case for this album tho. On all the songs I’ve heard from this project, he was actually rapping like he was really trying. It really sounds like a completely different artist. Before I’d heard any of these songs, if you would’ve played this shit I would have no idea who it was. So yeah, I think I’m gonna really like this album.

Track 1: Can’t Knock The Hustle Feat. Mary J. Blige (Prod. Knobody, Dahoud Darien & Sean Cane)

Can't Knock The Hustle

I know I’ve heard this song before in the past, but I don’t really remember anything about it. Alright, here we go. It’s starting now. I’m not sure who this guy on the intro is, but he’s doing a pretty shitty Tony Montana impression. He’s pretty much just setting the tone of the project. There’s gonna be a lot of coke Rap on this bitch. This beat is great. Jay’s flow is smoother than fuck. The hook from Mary J. Blige is fine. The second verse was cool. I don’t know what it is about Jay, but he’s just such a boring rapper to me. Frankly I find his arrogant demeanor really obnoxious. I’ve never had that problem with Kanye tho. I just don’t understand why everyone seems to think he’s as cool as he thinks he is. I mean, yeah, he has a lot of confidence, but so does fucking Donald Trump. Well, Donald Trump actually seems pretty fucking insecure. That was a poor comparison… Whatever it doesn’t really matter. Even tho I just “hated” on Jay, I like this song. The final verse was really nice. I’m not in love with this track, but I think it’s pretty good. I definitely don’t see any reason to hate it. This is dope to me.

Track 2: Politics As Usual (Prod. Ski)

This beat is really dope. Jay’s flow is really great on this first verse. The hook is nothing special, but it does it’s job. I definitely like this track more than the previous one so far. There’s not really much to complain about. It’s got a really simplistic structure. It’s just three really good verses over a dope beat. I’m not completely blown away, but I still think this is a great song. I really liked his flow on this track, and he had some cool lines in there too. That Three Blind Mice line was great. The song just ended. This is a really dope track. Again, there’s not really too much for me to say since it’s got such a simplistic structure, but I really enjoyed it. This is great.

Track 3: Brooklyn’s Finest Feat. The Notorious B.I.G. (Prod. DJ Clark Kent)

The fake ass Tony Montana guy is back. “OKAY, I’M RELOADEEED!” I fucking love that shit. I don’t know what it is about that line, but I always thought it was funny. I’ve never even listened to this song, but I’ve heard that line. The actual song’s starting now. Huh… Honestly, I’m really not crazy about this beat. Jay & Biggie are trading bars back and forth. This is really dope. The way they’re bouncing lines off of each other is cool. The hook from DJ Clark Kent is nothing special. I’m not gonna lie… This is kind of disappointing. I mean, I think this is a good song, but I was expecting a song with Biggie to be amazing. This is just good to me tho. I think Biggie did better on this track than Jay, but I don’t think he completely smoked him. They complimented each other really well. Their flows are smooth as hell. The song just ended. Yeah… Lmao. People are gonna murder me for this blasphemy. I like the song, but I’m not completely in love with it. This is just a good song to me. It’s not amazing. I like it, but it’s not my favorite track on the album. It’s dope tho.

Track 4: Dead Presidents II (Prod. Ski)

Dead Presidents.jpg

This is definitely the most popular track from this album. I’ve never actually listened to this song, but I’ve heard people freestyle over the beat, and I know it samples… Wait a minute. What the fuck am I talking about? I HAVE heard this song before. I’ve only heard it like once or twice, and it was back when I was still in 10th grade, but I’ve definitely heard it. Ah fuck it. It really doesn’t matter if I’ve heard it or not. It’s starting now. First of all, this is one of the greatest beats of all time. It’s fucking phenomenal. I think this first verse is definitely the best verse on the album so far too. He really killed this shit.

Hospital dazed, reflectin’ when my man laid up / On the uptown high block he got his side sprayed up / I saw his life slipping; this is a minor setback / Yo, still in all we livin’, just dream about the get-back / That made him smile, though his eyes said “pray for me” / I’ll do you one better and slay these niggas faithfully.

The hook is notorious for sampling Nas’ line about dead presidents from The World Is Yours. In the classic diss track, Takeover, JAY-Z claims that he took Nas’ hot line and made it a hot song. I really don’t think it’s that good of a diss tho… I mean… The World Is Yours is far superior to Dead Presidents in my opinion. I don’t see how Jay taking one line from Nas and using it as inspiration for another song is a bad thing for Nas. I don’t know; maybe I’m just overthinking it. I don’t even really think the sample sounded that good with this beat tho. You can hear the beats from each song clashing with each other. Jay should’ve just rapped that line himself if he couldn’t get Nas to do it. I’m just nitpicking tho. The second verse was great. The third verse was really good too. I think this is definitely one of Jay’s best songs. It’s dope af.

Track 5: Feelin’ It (Prod. Ski)

Feelin' It

I know I’ve heard this track before. I remember this hook. This song has an uncredited feature from Mecca, who sang the hook. I actually really like it too. It doesn’t really sound like the kinda thing I’d normally like, but I think she did a really good job. She sounds great. The beat is dope af. Damn. This is really dope. Shit. I might like this track even more than the previous one to be honest. I love the hook & production, and Jay’s flow is really nice. This song sounds really happy, but in a good way. This one’s goin’ in the happy playlist. I really love this hook from Mecca. She did a fantastic job. The second verse was dope, and I loved the third verse. That line about his mom’s nightmares was awesome. This is my favorite track so far. This is dope af.

Track 6: D’Evils (Prod. DJ Premier)

This beat is dope af. God I love Primo. Jay’s flow is really dope all over this whole album. The way he rides these beats is so smooth. He really makes it sound effortless. The first verse was great. The samples Primo scratched for the hook sound really good. See, THIS is the kinda shit I like from Jay. He’s actually rapping about interesting shit. I get bored hearing him brag about how cool he is and how much money he makes. This shit right here is creative and engaging tho. The second verse was awesome. Goddamn. That last couplet is some of the hardest shit I’ve ever heard.

Stop screaming; you know the demon said it’s best to die / And even if Jehovah witness bet he’ll never testify.

That’s so fucking awesome. I have zero problems with this track. This shit is dope af.

Track 7: 22 Two’s (Prod. Ski)

This beat is nice. Okay, this is actually pretty impressive. As you can probably guess from the title, he’s taking advantage of the “two/to/too” homonym, and using it as many times as he can in this verse. He just so happens to use the word 22 times in the first verse. I coulda did without this line here.

Too many bitches wanna be ladies / So if you a ho, I’m a call you a ho / Too many bitches are shady / Too many ladies give these niggas too many chances / Too many brothers wannabe lovers don’t know what romance is.

Aside from the last line, this is pretty fucking stupid. He starts off with the typical 90s rap slut-shaming cliché, which is to be expected unfortunately, but then he goes on to shit on women for not assuming every single guy they meet is trash. That’s so annoying. People seem to always find a way to get mad at the woman. If a woman gets raped they say “well she shouldn’t have been dressed like that” or “boys will be boys,” but if a woman states the fact that “men are trash” they act like they’re super offended. I just don’t get how someone can be bothered by a woman saying something like that. Has anyone ever met a woman who literally hates all men and treats them like shit when she seems them? If you really get offended by people saying “men are trash,” you’re probably the kinda person they have in mind. It can’t go both ways. If someone says “women are trash,” it’s not gonna be taken the same way because there’s no woman on this planet who hasn’t ever been treated unfairly or differently in general because of her gender. Men say that women can use sex to take advantage of men, but that really says more about guys than it does about girls. At the end of the day, the example of a woman having an advantage is her using her body to please MEN. Wow. Why the fuck am I talking about this? Wait a minute what the fuck? What even caused me to start talking about this? I completely forgot what I was talking about… Jesus… Oh okay, yeah. Lmao. It’s because of that line I quoted. Well, aside from that the first verse was really fuckin’ nice to me. The beat is dope af by the way. I don’t think I mentioned that. I’m sorry for going back to this, but I just wanna make one more point… Am I the only one who finds it a little ironic that Jay’s claiming that other men don’t know what romance is, when literally two lines earlier he was calling women bitches? I mean… It seems like it should be obvious that calling someone a bitch is one of the least romantic things you could possibly do. People who disagree should try it. Next time you’re on a date with a girl, or you’re just trying to get in her pants, call her a bitch. See if things end well for you. Okay, I think the review for this track has enough feminist rhetoric to piss off my readers. Let’s move on. Lol. So for the hook he uses A Tribe Called Quest’s classic “Can I Kick It?” chant. I love that shit. That hook is infallible. It sounds good on any song. Well, I shouldn’t say that. It would sound really out of place on a song like February by Elzhi. That was a really random example. I couldn’t think of any other songs tho. God, I love that track… Anyway, the second verse was… Uh…

Too many faggot niggas clocking my spending / Exercising your gay-like minds like Richard Simmons.

Yeah… That’s definitely the worst line in the whole album so far. I’m not surprised by Jay saying something like that—after all this is a 90s Mafioso Rap album—but I’m not gonna pretend I don’t have a problem with it. He also ditched the whole “two” homophone gimmick for this verse. Honestly… I don’t know about this track. I love the production, and the first verse was dope. There are just so many flaws tho… It’s also not one of those tracks that’s just so good that I feel the desire to look past the offensive or ignorant lines. It’s a cool song, but I’d rather just hear a better rapper spitting over this beat. Like Nas. Man, imagine Nas ripping this beat apart. That’d be a dream come true. If someone like Royce used this beat for a Bar Exam track that’d be great too. I don’t know. I really wanna like this song, but it’s just… I don’t know. I feel like it’s a good song, but I just can’t really see myself wanting to hear this again. Aside from the production, this wasn’t really doing too much for me. It’s cool tho.

Track 8: Can I Live (Prod. Irv Gotti)

Can I Live?

This beat is dope af. Those horns sound fantastic. The strings that come in after the first few bars sound really nice too. The first verse was nice. The hook is fine. Man… I’m getting frustrated. Lmao. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t see what everybody loves about this guy. I don’t think he’s wack or anything. He can definitely rap, but… The GREATEST of ALL time? REALLY? Honestly I don’t know if Jay would even find a spot in my top 100. I don’t know what I’m missing. There’s obviously a huge disconnect for me. I guess once you get to a certain point you gotta accept that certain things just aren’t for you. Jay is the only rapper who I have this problem with tho. Whenever people are listing their top 5 rappers, I can understand why they’d put Em, or 3K, or Nas, or Biggie, or even Pac. Jay is just so painfully standard to me tho. Absolutely nothing stands out about him to me. I mean his flow is pretty nice on this album so far, but it’s nothing special compared to a plethora of other things. I don’t think there’s a single thing Jay does that certain rappers couldn’t do better. Jay doesn’t have the best flow. He doesn’t have the best writing. He doesn’t have the best wordplay. He doesn’t have the best rhyme schemes. He doesn’t have the best content. He doesn’t even have the best delivery. The best thing about him to me is his beat selection, and he’s not even the best at that either. Joe Budden recently said that everyone born before the year 1994 should have Jay in their top 10. I was born in ’98. I’ve literally never been a fan of the idea that age affects your enjoyment of certain types of entertainment. Shit if you really think about it, it doesn’t even really make sense to just write this off as an age thing because there are a shit ton of people my age who adore Jay. I don’t know. And don’t take this the wrong way; I like JAY-Z. However, it’s obvious at this point that I don’t view him the same way the majority of other Hip Hop fans do. I’d never say someone’s wrong for having Jay as their favorite rappers. First of all, opinions by definition can’t be wrong. I can’t have a problem with it at all tho; Jay’s contributed so much to the industry that I’d be a fucking dumbass to just write off everything he does. While I may not personally be able to enjoy it the same way everyone else does, I can still appreciate the impact he has. Jesus I feel like I just wrote the final thoughts for this whole marathon already. I got really sidetracked again. Basically the reason I said all that is because I think this is a good song, but I’m not in love with it. I enjoyed it. That’s it tho. It’s nothing more than a dope song to me. I fuck with it, but, just like with a lot of the other songs, I’m not gonna feel the need to put this shit on repeat everyday for the next week. I like it tho. It’s a good track.

Track 9: Ain’t No Nigga Feat. Foxy Brown (Prod. Jaz-O)

This beat is fine. It sounds really familiar. Maybe I’ve heard this before. I can’t really remember. The first verse was fine. His flow was cool, but this content really isn’t for me. I also can’t stand this hook. I don’t know who that is singing. I don’t like the melody, or the way their voices sound, or the lyrics. Okay, this is definitely my least favorite song on the album so far. This hook is wack af to me, and I’m not really impressed by the production. The content doesn’t interest me. The only thing I like about this track is Jay’s flow, and it’s not even really any better on this song than it is on any other track. Damn. Foxy killed this shit. She was way more entertaining on this track than Jay. Her flow was awesome. The only thing that kinda makes me hesitant about praising it is the fact that she says she wrote this verse when she was 16…

You know the pussy is all that / That’s why I get baguettes, 5 carats and all that.

Tailor made so we can lay up in the shade reminiscing / On how I fuck the best and shit.

I swear you be killing me / Playing inside my pubic hairs.

…Yeah… I don’t know how I feel about that. It’s a good verse either way tho. Just kinda… I don’t know. I mean, I guess it’s not THAT weird. It just has me wondering if JAY-Z was in a sexual relationship with a 16 year old when this song was made. I’m just gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and assume she was just rapping about some other guy or something. Anyway, this is definitely the wackest song on the album so far. I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s kinda bad tho. But it’s decent. I just kinda… I mean, I’m never listening to this shit ever again, but I don’t think it’s terrible. The verse from Foxy definitely helped. It’s mediocre to me honestly.

Track 10: Friend Or Foe (Prod. DJ Premier)

Okay, it looks like I’ve gotten all the more popular songs out of the way already. It’s kinda starting to go downhill. Hopefully it was just a slight bump in the road. This song’s starting now. This beat is dope. The way Jay’s rapping on this track is really cool. It’s like he’s a powerful gang member warning some guy who’s new in the area to stop fucking up his business. I just listened to the whole song. This is actually a really cool track. It sounds like a scene in a movie. Actually, it sounds like I’m listening to the audio of one of those video games in which the main character never actually says anything for whatever reason. This is definitely one of the most interesting songs on the album to me. I really enjoyed this. This is dope af.

Track 11: Coming Of Age Feat. Memphis Bleek (Prod. DJ Clark Kent)

Oh fucking shit. This beat is fantastic. Hmm… It sounds really familiar. I’ve either heard someone else rap over this beat, or someone used the same sample. Jay’s flow was really great on the first verse. The hook’s okay. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Memphis Bleek rap before, but his verse on this track wasn’t bad. The final verse where they were trading bars was really cool. The hook kinda sucks, but other than that I don’t really have any problems with this. I fuck with this track. It’s dope.

Track 12: Cashmere Thoughts (Prod. DJ Clark Kent)

This beat is okay. I’m a little over halfway through the song right now. Honestly… This one isn’t doing much for me. His flow is cool. The production’s not doing anything for me. I really like the structure of this song, and the actual rapping from Jay was nice, but something about this track just isn’t pulling me in. I just can’t bring myself to care about anything he’s saying. It may also have something to do with his voice to be honest. I just find his voice really irritating. I wanna like this song. I just don’t tho. It’s boring to me. Jay’s flow is the only thing that pulls me in. It’s a decent song tho. Nothing about it is bad. It’s just not entertaining me for whatever reason.

Track 13: Bring It On Feat. Sauce Money & Jaz-O (Prod. DJ Premier)

This song was apparently supposed to feature Nas & AZ originally. I’m not exactly sure what prevented it from happening. This skit at the beginning of the track is annoying as hell. Sauce Money’s on the first verse. His flow kinda reminds me of Nas. This beat is great. Sauce Money’s verse was dope. I really like this Fat Joe sample they flipped for the hook. Jay had a really good verse. The way he came in sounded really cool, and his flow was great. Oh shit. Jaz-O killed this shit. His flow was fantastic. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album in my opinion. I would’ve loved to hear Nas & AZ on this shit, but Sauce Money & Jaz-O did a good job. This is dope af to me.

Track 14: Regrets (Prod. Peter Panic)

Alright, finally. This album was a chore to get through for me. Lmao. I can’t wait to see the angry comments on this shit. This song’s starting now. This beat is dope af. Woow. This is fucking racist. Lmao. Jesus Christ, Jay.

One of these buyers got eyes like a Korean / It’s difficult to read ’em / The windows to his soul were half closed; I put the key in / Pulled off slow, hopin’ my people fleein’ / Chink tried to knock the only link that tied me in.

Why. I’ve noticed that whenever a rapper says something racist it’s always either about Jewish people or Asian people. What the fuck is that about? I guess there aren’t as many Jewish & Asian people in the hoods that a lot of rappers grow up in. That doesn’t justify it tho. It would’ve been bad enough even if he didn’t use a racial slur. What a fucking dick. Aside from that the verse was great. The hook is dope af too.

This is the number one rule for your set / In order to survive, gotta learn to live with regrets / And through our travels we get separated; never forget / In order to survive, gotta learn to live with regrets.

This is the most introspective song on the album. He’s actually showing some emotion for once. Maybe that’s what the problem is. He’s too cool. I like nerdy rappers like Childish Gambino & Kanye West. JAY-Z just seems like he’s that cool guy that nobody really relates to, but they all still view him as this perfect guy who never makes mistakes. There are mistakes all over this album tho. I guess I’ve never really liked rappers who are too confident. I liked Drake before he became such a douchebag. I just don’t see the appeal in braggadocio. I feel like I’ve loved albums where the artist I’m talking about is super cocky tho. I don’t know what it is about people like JAY-Z & Drake that is so off-putting to me. Hopefully I’ll figure it out by the time I’m done with this marathon. Anyway, this is definitely one of the best songs on the album in my opinion. It would’ve been far better if it wasn’t for those bizarrely racist lines in the first verse, but it’s still really enjoyable as a whole. This is dope af.

Final Thoughts:

This album is great. I know there were a lot of long stretches in this review where I was very critical of Jay as an MC, but this album is exceptional. I honestly don’t even think I was that critical of him to be honest. I pretty much just said that personally he rarely interests me. It says a lot that I feel that way about him, but still loved this album. This album needs to be heard by everyone, and I fucked up for waiting so long to listen to it. Even if you’re not much of a JAY-Z fan, I think you’ll be glad you listened to this. Even if there’s somehow not a single track on this album that you like, it’s really cool to see how hard he fell off after this one. Lmaooo. I’m just messing with y’all. I mean, I personally feel like his rapping changed negatively after this album, but it’s not really wack. It’s just less good. If I ever word my opinions in a disrespectful way, I’m mostly just trying to piss off Jay’s fans. I’m a borderline Nas stan, so that should probably be taken into account when you read my JAY-Z reviews. I just don’t get how anyone could like Jay more than Nas tho. I wouldn’t wanna hear Jay on any of the Illmatic beats, but I’d much rather hear Nas rap over any of the Reasonable Doubt beats. That’s just me tho. Lemme go ahead and stop this shit before I get more attention than I can handle. All you need to know is this album is great, and that’s coming from someone who has never been a fan of Jay. It’s dope.

Favorite Song: Feelin’ It

Least Favorite Song: Ain’t No Nigga

Verdict:

B+

80-89

Watch the video below for more thoughts on this album

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3 comments

  1. I agree for the most part. Jay just had the luck of emcees like Big Pun, Big L and BIG passing away so the mainstream heads could crown him as King Of NY.

    I’ve never been a fan of Jay. (Personal bias speaking as a West Coast head lol), this project is overrated as fuck! Beats are good, but Jay just has always had a terrible delivery and lazy flow imo. It’s a fairly decent project, but not it’s not in my top 10. I’d personally give this joint a 7.5/10.

    To refute your comments on 22 Two’s and Regrets.

    1. I’ve met my fair share of scandalous ass girls who are complete and total manipulators who had various boys wrapped around their fingers and managed to ruin friendships within weeks. So I can understand that rage towards certain women whose only intent is for a quick payday, get a baby daddy because they’re too lazy to get a job themselves.

    2. Go to any hood in America and I guarantee you’ll find a weave shop, liquor store, owned by an Asian American or Jewish person taking money from folks and not putting money back into said communities and helping support (insert Hood here).

    Great Job Nick!

    Liked by 1 person

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