Label: Roc-A-Fella
Release Date: 6/25/1996

Chris Rock once said he both loved and hated Reasonable Doubt. "I love it 'cause it's Jay's best record-best beats, best flow," he said. "And I hate it 'cause since it came out every rap record is trying to copy it." Fair enough, but who can really blame them. The term "street-wise hustler" even become a cliche, especially in a time when mafioso rap was become so popular. But here, Jay-Z took the term and raised it to a whole other pedigree.

On his debut, Jay-Z displayed the signature Marcy Avenue-built confidence that would make him a star. Hov perfected this persona in the classic The Blueprint, but Reasonable Doubt trumped that album with its thematic and lyrical complexity. Jay-Z expertly displays the dichotomy of a hustler on some of the best tracks of his career. The album has quotables for days: "Murder is a tough thing to digest, it's a slow process/And I ain't got nothing but time" ("Dead Presidents II"), "They say sex is a weapon/So when I shoot, meet your death in less than 8 seconds" ("Ain't No Nigga"), and many more.

This was a young and hungry Jay-Z, and no one could knock his hustle.