Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt (1996)

Label: Roc-A-Fella/Priority

Pusha T: “Hov really took on the fedoras, the trenches, and the scarves. He was really talking Versace. I remember debating and arguing with my older friends—who were deep into the drug game—and they’d be like, ‘Why the fuck you like Nas?’ I’d be like, ‘He’s killing it. He’s dope.’

“They were very superficial. They couldn’t get over the fact that Nas was on TV in an army jacket. They didn’t get that, when you’ve got Hov with the diamond Jesus and the Versace t-shirt. That’s what they were living.

 

I didn’t know what Cristal was for a long time. I had no clue. The same guys I was just talking about were popping bottles of Cristal with Eazy-E. It resonated with them and I had to ask, ‘Yo, what’s that?

 

“They were like, ‘This man waited all this time to get on TV and he’s got on an army jacket? I’m telling you, Hov is the motherfucking man. He’s talking that shit.’ I related to Nas and the older guys related to Jay-Z at the time. Then they hipped me to Jay-Z. So Mobb and Rae would talk it, but they still had the aesthetic I could relate to. Jay was beyond me.

“I didn’t know what Cristal was for a long time. I had no clue. The same guys I was just talking about were popping bottles of Cristal with Eazy-E. It resonated with them and I had to ask, ‘Yo, what’s that?’

“When I got hip to it and understood what the ins and outs of what he was really saying and what it really meant... I wasn’t at that level to understand the perspective he was coming from. I related a little bit more to the Nas’ or the Mobb’s and the Raekwon’s. I didn’t really get all of that when I was debating back and forth.

“Then once I got into it, I had to get into a whole other lifestyle. Once again, these people had put me on to it. That’s when I first started stepping out. These people would take me out to the club, and I couldn’t be in the club. But they had so much money in the town, I could go in the club because I was with them.

 

That’s where the song ‘Doorman’ came from. ‘Hey doorman, line up the Cris/I’ll put my money on the roof, then crush this bitch.’ That’s what my friends used to say to the doormen, ‘I’ll take all my money and crush this bitch,’ talking about his club. That’s where all that comes from.

 

“Mind you, this is Versace and button-downs. We would go to the club and you would have to have on your Versace or collared shirt, your hard-bottoms, your pants. Think of the aesthetic of Puffy and the ballers back then. We could go and the guys I was with were so disrespectful. They would go in sweats and sneakers and they’d get a hard time at the door.

“They’d curse the guy out at the door and say, ‘Yo all the bitches in here waiting on us to come and buy their drinks anyway.’ So everybody in there spent their money on their outfit, but they ain’t got no money, and they had pockets full of money and they’d hold it up.

“That’s where the song ‘Doorman’ came from. ‘Hey doorman, line up the Cris/I’ll put my money on the roof, then crush this bitch.’ That’s what my friends used to say to the doormen, ‘I’ll take all my money and crush this bitch,’ talking about his club. That’s where all that comes from.

“When I speak of the Reasonable Doubt parallels, the older guys were entrenched in that life already. On top of that, they were really seeing these people. There’s so much that goes into the dynamic of why the people that influenced me were so caught up in it.

“Jay-Z speaks about it all the time. In one of his interviews he says, ‘I was out in Newport News.’ These guys were of his age and they were all in line.”