Album: Reasonable Doubt

The original version of “Dead Presidents” never made Jay’s debut Reasonable Doubt, but “Dead Presidents II” did and served as the sequel to his promo street single. With alternate lyrics, Jay hopped on the mafioso wave that was consuming the rap scene at the time. Over a beautiful piano sample from Lonnie Smith’s “A Garden of Peace,” Jigga delivers Roc-A-Fella’s thesis. He had a different aura about him that demanded instant respect from his peers; the Roc’s do-it-yourself bravado is what made Biggie gravitate towards Jay’s inner circle. The Nas sample ended up biting him in the ass later down the road, however, his early career references to the God MC were ultimately a show of respect. “Dead Presidents II” could’ve been taught in finance classes; it's an exercise in astute accounting and its lines about stacking bread are spoken amongst hustlers trying to make something of themselves. “Stack chedda forever, live treacherous, all the et ceteras.” —Angel Diaz