Album: Reasonable Doubt
“Dead Presidents” was Jay's coming-out party. Sure, he'd guested on Big Daddy Kane and Jaz-O records, but this was his first solo endeavor to be seen by the MTV and BET crowd. So how did represent himself? With dead presidents, that's how. Jay viciously attacked this haunting piano-heavy instrumental, effortlessly displaying his meticulous wordplay. It featured hints of the rapid-fire delivery style Jay was known for in the early 90s but slowed down a few notches to mesh with his smooth kingpin persona.
When Reasonable Doubt dropped, the album included a version different from that of the video: same beat, same hook, new lyrics, equally dope. Nas was allegedly supposed to re-record the hook for part two but he left Hova high and dry, which is rumored to have sparked the Jay-Z and Nas beef.
In 2007, Jay revisited “Dead Presidents” with “DP3” a short and sweet nod to the classic that was solid but seemed unfinished. In turn it was forever banished to mixtapes. Unfortunately, it was never confirmed if Jay was still spending money from '88.
3. Jay-Z "Dead Presidents" (1996) / "Dead Presidents 2 (1996)" / "DP3" (2007)