Listen to Jay Z’s Pre-‘Reasonable Doubt’ Demo Tape
What did Jay Z sound like before he was Jay Z?
This Jay Z demo tape explains his origins so well.
First, lots can be said about Jay Z‘s excellent ability to adapt. From the Ski Beatz and Clark Kent nouveau jazz sound he first invoked to the Kanye and Rick Rubin stadium grandiosity that sailed him into Top-40 greatness and two semi-retirements, Jay knows how to switch it up.
Second, in ’88, he used to rhyme like the Fu-Shnickens, a frenemy once said. Meaning, he had to try on several styles before he could change clothes and don that suit and tie.
Early Shawn Carter was reminiscent of his contemporaries like Big L with perhaps a sprinkle of Sauce Money and a dash of Jaz-O. You can even hear a little Treach (Naughty by Nature) in tracks like “What’s In A Name.” Regardless of these influences, the Jigga man had undeniable dedication to getting off slick lines and condensing his wordplay inside the wrinkles of beats. The Five Percenter references and the street slang require their own glossary, and speak specifically to how much smarter his rhymes were than the package he used to deliver them.
The tape tells it best, though, so hit the play and like buttons so you can take it with you today.