June 25, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Jay Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt, and celebrations of Hov’s introduction to Hip-Hop have swamped rap culture for the duration of the week. In order to get in on the memorialization, Genius’ Rob Markman hooked up with Roc-a-Fella co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke for an insightful look into the album’s and Jay’s earliest days.
Even if fans know the particulars that went into making one of rap’s most celebrated albums, the conversation provides some key talking points that even diehards will appreciate. Biggs mentions that upon first meeting Jigga—which was initiated by Dame Dash, who was put onto Jay through DJ Clark Kent—he wasn’t totally impressed, especially since Jay’s rhyme style was a less-than-impressive Das EFX tongue-twisting copycat. “You know Das EFX had a little bit more going, they had some bigger songs,” he says. “It wasn’t probably until I heard In My Lifetime I knew that he was that guy.”
Here are some of the key points that Biggs highlights throughout the clip.
• The distribution deal Roc-a-Fella signed with Priority Records seemed like a sweetheart deal at first. Jay Z, Dame Dash, and Biggs thought they owned 80 percent of everything, but only they only got “80 percent of his piece,” which left them with $30,000 or $40,000 instead of $3 million or $4 million.
• Biggs confirmed he inspired the line “we don’t lease, we buy the whole car, as you should,” on “Can I Live,” which was based off a piece of advice Biggs gave Jay around the time of recording.
• The Roc-a-Fella camp were never marijuana smokes, according to Biggs, only “drinkers, we drank heavy.” Biggs provided a great anecdote about buying out the bar of Cristal during Mad Wednesdays, which were hosted by Maria Davis, whose was featured on “22 Two’s,” serving the bottles up in baskets and garbage cans.
• Biggs confirms the existence of the Jay Z B-side “95 South.” He says that the track was DJ Clark Kent’s favorite. Unfortunately, the early Jay Z track never made the final tracklisting.
Watch the whole thing above, and then go spin the LP in honor of Hova.