On this day in music history: June 25, 1996 - “Reasonable Doubt”, the debut album by Jay-Z. is released. Produced by Sean Cane, DJ Clark Kent, DJ Premier, Irv Gotti, Jaz-O, Knobody, Peter Panic and Ski, it is recorded at D&D Recording Studios in New York City from Mid 1995 - January 1996. Demonstrating a natural gift for writing rhymes, with an equally masterful flow to go along with it, Jay-Z makes his debut on record in 1989 with his musical mentor Jaz-O (aka Jaz) on the single “Hawaiian Sophie”. When Jaz is dropped by his label EMI Records, Jay-Z turns to selling drugs to support himself. However, he moves away from that when other opportunities to pursue his career as a rapper materialize, appearing on tracks by Original Flavor, leading to an association with rap legend Big Daddy Kane. Along with friend and business partners Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, Jay begins selling tapes out his car, attracting the interest of hip hop label Payday Records. After releasing one single and unhappy with the way the record is promoted and marketed, Jay-Z opts not to sign with Payday, instead starting up his own label Roc-A-Fella Records with Dash and Biggs. Recruiting a team top hip hop producers including DJ Premier, Super DJ Clark Kent, and then up and coming producers Irv Gotti and Ski, Jay-Z begins recording his debut album independently. The album also features guest appearances by Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G., a then sixteen year old rapper named Foxy Brown (aka Inga Marchand), along with Roc-A-Fella signees Memphis Bleek and Sauce Money. With beats culled from semi obscure R&B, jazz and funk records, paired with Jay’s rhymes about his life coming up in the streets and his upwardly mobile aspirations, painting aural pictures that mirror the cinematic approach of contemporary gangster films like “Scarface”, “Goodfellas” and “Carlito’s Way”. The album is released after Roc-A-Fella signs a distribution deal with Priority Records. Hailed as an instant classic by the hip hop music community “Reasonable Doubt” is regarded by many as Jay-Z’s best album and one of the best albums of the 90’s. The albums breakout single “Ain’t No N*gga” featuring Foxy Brown (#4 Rap, #17 R&B, #50 Pop) (a double A-side w/ “Dead Presidents”) receives an additional boost when it is also included on the soundtrack to “The Nutty Professor”, which in turn leads to Jay-Z signing a deal with Def Jam in 1997. It spins off two additional singles including “Can’t Knock The Hustle” (w/ Mary J. Blige) (#7 Rap, #35 R&B, #73 Pop) and “Feelin’ It” (#13 Rap, #46 R&B, #79 Pop). “Reasonable Doubt” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty three on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.