Jaÿ-Z, Kareem “Biggs” Burke and Dame Dash, photographed for his debut album Reasonable Doubt by Jonathan Mannion on April 1, 1996.
When Jonathan Mannion first met Dame Dash he offered to charge the Roc-A-Fella Records team $300 less than their current lowest quote. At the time the album was known as Heir to the Throne, so Mannion prepared a regal-themed board to present to the Roc team. Just hours before the shoot Hov switched the title to Reasonable Doubt, feeling that the original was perhaps too presumptuous for a debut album. The title switch gave the listener the opportunity to decide if he was throne-worthy.
After hearing of the title change Mannion would be the one to convince Jaÿ to move from Scarface-influenced, Versace linen, Miami drug-running visuals to the now-classic New York Mafia crime theme. Mannion encouraged Jaÿ to “keep it Brooklyn” and used John Gotti collections and old police photos and murder-scenes from the 1930s and ‘40s as inspiration points. Hov, Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke went and fitted themselves out in $3,000 suits for the shoot, and brought along large amounts of cash ($150,000) and various handguns to be used as props.
The photo shoot took place on the roof of Mannion’s old apartment building, located under the Westside Highway on 72nd and Riverside in Manhattan: “Back then, it was all busted and beat up, and it fit the vibe. I knew I could get some beautifully composed shots, based on traditional cameras. So I was shooting with Hasselblads and Rolleiflexes, like press photographers did back in the Civil Rights era.”