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When Reasonable Doubt was created, it’s been said that Jay-Z had only wanted to put out one album. Living in the Marcy Project out in Brooklyn, NY., the goal of the then 26-year-old was to get his independent label Roc-A-Fella records off the ground alongside business partners Damon Dash & Kareem “Biggs” Burke and get out the streets. Here we are twenty years later celebrating the anniversary of Sean Carter’s sophomore album, In My Lifetime, Vol. One.

Released just 17 months after his debut, things had changed dramatically. Hip Hop had just suffered the death of Brooklyn rapper The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z had joined Def Jam records, and the atmosphere of Hip Hop had turned rather flashy. Nonetheless, this shift had change what Hip Hop would later become.; all about the money, cars, clothes … even, hoes.

Photo: Sue Kwon, Jay-Z, 1997

Though we got to know Jay-Z on Reasonable Doubt, his sophomore LP, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 takes on the journey of a still rather young Sean Corey Carter who is still finding himself musically.

With “Sunshine” serving as Jay-Z’s first single, the radio hit that featured Foxy Brown and Baby Face didn’t do as well as Def Jam thought. The flashy visual directed by Hype Williams copying Bad Boy’s formula that just didn’t suit the Marcy Projects rapper, in which later, Kareem “Biggs” Burke would agree.

“We were following Puff at that time. We were following what they were doing, and then Hype put all those funny cameras on us and the shiny stuff,” said Burke in an interview with Complex.

It was corny. [Laughs.] We know that, we look back and laugh. We all make mistakes. But the body of work was good, and that’s what’s important. We still had songs like “Streets Is Watching,” “Face Off,” and “Where I’m From” on there.

Minus the flashy records like “Sunshine” and “I Know What Girls Like,” we still get the Jay-Z we all know and love on records like “Streets Is Watching,” “Where I’m From.” and “Friend or Foe ’98,” but it didn’t dismiss the fact the album as a whole, didn’t have the hunger the Brooklyn native brought to us on his debut.

In an interview with MTV back in 1998, Jay-Z states that he simply just didn’t enjoy recording the project.

“The album to me — this album wasn’t fun to me like Reasonable Doubt, because it was like, it seemed really slow to me, and I didn’t set out to do that,  just looking back now and listening to it now.”

After the release of In My Lifetime, Vol. One, Jay-Z may have realized that the album just didn’t work – despite it later becoming certified platinum by the RIAA. Once realizing the flashy lifestyle just wasn’t for him, he was able to rediscover himself, which is why yet another year later, he was able to come out with Hard Knock Life, Volume Two; where he not only was himself but was able to finally produce a commercially successful album.

Back in 2013, Jay-Z took to his Life And Times Website his ranking of all 12 albums, with Volume One coming in 7th, with the caption, “Sunshine kills this album…fuck… Streets, Where I’m from, You Must Love Me…”

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