In The Mix: Reasonable Doubt Turns 21 and Philly's Funk!

Reasonable Doubt -- Jay Z: Beyond reasonable doubt, Jay-Z’s 1996 debut album asserted his important place within the rap game for the next 20-plus years. Jay’s voice is so clearly distinct, so confident and sure. With every sound and rap he recites, Jay commits to this narrative — I am the best and I don’t care whether you agree or not.

The album is introduced with the distinct opening dialect dealing with a cocaine drug deal operation. The music in "Can’t Knock the Hustle," begins after this drug dealer states a very striking line:  “...is gonna stick your heads up your asses faster than rap gets fucked.” The song carries a great beat, where Jay covers what life is like as a bona fide hustler. He reiterates in this track, as well as throughout the entire album that life is indubitably a hustle — and Jay-Z will continue to hustle to the top. Mary J. Blige supports the great beat with her powerful background vocals.  

Jay is able to make us hang onto each word. We believe what ever it is he tells us — even on his debut album, before he was known as one of the great pioneers of rap. Jay continues to lay the groundwork of his ever-lasting career with the second track on the album, "Politics As Usual." Here, the beat has more magnetic qualities and more complex features thanks to producer Ski on the track. Jay is still the center of attention, however the beat certainly helps his overall delivery, adding groovy horn instruments and giving him the option to spit slowly and quickly interchangeably.

The album really picks up with the popular "Brooklyn’s Finest," featuring Biggie Smalls. This song is potentially the most exciting, thrilling and loud. Jay and Biggie erupt throughout the entire song, making sure listeners understand who Brooklyn’s finest really are over a mighty fine beat. This is the 90s rap we all knew, the era of rap we all remember and cherish dearly that emerged along with Jay, Nas, Biggie and more. "Dead Presidents," further stresses this authentic affliction Jay has faced throughout his life. A graceful piano tune sampled from Lonnie Liston Smith is featured in the heavy song, with incredibly strong verses.

Heavy topics come to follow in "D’evils," where Jay explores the demons in his life over a beat produced by DJ Premier. To complete the pensive debut album, "Regrets," will fill your ears and you’ll receive a realness from Jay that we only got just a taste of in the other tracks on Reasonable Doubt. The track follows a slowed, relaxed beat with Jay really exploring who he is and wants to be as a hustler, rapper and man. “In order to survive/got to learn to live with regrets.” ‘Regrets,’ of Z’s past resurface in the track to deliver us the full palpable experience.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt, you’ll be motivated to get up and dance to several songs on the album, and encouraged to really listen to Z’s words in other tracks. Reasonable Doubt turned 21 this past year, proving how vast and triumphant Jay-Z’s career has been since its 1996 release. Z is an entrepreneur, rapper, artist, father, husband, visionary and hustler.

Cosmo Baker & Baker Law at the Boiler Room: Alike Z’s Reasonable Doubt, the atmosphere at the Boiler Room in Philadelphia is easily defined from the beginning. Cosmo begins with ensuing rock/soul music that gradually builds into remixed funky dance music. Cosmo immediately separates himself from any other producer; mixing classic rock with rap, funk, and dance—How exactly? That’s what we call musical intuition, or talent rather.

The boiler room is a special place to be, as Law and Baker put on a set that no one can relate anything with. One of the few boiler room sets that people of all ages would enjoy. We’re absolutely fascinated by the energy and sound put together by these two talented young DJs. Matthew takes over to continue carrying out this groovy mix.

I can’t see a still soul in the room as Matt mixes Khalid’s ‘Location,’ in with some edm-house music. From here on, the mix intensifies and intensifies. These artists are patient, yet visibly hungry. They’re hard-working, yet cool, calm and collected.

Baker and Law use several cultured dance songs, as well as popular funk songs. These two are so talented, but more importantly they know how to have fun, please a crowd and give their audience a show they have probably never experienced. Their two styles compliment each other so well, to the point where you’ll be urged to get up and boogie to their set (even if you are completely alone).

Baker and Law mix new popular R&B hits from Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak, Childish Gambino, Que and more. The two DJ's blend these popular songs with enticing rhythm, bass and funk. Toward the end of their performance, Cosmo and Matthew involve their audience, encouraging them to repeat “baby!” in dance while the two prepare for a final blow out.

The Boiler Room in Philadelphia bounces up and down in unison to Kendrick’s ‘Alright.’ Following this song, the crowd is lively and engaged, they understand to a degree what these guys set out to do with their mix boards. The two producers mastered an incredible set that had flow, character, and noticeably quality music.