Jay-Z’s Pre-Reasonable Doubt Demo Tape Surfaces, Ch-Check It Out (Audio)

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Before he was regarded in Rap’s most elite lyrical circles, and long before he was a sports agent, franchise owner, or mega-million executive, Jay-Z was just another rapper hungry for an opportunity. Before the Brooklyn, New Yorker would form his own Roc-A-Fella Records imprint with Dame Dash and Kareem Biggs, he was hustling, battling, and shopping around demo tapes like most early ’90s hopefuls.

Recently, one of Jay’s old demo tapes—with certain songs said to be circa 1988 and others early 90’s–surfaced online, and it brings us back to the days when Jay was more man than legend.  The audio quality is significantly low compared to his studio recordings, but that’s expected considering this is pre-Reasonable Doubt, made at a time when Rap music recordings lived on cassette tape and vinyl, much more than the emerging compact disc.


The demo features 10 songs; five of which are Jay Z rapping on his own, and five with him rapping alongside Sauce Money, who later made multiple guest appearances on Jay’s first three albums—in addition to guest work for Big Daddy Kane’s Daddy’s Home LP in 1994.  There are however no signs of Jay’s old mentor Jaz-O, which suggests that there are likely more early demo tapes that haven’t seen the light of day. The raw, fast-paced rapping style Jay was known for early in his career is prominent throughout the tape.  Stream the demo tape for free below:

If Jay Z would have been signed at this time, how do you think things would have gone differently?

Related: Sometimes I Rap Fast, Sometimes I Rap Slow: The Evolution Of Jay Z’s Flow (Food For Thought)