19 Years Ago Today Jay-Z & Biggie Smalls Showed Why They Were Brooklyn’s Finest (Audio)

Although it was never a Reasonable Doubt single, “Brooklyn’s Finest” helped make Jay Z’s debut album a milestone album. Released 19 years ago today (June 25, 1996) the moment would serve as the first collaboration between Jay and his fellow George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School attendee, The Notorious B.I.G.

On a track by one of both MC’s mentors, DJ Clark Kent, the pair of budding twenty-something lyricists would put on for Brooklyn, New York. The two wordsmiths would use the moment to signal a new evolution in the BK sound. Several years removed from Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, and even Enta Da Stage, this presentation showed a grimier BK, where it wasn’t beat-downs as much as shoot-outs.

Released into a summer where “California Love” was still spreading, Biggie Smalls spit careful lines, that fueled the flames of a widely-perceived East/West beef. The Notorious B.I.G. downright mentions ‘Pac by name, laughing at the “Hit ‘Em Up” barbs, and cleverly referencing the “Nautica” shirts that ‘Pac and Tha Outlawz wore in the fiery diss video.

Jay Z, who was a relative newcomer to the mainstream Rap-record-buying community, puts his finest foot forward. After all, it’s his album. The longtime friend of Biggie seems to challenge his neighborhood rival in the dazzling rhymes, slick wordplay, and mafiaso tactic references.

From Marcy to Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene to East New York, this song unified a borough—with four others all taking a stake. At a time when Shaolin, Harlem, Queensbridge, and Strong Island all had strong senses of pride in Rap, Jay and B.I.G. amplified Brooklyn’s presence, with two of Hip-Hop’s most versatile voices, laying down lyrics that had mainstream media appeal, street sensibilities, and polished production.

This tandem would come back together one year later for “I Love The Dough.” However, tragedy shortened what would have inevitably been an exciting run of Jay Z and Biggie Smalls collaborations to come.

Is this one of the most important non-single album songs of the last 20 years?

For the upcoming 2015 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival (July 11), Ambrosia For Heads is proud to give away our first pair of passes to see Common, Mobb Deep, Freeway, Skyzoo, Charles Hamilton, and others. The first responding Instagram user who can correctly answer the question below will win. The tickets will be free, but the winner will be responsible for travel, lodging and any other related expenses. The hash-tag “#BkHipHopFest” must be used, along with including @bkhiphopfest and @ambrosia4heads.

Here’s the question:

Besides Jay Z, The Notorious B.I.G., and producer DJ Clark Kent, whose voice can be heard on “Brooklyn’s Finest”?

Purchase tickets to the 2015 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival.

Check out other Ambrosia For Heads’ “Do Remember” pieces.

Related: Common, Mobb Deep, Freeway & More Set to Perform at The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival