A 1993 JAY-Z Battle Shows He Was Already Dope Beyond A Reasonable Doubt (Video)

Back in the early 1990s, before many MCs had coveted record deals, they got their profiles up and buzzes hot through battling. This is the position JAY-Z was in back in 1993, as he was still two years away from founding his independent label, Roc-A-Fella Records, and was only known for his growing list of guest appearances with other artists. He would spit rapid-fire freestyles during interludes at Big Daddy Kane’s live shows, and appeared in music videos by Jaz-O and Ski Beatz’ Original Flavor.

Some rare VHS footage shows a young JAY-Z battling at the 1993 New Music Seminar in New York, and it could quite possibly be the first taped battle of Shawn Carter for public consumption. Spitting in that same rapid-fire style he was known for back then, JAY-Z is joined by his future Roc-A-Fella co-founder Dame Dash, as well as DJ Clark Kent, who hosted DJ battles at the New Music Seminar, and would go on to produce three songs on JAY-Z’s 1996 debut album, Reasonable Doubt. The footage is a humble reminder of the raw skill it took to become known in the New York Hip-Hop scene back then.

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The rhymes Jay spits at the top were used in one of his records, “Greatest MC,” produced by Clark. After the Marcy Projects alum raps: “It hit you like bam biggity bam bam biggity bam / The kid is a wizard, I’m definitely destined to make eight digits / Met up with G Rap on the road to riches,” he commands “stop!” The moment silences Clark and Dame, as Jay proceeds to serve 60 seconds of competitive content that lets his challenger know he is on his way to the top.

#BonusBeat: Also to drop in 1993 would be the music video for Original Flavor’s “Can I Get Open” featuring JAY-Z.

It is one of the first songs that brought together JAY-Z and DJ Clark Kent and would hook JAY-Z up with producer Ski Beatz. Ski would go on to produce JAY-Z’s debut single, “In My Lifetime,” as well as four songs that appeared on the classic Reasonable Doubt.