You gotta love it. You gotta love when a plan comes together. It’s 5 o’clock in the morning, and YN’s hung over listening to Hova’s interview with Angie Martinez (Thank God for the Internet—y’all fuckers post MP3s of everything). They’re breaking the news to the Tri-state about the concert date that me and my crew already knew about. The Def Jam prez is gonna perform “Dead Presidents” and the entire Reasonable Doubt album at Radio City Music Hall on the 10-year anniversary (June 25) of the release of one of the greatest debut albums in music history. It’s an undisputed hip-hop classic, you bastards.

Still, very few of you rambunctious rap fans will be fortunate enough to attend the event. So for all of y’all, we proudly present our patented The Making of… and an exclusive mag sit-down with Hovito himself on his career jump-off. Quite a consolation prize, huh? We got it covered from top to bottom. You wanna know what went down in the studio when B.I.G. decided to go mano a mano with a young titan hungry to take his crown? Did Foxy really write her rhymes for “Ain’t No Nigga”? Is it true that Shyheim the Rugged Child was originally slated to be the shorty featured on “Coming of Age”? Do you really know how much of those Luchini Camp Lo cats’ catalog was jacked for Jay to put his narratives over? I didn’t think so. It’s rap nerd paradise.

But it’s not all fun facts here. This story has its fair share of drama. Reasonable Doubt signifies the birth and death of Roc-A-Fella Records as we all knew it. Let’s take a sec and think back. There they were, in all their money-hungry glory. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Damon “Dame” Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke. A cocky triumvirate that, when they couldn’t break bread with the big boys at the major labels, put their funds together and decided to press up this album. You know what happened next? Lyor cut the check, and they partnered up with one of hip-hop’s most storied franchises, Def Jam Records.

Now Jay-Z runs that label, and Dame is still trying to make sense of it all. The final public squabble between these two revolved around ownership of this very record. The story goes: Jay was willing to give his former partners, Dame and Biggs, the Roc-A-Fella name in exchange for sole ownership of Reasonable Doubt. They refused, so now this album represents the only tie that still binds these three men together. With all due respect to Jay, Roc-A-Fella Records will always be that skinny nigga on the boat, the scream-on-your-ass-like-your-dad cakeaholic and duke who stayed more silent than Sam.

Man, listening to this album takes you back. No, I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn. And did I ever sell drugs? Nah, Hov did that so hopefully I wouldn’t have to go through that. But I do relate to the content. I grew up in the Big Apple; and this record is so New York. It’s not that New York–as-a-marketing-plan shit y’all niggas is pitching right now. It’s the old-school if-you-can-make-it-here-you’ll-make-it-anywhere shit. It’s the hustle. It’s me writing some bullshit column for a trade magazine called CMJ, hoping to one day get the chance to hold the mics at The Source magazine. It’s me and my ego trip partners feeling like we could conquer the world, but muthafuckas are sleepin’ on how dope we are.

It’s about entrepreneurship. Artistry. Achievement. Perseverance. Relentlessness. The feeling that no matter what the odds are against me, I’m gonna reach that goal. I’m gonna live the life that I want to live. I’m willing to work hard to get it. And I’m gonna get it. You see, a great album speaks to you like that. It becomes the soundtrack to your journey. And it’s always good to go back and get your Pete Rock and CL reminisce on. It’s inspiring. Still. Jay made it; and I made it, too, you lovable losers. Get up, get out and get something. No excuses. No regrets.

Forever grindin’,

Elliott Wilson