O n June 25, 1996, JAY-Z unleashed his platinum-plus debut album Reasonable Doubt, the searing autobiographical opus of a young kingpin from Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses as he stands on the precipice of surviving and – then - rewriting the game; upping lyrical antes across generations and genres; applying hustle to building empires; and unveiling an explosive new blueprint for greatness for the hip-hop world and beyond. Full of brash bravado, scorching wit, and sober reflection, Reasonable Doubt is widely acknowledged not only as a stunning debut, but as a powerful and influential document that continues to resonate 25 years after its release.
DERRICK ADAMS b. 1970
Heir to the Throne
From 25 June – 2 July, Sotheby’s and Roc Nation will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Reasonable Doubt with Heir to the Throne, a distinctive and original artwork created by renowned artist Derrick Adams and presented as a one-of-one NFT. Adams’ work reinterprets and recontextualizes the album cover to create a new contemporary take on a portrait that defined an era – as a comment and reminder that Reasonable Doubt remains vital and new today. Heir to the Throne marks the first-ever NFT for both JAY-Z and Derrick Adams.
Derrick Adams x Jay-Z: Heir to the Throne
The one-of-one Heir to the Throne NFT is composed of a single animated digital artwork. The sale opens on June 25 at 10:00am ET with bidding starting at $1,000 and ends on July 2. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will benefit The Shawn Carter Foundation and support its mission to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at postsecondary institutions.
Heir to the Throne is the only official event authorized by JAY-Z to commemorate Reasonable Doubt’s historic 25th anniversary and is being presented as a standalone online auction. The digital artwork is now on view in Sotheby’s York Avenue Galleries and virtually via Sotheby’s gallery in the Voltaire Art District in Decentraland.
On June, 25, 1996, JAY-Z introduced himself to the world with the remarkable Reasonable Doubt. Released on Roc-A-Fella Records and originally titled Heir to the Throne, JAY-Z made news upon its arrival with the announcement that he was only planning to make one album.
Both a commercial and critical success, Reasonable Doubt is among a handful of albums considered by critics and fans to hold “classic” status.
Producers on the album include DJ Premier, Ski Beatz, The Hitmen & Knobody, Clark Kent, Peter Panic, and Irv Gotti with guest artist appearances by The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, Foxy Brown, Memphis Bleek, Jaz-O, Sauce Money, and Mecca.
The album as a whole was like a conversation I was having with the listener about real feelings and emotions. The album went from the highs of the hustler’s life in songs like ‘Feelin' It’ to the paranoid depths of ‘D’Evils.’ I wanted to end it with regret, that last feeling you have before you go to sleep, or feel when you wake up and look at yourself in the bathroom mirror.
Reasonable Doubt has been heralded for its gritty realism, dense wordplay, and mellifluous musicality as evidence of its greatness. Chest-puffing nods to the luxe life are woven together with stark drama and dark ruminations on the realities of his early life. It was, and is, a portrait of an artist on the cusp of success and fame; the songs were too good for any other outcome.
The recording of one of Reasonable Doubt’s best-loved tracks, "Brooklyn's Finest,” JAY-Z’s first collaboration with the Notorious B.I.G, resulted in a friendly competition between two Brooklyn emcees, even though the recording session revealed they had more in common than previously thought: While pushing pen and paper towards each other in the studio, the two men discovered that they both employed a “no pen, no pad” method of preparing to record their verses.
JAY-Z’s journey to realizing Reasonable Doubt did not happen overnight. Far from it. It was an arduous journey marked by previously insurmountable uncertainties, unyielding gatekeepers, tenacious artistic ambition, and an enormous amount of sweat equity – a masterpiece wrought in rapier sharp flow and steeled in indefatigable hustle. But mostly, it revealed a young artist with a story to tell and the discipline to do so more effectively than almost any other in hip-hop’s illustrious history.
“I think it was over a lot of people’s heads. Jay really spoke to bosses at that time and there are less bosses than there are workers. It was really for a top-shelf, top-tier crowd. I think that’s what [made people] gravitate towards it and it trickled down afterwards but initially they just didn’t get it.”
Shawn "JAY-Z" Carter is not just the first hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but he is also a 23-time GRAMMY award-winner. With multiple businesses, accolades across the recording and film industries, recognition throughout the philanthropic community, Carter is a globally dominant force of popular culture.
Carter has sold over 100M albums worldwide, retains control of his own master rights to his music, founded preeminent entertainment company Roc Nation, curates the successful “Made In America” festival, and acquired luxury spirits brands Armand De Brignac and D'usse. In 2013, Carter launched Roc Nation Sports, whose roster includes Robinson Cano, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kyrie Irving, Kevin De Bruyne, Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, CC Sabathia, and Todd Gurley. In March 2015,
Carter became a co-owner of the global streaming service Tidal, a subscription-based music, podcast and video streaming service, which is currently majority owned by Square, where Mr. Carter now serves on the board. Mr. Carter also serves as the Chief Visionary Officer of TPCO Holdings Corp.
In film and TV development, Carter has helped bring to light some of the most poignant stories of our time, including recent projects: Peabody award-winning Time: The Kalief Browder Story, Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, and the critically acclaimed award winning six-part Meek Mill documentary Free Meek.
In addition to his impact on the entertainment world, Carter continues to use his platform for social good including the work of his Shawn Carter Foundation and serving as Co-Founder of The REFORM Alliance.
JAY Z | Reasonable Doubt A Documentary
Derrick Adams is a Brooklyn, New York-based artist whose critically admired work spans painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, and sound installations. His multidisciplinary practice engages the ways in which individuals’ ideals, aspirations, and personae become attached to specific objects, colors, textures, symbols, and ideologies. His work probes the influence of popular culture on the formation of self-image, and the relationship between man and monument as they coexist and embody one another. Adams is also deeply immersed in questions of how Black experiences intersect with art history, American iconography, and consumerism. Most notably in his Floater series, he portrays Black people at leisure, positing that respite itself is a political act when embraced by Black communities. The radicality of this position has materialized in Adams’ work across his Deconstruction Worker, Figure in the Urban Landscape, and Beauty World series.
In formal terms, Adams’ practice is rooted in Deconstructivist philosophies related to the fragmentation and manipulation of structure and surface, and the marriage of complex and improbable forms. His tendency to layer, hybridize, and collage not only images and materials, but also different types of sensory experiences, link the artist to an estimable lineage of pioneers ranging from Hannah Höch and Henri Matisse, to William H. Johnson and Romare Bearden. In Adams’ art, the process can also be understood as an analog: “Everything that we are is based on a specific construction,” he once remarked.
Derrick Adams (b. 1970, Baltimore, MD) received his MFA from Columbia University and BFA from Pratt Institute. He is an alumnus of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation Space Program and was the recipient of Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency, a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship, a Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award.
Adams has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions such as Cleveland Art Museum (2021-2022); Henry Art Museum, The Momentary, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville (2021); SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Savannah (2020–2021); Hudson River Museum, Yonkers (2020); Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (2020); 12 E 94th St New York S94The Gallery in Baltimore City Hall (2019); and the Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2018). The artist has mounted public installations commissioned through MTA Arts & Design at the Nostrand Avenue LIRR Station, Brooklyn (2020–ongoing); and RxART at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem (2019–ongoing). His work has been featured in notable group exhibitions, including Textures: The History and Art of Black Hair, Kent State University Museum (2021–2022); Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem (2020), now at the Seattle Art Museum (2021); Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth., a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition (2019 - 2020); and Performa, New York (2015, 2013, 2005). His art resides in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; and the Birmingham Museum of Art, among many others. He has recently established an artist program and residency in his hometown of Baltimore called The Last Resort.
About the Shawn Carter Foundation
The Shawn Carter Foundation (SCF) was founded as a public charity in 2003 by Gloria Carter and her son, Shawn “JAY Z” Carter. The mission of the Shawn Carter Foundation is to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at postsecondary institutions. In doing so, the goal is to significantly increase the educational, social and economic prospects of traditionally underserved students so they can fulfill their dreams and become positive contributors to the global community. Since the Foundation’s inception, over $17MM have supported initiatives to empower young adults and communities in need through the Foundation’s following programs: Scholarship Fund, College Prep and Exposure, International Exposure, Professional Development, Wealth Management, Scholar Support and Community & Goodwill Programs.