Nas or Jay Z: Who Had The Better Debut Album (Illmatic vs Reasonable Doubt)

Without a doubt Nas and Jay Z produced two of the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time in Illmatic and Reasonable Doubt.

Often these two albums are pitted against each other in an attempt to find out which one a person prefers, as is done many times on the podcast show, Drink Champs.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why these two albums are considered classics in the Hip Hop community as we attempt to find out which of the two is a better album.



Illmatic is Nas’s debut studio album that was released on April 19th in 1994. However, the album was recorded in 1992 and 1993. Illmatic has a hardcore Hip Hop style and Nas rhymes with an intricate style. His stories are based on Nas’s experiences growing up in Queensbridge Houses, the housing projects in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. 

As stated Nas rhymes so intricate on throughout the album and touches on diverse and expansive subjects making the album all the more impressive given that he was only 18 to 20 years old when his rhymes were written and recorded. 


When Nas’s Illmatic dropped it was automatically labeled a classic album by The Holy Grail critics of Hip Hop at the time, The Source Magazine. The Source gave Nas’s Illmatic the much coveted 5 mics rating. The Source Magazine stated: “Nas’s images remind me a lot of personal images and people, both past and present. So the impact goes beyond just the entertainment aspect…If you can’t at least appreciate the value of Nas’s poetical realism, then you best get yourself up out of Hip Hop.”

Though Nas’s Illmatic received critical acclaim for his lyrics and production, Nas’s Illmatic fell below expectations as far as sales. It debuted at number 12 on the US Billboard 200 chart selling 63,000 copies in the first week.


Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt Is another Hip Hop album that is treasured by listeners of the genre and beyond. Released on June 25 1996, well over two years after Nas’s Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt is Jay Z’s debut studio album. An album considered to be a classic by many. The album features production by DJ Premier, Ski, among others and has guest appearances by Mary J. Blige, Biggie Smalls and others.

The album is categorized as one with mafioso rap themes plus gritty lyrics about the hustler lifestyles and material things.


Reasonable Doubt has been considered by many fans of Jay Z as perhaps his best album. And though a critically acclaimed album, The Source Magazine was not fully convinced as they rated it 4 out of 5 mics when it was released. Nas’s Ilmmatic edged it by a whole mic. Though later on The Source would retract on their initial rating and give Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt a 100% deserved 4 mic rating.

On its initial review The Source Magazine said: “Jay Z isn’t saying anything new. It’s the same ol’ criminal melodrama that you hear on so many rap LP’s nowadays.”

However, in 2002, 6 years after the release of Reasonable Doubt, The Source retroactively gave Reasonable Doubt a 5 mics rating.

Upon its release on June 25th, 1996, Reasonable Doubt sold 43,000 copies in its first week and sold 420,000 copies within its first year of release.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 10 Famous Songs Jay Z Wrote For Other Artists


And as always we like to close with a saying, quote or adage and today’s is from Nas: NO IDEA IS ORIGINAL, THERE’S NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN. IT’S NEVER WHAT YOU DO, IT’S HOW IT’S DONE.

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