By Username
Enter a URL of an MRSS feed

By Odeisel

In the spirit of Presidents’ Day, Planet Ill presents a special episode of the Classic Clash, pitting both versions of the classic Jay-Z track “Dead Presidents” against each other in an effort to determine which one is greater. Back then, the Jiggaman was known for giving you more value for your dollar.  If you heard a song from him before, he was guaranteed to hit you with new elements.

The original single was released in 1996 with “Ain’t No N***a” as the B-Side. You already know which one became the hit, but “Dead Presidents” contained crisp lyrics over a tough, yet somber beat with multiple moving parts. Ski Beatz, who had been a rapper and producer for rap group Original Flavor was behind the boards, crafting music that featured hard drums, filtered basslines, and a soon to be controversial  vocal sample. It was He that made it a hot song. Here’s how he did it:

The original version is packed with the aloof swagger of someone who has to be admired from “four fiends away.” You can’t out hustle him, out whip him, our chick him and you’re probably not built for the streets anyway. The song is split into two extended verses, the first of which is designed to make you admire Jay and his team. There are a few swag driven devices that deviate from the rhyme flow that ad flavor but are sloppy compared to the control that he would later exert. Of course he’s not a lover of the hoes. On the second verse, Jay-Z gets serious and starts to delve into the consequences of the high life. “It with the Rico, they repo your vehicle, everything was all good just a week ago,” speaks volumes to how quickly you can get caught up in the street life and find yourself on the wrong end of the feast/famine cycle.


“Dead Presidents II” was a totally different composition. While the beat remained, the song was broken into three verses and gets down immediately into the grim reality of the streetlife. The cars and the women produce as much jealousy and envy as it does admiration, and when you walk into the forest you either have to feed the wolves or back them down. The tragedy filters in immediately as Jay looks into the eyes of a fallen comrade (on a uptown hot block he got his side sprayed up). He narrates his own descent into the life and how he got acclimated mentally to the point where the evil was nothing to him. The second verse finds him enjoying that life and the fruits of streets labor.  The final verse is a flurry of dense lyricism and connectivity; showcasing Jay-Z in rare form connecting, executing and styling at once.


Both versions have their own set fo fans and their brand of panache. Which Dead presidents do you use to represent you?

QuestionsView Results

Follow Us on Twitter @

Follow Odeisel on Twitter @

Join Us on the Planet Ill Facebook Group for more discussion

Follow us on Networked Blogs