(Credit: Mikamote)

Old School Archives

Watch a pre-fame Jay-Z deliver a fierce freestyle from 1993

Long before Jay-Z had established himself as one of hip hop’s most dynamic characters, he made a name for himself in his neighbourhood as a vicious MC. This freestyle proves exactly why he frightened his opponents.

Although he no longer flexes his freestyling muscles regularly like when he was younger, Jay-Z still believes that nobody can go toe to toe with him. “No one can stand on that stage with me. It’s not a chance in hell that anyone can stand on that stage with me,” he said about a potential Verzuz battle.

In 1993, when this footage was shot, Jay’s life was wildly different to what it is today, and he was out hustling on the streets of Brooklyn. He knew rapping was what he wanted to do with his life, but talent alone wasn’t guaranteed to take him to the top.

Infamously, Hov fell into the common trap of drug dealing, and this was his life for years before he turned his life around. Now he’s one of the most important people in modern America, and his life experience has given him a priceless insight into life that few in his position can comprehend.

Moreover, he once explained to Vanity Fair in 2013 how this experience helped him massively as a businessman. “I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer. To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up. Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash — those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life.”

He added: “At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small. You’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die.”

Below is the earliest recording footage of Jay freestyling, and his talent is evident even from a young age. Although he’s yet to refine his skills, it’s clear that he’s a murderer on the microphone who had the world in his hands, who was every other rapper in Brooklyn’s worst nightmare.