Dead Presidents (song)
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|Single by Jay-Z|
|from the album Reasonable Doubt|
|Released||February 20, 1996|
|Genre||East Coast hip hop|
|Jay-Z singles chronology|
"Dead Presidents" is a 1996 song by rapper Jay-Z. It was released as the first promotional single for Jay-Z's debut album Reasonable Doubt, although it did not directly appear on the album: a different version, with the same backing track and chorus but different lyrics, called "Dead Presidents II", appeared on Reasonable Doubt instead. The single was a commercial success, and was certified as an RIAA certification gold single in June 1996. Both versions of the song are regarded as some of the greatest hip-hop songs ever recorded, and "Dead Presidents II" was voted #16 in About.com's Top 100 Rap Songs.
"Dead Presidents II" also appears in the 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V, as part of the Doomsday Heist update, in the blonded Los Santos radio station.
The song was produced by Ski. The song samples Lonnie Liston Smith's "A Garden of Peace" for the track's melody and A Tribe Called Quest's "Oh My God (remix)" for its percussion; the chorus is a sample of Nas rapping "I'm out for dead presidents to represent me", from his 1994 song "The World Is Yours (Tip Mix)".
Feud with Nas
When Nas and Jay-Z feuded directly, both rappers discussed the merit of the sampling in the song in individual "diss" records. In Nas' track "Stillmatic Freestyle," he says:
You show off, I count dough off when you sample my voice.
Jay-Z responds to Nas' claims in his song "Takeover" with the lines:
So yeah, I sampled your voice; you was usin' it wrong: you made it a hot line, I made it a hot song. And you ain't get a coin nigga you was gettin' fucked then; I know who I paid God, Serchlite Publishing.
Yeah I used dude's voice props to the boy Shawn, He made it a hot line, I made it a hot song.
In 2005 at Jay-Z's I Declare War concert, he performed "Dead Presidents II" with Nas, officially ending their feud.
In a YouTube video named Ski Beatz - the making of Jay-Z's Dead Presidents Ski explains how he filtered out the high frequency content of the melody sample (using a lowpass filter) to achieve a more prominent bass line without replaying one in. Ski's Beats, Rhymes & Samples mixtape contains the Q-Tip remix in the context of a "Dead Presidents" sample, because the original "The World is Yours" had altered lyrics in connection to the sampled vocals. At the end of the sample from the chorus, you can hear the "Whose" from "Whose world is this?" from the beginning of the chorus of "The World is Yours".
Dead Presidents 3
Jay-Z recorded a track called "Dead Presidents 3" around the time of The Black Album but it was never completed. The unfinished song was leaked onto the internet in the fall of 2007, around the release of American Gangster. In it, Jay-Z referenced some of his lyrics from the original "Dead Presidents" and he used the sample but the sample was played in reverse and had a darker more atmospheric feel to it.
In July 2013 during a rare Twitter Q&A, a fan asked Jay-Z if "Dead Presidents 3" would be released which then resulted in Jay giving Young Guru and Just Blaze the permission to release the track on Young Guru's SoundCloud account.
Many artists have released remixed versions of Dead Presidents with original lyrics (often freestyles) performed over the original sample and chorus. Notable artists to release versions of Dead Presidents include Charles Hamilton, Lil B, Lil' Wayne, Drake, Slug of Atmosphere, Chamillionaire, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, Akala, Lupe Fiasco, Kano, Logic, Slaughterhouse, AZ, Curren$y featuring and DJ Premier who recorded a version with reworked instrumentals with Jay-Z's original lyrics and vocals from Nas' The World is Yours (Remix).