Dead Presidents (song)

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"Dead Presidents"
Single by Jay-Z
from the album Reasonable Doubt
ReleasedFebruary 20, 1996
GenreMafioso rap[1]
Songwriter(s)Shawn Carter
Jay-Z singles chronology
"In My Lifetime"
"Dead Presidents"
"Ain't No Nigga"

"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. 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's Top 100 Rap Songs.[2]

"Dead Presidents II" also appears in the 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online, as part of the Doomsday Heist update, in the blonded Los Santos 97.8 FM radio station.

The title is slang for money because portraits of dead United States presidents appear on most Federal Reserve Notes.[3]

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[edit]

Nas was originally invited to re-rap the chorus for Jay-Z and appear in the track's music video, but he declined. Some view these two actions as the foundation of Jay-Z vs. Nas feud.[4]

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.

The line was later used in Cassidy's 2005 hit "I'm a Hustla":

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[5] 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[edit]

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.[6]


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, and Curren$y 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).


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[7] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jay-Z: 50 Greatest Songs". Rolling Stone. 2017-10-27. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  2. ^ Top 100 Rap Songs
  3. ^ Dead Presidents Songfacts
  4. ^ Escobartheory.
  5. ^ "Roc-A-Biz: Ski Beatz" Archived January 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. January 7, 2007. Retrieved June 23, 2007.
  6. ^ "Jay-Z – DP3". Indie Shuffle. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  7. ^ "American single certifications – Jay-Z – Dead Presidents". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]