MGF Reviews Jay-Z – Classic Albums: Reasonable Doubt [DVD]

Jay-Z – Classic Albums: Reasonable Doubt [DVD]
Eagle Rock Entertainment (10/30/07)
102 minutes

The story of Jay-Z’s seminal Reasonable Doubt album is infinitely more interesting than anything that could be crammed into this 100-minute DVD. Released during the apex of the East Coast/West Coast feud, it wasn’t exactly a commercial smash by the lofty standards of 1996. In fact, its “classic” status has been more or less applied retroactively.

That’s one of the reasons why watching this lavish, self-congratulatory victory lap can be a chore at times. Really, though, that’s a minor knock, as this is mostly a fascinating look back at the tidal wave of creativity that went into Jay-Z’s debut album.

Like all things associated with Jigga, the producers spared no expense in finding anyone and everyone involved with the album. Foxy Brown and her supersized silicone boobies? Yep. Former Jay-Z friend-turned-enemy Jaz-O ? Yep (and looking about 100 years old). The Pain in Da Ass who did the bad Al Pacino as Scarface imitation in the skits? Yes, Lord… him, too.

Foxy’s memories of the grimy studio where she and Jigga recorded “Ain’t No N*gga” is a kick, especially knowing how far removed from those streets Mr. Carter is these days. Included as an extra is the promo video for the single, which features a young Jay-Z way before he found charisma and a molten-hot Foxy at 16.

The highlights of the DVD can be found whenever one of Jay-Z’s producers is providing unbelievably intricate detail into the creation of beats and selection of samples. Even better, Jay-Z is often sitting right next to Irv Gotti or Clark Kent and supplementing their words with insight to the lyrics. With his legendary ego, it’s refreshing to see Jay-Z essentially concede that this album was the product of more than one man’s efforts.

There are clips of live concerts interspersed throughout, too. Unfortunately, the 1995-1996 performances are clearly dubbed over with the better-sounding studio tracks. Another nitpick, admittedly, but the raw sound of a sh*tty mic system with Christopher Wallace onstage would’ve been appreciated for its authenticity alone. The clips of Jigga’s 2006 concert at Radio City Music Hall make up for a lot of this, though.

There is almost an hour’s worth of additional interviews in the DVD extras. Try and make time for at least the segment on “Brooklyn’s Finest” and piece that explains how the album got its name. A promo video for “Can’t Knock the Hustle” is also in there.

It goes without saying that even casual Jay-Z fans will want to cop this. This is a look back at a time, place and sound that Jigga won’t be revisiting any time soon. It’s thorough and honest (although, I really would’ve liked to hear a few words on the volatile hip-hop climate at the time and whether that influenced any of the material). Still, this Classic Albums series is a wonderful concept from our friends at Eagle. Here’s hoping many more are on the way.


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