Jay-Z’s story has been told plenty of times, from VH1 and MTV to PBS and CBS. He’s the most popular rapper out now, even if it seems that his career has come to a bit of a denouement. This documentary, though, is a little different in that it chronicles his arguably best and certainly his hungriest album and more properly analyzes every song on the album, Reasonable Doubt.
The mere fact that Barry Michael Cooper, of New Jack City fame, makes an appearance to help the viewer understand the back story tells you how special this documentary is. Classic Albums: Reasonable Doubt is a nice piece for any Jay-Z or hip-hop aficionado to add to his or her collection.
Naturally, those who already understood the album and where it’s coming from get an additional treat of someone validating their experiences. We get to see Jay-Z analyzing his own lyrics (which he seems to have a little trouble keeping up with at times) and validating Scarface dreams for his own hood. Some of the best producers of the time are seen doing what hip-hop artists do best: taking something unassuming and making it into something glorious. DJ Premier, Irv Gotti, Clark Kent, Knobody, Jaz-O, Sean Cane, and Ski make awesome appearances and even give us a glimpse into the magic.
Whereas in documentaries like Fade To Black, we see a very selective (and admittedly cocky) Jay-Z telling the greatest producers of this decade that their beats aren’t good enough, we see this cabal of producers constructing masterpieces tailor-made for Jay and him accepting them, understanding how powerful that first impression had to be. We also get to see how the guest artists like Sauce Money and Foxy Brown had to step up their game up in a heated competition within the song.
Ostensibly absent, however, were Dame Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, the other two vertices in the Roc-A-Fella trifecta, possibly due to their strained relationship during the making of this video. We also don't get a glimpse of the backstories for "22 Two's" nor the bonus tracks. Nonetheless, the DVD embodies everything the album is: cinematic, descriptive, and soulful.
Some might also get a laugh out of the contrast between Jay-Z the rapper (arrogant and strong) versus Sean Carter (soft-spoken and just confident). Then again, that’s precisely how so many of the greatest rappers become who they are on record. They get into character, and this DVD is a documentation of that mentality.