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The latest DVD that I’ve watched in the Classic Albums
series is “Reasonable Doubt” by Jay-Z. Released during 1996,
it was his first album and became a huge hit.

This 2007 documentary on the Eagle Rock Entertainment
label not only discusses the creative process behind
this album, but Rap and Hip-Hop in general. Since
I’m definitely an outsider where this genre is concerned,
I figured that “taking the plunge” via the Classic Albums
series would be a good place to start, thereby continuing
my efforts to listen to as many different musical genres as I can.

As with the other DVDs in this excellent and informative
series, key personnel were interviewed throughout this
53-minute documentary, including Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige,
Kanye West, Foxy Brown, and producers Clark Kent and
Irv Gotti.

From my perspective, the art of Hip-Hop lies primarily
in the skill of rhyming lyrics that are replete with metaphors.
When interviewed, Jay-Z (1969 – ) often mentioned metaphors,
and provided many examples of them. His lyrics are taken
from his own life experiences and his opinions of the current
state of the urban world.

To paraphrase one of the producers of this disc,  his job
involves creating  the proper sonic environment for
the Hip-Hop artist, in a way that would inspire him or her
to do their best work. Frequently, music “samples” were
used to create the best working environment for the artist,
and recording studio “sampling” techniques were
demonstrated in this documentary.

Jay-Z also discussed his musical influences, and how he
was compelled in the beginning just to “…write, write, write,
write…” When examining his tunes with regard to their lyrical
context, I can respect the skills required to write, memorize
and effectively perform them. I am also aware that to
appreciate these tunes, I probably need more than just
“cursory” exposure to them. I’m making an effort, but I
obviously still have a lot to learn.

Live performance footage of Jay-Z was shown throughout
this disc, and I was intrigued by his occasional use of a
sizable backup string section during his sets. In addition to the
53-minute main documentary, there are 49 minutes of bonus
features, including music videos and additional interviews.
Hip-hop fans wishing to gain insight about Jay-Z’s creative
process should enjoy this disc.

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