documentary that centers around the sold out jay-z show at madison square garden. it’s not strictly a concert video, but most of the footage does center around the event; footage of him working with producers is sprinkled throughout. this is sorta like watching any band documentary – from “meeting people is easy” (radiohead) to “i’m trying to break your heart” (wilco) – if you like the artist in question then you’ll like the film. i think some of jay-z’s stuff is good, but i wouldn’t call myself a fan.
a concert documentary is unlike other documentaries where it is possible to separate the film form from the subject. because so much of the film’s content is reliant upon your enjoyment of the performance it had better be an act you appreciate, or like, on some level. some of the concert footage in fade to black is semi-interesting, but most of it is pretty stock. at times it’s tedious either because of jay-z’s proclivity towards self-aggrandization or because of his lesser co-acts (memphis bleek, mary j. blige, r. kelly, etc.). i don’t mind a bit of boasting, especially in hip-hop because the genre finds its roots in rap battles, but there’s only so much i can take. when jay-z talks about the rap game needing him or being “pound for pound the best to ever come around here, excluding nobody” or that he’s “supposed to be number one on everybody’s list”…well, that just takes it a bit far; and what’s more is that the first couple songs continue in this vein which, to me, is the wrong foot to start off on. as an aside, if we really want to talk about the best pound for pound hip-hop mc (which is what i assume he meant by “to ever come around here”)…well, i guess it’s a matter of opinion, but i think that the gift of gab, saul williams, and sage francis all employ better word play and the beastie boys, chuck d, dr. dre, puff daddy and eminem have had more impact on hip-hop and popular culture. i guess, though, that i’m just splitting hairs – jay-z is a big, talented artist so maybe he should be allowed to brag a bit. in general, though, i’m opposed to bragging unless your name is mohammad ali.
as a film it’s fairly well done. i’d have preferred more out of concert footage and less of the aforementioned, weaker acts. i enjoy insight into the creative process more than seeing a live show covered on several high-definition concert cameras. regarding the creative process that is shown…it seems that at this stage in his career he (mostly) surrounds himself with talented producers (rick rubin, timbaland, kanye west, pharrell, etc.) and let’s them throw beats his way until he finds what he likes. i guess when you’re jay-z you get the pick of the litter.
i think that i just don’t like documentaries like this in general. i didn’t like ‘meeting people is easy’ or ‘don’t look back’ or ‘i’m trying to break your heart’…all of them failed to entertain me as much as the average, non-music-centered, documentary.