What's New
 Books
 Movies
 Music
Reviews
 Books
 Movies
 Music
 All
Weblogs
 Somebody
  Dies
 Colet and
  Company
 Music?
  What Music?
Banned Books
Letters
Posters
Links
Lists
About Me
Guestbook
 Sign
 View
Off-Site
 Reviews
 Hosted By:
Ex Libris
 Reviews
Green Man
 Review
Video Vista
Designed for
 1024 X 768
 and Internet
    Explorer
Craig's Music Club
Music CD Recommendations

Spotlight on: Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z


Cover of Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt

I am probably the last person who should be reviewing this album. A white man who was born in (and still lives in) a rural area (albeit a different one, now), I wouldn't know "street" if it threatened me with an automatic pistol held sideways. Yet, somehow, the rhymes of Jay-Z speak to me, especially those contained in his acclaimed debut, Reasonable Doubt.

Soon after the release of Reasonable Doubt, shouts of "best rapper alive" (a title which Jay-Z, in true hip-hop fashion, has accepted and perpetuated) began to fill the airwaves, especially after the death of the only two other real contenders: Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. (Ironically, Biggie appears with Jigga on Reasonable Doubt's "Brooklyn's Finest," offering rap fans their only chance at hearing the two together.)

His preferred "hustler" persona -- presumably based on his youthful street life (and his brushes with the law, as portrayed to public acclaim in The Blueprint's smash hit "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" -- also made him more acceptable to the mainstream (i.e., "white") audiences through its preference of living by one's wits instead of by the gun (as in the popular "thug" mentality, seemingly the only alternative). This, surprisingly, allowed him to retain urban credibility -- becoming a sort of role model in the process -- in spite of such obvious bids for pop success as the title track of Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, which uses the popular Annie showtune as a backdrop for Jay's storytelling. It is easy to attribute this success to his likeability due to his easy charisma and undeniable confidence (displayed to great effect within his audience rapport on Unplugged), something that is hard not to find appealing.

However, there is more to this wordsmith than charm; he has the chops to go along with it. His alleged "freestyling" on "22 twos" notwithstanding, his easygoing lyrical style stays firm while inserting enough humor to lighten the mood, allowing fans to involve themselves in the story (however embellished) of Jay-Z's life, or to simply listen as his inimitable rhythmic pattern flows over them. Adding to this gloss is the fact that Jay has always used the top producers of the day (often before they were the top producers of the day), making the beats and melodies often just as compelling as the rhymes that accompany them, and assuring his status on radio.

Even on Reasonable Doubt the crossover potential was high, but soon after this debut, Jay-Z's nurturing of his image in pursuit of popular success began to outweigh his writing of introspective rhymes. Once he hit it big -- and he did immediately -- he became too self-conscious in his success to be able to ever again open himself so freely on record. Not even The Blueprint -- considered by many to be one of his best -- contains the level of honesty present in this album, making Reasonable Doubt the closest to a portrait of the true Jay-Z that we will ever get (assuming you believe the retirement rumors that surrounded the release of The Black Album), and about that I have no doubt whatsoever.



Click on the links above to purchase any of the items mentioned, or use the search box below to find what you like.

Search:
Keywords:
In Association with Amazon.com

(Or just email me and let me know what you think.)
1