Monday, 7 July 2008

unexpected social commentary

I've heard that Jay-Z is one of the most successful and creative hip-hop artists of all time. All I knew until Friday night was that his appearance at this year's Glastonbury sparked controversy, so while I was blobbing in front of the TV on Friday evening I stayed up to watch a documentary on BBC2 about the making of one of Jay-Z's albums ~ and I'm glad I did. [Part of a series on Classic Albums directed by Jeremy Marre - this one available on DVD]
His remarkable rise to fame was heralded by his first album Reasonable Doubt, released in 1996, which broke new ground for rap, telling the bittersweet story of a Brooklyn street hustler with striking, coded lyrics supported by rich soul samples. Jay-Z chose this to be his Classic Album because of the power of its music and the disturbing story it tells.
I was fascinated by the story it tells. I'm intrigued by the passionate enthusiasm of thousands of people for his music which, though I appreciate it intellectually, gives me only a murmur of aesthetic enjoyment. Most of all, I was captivated by the social commentary that Jay-Z gives.