JAY-Z: FADE TO BLACK
Review by Gordon Justesen
Directors: Pat Paulsen, Michael John Warren
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: April 5, 2005
was on the biggest stage in the world, with some of the biggest stars in music.
This was the ultimate dream growing up in Brooklyn. I went from Marcy to Madison
It was a move that
was seldom seen, or even conceived, in the music industry, let alone hip hop.
One of rap music's most powerful figures, Jay-Z, announced that he would be
releasing one more album before going into early retirement. Here was a man who
was sitting on top of the world, with millions of records sold and undying
respect from fans (including yours truly), and made a decision to leave the game
at the right time.
In my opinion, one
cannot be a fan of rap music and at least not have some level of admiration for
Jay. His process of making music is awe inspiring in every way shape and form.
He is perhaps the only recording artist that I've seen who can make a song
without writing a single word on a piece of paper. The songs are already set in
his mind, and he delivers his lyrics then and there. I'm not lying when I say
that the man is a musical genius.
Jay's last album
would also be his best album to date, The
Black Album. If there was ever a perfect farewell album to an artist who was
considering retirement, this one was it. For an artist who had put out many
memorable albums, from 96's Reasonable
Doubt to 98's Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life
to 2001's The Blueprint, one can't
help but be blown away by the production value of Jay's swan-song release. The
album's 9th track, "99 Problems" is one of the most explosive songs
ever produced...credit Jay and legendary producer Rick Rubin for that.
to Black is a significant
account of two things: Jay's production of The
Black Album in the studio, and a massive retirement concert at Madison
Square Garden in November of 2003, around the time of the album's release. There
were plenty of guests on hand at the show, but Jay's name was all that was
needed for the venue to sell out in four minutes flat.
The notion that the
concert was being held at The Garden was a big deal for hip hop. It was a
popular setting for all other types of music, yet the hip hop scene had yet to
see its crowning moment. That all changed with Jay's monumental concert. It was
even a bigger moment for the rapper himself, as his lifelong dream of making it
out of the Marcy Projects all the way to Madison Square had finally become a
Fans of Jay will no
doubt get into the show right from the start, as almost everyone of his tracks
are performed on stage. Among the show-stopping moments include performances of
jams such as "Big Pimpin", "H.I.Z.Z.O", the bombastic "Jigga What?" and the
outstanding "Encore", a song that reflects the fans' love for Jay's presence on
Several guests make
surprise appearances. Beyonce pops up to perform her duet with Jay, "Crazy in
Love", as does Missy Elliott and Twista for "Is That Your Chick?". Jay's
longtime cohorts Memphis Bleek, Beanie Siegel and Freeway also share some stage
time. Lastly, it's kinda strange seeing R. Kelly on stage with Jay, in light of
the recent feud ignited between the two after Kelly was kicked off their recent
to Black might be an
enthralling film from the perspective of a longtime Jay-Z fan, but if you're
unfamiliar with any of his music, I highly recommend a look at this. You may
just be awestruck by Jay's musical process, which is purely unmatched if you ask
me. As a concert film, it's a most thrilling and show-stopping experience.
The anamorphic job,
courtesy of Paramount, is a most visually striking presentation. The downright
best looking moments lie within the concert footage, where every visual element
is precise and extravagant right down to the color of the stage lights. Some
documentary footage doesn't turn up as good, with some occasional grain in the
mix, which is to be expected. To sum it up, the presentation is a good enough
always seem to bring the best of DVD audio to any surround sound system, and
Paramount's 5.1 mix executes it with a vengeance. The music, which is the main
ingredient in the film, explodes through the speakers full throttle. It's hard
to distinguish the best music moment, because all of them are nothing short of
fantastic in the sound department. Scenes away from the stage fare quite good,
in addition in terms of dialogue delivery.
Featured on this
disc is a bonus documentary titled "The Story Behind Fade to Black", as well as
a video for the song "Encore", one deleted scene and a trailer.