For years, it felt as if there were no interest in what went into the making of a hip-hop classic.
While other genres, most notably rock, had the backstories of their best results covered extensively (largely because it was often the favorite music of the people in charge of such things), there was not much insight into how a hip-hop classic is made.
Fortunately, that has changed and hip-hop documentaries abound.
In 1997, a British program titled Classic Albums premiered, its premise simple: talk to the musicians and creatives behind some of the best music albums in history. The first few years included artists you would expect, including Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, U2, Elton John, and Elvis Presley, among many others.
Yet no one from the world of hip-hop. Until 2007.
That year, the show profiled a rap album for the first and only time with Jay-Z’s 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt, with extensive interviews with Jay as well as those artists with whom he worked with on the album: DJ Premier, Irv Gotti, Ski, Mary J. Blige, Sauce Money, Memphis Bleek, etc. It’s not just interviews, though. Jay breaks down his rhymes and what certain lines and songs mean while the producers show how they created the beats that would provide the soundtrack to the album.
Related: Ranking Jay-Z’s Albums
One of the most revealing parts is that these were the individuals with Jay long before he became the $900 million man and they mention his upbringing and early days in the music business, like performing at Mad Wednesdays and creating Roc-A-Fella.
Below, behold the making of one of the greatest hip-hop albums in history.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.