We gave it a B+
More than just another show, Jay-Z’s rap-star-studded gig at Madison Square Garden in November 2003 was also his alleged retirement from live performance. Likewise, the beautifully shot documentary of the event, Fade to Black, is more than just another concert film. In between cameos both electrifying (girlfriend Beyoncé, who dances as much as she sings) and amusing (R. Kelly, before he and Jay-Z became nemeses) are fascinating scenes from the making of The Black Album. See tough customer Jay-Z shop for beats from Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, and other producers, and watch them gulp as he rejects one track after another.
EXTRAS The ”Story Behind Fade to Black” doc is mostly a series of gushy testimonials to Jay-Z’s greatness from music-biz insiders. Skip instead to the one deleted scene: Under pressure to finish the album on deadline, various associates stress out and scream at one another. Thankfully, no weapons are pulled.