You don’t have to be a fan of Jay-Z to enjoy the insightfully entertaining documentary, Made in America . But chances are, even if you don’t dig his music, this film will make you a Hova believer by the time the credits roll.
Masterfully directed by co-producer Ron Howard, Made in America premiered Friday, Oct. 11, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime and took an enthusiastic behind-the-scenes look at the 2012 music festival of the same name. Jay-Z curated and headlined the Philadelphia event which brought together an eclectic and fascinating variety of artists – everyone from Janelle Monae and Jill Scott to Pearl Jam and Gary Clark Jr. The showcase also allowed the rapper, ne Shawn Carter, to shine as both a musical visionary and performer.
While the interviews with everyday folks, such as an ambitious food vendor/single mother, are among the documentary’s best, the chats with Eddie Vedder and Monae are equally enlightening. In one scene, Monae explains why she only wears black and white clothes and in another, Vedder breaks down the basic needs and desires of all Americans. There’s even a juicy exchange between Rev. Run aka Joseph Simmons and Howard, as the semi-retired rapper tells the back story behind Run-DMC’s unlikely 1986 collaboration with Aerosmith for “Walk This Way.”
But the most revelatory moments in Made in America come courtesy of Jay-Z himself. The 43-year-old business man, husband and father co-produced the film and shares his thoughts on the Civil Rights Movement, sexism, homophobia and crime. Later, he discusses his views on the future of the music industry, the need for inclusiveness and the secret to success. At times, it’s like listening to the hip-hop version of Bill Cosby. Think young and brilliantly prophetic Cosby, not the cranky one. “I believe that every human being has genius-level talent,” Jay-Z says. “You just have to find what it is you’re good at, and tap into it.”
Seriously, no one should sleep on the wisdom Jay-Z has to offer. This guy isn’t one of the richest dudes in the music business on a fluke. He knows how to talk the talk and it is fun to watch him do it. In a couple of impressive scenes, Jay is shown mapping out the lighting for Made in America days before and even rehearsing. He flat out mesmerizes as he tells one of his guys the music track is offbeat and methodically raps the lyrics to prove his point.
If there’s one downside to Made in America it’s that there is way more talking than there is performing. Howard cuts away from several spellbinding musical sets midway in order to emphasize some greater message or theme. But hey, he had to fit it all in somehow, right? Besides, such a flaw is minor when one considers all the rarified access. So kick back and enjoy. It’s worth the ride.
tv.msn.com). She’s also one of the co-founders of Antenna Free TV (AntennaFree.tv). The Detroit native has covered the medium and the entertainment industry for 14 years. Madden Toby is also an NPR expert commentator who has written for The Detroit News, TV Guide, CNN.com, eHow, People Magazine, Us Weekly, The Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Minneapolis Star Tribune and The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Wayne State University. Madden Toby is also a wife and mother. When Madden Toby was 10, she started her own magazine and paid her staff in candy. Check out her podcast, "TV Madness with Mekeisha Madden Toby," at tvmadnessmmt.podbean.com or on iTunes.