Fascinating BBC documentary on Jay-Z's opus "Reasonable Doubt." Jay is so alarmingly eloquent off record, it's hard to imagine he could be so eloquent on record. And he does it without sounding like he's trying.
Jay has a lot going for him, but his greatest strength is the effortlessness of his flow. It comes so smoothly and easily that, as he points out himself, the secondary and tertiary meanings of his lyrics can fly past. What's special about Reasonable Doubt is that it's a cohesive statement of purpose -- the beats match the effortless expansiveness of Jay's flow. The lyrics do too, but they have an edge to them -- they betray the fear of the hustler's lifestyle.
There are MCs who can portray that dark side as convincingly as Jay. Scarface, for example, rhymes with such amazing weight that he can convey that darkness with just a twist of the pitch of his voice. There aren't any, though, who can convey that fear in such a way that you don't even notice it until you think back on a line, or a verse, and find yourself emotionally sucker-punched.
Sauce Money says something really great in the film, talking about his collaboration with Jay on Bring It On. He says he heard Jay's verse and "started looking for the nearest Subway. Because I'm not gonna top that."