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The story behind Jay-Z's last short film, "Streets Is Watching"

Ralph Bristout

 // Jul 7, 2017

Like the age old saying goes, with tragedy comes opportunity. For JAY-Z, the year 1997 was bittersweet. On March 9, the rap world suffered the untimely passing of The Notorious B.I.G., who was shot and killed by an unidentified assailant in Los Angeles. A good friend to Jay and appointed King of New York by rap fans, Big's death left a looming void over rap. As increased attention poured over who would step up and carry the baton, JAY-Z took it to task and released his sophomore album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1.

The oral history behind the making of JAY-Z's 'Reasonable Doubt' artwork

Where the predecessor, 1996's Reasonable Doubt, offered prophecy as it was regarded as one of rap's foundational albums, Jay attempted to mix his triple beam poetics with his attempt to be pop's focal point like Biggie in his prime. The result? A bad balance that would be considered a commercial failure. In an attempt to shake off the missed shot, JAY redirected his focus, got his mind right, and returned to his core with the cult classic "Streets Is Watching."

Pulling out the best moments from his imperfect classic ("Streets Is Watching," "Where I'm From"), Hov stepped in front of the director lens (courtesy of Abdul Malik Abbott) and got his acting on.

As JAY-Z preps his first film since then with 4:44, let's revisit how "Streets Is Watching" came together.

Real Talk | Abdul Malik Abbott talks directing JAY-Z's "Streets Is Watching" film
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