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FEATURE ARTICLE

 
JAY-Z: American Gangster

 

Now officially out of retirement, Jay-Z has found himself releasing materials in November yet again – his usual release month.  With the premiere of American Gangster featuring Denzel Washington, it seems Hov was inspired enough to hit the studio.  But will it bring the same lukewarm reception that his last project Kingdom Come brought?

 

The album starts out strong with “Pray” featuring boo Beyonce.  Laden with the sounds of a gospel choir, Jay brings to life the often harsh realities of the drug profession.  Brooklyn” featuring Lil Wayne is the gem of the project.  Bigg D blesses the track - an ode to Hov’s birthplace, Brooklyn - with fire.  Didn’t Weezy have beef with Jay at one time?  Just a question.  Following suit is “The Roc Boys,” a celebration of what else – their drug success: “First of all i wanna thank my connect/ the most important person with all due respect….to little kim and them you know the women friend who/carry the work cross state for a gentleman/yea, thanks to all the hustlers, and most important to you, the customer.”  “I Know” finds Jay starring as the lethal drug heroin: 

 

“How could you leave me?
I thought that you needed me!
When the world got too much and you pleaded with me--
Who helped you immediately?
How speedy of me!
How could you deny me so vehemently?
Now your body is shakin' trying to free it of me
And your soul is in control, trying to lead it from me
And your heart no longer pledge allegiance to me
Damn, i'm missing the days when you needed the D”

 

For a split second, Hov departs from the concept and drops “Ignorant Sh*t” which first addresses his true feelings about his Kingdom Come project – “I make ‘Big Pimpin’ or ‘Give it to Me’ one of those/ Y’all held me as the greatest writer of the 21st century/ I make some thought provokin' sh*t/ Y'all question whether he's fallin' off" -

before confronting the constant hypocrisy that saturates our society: “Are you saying that what I'm spittin'/Is worse than these celebutantes showing they kitten?"  Other standouts include the soulful “American Gangster” and “Say Hello” which delivers one of the illest beats on the album.  

 

Despite the hype surrounding American Gangster, the album is not without flaw.  While Pharrell’s “Blue Magic” was the first single, it really brought little heat to the project.  Just as bland is Diddy’s “Party Life.”  Hov switches his flow up here.  Unfortunately, I find it more annoying than engaging. 

 

Hiccups aside, I’m going to keep it real.  I am a Jay-Z fan.  And even if he dropped a straight dud, it would be better than 70% of what fills the airwaves these days.  Thankfully, us listeners didn’t have to live through a dud with American Gangster.  While this is Jay’s first “concept” album – meaning he was inspired by the images and plot of the movie American Gangster – it brought him back to his roots.  In the same vein as Reasonable Doubt, American Gangster is a breath of fresh air from the black card references and private jets trips that Jay usually rhymes about these days.  This album doesn’t focus on the commercial radio friendly tracks, but instead just finds Hov focusing on his craft. 

 

The great thing about this album is that it truly is a concept album.  Most of the sounds and ideas on the album mimic those of that early 70s which was the period of the American Gangster movie.  He also grabs actual scenes from the movie and attempts to expound on the character’s emotions and thoughts.  And when he’s not in the 70s, he’s taking those concepts and bringing them to life in the millennium.  Gotta love that creativity.

 

If you consider Kingdom Come to be the end of Hov…Well….He’s bbbbbaaaacccccckkkkkkkk!  Don’t sleep and pick this one up. 



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