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October 26, 2007

Jay-Z - American Gangster: Album Review

American Gangster

Jay-Z, American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella, 2007)
Copped this just now from TSS. It doesn't look like it's the real deal, but I figured what the fuck. It's probably close enough. And if this shit's not any good, I'm probably not gonna bother with it again anyway.

INTRO

A bit of dialog from the film re: the importance of owning your own business rather than working for a white man. How ironic.

PRAY

Jay-Z at his most personal, taking you inside what it's like to grow up poor because your daddy went off to find the guy who killed your uncle Ray. Not that you were especially well off before that, but you know.

AMERICAN DREAM

None of these beats by Diddy and his new Hitmen really impress me all that much. I suppose they do fit a certain milieu (no James Lipton), and this one's got a lot of Marvin Gaye. Nice Depeche Mode reference!

HELLO BROOKLYN

The one with Lil' Wayne. It's got that late-'80s 808 thump, which I guess is supposed to play into the concept album theme. The Lil' Wayne appearance is obviously a cynical attempt at a publicity stunt. I especially wish he hadn't done the chorus.

NO HOOK

Almost sounds like he's making it up as he goes along. You can tell because there's lots of references to both of his parents, and his "Jewish lawyer." And the chorus is ripped from that song "Shawty Is a 10." Pretty much an all-around mess.

ROC BOYS

You've heard this one. It's the one with the generic blaxploitation horns and the mispronunciation of l'chaim.

SWEET

As overwrought and repetitive as "Show Me What You Got," but with even less in the way of musicality. And this is the point in the concept album when Jay-Z is buying a lot of shit, so the lyrics are especially vapid.

I KNOW

Oh no, he's rappin' about how much he loves Beyonce. Or a girl, anyway. Also, what's with Pharrell these days? Does he need the Chinaman back?

SAY HELLO

The one produced by that guy Toomp, who did that one T.I. song. This one kinda sounds like that one, but with a shiteload of '70s music horns poured over the top of it.

SUCCESS

The one with Nas, and produced by Jermaine Dupri, though you'd think it was Just Blaze. Or someone trying to rip off Just Blaze. Jay bigs up his brother Eminem, of all people. Nas kicks that same verse he's been kicking since his big comeback, which, fortunately, I happen to enjoy.

FALLIN'

Another one produced by JD, which of course sounds nothing like the other produced by JD. Hmm... Jay's rappin' here might be about as good as it is anywhere else on the album, for what it's worth.

BLUE MAGIC

No wonder they made this the single. I still don't care for the beat, or the chorus, but this might be the best rap on this. I know I just said that about the last track, but this album seems to pick up steam as it goes along. Plus, I think I just realized I hate '70s soul music.

AMERICAN GANGSTER

The bonus track (why?) produced by Just Blaze. Pretty similar to what he did with "Show Me What You Got." Did anyone like that song? This one might even be a bit more grating.

COMMENTS: The good news: Jay-Z is back rappin' about dealing drugs. Because obviously the reason people love Reasonable Doubt is because all of the songs are about dealing drugs. The bad news: He's not rappin' particularly well about dealing drugs, and these beats aren't nearly as good as all of the fawning pre-release coverage would have you believe. I don't even know if I'd classify them as good. Kingdom Come, which gets a bad rap, is a better album than this.

BEST TRACKS: "Roc Boys" "Blue Magic"

BONUS VIDEO: "Blue Magic"

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Byron Crawford a/k/a Bol is the celebrated author of several books, most recently NaS Lost: A Tribute to the Little Homey.

Copp dat:NaS Lost

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Posted by Bol at 04:04 PM | Permalink

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