Label: Roc-A-Fella/Island Def Jam Music
Release Date: November 6th, 2007
Producers: Diddy, Idris "Driis" Elba, Jermaine Dupri, Just Blaze, LV, Mario Winans, Neptunes (+ more)
- American Dreamin’
- Hello Brooklyn 2.0 (w. Lil Wayne)
- No Hook
- Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)…
- I Know
- Party Life
- Ignorant Shit (w. Beanie Sigel)
- Say Hello
- Success (w. Nas)
- Blue Magic (bonus)
- American Gangster (bonus)
To purchase this album click here: American Gangster
If you love your job, you can relate to how Jay-Z feels. While one side of his life is pulling him in a corporate, "30 Something" direction, the other side keeps him close to the streets, Hip-Hop and the love of rhyming. After delivering a solid album with "Kingdom Come", many thought at the very least we had heard the last from Jay-Z for a few years...until he makes that "40 Something" album. But out of nowhere, word came down the line that Hov was back in the studio recording an album inspired by the new Denzel Washington film about the notorious drug kingpin Frank Lucas.
"American Gangster", the album, came together in about a month's time. The results will more than please fans of Jay-Z's debut album "Reasonable Doubt" but will probably leave "Hard Knock Life" and "Show Me What You Got" fans in the dark.
The "Intro" sets the tone for the album. The theme? "Gangster." This leads into "Pray", one of six songs produced by Diddy and the Hitmen (Sean C. & LV). A pulsating beat accented by faint background screams provide Jay the canvas to tell stories of watching drug sales and transactions go down. The song is a great departure from the glossy Jay-Z sound and takes it back to Jigga getting money by any means necessary. "American Dreamin'" is a smoothed out track from Diddy and co. with a bad 70s cop show sound (but in a good way). The song sees Jay telling the story of rising to the top and achieving success through moving the weight.
Much has been made on the Internet already of the track "Hello Booklyn 2.0" feat. Lil' Wayne. The song overall isn't all that strong and it isn't entirely Lil' Wayne's fault. Jay's flow on the song is awkward which may be the result of the jittery beat provided by Bigg D. As for Lil' Wayne, his appearance is probably the most cohesive lyrically he has ever done, but it just doesn't work on this song. Overall the track is sub-par and interrupts the flow of the album unnecessarily.
"No Hook" and "Success" Feat. Nas are the album's two highlight songs lyrically. "No Hook" sees Jay reflecting on his father, his career and the legal system. "Fuck rich let's get wealthy" says Jay-Z as he spits dark tales and reflects over a bluesy track from Diddy and the Hitmen. And in something that only Jay-Z could pull off, he utilizes a lyric from The Dream's "Shawty Is Da Shit" on possibly one of "American Gangster's" darkest tracks. No-ID steps up to the boards for "Success" along with co-producer Jermaine Dupri. The song is a straight New York City banger as Jigga reflects on success, even utilizing one of Eminem's famous lines when he says "I used to give a fuck/now I give a fuck less/what do I think of suck-cess?/it sucks..." Lyrically "Success" is incredible as the listener hears Jay almost denouncing his riches when he asks "how many times can I go to Mr. Chows, Taos?" and says "I got watches I aint seen in months."
The album's two buzz singles, "Blue Magic" and "Roc Boys", effectively set the tone for "American Gangster" and let listeners know that while Jay-Z was still celebrating, he was doing it as if he had made his $500 million strictly off the white stuff. Gangster celebrations with an 80s Hip-Hop backbone.
"I Know" throws the album a curveball but Jay catches Pharrell's 80s, cheesy, synth like track and turns it into something that LL Cool J may have rocked over back in the 80s. It's a track for the girls...as long as you're girl is cool with out of town trips.
There is a lot of good on "American Gangster". DJ Toomp stops by to assist Jigga on "Say Hello" while the album's title track sees Jay rocking over a track from Just Blaze dripping with soul as Jay races through the song as if he is spitting his last lyrics before he goes away for a 5 to 10. Additional highlights include "Ignorant Shit" (with a strong new verse from Beanie Sigel) and "Party Life."
Hip-Hop always talks so much about who is the greatest rapper of all-time. And after hearing "American Gangster", it's difficult to dispute that it's Jay-Z. No other artist can go so far left making club songs and appeasing a commercial audience, to flipping the script completely with his new album taking his sound, vibe and lyrics back to a day when "Reasonable Doubt" was his only album and the majority of the world wouldn't recognize him on the street. "American Gangster" is challenging, unapologetic, real Hip-Hop from an artist who at this point in his career and life, shouldn't even have the mindset to make it. Sometimes it's unfair to everyone else that Jay-Z is this good.
Review by: Adam Aziz for HHNLive Reviews
(This is the opinion of the author and is no way endorsed or influenced by any outside source.)
To purchase this album click here: American Gangster
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