Jay-Z’s American Gangster

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I believe Jay-Z came out of retirement just to make this CD. It uses the 70s sound intelligently while also staying true to the modern era.

[Music Review]

Jay-Z continues his comeback with another studio recording, his tenth to date. “American Gangster” is not a soundtrack to the film block-buster film starring Denzel Washington, but was inspired by the film.

Jay-Z had seen the film several weeks before crafting the CD. The film itself is set in the backdrop of a 1970s drug-infested Harlem, which saw the rise of several drug kingpins including Frank Lucas, who was probably the most successful. 

In the CD, "Pray," which features Beyonce is heavily driven by strings, reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield’s productions of that era. In "American Dreaming" Jay-Z offers his account of why so many are drawn into drug dealing: "Mama forgive me, should be thinkin' bout Harvard/But that's too far away, niggas are starving/Ain't nothin' wrong with aim, just gotta change the target.”

Lil Wayne drops in on "Hello Brooklyn" with his distinctive Southern diction.

"No Hook," raw and rugged, Jay-Z lyrically hypnotizes listeners with more tales of hustling. "Roc Boys" is definitely a highlight; one of the many produced by Diddy and his crew the "Hitmen." Then comes the Blaxploitation sound-inspired "Sweet" which borrows from Isaac Hayes' "Do Your Thing" with congas and bongos sprinkled in the background.

One of Jay-Z's favorite producers, Neptunes, featured on this CD. They handled "Party Life" with a mellow vibe that is driven by some live drum sounds. Jay kicks off by saying welcoming the 70s, and taking listeners back to that era.

Neptunes also produced "Blue Magic" which also featured Pharrell Williams—it's a typical Pharrell production that displays the virtues of the minimalist approach when putting together the beats. 

Nas also appears on this CD in "Success." Jay-Z still as cocky as ever, declares, "I got watches I haven’t seen in months, apartment at the Trump I've only slept in once." As if to validate this CD "American Gangster" took Curtis Mayfield's "Short Eyes." Smart move, considering the Curtis Mayfield sound is the quintessence of 1970s R&B.

This CD is a good example of when a good artist gets truly inspired to produce something great. I believe Jay-Z came out of retirement just to make this CD. It uses the 70s sound intelligently while also staying true to the modern era.


Black Star News Music Editor Ocen Allimadi is also publisher of The Groove music magazine 
www.thegroovemag.com He can be reached at ocen74@hotmail.com

 

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