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Jay-Z: American Gangster

jayz_american_gangster_rev

9/10

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Sean Corey Carter’s storied Rap career should be immortalized in Hip-Hop’s hall of fame.  The man effortlessly killed the game for eight straight years and “bowed out” as one of the greatest to touch the mic.  Jay-Z would eventually return from his much hyped hiatus—no one believed him—only to have his skills and motivation questioned with the lukewarm reception of Kingdom Come.  Now refocused, he returns with American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam).  A conceptual piece based on specific scenes from the movie of the same name, the album is deceptively one of his best and most personal.   “Pray” sets the tone as Hov ties fragments from the film together with some of his buried early memories.  Sweeping violin arrangements and church choir like vocal injections back this unapologetic look into the inner struggles of a minor looking on from the outside of the street game. This is the dramatic flash of his life, in rhyme.  Additionally “No Hook” serves as the next chapter of the Carter chronicles as he lightly touches on the death of his pops and his view on hustling as his only choice to get his mother out of the hood. Not forgetting to underscore the proper swag that accompanies a hustler’s bankroll, Young H.O. breaks out the mink and the good jewelry on “Party Life.” Diddy’s lead Hitmen, LV and Sean C., cook up a smoothed out soulful masterpiece as Hov spits some good game to his female companion during an implied lounge setting: “Art with no easel/Please there’s is no equal/Your boy is off the wall, these other ni**as is Tito.”  On a straight up Rap tip the first single “Blue Magic” is an ode to the old school with its simplistic flair.  The Neptunes track features knocking minimal synths and a basic drum pattern to compliment S. Dot’s sly 80’s flow.  The disc only packs a lean fourteen joints so features are rightfully trimmed down, some key appearances that clearly add to the album’s prowess.  Jay and Nas connect in classic fashion with “Success” over booming, rock flavored organs from No I.D and Jermaine Dupri. Additionally, Beanie Siegel adds his Philly touch to the reworked, Isley Brothers tipping lost gem “Ignorant Sh*t.”Another true highlight of the album lies within its stunning production.  Sonically American Gangster is infused with a heavy soul feel provided by the aforementioned Hitmen and even DJ Toomp (“Say Hello”), which corresponds with the time period of the flick, but its sound never gets monotonous.  Vibrant horns drive the celebratory “Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)” and chopped up Marvin Gaye harmonies are implemented throughout the buttery “American Dreamin’.”With the unbearable, Lil’ Wayne assisted “Hello Brooklyn 2.0,” which ruins the album’s pacing, as the only flagrant misstep, American Gangster remains triumphant.   There is no definitive radio smash hit present but that’s what keeps the project fresh.  Jay goes from running the block to cornering the market without forcing the issue, leaving no need to question his G file.  SOUNDCHECK:Jay-Z “Fallin'”

Jay-Z f/ Beanie Sigel “Ignorant Sh*t”

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