It has been said that the mark of a true legend is someone who can continually evolve while keeping his craft pure. With more than 10 years in the game, Jay-Z has done just that, with his first concept album inspired by the Frank Lucas-inspired movie American Gangster. Jay-Z’s American Gangster is more than just another soundtrack or another album under a legend’s belt. While American Gangster is not the official soundtrack for the movie, Jay-Z’s relevance to the movie makes it difficult to decipher the difference.
The album features 15 tracks with a host of mainstays in production, from Diddy and his team 2K7 Hitmen to Kanye West. The album features two tracks from the Neptunes, one of which is a bonus track and the first single “Blue Magic.” Diddy and his team are responsible for producing six tracks on the album, including the second single “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is…).”
While a mainstay on Jay’s production staff, Just Blaze is credited for delivering a bonus track and the remake of the previously unreleased track “Ignorant Sh*t”. Kanye West’s mentor No I.D. provides two tracks also, one of which he co-produces with Jermaine Dupri and vice versa.
Finally, three virtually unknown producers lend hand to the “Intro,” which is credited to Chris Flames and co-production from Idris “Driis” Elba and Hector Delgado, who also has mixing credits, while Bigg D produces the Beastie Boys sampling Lil Wayne featured track, “Hello Brooklyn 2.0.”
The album kicks off with a bang with the “Intro” taking a peek into the movie mixed with “Gangstaisms,” breaking down just what an American gangster is. The album at times dips deep into the feelings of Shawn Cory Carter that haven’t been tapped since Reasonable Doubt. The song “No Hook” takes a dip into the death of his father and why he took his life to the streets of the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn in the first place. While other songs such as “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is.)” take the cocky, swagger-filled approach celebrating the success of not only the Rocafella family but Jay-Z as a whole.
Though American Gangster is not his best work, Jay still delivers a solid classic. In a year filled with strong music coming from the mainstays of hip-hop, Jay-Z gives fans something else to put in heavy rotation.
If you have not gone out and gotten the album, go get it. But don’t look for it on iTunes; Jay-Z had the album removed just before midnight the day before its release to ensure that fans purchased the entire album not select songs.