Thursday, November 01, 2007

Jay-Z's "American Gangster"

So, Jay-Z's "American Gangster" CD has been out for a hot minute now, and you gotta give the guy credit for pulling off an in credible feat of creative wave-riding and military-strategic marketing planning. This guy announces a new album the day after his top dog artist, Kanye West, wins a sales battle with 50 Cent, and all talk turns to one Shawn Carter faster than you can say rapper retirement. The fact that the album is good bordering great is gravy on top of cake.

Of course, I'm biased because as I've stated in the past, Jay is my dude. So anything he puts out is automatically going to get some sort of pass based on his prior performance. But "American Gangster" is something serious: lots of home spun soul grooves and intricate lyricism. In each song, he seems to detail some element of the hustler/gangster lifestyle, with the overall album working as a periodic table for d-boys.

A song like "Pray," for example, can introduce us to a grown-up gangster mindeset: "Cut from the cloth of the Kennedy's/Frank Sinatra having dinner with the Genevees/This is the genesis of a nemesis/Mother America's not witnessing/The Harlem Renaissance birthed black buisnesses/this is the tale of lost innocence..." In an age where trends last as long as a few hours on the web, Jay gives an American thug history lesson, with context to spare.

What I like about the albums is there aren't too many obvious singles. "Roc Boys" is about the only one, but even that carries it's own air of disobedience, with Jay imagining himself as the Dope Boy of the year award winner and rapping his acceptance speech in perfect time with Kanye's triumphant horns. It's a Roc party for sure.

Here's looking at you, Jig(ga).

Overall grade: A-

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