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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Album Review: American Gangster by Jay-Z

Jay-Z American Gangster album review

American Gangster is the rap album of the year, hands down. A friend told me that it would be after he heard it streaming on Sirius satellite radio this past week. I argued with him because I didn't think AG could outdo "Graduation" by Kanye and "Finding Forever" by his fellow Chicago rapper, Common. Despite the giftedness of both rappers, Jay-Z simply outdoes both albums with this poetic musical journey. Yes, Hov is back!

The album launches with dialogs from the movie "American Gangster" as Denzel drops quotes on beat, setting the tone for the rest of this work. From there it takes off running as the up tempo and musically addictive "Pray" starts and Jay blesses us with his incredible flurry of words. This is far above the caliber of the last release Jay gave us with "Kingdom Come". On "No Hook", Jay raps about the way his parents influenced his street mentality, how he didn't have much and needed to find a way to get his hustle on so he could become wealthy. Jay brings you the grittier visions of his past where his life was down in the "sewers". AG is classic material, a poetic work of beauty full of these gritty visuals over soulful 70's style tracks. Jigga's taking us back to the early gangsta days again, similar to "Reasonable Doubt", his classic solo debut. "Say Hello to the Bad Guy" is named after the classic Scarface line and in it Jay tells us exactly what he is and isn't about.

"Roc Boys" is an up tempo jam featuring horns and a very captivating beat crafted by Diddy. The song features the feel-good chorus of "The Roc Boys in the building don't even gotta bring your paper out, we the dope boys of the year, drinks is on the house". It's a celebratory theme song sure to rock parties and clubs. Jay doesn't ignore present times either, as he includes a few lines about Don Imus and "celebs showin' their kittens". "Hello Brooklyn" features a slowed down bass beat reminiscent of a Beastie Boys track and features Lil' Wayne offering his lyrical abilities to the track. Another standout is easily the dynamic duo track "Success" which features Jay and Nas together again, with Jigga discussing how he was "happier poor and now he's pissed off". Wayne, Beanie Sigel and Nas provide the only guest raps and the album doesn't suffer at all from their appearance, or the lack of more guests.

Clocking in at just under 60 minutes, this is a musical journey well worth embarking on, as Jay takes you through the hustles, struggles and events of a true American Gangster. While it's not a soundtrack for the recent movie, it's definitely a soundtrack for Jay's life back in the day. Its 70's style beats underneath Jay-Z's gifted storytelling will certainly have you bobbin your head as he takes you down the path he traveled as a street hustler.

Purchase "American Gangster" CD at Amazon, or purchase the "American Gangster [Explicit] MP3 album" download.

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