Monday, January 20, 2014

The Jay Z Project Part 10: American Gangster

After 2006's successful "Kingdom Come" album, Jay returns with what I considered his concept album, "American Gangster", which is inspired by events of the movie with the same title. Even though I was looking forward to the next Jay-Z album after "Kingdom Come", unless I missed something, I literally didn't find out about this album until a week before its release. And of course, I was right at my local Best Buy to purchase this on the first day it came out.

Release date- November 6, 2007

Featured Guests
Beanie Sigel
Lil Wayne

 Behind The Boards
Chris Flame
LV & Sean C
Bigg D
The Neptunes
Just Blaze
No I.D.
Jermaine Dupri

  1. Intro

An audio clip from the movie and spoken words about "what a gangster is" sends us on our way.

2. Pray

"This is why I be so fresh/I'm tryin to beat life cause I can't cheat death"

This was a very good way to start this album. The theme? No matter what you're doing or going through in your life, you can do one thing, pray.
*5 out of 5*

3. American Dreamin

Backed by a nice sample courtesy of the late, great Marvin Gaye ("Soon I'll Be Loving You Again"), Jay tells the tale of something most of us can relate to, searching for and going after that American dream. Going back to Mr. Gaye, including that aforementioned sample was a good choice. Not only was he a dreamer himself, he worked hard to make his dreams come true before his untimely death.
*5 out of 5*

4. Hello Brooklyn

"Like a mama you birthed me/Brooklyn you nursed me/Schooled me with hard knocks, better than Berkeley"

First off, believe it or not, prior to this project, I only listened to this song once and that's the day I bought it. Honestly, the song isn't bad, with Jay showing mad love to the place that birthed him, and the Beastie Boys' "Hello Brooklyn" sample was a nice touch, but man , I REALLY could've done without Lil Wayne on this song. The hook is a thumbs down, plus he has NO connection to/with anything relating to Brooklyn. He's out of place on an otherwise good song.
*3 out of 5*

5. No Hook

"The most important thing in business is honesty, integrity, hard work, family, never forgetting where we came from" -Frank Lucas 

"Leave that boy Hov alone why don't ya/You don't have to if you don't want to, but don't say I didn't warn ya"

Jay certainly didn't need a hook for this, what I call a "brief epic". Check this out dear reader, the next time you bump this song, consider these options:

1) At home, make sure it's the evening and make sure you have a nice set of headphones while you listen to this. And tune out everything else if you can, lol.

2) In your ride, turn the volume up to a medium-high pitched level with the windows up, only if it's not too hot, lol.

Mark my words, you're going to leave this song with a different view, putting it on repeat when it's over too, lol!
*5 out of 5*

6. Roc Boys (And The Winner Is.....)

It's definitely a celebration on this one, and you can hear it in Jay's voice. The horns here were amazing.
*5 out of 5*

7. Sweet

"We playin for property, no monopoly/So I'll pass go and let my nephew follow me"

Of course you know what Jay thinks of himself and his life, the life is sweet, much like this song.
*4 out of 5*

8. I Know

You can look at this song from a variety of perspectives in terms of the "high life", whether it's sexual, smoking, life in general, etc, they all apply here. And at the same time, Jay brings a smooth like tone over a Neptunes produced track that's smooth too, but also bangs.
*5 out of 5*

9. Party Life

"I'm in a whole nother league, niggas can't catch me/And I sport fly shit, I should win an ESPY"

"Hola hovito, cooler than zero/Below fresh, one blade, no kemo/Art wit no easel, please there's no equal/Ya boy is off the wall, these other niggas is Tito"

By his own admission, Jay comes slick with it on this apply titled song.
*4 out of 5*

10. Ignorant Shit

"Y'all niggas got me really confused out there. I make Big Pimpin or Give It 2 Me, one of those, y'all hail me as the greatest writer of the 21st century. I make some thought provoking shit, y'all question whether he fallin off. I'm gon really confuse y'all on this one...... follow!"

Jay didn't confuse me and I got the message. Those lines above and the title of the song best describes it, and it's something he's faced most of his career. He could make a song, not only something good, but it'll chart as a hit single, then he's questioned about whether he's falling off if he makes a song like, for example, "Moment Of Clarity"? Makes no sense to me. Also, Beanie Sigel came through with a brief, but decent verse.
*5 out of 5"

11. Say Hello

"Say hello to the bad guy, they say I'm a bad guy/I come from the bottom, but now I'm mad fly/They say I'm a menace that's the picture they paint/They say a lot about me, let me tell you what I ain't"

"I ain't a ordinary nigga/Look around this ain't what ordinary gets ya/Extraordinary figures/I'm an extraordinary nigga"

The underrated Toomp laces Jay with a banger. Oh yeah, to all those feel/felt Jay is a "bad guy", this one's for you, and it's not directed at you in the way you may think.
*5 out of 5*

12. Success

"Let that bitch breathe!!!!!"

"Nigga said Hov was over, such dummies/Even if I fell I land on a bunch of money, y'all ain't got nothin for me"

"Up ya catalog dog, mines worth too much/Like Mike Jack's ATV pub, Motolla can't touch" -Nas

You KNEW I was waiting for the next Nas and Jay-Z collabo after "Black Republican", and this one delivered in spades! Nas and Jay KILL this one and lyrically it's harder than "Black Republican".
*5 out of 5*

13. Fallin

I really like this one. "Karma", "what goes around, comes around", they all apply here. Jay is all but saying "watch what you do and the decisions you make".
*5 out of 5*

14. Blue Magic

Oh boy, I have a funny story I want to share, and I'm sure the ones who are familiar with it reading this will laugh all over again. In a "song versus" topic on a forum (can't recall which one), someone asked which song was better, "Blue Magic" or "Change Clothes". Lol, I was probably the only one who picked the latter, smh+lol. Everyone else who commented on this couldn't believe it. I'm not sure why I picked "Change Clothes" in the first place and why it took me so long to change my mind, but it's very clear "Blue Magic" is the better song and it's dope.
*4 out of 5*

15. American Gangster

"The way I shine is like a zillion dollar light bill"

Another apply titled song, oddly enough, kinda fast paced too. This was a very good closer, bringing everything full circle.
*4 out of 5*

I want to backtrack on something. This is less a "concept album" and moreso a "movie on record" like Jay always said. Form top to bottom, this is an excellent album, and that includes "Hello Brooklyn". The "American Gangster" movie was a very good inspiration for this album and it delivered.

5 stars

*The album moved 425,861 units in its first week, in the process tying Elvis Presley's record for second most number one albums in the U.S.

*Certified platinum

In 2008, we get the third edition in the "Blueprint" series.

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