Friday, November 23, 2007

Old American Gangster

The album is pretty run-of-the-mill production-wise with a couple of gems sprinkled in between. By now you've probably had your fill of the circumstances surrounding the idea for Jay-Z's American Gangster. The hype machine has been in full gear before and after the release of both the movie and album of the same name.

Some observations:

1. Jay-Z really embellishes on his hustler days. Saying he was inspired by some scenes in Ridley Scott's film that took him back to his hustling days, invoking those "raw emotions", sounds a little trite to me. After all, he was a small time drug dealer. It's not like he was even on the same level as Frank Lucas who upped his self worth to the hundreds of millions (in the 70's!) through a heroin dealing empire.

2. His tastes for beats is beginning to dwindle save a couple of exceptional moments like these:

"Roc Boys" - Produced by Diddy's Hitmen. Amazing interpolation of these horns. And the video is as gully as it gets...And the live horns just makes this cut exponentially ridiculous...

"Success" feat. Nas - Produced by No I.D. Now you've got to understand that this is the same producer who worked on the majority of Common's earlier work so No I.D. has got an impeccable catalog. He hasn't produced anything memorable in years, until now. The organ vamps are incredible and the way he chops this've got to wonder why he's not getting more work.

3. Despite his recent shortcomings, he's arguably still one of the best rappers alive still recording. Definitely top 5. He still manages to stay relevant even though he's not really re-inventing himself. The skill he displays, even on the more lackluster production he jumps on, is undeniable. He's got the clever punchlines, the effortless delivery and style, and he's as charasmatic as they get.