American Gangster Explicit Lyrics
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2007 album from the rapper-turned-business mogul. American Gangster is Jay-Z's tenth studio release. A semi-concept album inspired by Ridley Scott's film of the same name, it sees Jay-Z chronicle his time as a street hustler. It is a return to a grittier street sound than his predecessor Kingdom Come. . Comparisons are being made to his debut album Reasonable Doubt and with good reason. The lead single 'Blue Magic', produced by none other than Pharrell Williams, is an '80s-feeling ode taking its hook from En Vogue's 'Hold On'. Also on board for the record are esteemed producers P.Diddy and Just Blaze, and there is another stunning collaboration with Nas, aptly entitled 'Success'.
An unofficial musical companion to the film of the same name (dir. Ridley Scott), American Gangster traces the rise and fall of a self-made American man. Sound tired? Perhaps, but a dozen albums into his career, Jay-Z can be forgiven his occasional dabbling in shopworn archetypes. A panoramic, cinematic work in four acts, American Gangster bulges with instrumental melodrama. Take "American Dreamin'": despite the Diddy-produced track's sultry, shifty beat, a pile of whining strings and tinkling piano flourishes all but completely suppresses the rhythmic interplay between the vocals and drums. Again and again, Jay-Z's otherwise compelling raps fall prey to a similarly overwrought studio aesthetic. (In this, the album resembles many a Ridley Scott film.) There are exceptions: Bigg D's "Hello Brooklyn 2.0" and the Neptunes' "I Know" and lead single "Blue Magic" are unqualified bangers, and Jermaine Dupri's "Success" (featuring Nas) flaunts a relentless organ lick with 'round-the-way mojo to spare, but the album's overriding sonic melodrama is all Diddy. Still, no one steals Jay-Z's thunder easily. Having long since joined the top ranks of the hip-hop elite, Jay-Z can (and does) ultimately weather the best efforts of another major-league ego and still come out on top. --Jason Kirk
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"American Gangster" as this album is called is a conceptual album based on the Denzel Washington film with the same name. It's about the drug dealer Frank Lucas in the early 70's. And that itself works well cause Jay-Z was one himself and his classic debut album "Reasonable Doubt" portraited his early life before success with Hip Hop. Most of the songs here are suppost to make references to scenes from the film. So, Incase you have seen it you probably have a better understanding. The sound is very much retro soul, taken from an blaxploitation flick from exactly that time. Perhaps the sample-driven sound could pass as dated by today with all of the extra-ordinary productions we find but considering that it's suppost to be the soundtrack to something from the early 70's it's understandable. The majority of the production is from Diddy's proteges LV & Sean C (Also known As the Hitmen). But some of the songs also comes from The Neptunes, Jermaine Dupri, Just Blaze and Dj Toomp. But most of them haveone thing in common, they're sample driven retro soul sounding.
After a short intro, The album starts with dramatic "Pray" where you also can hear the spoken words of Beyonce. It feautures violins and church choirs and sets the tone for what's coming. The song is semi-autobiographical where he talks about his childhood and what made him a hustler. References to Sinatra, Berry Gordy, Kennedy an be heard here. In the last verse he'll make a reference to a Kanye West' song by saying "Everything I've Seen Made Me Everything I Am". Second song "American Dreaming" heavily samples from Marvin Gaye, even by using his voice. Lazy as that may be the lyrics are really good where he talks about how he chose fast money over education. "Hello Brooklyn" Pt 2" is unfortunately a miss-step. The minimalistic production is inadequate and Lil Wayne singing the hook is just corny. It simply doesn't fit in here. "No Hook" is another autobiographical song simular to "Pray" with no hook just verses and a deep laidback sound. He said that hustling was his ticket out of the hood and even if he promised his mom to stay out of trouble he was going to die inside if he didn't try. "Roc Boys (The Winner is)" is the closest to hit potential here, it uses a soul horn sample and would work fine for radio. It's a celebration to a successful lifestyle. More classic soul/funk on "Sweet". Pharell provides the beats and backround vocals for "I Know", but it does feel a little out of place here but the song is really good.
With "Party Life" we have another decent midtempo backed by a soul singer while on the Beanie Sigel collaboration "Ignorant S*it" we have a song that samples The Isley Brother's "Between the Sheets". The Dj Toomp produced "Say Hello" follow the path of soul-funk and is pretty good aswell. Next up is something that most Hip Hop fans don't wanna miss. "Success" is another duet between Jay-Z and his former rival Nas, just like on "Black Republican". It was produced by Jermaine Dupri but got to say the beats here suits the song perfectly. The same producer follows up with the jazzy "Fallin" where Bilal sings the hook. It reminds me of some of the songs from Common's last album, where Bilal also appeared. "Blue Magic" from Pharell was the first single and it one of the best songs with it's minimalistic production and beats, if you liked the Clipse's last album you're gonna love this one. The album closes with the title track which is 70's soul-funk aswell.
Overall, This album isn't perfect but it's the best Jay-Z released in a long time and it's obvious he's trying to drop another album simular to Reasonable Doubt dealing with the issues he knows best. It's a conceptual album, it got good lyrics and a production that both feels suitable as a score and as an autobiography. The production is quite simular from song to song and it doesn't have the obvious hit single like most Jay-Z fans are used to. But neither did "Reasonable Doubt" with few big hits or major album sales after it's release. This album is much diffrent then what most people would expect from one of the most commercially appealing Rap stars, but that also why I like it and admire him for dropping it. "American Gangster" is the best Jay-Z album in a long time and if he finally decides to call it quit now atleast he'll do it by the knowledge on retiring on top.
This was creative, genius even. Jay-Z puts out an album, Kingdom Come, that isn't well-received by his traditional constituents. Their problem? Jay-Z has gone "soft," he's rapping about his wealth, his opulent lifestyle rather than spitting the obligatory lyrics about the dope game and the corner, muses that simply aren't part of his life anymore. How can he reconcile being true to himself with giving the streets what they want? Create an entirely new genre: The hip-hop concept album. Sort of a portal through which an artist can exist in an alternate reality. In one brilliant move Jay-Z neutralized his prior detractors and avoided accusations that he's drawing on a culture he's no longer a part of. After all, American Gangster isn't about Jay-Z, or is it?
Make no mistake, musically this isn't Black Album 2. American Gangster is clearly a compromise between the lyrics that the fans demand and the music that Jay appreciates. Gone are the hard-hitting beats of Dirt off Your Shoulder and Lucifer, replaced by an ensemble of horns and strings. In fact, half the tracks wouldn't seem out of place on a Kanye West album. Pray and Roc Boys (And the Winner Is...) clearly demonstrate the trend. The effect is slightly startling but not unwelcome. Akin to Kingdom Come, the beats of American Gangster show a maturity, a refinement that's not in the Black Album. Which is most appropriate is up for debate.
The lyrics however, are vintage Jay. He hits especially hard on No Hook (Hustle' 'cane, hustle clothes or hustle music/ But hustle hard in any hustle that you pick) and Pray (Treat shame with shamelessness/ Aim stainlesses at _____ , You know the game this is/ Move coke like Pepsi, Don't matter what the brand name is). He slows it down to a lounge tempo on tracks such as I Know featuring Pharrell and Party Life. The guest appearances are especially noteworthy. The Jay/Nas collaboration on Success is brimming with artistic ingenuity, if not commercial viability. Siegal's short interjection on Ignorant ____ perfectly compliments Jay's flow. Most interesting is the much-hyped Lil' Wayne cameo on Hello Brooklyn 2.0, where Jay lyrically eviscerates Weezy, perhaps the track's true motive? But the question remains, is the Jay-Z of American Gangster on par with the Jay-Z of the Black Album? Perhaps the best barometer is the resurrected track Ignorant ____ which features bars from both 2003 and 2007, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the younger Jay comes out on top.
In short, American Gangster should please the critics and the streets. It's an effort on par with The Blueprint and just shy of 2003's masterpiece. The album proves that Jay is at his best when he has something to prove, here's hoping that he doesn't fall victim to complacency for his next project.
After an impressive premiere, where does the hip-hop concept album go from here? Clearly there's a danger that it could become a standard marketing tool in the wrong hands, and if Jay really connects with the next Potter flick, we could be subjected to bars about hustlin' at Hogwarts. However in moderation, it might provide for an interesting departure for rappers who are afraid of stepping outside the bounds of what is considered acceptable in rap culture. American Gangster may go down in history as something of a paradox, it could mark a return to street-culture for Jay-Z and at the same time symbolize something much broader: An expansion of rhythm and poetry beyond the block and into uncharted territory.
The feel of this album is like a mix of Jay's two greatest albums to date, Reasonable Doubt and the Blueprint. His lyrics are moreso in the mold of his debut album in which discusses the life he lived as a dealer and all the angles you have to deal with when it comes to that, similar what the film showed with Frank Lucas. You can get the highest of highs with all the material items you can acquire, access to places you couldn't have dreamed of, and the money that can roll in. But he exposes you also to the negative side that comes with it to give you the whole picture in that life. People that you get hooked, people that hate on your ascension in the life you create for yourself, along with the cops/feds and people trying to pull you down. There were times in which Jay kind of talked about it in double ways with his life back then and now in his music career, which was brilliant because no matter what way you go in life, you come across those emotions (at least with the hating on success and people trying to bring you down). The production and beats took from the soul sampling roots as of the Blueprint which made that album redefining and so cold. Diddy (a.k.a. Puffy/P.Diddy/so on) was the source of about half of the CD's production, and have to say that not really being a Diddy fan, I was more than satisfied with what he contributed to the album. The rest of the album got influences from Just Blaze, the Neptunes, No ID, and Jermaine Dupri and in my view everyone held there own. Lots of horns and trumpets to go with those samples which gave the album that overall old-school gangster feel. And the aim of the album wasn't to give you hits but a full-out album that you can see what was going on inside Jay's mind.
The film American Gangster help Jay to create songs that could give people a visual and an inside look into that type of life. It inspired him to make songs such as Pray, a track speaking to God in Him continuing to keep watch over him as he was doing what he was. The Marvin Gaye-infused American Dreamin', a song dedicated to the high life we all would love capture from our dreams into reality and far some will go to get it. I absolutely am feeling this track! Songs like Roc Boys and Party Life point out the glamour and how you get that high off the success you start to feel. But you also get the downside to it all with I Know based on fighting addiction and a track that brings together again two of the finest rappers ever in Success, featuring Nas in how success can bring you enemies from all corners and backgrounds like it did Frank in the film. Guess we all can relate when we get some spotlight in something we do at some point in life, and instead of getting embraced, you catch a lot of negativity coming your way. I'm not the biggest Lil' Wayne fan in the world, but give him credit for his verse in helping Hova shout out the borough that raised him in that life with Hello Brooklyn 2.0. The rest of the CD is very nicely done with No Hook, Say Hello and Blue Magic. But that track that rolls that life all in a few verses is track 13 and what makes it different from Reasonable Doubt, an alternate ending perhaps that connects with the movie. Fallin' shows how dealers get caught in the end when they get seduced by the figures they pull and the glamourous life they lead and not knowing when to cash in the chips to go legit. Then in the end, all you have done catches up to you and you get locked up while you lose all you have. All being people you were involved, money and everything around you except for memories of what you once had. A great song that should have probably finished off the album to me for showing how must drug kingpin stories end. Not too many fairytale endings when you take that path if you stay on it too long, a point that should grab hold of those dealing currently or thinking of doing it. Jay was one of the few that can say he took the route he had to and got out. Because of all these points, this track takes the cake as my favorite song of the album.
For those who say Jay-Z doesn't have it anymore, you might want to peep this and get a listen for yourself. He is about on top of his game as anyone around. I thought he made a masterpiece of an album with Kingdom Come, but he was aiming for Reasonable Doubt/Blueprint levels this go round. He darn near reached it if he didn't hit the mark. Comin' with lyrics like It's all celestial/it's all in the stars/It's like Tony LaRussa/On how you play your cards (American Dreamin'), I'm in a whole other league/ N****s never catch me/Sport so much fly s**t/I should win an Espy (Party Life), But your use-tos, has-beens/Ragging bout all the new dudes/Talking tough on the YouTube/Bout what you used to do/But that's old school to the new crew/They doin numbers like sudoku (Fallin' - Whew!), it is safe to say that Shawn Carter is on point as if this was the late 90s. And that is just a taste of what he gave on this one. I was vibing with this album out of the gate as soon as I opened up the package and could possibly put this as high as number 3 on Jay's best albums. I can only point out so much. It's something that you have to experience on your own. American Gangster, a street concept album in which Hova gives you the feel in a place that he really didn't have to go but proves again where he has been, what is still in him and what he has made away from. A standout piece of work from a genius of an artist! (And a reminder if you are looking for a hit album, you may want to rely on Jay's earlier work cause you won't find that here.)