Album Review | JAY-Z – American Gangster

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This album was released on November 6th in the year of our Lord 2007. In the preamble to my review of The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, I referred to it as “one of two JAY-Z albums that people never really seem to talk about.” This is the other album I had in mind when I said that. From what I’ve heard, this is one of Jay’s best albums, but I always forget that it exists. I don’t know much about it other than the fact that it’s a concept album and that it was inspired by a movie of the same name. I have no interest in the movie tho. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this album, so I think I’m gonna enjoy this.

Track 1: Intro (Performed by Idris Elba) [Prod. Chris Flame]

Hmm… Why do I feel like this isn’t the first time I’ve listened to a track that involved Idris Elba on this site? I wish I could remember whose album it was on… Whatever it doesn’t matter. This track is starting now. Oh it’s just a sample from a movie. This beat is pretty good. There’s not really any reason for me to talk about this. It’s just a movie sample over a dope beat.

Track 2: Pray (Prod. Puff Daddy & Grind Music)

Okay, I can already tell this is gonna be awesome… The beat’s pretty dope. It’s nice to hear him actually focus on a specific topic other than his wealth/charisma for once. That first verse was fucking awesome. This is so weird. It just seems so different from what I’m used to hearing from Jay. There’s no hook. There’s just a Spoken Word break from Beyoncé between each verse. I just listened to the whole song. It’s great. It’s really just a verbal mural depicting the lifestyle of the protagonist. It’s really fuckin’ hard. This shit is dope af.

Track 3: American Dreamin’ (Prod. Grind Music, Puff Daddy & Mario Winans)

Oh lord. This Marvin Gaye sample is immaculate. They fucked this beat. God this is fucking awesome. This might just end up being my favorite JAY-Z album. I have a weakness for strong narratives in music. He’s starting from the beginning with this track; he couldn’t go to college, and he needs money, so he’s about to sell more coke than a rich white upper class family could ever dream of indulging in. Oh God… Yikes. This hook is pretty terrible. Lmao. It’s not bad enough to ruin the song, but goddamn. He’s singing “American dreamin’.” JAY-Z trying to sing is a traumatizing phenomenon. The first verse was great tho. I didn’t mention this before, but so far Jay’s voice sounds kinda weird to me on this album. I can’t tell if he’s trying to make it sound lighter since the protagonist is supposed to be younger or what. It’s kinda weird, but I can get used to it. It’s definitely not something I feel strongly enough to penalize the song for. The final verse was great. Jay’s flow on this album has been pretty underwhelming so far in my opinion. I’m only two tracks in tho, so maybe it just has a lackluster start. Anyway, this song is dope.

Track 4: Hello Brooklyn 2.0 Feat. Lil Wayne (Prod. Bigg D)

Ugh… I’m not feelin’ this hook from Wayne at all. Royce Da 5’9″ interpolated it in his Control remix and actually made it sound dope, but it just sounds awkward over this beat. The beat itself is kinda cool, but it’s not really the kinda beat I wanna hear Jay rap over. Pusha T would be good on it. Any rapper with a really tight flow would sound good on it. Jay’s flow is a bit too smooth & loose. He’s using a woman as a metaphor for Brooklyn. It’s not really the most original concept, but he’s doing a decent job with it. Actually… This song is actually pretty fuckin’ bad so far.

They said you’d murk me by the time I was 21 / That shit disturbed me, but you never hurt me / Hello Brooklyn, if we had a daughter / Guess what I’m a call her; Brooklyn Carter.

What the fuck kinda line is that?? That’d be like if I was talking to a girl named Elizabeth and I was like “Elizabeth, if we had a daughter guess what I’d name her? Elizabeth Marsh.” These are borderline struggle bars honestly. Oh my fucking God this hook is unbearable. Oh shit. Wayne actually has a verse. I thought he’d only be on the hook. Uuuugh… That verse was not good… Nothing about that verse was good. The worst part of it was the delivery tho. I don’t know why the fuck he was doing that half assed singing shit that Drake likes to do so much. It sounded fucking awful. Even if he was a good singer it’d be wack because the melody is terrible in the first place, and it doesn’t fit over this production at all. Basically, it has the same problem as the hook. The final verse from Jay was nice, but it wasn’t enough to save this song. This song is wack af.

Track 5: No Hook (Prod. Puff Daddy & Grind Music)

Okay, forget that shit I said about this being one of my favorite JAY-Z albums. This song’s starting now. The beat’s decent. The first verse was great. Alright, here we go. Maybe this actually will end up being one of my favorites. That previous track was pretty disheartening, but hopefully it’s just a bump in the road. Jay’s not really telling much of a story with this album so far. I mean, each song pretty much sticks to the same theme, but there isn’t a continuous narrative being told throughout the project. That’s fine I guess. I just wish I knew that before I started listening. I thought this album was gonna be something it’s not. That’s not something I’d penalize the actual music for tho. It’s not like it was specifically marketed as that kind of album. If it was then I’m not aware of it. He’s still telling stories within each track anyway. As you can see from the title, there’s no hook. There’s just a short break in between each verse. That’s probably for the best. Oh shit. That line that PRhyme sampled on Courtesy is on this song.

To live & die in N.Y. in the hustle game / Hustle ‘caine, hustle clothes, I hustle music / But hustle hard in any hustle that you pick / Skinny nigga, toothpick, but, but I do lift.

He killed this whole song. This is the best song on the album so far. I have no complaints. I wish every song from Jay was this good lyrically. This shit is dope af.

Track 6: Roc Boys (And the Winner Is…) [Prod. Puff Daddy & Grind Music]

The production on this album is a lot dustier than that of the previous few albums in Jay’s discography. That’s fine by me as long as he’s actually rapping well over them. This beat is dope. This song is really cool. So far this definitely seems to be Jay’s most creative album conceptually. He’s rapping the first verse as if it was an acceptance speech at an award show for drug dealers. He killed it. The hook’s fine. Gotdamn. That second verse was fantastic. Jay’s rapping like a motherfucker on this album. If he rapped like this more often I’d probably understand why so many people put him in their top 5. This shit is just as good as the previous track. It’s dope af.

Track 7: Sweet (Prod. Puff Daddy & Grind Music)

This beat is dope. The first verse was cool. I wasn’t crazy about his flow at first, but it gets better after the first few lines. The hook is actually pretty nice. Man, I love the percussion in this beat. The second verse was great. Same goes for the third verse. I don’t really have much to say about this track. The structure is very simplistic. It’s really good tho. I don’t have any complaints, but at the same time it’s definitely not one of my favorites. It’s just a good song.

Track 8: I Know (Prod. The Neptunes)

Oh wow. I remember this song. I really forgot about this track. I didn’t even like Hip Hop when this song came out. I guess most of the shit I’ve heard is from when I didn’t like Hip Hop. I just forgot all about this song. I never liked the hook. I always thought it was annoying and kinda corny. I can tolerate it now tho. The beat is nice. The concept of this song is very similar to that of His & Her Fiend by ScHoolboy Q. The relationship between the drug and the addict has kind of a romantic spin on it in this song tho. The first verse was dope af. The hook is actually growing on me. This is a really fuckin’ good song. Lol. I honestly think this really will end up being my favorite JAY-Z album at the rate it’s going. Hopefully it doesn’t slow down anytime soon. The second verse was great. Man, Jay’s… I feel like this is one of the few times where I actually think Jay is as good of a rapper as people say he is. This is really cool. The second verse was fantastic.

Don’t ever leave me / Don’t ever let ’em tell you that you’ll never need me / My China White ’til we D.O.A / Its Montega forever, baby, lets get away.

It’s dope how they made it sound like an innocent love song even tho the content is really dark. Damn. I love the way this song ends. Basically, he turns into a simp and starts sounding like Drake when the fiend finally kicks her addiction. This song is fucking awesome. I never actually paid attention to this song when it originally came out. I disliked the hook, and I didn’t even like Hip Hop, so I pretty much tuned it out every time it came on. Woah… I just realized this song has pretty much the same exact hook as His & Her Fiend. I don’t know how I didn’t notice that earlier. So His & Her Fiend really is like a spiritual successor to this song. That’s cool. This song is dope af. I definitely fuck with this.

Track 9: Party Life (Prod. Puff Daddy & Grind Music)

This beat is fine. Uuuugh… This first verse… Umm… It’s not really doing anything for me. He’s not rapping the same way he was rapping on previous tracks. His flow is lazy, and the content is back to his conventional braggadocio. Oh God… The second verse sounded even more uninspired. This song is bullshit. There’s really not anything entertaining about it. There’s no hook. His flow is lazy as hell. The lyrics are eye-roll inducing. The beat’s nothing special. This is wack af to me.

Track 10: Ignorant Shit Feat. Beanie Sigel (Prod. Just Blaze)

This song uses the same sample as Big Poppa by Biggie. It’s dope af. Just Blaze fucked this shit. The first verse was great. I’m not really feelin’ this hook tho. He’s just saying a bunch of dirty words and calling them “that ignorant shit you love.” He dropped an F bomb, but in Spanish. Jay using the Spanish version of the F word is like a white person saying the N word without the hard R at the end. It doesn’t sound as bad, but I’m still not gonna give it a pass. That second verse was fucking awesome. He spent the first half of it informing the listeners about fake ass thug rapper’s who’re full of shit, and then he starts being a thug rapper.

Don’t believe everything your earlobe captures; It’s mostly backwards / Unless it happens to be as accurate as me / And everything said in song you happen to see / Then actually, believe half of what you see / None of what you hear, even if it’s spat by me / And with that said, I will kill niggas dead / Cut niggas short, give you wheels for legs / I’m a K-I-double-L-E-R / See y’all in Hell, shoot niggas straight through the E.R.

Beanie came in right behind him and spit 8 bars real quick, and then Jay came right back to pull the plug on the verse. This song is fucking awesome. Honestly, that verse made up for the hook. I fucking love this shit. It’s dope af.

Track 11: Say Hello (Prod. DJ Toomp)

Oh fucking shit. This beat is amazing. This hook is dope af too. Bruh this fucking album. Lmao. This song is so fucking awesome. This might actually be my favorite JAY-Z song. The first verse was great. He’s rapping about losing his mind and turning into a fuckin’ savage. Kinda like how Tony Montana lost his shit in Scarface. This is one of Jay’s catchiest hooks, and DJ Toomp put his motherfuckin’ ass in that beat. Goddamn. Jay sounds so fucking good over it too. He needs to do more work with Toomp. The second verse was fantastic. The third verse was amazing too. I fucking love this shit. I don’t think any other song on this album is gonna surpass this track. This shit is dope af.

Track 12: Success Feat. Nas (Prod. No I.D. & Jermaine Dupri)

Oh shit. This is the song that Jay Electronica sampled in Road to Perdition—great song by the way. Jay starts the song by jacking Em’s lines from I’m Back.

I used to give a fuck; now I give a fuck less / What do I think of success? It sucks, too much stress.

The rest of the verse was good tho. I’m not crazy about this beat to be honest. It’s tolerable tho. Hmm… I feel like I’ve heard this verse before… Oh yeah, this was the verse DJ Cinema used to remix Flashing Lights. It’s really fuckin’ good. Nas’ verse was great too. This is a good song. I just wish the production was better. I fuck with this tho. It’s dope.

Track 13: Fallin’ (Prod. No I.D. & Jermaine Dupri)

There’s an uncredited feature from Bilal on the hook for this song. It’s dope. Oh shitfuck. This beat is fantastic. Jay’s rapping about how everyone who had to finesse their way to success eventually falls off and get’s fucked.

Got the two bricks; new cars, new whips / But niggas never learn until they end up in the news clip / The irony of selling drugs is sort of like you using it / Guess it’s two sides to what substance abuse is.

This is awesome. The second verse was dope af. I can already tell how I feel about this track. I have no problems with it. He snapped on that final verse too. Jay needs to rap like this more because he’s fuckin’ incredible on this album honestly. This shit is dope af.

Track 14: Blue Magic (Prod. The Neptunes)

Blue Magic

This is technically a bonus track. This beat is amazing. This album is turning me into a JAY-Z fan. He’s rapping his fucking ass off.

Yeah, so what if you flip a couple words? / I could triple that in birds / Open your mind; you see the circus in the sky / I’m Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey with the pies / No matter how you slice it I’m your motherfuckin’ guy.

He sounds great over this beat. The hook is fantastic. There’s another uncredited feature from Pharrell. Fuuuck. Honestly, THIS might end up replacing Say Hello as my favorite track. I gotta listen to it again to compare it and make my final decision. This shit is amazing tho. The third verse was awesome. This is another song that I have no problems with. It’s dope af.

Track 15: American Gangster (Prod. Just Blaze)

This beat is dope af. Jay’s flow is really fuckin’ nice on this first verse. Jesus. This album is so fucking good lmao. Just Blaze fuckin’ killed this shit. The beat is amazing. There’s no hook, just a short break between the first and second verses. This is another one of the best songs on the album. Jay slaughtered this shit. It’s dope af.

Final Thoughts:

This album is fucking great. Its my second favorite Jay album now. I think The Black Album is slightly better just because it doesn’t have any tracks as bad as the two duds on this one. However, when it comes to the actual rapping and the technicality of each verse, I think this is Jay’s best work. Like I mentioned earlier, this album makes it more clear to me why so many people have Jay in their top 5. I still don’t think he raps like this enough to warrant all the praise he gets, but I definitely have more respect for him than I did before starting this marathon. This album is great. It’s not Jay’s best produced album, but from a conceptual & lyrical perspective, this is JAY-Z at his best in my opinion. The album isn’t a continuous narrative that progresses with each track, but every song has it’s own theme and they’re all connected in some way. I think this is the kinda album that people who don’t like JAY-Z would like. It’s fucking dope.

Favorite Song: Say Hello

Least Favorite Song: Hello Brooklyn 2.0

Verdict:

B+

80-89

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2 comments

  1. I don’t remember much about this album. All I remember is that Fallin’, Pray, and Ignorant Shit were my favorite tracks, and I also remember the fact that I had to skip Hello Brooklyn 2.0 because of how much I hated it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. American Gangster is a great flick, probably one of Denzel Washington’s best.

    But onto this album it’s quite the more cohesive effort from Jay, the reason why this album is not really spoken about is that is overshadowed by said movie, but this isn’t a bad album on the contrary it really does a good job of detailing the life and times of a 1970s D-Boy. Almost like an audio Donald Goines/Iceberg Slim novel (peep their books if you get a shot.)

    My personal favorite tracks are American Dreamin’, Fallin’ and Blue Magic.

    Great job Nick

    Liked by 1 person

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