10 Years After Its Debut, Jay Z’s American Gangster Still Knocks

American Gangster, the film, starred Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the story of real-life 1970s Harlem gangster Frank Lucas. The movie debuted with mixed reviews but had a ton of momentum going into its premiere. 

Not only did it star two Hollywood heavyweights, but it had an unofficial soundtrack recorded by Jay Z.

American Gangster Official Trailer #1 – Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe Movie (2007) HD

Subscribe to TRAILERS: http://bit.ly/sxaw6h Subscribe to COMING SOON: http://bit.ly/H2vZUn Subscribe to CLASSIC TRAILERS: http://bit.ly/1u43jDe Like us on FACEBOOK: http://goo.gl/dHs73 Follow us on TWITTER: http://bit.ly/1ghOWmt American Gangster Official Trailer #1 – Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe Movie (2007) HD American Gangster Trailer – Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Denzel Washington Russell Crowe Chiwetel Ejiofor Josh Brolin and Lymari Nadal Following the death of his employer and mentor, Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas establishes himself as the number one importer of heroin in the Harlem district of Manhattan.

Coming off of his Kingdom Come album a year earlier, which featured a few knockers like the cut Lost One, most people thought he’d lost his steez and fell to the middle of the pack. But his American Gangster album represented a true return to form. 

It was similar to Michael Jordans return from early retirement when he wore the number 45 and failed to make it to the NBA Finals, then came back the next season wearing his original number 23 and captured another NBA championship. Jay was looking to do just that. He was a man motivated, and it showed.

American Gangster was like his own audio-biography. Inspired by the film, the hype that surrounded the release was ridiculous. 

The fact that Jay was inspired by a movie that mirrored his own life in some aspects was intriguing. I had even heard that he auditioned for the lead role in the film. 

My hunger for his previous genius wasn’t fully satisfied on Kingdom Come, with popular cuts like Show Me What You Got that didn’t measure up to his previous work. So anything that felt like a return to those Reasonable Doubt days sounded good to me. 

When he dropped Roc Boys (And the Winner Is), I was completely on board for the journey.

JAY-Z – Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)…

Music video by Jay-Z performing Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)…. (C) 2007 Roc-A-Fella Records, LLC

Coming in at 15 tracks, the production was handled by Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Diddy and The Hitmen, Jermaine Dupree, DJ Toomp, Big D and No ID. The musical moods fell somewhere in between the production on Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint. 

It was a very soulful and nostalgic album. Guest features included Lil Wayne, Beanie Siegel, one time rival Nas, and others. Just looking at that lineup of features and producers had fans staring at their pre-orders waiting for the clock to strike midnight.

The first track on the album, Pray comes in like a warning shot being fired to let the block know Hov has arrived. Produced by Diddy, LV and Sean C of the Bad Boy production team The Hitmen, it invokes the cinematic feeling that became the calling card of The Notorious B.I.G records like Somebodys Got to Die and Warning

Jay spits tales of trying to survive street life with as much faith as one can muster given the circumstances. That song is then followed by the Marvin Gaye flavored American Dreamin. 

Jay-Z – American Dreamin Live (American Gangster)

Jay-Z – American Dreamin Live (American Gangster

Using the sample from Marvin Gayes Soon Ill Be Loving You Again, the track features Jay-Z spitting introspective bars about his life as a youth, hoping to one day make his dreams a reality. 

We all know by now that Jay was a admitted crack dealer as a teen. These kinds of songs were somewhat of a rarity because he wasnt exactly always a open book when it came to his personal life. 

Other standout cuts on the project  include Sweet, Success featuring Nas, and Ignorant Sh*t. The latter being more like a freestyle featuring the Broad Street Bully, Beanie Sigel. 

What I like most about this record is, this is that old 1996 Jay-Z. If you ever questioned Jays skills, and I dont know how one could actually do that, this was another example of his greatness. 

Its pretty dope to see Jay is still at it ten years after his 10th studio album dropped. A lot of Hip Hop fans consider this album to be a classic. Id give it a strong 4 out of 5. Back then, I dug the album but wasnt going crazy over it. When you listen to it today, it ages well. 

Like Reasonable Doubt, it gets better as time goes on.  Thats a testament to not only Jay Z, but all of the talented people who worked on this album. Hip Hop is at its best when it can indirectly teach you lessons about life, whether your reality mirrors that of the story teller or not. 

The American Gangster album is one of the best examples of storytelling in Hip Hop. Its a soulful journey through the mind of an adolescent, hustling his way out of poverty to become one of the best to ever do it. 

Thats the pure essence, power and gangster of Jay Z. 

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