REVIEW BY: Ben Ehrenreich
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/13/2007
American Gangster is smart, ambitious and mature. Jay-Z shows tremendous depth and attention to detail when addressing different aspects of the drug trade. A prime example of this is the highlight of the album “American Dreamin,” “which does not have the confident braggadocio that “Dead President Pt. II” had, which many consider to be his crowning achievement, but is rather a wise reflection of his very difficult and vulnerable youth. Mr. Carter does such a great job of placing you in his mind state that the listener is left in awe of the amount of depth they have just traveled.
The problem with American Gangster is while there are songs comparable to “American Dreamin,’” there are also quite a few that do not deal with the aspects of drug trade as well. There are tracks peppered in that follow the theme, but fail to live up to the other tremendous cuts; consequently, they stick out like Billy Madison in grade school. Case in point is the very questionable “Hello Brooklyn 2.0.” and features sub-par
There could not be a worse song choice to follow the aforementioned “American Dreamin’”. Not only does it fail to expand on the “I’m from
With the few mishaps aside, I am elated Jay-Z put out American Gangster. Not only does it show Jay can still spit with the best of them, but perhaps is the best flow artist of all time. Jay switches up his cadence more than he did on the classic cut “22 Two’s”. They are all unique and very effective. I cannot think of an MC in history that adapts to production as well as Mr. Carter, who happens to be great on American Gangster. The sound is dark and diverse, yet is uniform enough to hold the album together. The majority is actually handled by Diddy’s production team, which surprised me, but nevertheless I was impressed.
More importantly, this album marks hopefully a start of a creative evolution in hip-hop. I would love to see more concept albums attempted, so maybe we don’t have to wait for Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan The Automator, and Kid Koala to get another Deltron 3030. Even though American Gangster doesn’t succeed overwhelmingly, it’s still a great listen and has been in my CD player since I first played it.