A tight collection of intelligent numbers that, instead of bombarding us with stale rhyming schemes and plastic beats, groove ever so effectively.
Rating: 8 / 10
Chris Wasser, 28 Nov 2007
Shortly after the release of 2003’s The Black Album, Jay-Z “retired.” Instead of naturally slinging clever rhymes and storytelling into the microphone to create further studio records of his own, the successful rap artist and entrepreneur focused his attention on a number of side projects, most notably Collision Course, a six-track mash-up record with Californian rock group Linkin Park.
His comeback record Kingdom Come garnered mixed reviews, but it's with American Gangster that Shaun Carter finds himself back at the top of his game. After attending an early screening of Ridley Scott’s new film of the same name, Jay became inspired to create a concept record, placing himself in the shoes of Denzel Washington’s character, crime boss Frank Lucas.
The result is a tight collection of intelligent numbers that, instead of bombarding us with stale rhyming schemes and plastic beats, groove ever so effectively. ‘Pray’ is a dazzling opener, edgy and hard hitting, gleaming with freshness.
Clever use of a Marvin Gaye sample (‘Soon I’ll Be Loving You Again') on ‘American Dreamin’’ keeps us glued to the enviable production. Jittery trumpets and trombones soar behind a terrific beat on the standout track ‘Roc Boys,’ sliding in and out of Jay’s effortless output. “This is black superhero music right here,” proclaims Carter, before signing out with a giggle. The Jigga Man’s still got it.