After an advanced screening of Ridley Scott’s new motion picture, Jay-Z revisited the booth to cut his own vision of American Gangster. Drawing his inspiration from Frank Lucas, the film’s heroin kingpin played by Denzel Washington, Jay-Z reflects on his drug-dealing days. As a gifted lyricist who could skip the writing step and rap right off his head, Jay-Z completed the album within a month.
His previous record, Kingdom Come, released less than a year ago and received mixed reviews. He claimed that the lyrics were too sophisticated for some listeners. Now back in his comfort zone, Jay-Z delivers each track through a cinematic scope taking the listeners back to a “mind state of a gangster from the 40s.” Although Jay-Z doesn’t write down his words, he still rhymes with intricacy. On “Pray,” he spits with vivid details: “As I head to my homeroom / I observe the ruins / dope needles on the ground / I hear the car go vroom / drug dealer in a BM with the top down.” Jay-Z’s improvisation is even more apparent on “No Hook.” He raps as though words just roll off his tongue: “Hustle cane, hustle clothes or hustle music / but hustle hard in any hustle that you pick.”
Speaking of hustle, Jay-Z is a hustler before rapper. While “Fallin’” catches glimpses of the dark days of hustling, “Roc Boys” shows the appreciation for his hustling success: “First of all I want to thank my connect / The most important person with all due respect. / Thanks to the duffle bag and the brown-paper bag / The Nike shoebox for holding all the cash.” A Jay-Z joint, of course, wouldn’t complete without addressing his rivals. In “Success” he rants: “Is this success all about? / A bunch of niggaz acting like bitches with big mouth?” Jay-Z has proven once again to be an irreplaceable hustler.