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American Gangster keeps Jay-Z on top of hip-hop

Brittny Flint and Amelia Thompson | Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Our favorite retired rapper is back.

Again.

Following his supposed retreat from the music world, Jay-Z proves once more why he deserves the self-proclaimed title, “The Best Rapper Alive” with the release of his latest, “American Gangster.” The rapper’s first concept album, which follows the storyline of Ridley Scott’s recently released film bearing the same title, breathes fresh air into a hip-hop industry that reeks of banality. Smart and innovative, “American Gangster” does not claim to “Walk it Out” or “Superman.” Instead, as Jay-Z proclaims on the song “No Hook,” he simply does not need one.

He also does not need to be backed by contrived hip-hop controversy (think Kanye and 50 Cent). Jay-Z is able to stand on his own and show why he continues to be relevant in the music industry. Revisiting many themes explored on past albums, “American Gangster” reveals an updated and more refined Shawn Carter. A few tracks stand out as the brightest of the bunch.

u”Party Life.” While performing this song on Vh1’s “Storytellers,” Hov requested red lighting – and justifiably so. This song is hot. Transporting us “’80s babies” into the Super Fly era, this track is the definition of swagger. Combining sultry vocals with Jay-Z’s undeniable cool, “Party Life” makes you want to do just that.

u”Roc Boys.” This track is sure to have us all throwing up the Roc. As declared in Beyonce’s “De Ja Vu,” “Roc Boys” proves that Jay runs the bass, high hat and the snare. Termed “black superhero music” this song has an element of blithe. From the moment the horns start, it’s impossible to not invoke the gods of funk. With brilliant instrumentation and lyrical content, this song is sure to be a Roc-A-Fella anthem and classic.

u”Fallin.” Laced with Bilal’s vocals, “Fallin” is introspective and thought-provoking. Both the lyrics and the beat have an element of sadness. Strategically placed after the track titled, “Success,” “Fallin” examines the juxtaposition of success and failure. Alluring his listeners with a sort of intimacy detailing his own “rise and fall,” Jay-Z reminds us why he continues to rise and rise again.

u”Hello Brooklyn.” With an infectious beat and Lil’ Wayne’s magnetism, this track is guaranteed to be a club favorite. The song is a sort of ode to the state of New York and its influence on Jay-Z as an artist. One of the more upbeat tracks on the album, “Hello Brooklyn,” exudes energy. Personifying Brooklyn, the duo recognizes the importance of the city to hip-hop. While Lil’ Wayne’s verse is not his best, both he and Jay prove why they are considered rap royalty.

u”Blue Magic.” Surprisingly not featured on the soundtrack to the film, “Blue Magic” outlines one of the major themes of the movie and album – the hustle. Hova teams up with Pharrell Williams on this track to reiterate the power of the collaboration.

Contact Brittny Flint at bflint@nd.edu and Amelia Thompson at atomps6@nd.edu