Jay-Z’s New Album Jazzes With Inspired Style But Has Little New Substance

Less than a year after the release of his first “post-retirement” album, “Kingdom Come,” Jay-Z is back on the shelves with a new compilation of songs inspired by Denzel Washington’s new film, American Gangster. The album was released on November 6.

Jay-Z has stated that almost every song on his album is based on a specific scene from the Ridley Scott film. Although his album is not the official soundtrack, Def Jam Records (Jay-Z’s own label) will be releasing that soundtrack, featuring other artists like Bobby Womack and the Staple Singers.

Jay-Z also stated that the direction for the album is mainly personal memories that he “hasn’t touched on in a while,” particularly some from his younger life in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects.

In an MTV interview, reflecting on his album, Jay-Z said, “It was like I was watching the film and putting it on pause and giving a back story to the story.” The album tracks the rise and inevitable fall of an impressionable drug dealer from Brooklyn, not quite as a parallel to the movie, but as a spin off of ideas recalled from it.

Initially, Jay-Z wasn’t looking to record again immediately after his last album, wanting instead to focus on his job as president of Def Jam. but after seeing an initial cut of the movie, being a big cinema and Denzel Washington fan, he couldn’t help but write songs the movie led him toward. The songs contained in the album have seemed to draw Jay-Z’s attention as he is planning a limited tour in the future to support them.

For Jay-Z, “American Gangster” was a way for him to try something new in a direction he really liked. When asked how it was to come up with an album that you like to produce, instead of thinking about that blockbuster single, Jay merely replied, “It’s fun.”