The Tale of Two Americas
I, like most of you out there, have heard Jay-Z’s American Gangster album. Yes, I agree that it sounds better than Kingdom Come. Yes, I agree that this is the closest that the No. 45/Washington Wizards Jay has come to sounding like the No. 23 Jay.
I haven’t seen the movie this album advertises yet though. Which is probably why I’m not overly excited about it. I’ve been told that its kinda like Idlewild, you have to see the movie to have full appreciation for the album. I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing. Because even after watching Idlewild, I wound up liking the movie. The album itself, not so much.
That being said, I have also listened to fellow Dungeon rat Witchdoctor’s newest album, er, collection, The Diary of An American Witchdoctor. I can’t say that its better than his first album, A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual, but it is close, sonically. Perhaps because in addition to new tracks, its made up of some of the better songs that have appeared on his independent internet releases over the last seven years (he left off “The Real Hood” though). Some may take that as a lazy cop out, others may see it as a testament to his ability to create truly timeless music. Either way, the album is called A Diary…, so you should know what to expect.
After listening to both of these albums, I can say I actually like both, but I feel like I walked away with more from Witchdoctor’s side America.
Jay-Z and/or Frank Lucas’ America is a place that fortunately, I didn’t really have to live. I didn’t grow up where the only choice I had in life was to sell heroin to my neighbors. I’m actually grateful that I don’t know what its like to amass a fortune illegally, kill to protect it and hardly get to enjoy it because you have worry about cops, Feds and just plain ol’ jealous folks that want to TAKE-YOU-OUT, ANYTIME-THEY-FEEL-LIKE-IT! Worst, snitch when the water gets too hot.
That’s why I’ve been bumping the Witchdoctor more than the Jay. Yeah, you may consider me crazy for preferring an album that’s distributed by Adult Swim over an album that’s attached to what folks are calling the Black Godfather, but fugg it, it ain’t the first time. A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual had a bigger impact on my life than In My Lifetime and Hard Knock Life too.
American Witchdoctor holds true to its title in having songs that can be spiritually refreshing in some ways. Plus, it speaks to the everyday man. Sure, we all have a hustle of some sorts, but not everybody is a damn kingpin like so many rappers are either claiming to be, or claiming to have used to be.
Hearing ‘Doc deliver songs like “Just Like You” and the year-old, but still relevant “Best Year” make you feel happy to wake up in the morning. Songs like that have the power to make you remember them whenever you have a good day, or need a picker-upper.
Tracks like Jay’s “Roc Boys” and “Sweet” sound nice, but I bet that in a few, even a couple of months, we won’t be referencing these songs for anything that pertains to our lives. Hell, I can barely remember anything from Kingdom Come either.
Even the way these two American albums attack the same topic has ‘Doc presenting a more interesting angle. His song about drug addiction, “Jake Got Ya Body” sounds more familiar to me because it talks about the dumb and destructive shit people do when they are hooked on something. Jay’s heroin-personifying addiction song, “I Know” makes addiction sound like its somekind of blissful marriage that ends peacefully. Props to him for being able to manipulate words in such a way that you feel sorry for the heroin parting ways with an addict at the very end, but c’mon man, really? Plus, didn’t 50 do that on already on “Baltimore Love Thing.”
To my ears, some of American Witchdoctor just sounds better to me too. Tracks like “Spell On Them Hoes” (which also gonna be appearing on that new CunninLynguists album Dirty Acres under the name “Yellow Lights” featuring Phonte) trump “Blue Magic.” On top of that, American Witchdoctor contains original beats for the most part, while American Gangster has tracks like “Say Hello” which is pretty much looking like yet another AG sample jack from Playaz Circle’s “U Can Believe It.” Yes kids, PC had the beat first, the song is damn near two years old, dig in your mixtape stashes.
Plus, at the end of the day, I tend to appreciate a CD that worships God more than it does money, not the other way around.