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.

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  • misterchane

    great review

    I will check my local used cd store for the 1st witchdocta LP and will support Denzel and crew this weekend for the visual portion of this synergistic heroin dusted major studio/major label love fest…already “found” AG audio (gave it 5 listens and subsequently deleted it) –

    lil wayne – not to give him anymore oxygen than he already consumes on this site – is better on hooks than verses

    nas and jay z need to put together a duet album – fantastic chemistry there

    jay z should think about doing more story joints – he excels there
    and it keeps him from worshipping himself

    I think that the wordplay/concept adherence is the marked improvement with mr. carter on this record, the decline is in his relevance to me…he is like a car commercial for an upper end vehicle – a marvelously engineered bit of seductive if increasingly souless art for a product that i refuse to attain/might be killed by

  • noz

    “A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual had a bigger impact on my life than In My Lifetime and Hard Knock Life”


  • Fire

    Damn good post, man. Interesting comparisons. It’s good to have someone that actually writes about hip hop topics more often than not on this site.

  • Around and Around

    Nice post man.

  • j

    I don’t get you dudes just don’t like Jay_Z that is what I am going to believe. He the guy everyone loves to hate. BIG said it best the more money you make the more problems and Jealousy and Envy follows. He could rap about education then he is not real. YOu have to get arrest and do drugs. This dude don’t even get high, help people in Africa but get no love. WHERE”S THE LOVE.

  • j

    I need the Hustla music It relates to me in Corperate America. But at end of the day I see the SUN and others See the Sky. If you don’t get it then you see nothing because you looking into something that is not there.

  • j.burnett

    I understand the point you’re making b/c I’ve listened to both albums and review both on my site but I think you’re taking the wrong things from Jay’s album. If anything “Fallin” displays that he’s not promoting selling dope. Jay’s message is identical to Kanye; basically keep hustling till you make it. It’s just his passage involved the underworld. The Witchdoctor is dope, point blank but the album has points where it promotes things that are not so spiritual either i.e. “spell on dem hoes” that PDQ track and possibly “semiautomatic”…Good analysis though.

  • KFrizzle

    I serve to survive, Team got it on his arm
    I watch these dealers move on
    Ain’t that the bomb that goes boom
    The shit that these Js get high with in a room
    I consume the whole planet with one swallow
    I swear, I’m trying to stretch twenty dollars out here
    I got snapping, a whole bunch of niggas trapping
    Let God be the judge, react quick
    Here comes a slug from a nigga out Atlanta
    You shot an innocent bystander
    How frail we are in the face of nature
    Hurricane Erin coming, feeling safer?
    Straight up on some smooth shit

    Word up on the Witchdoctor plug…he is slept on like the rest of the DF except for Kast gettin their props. Kudos to you for this drop homie!

  • Timbo

    Great post – thanks.

    I never listened to Witchdoctor before, but that ‘Best Year’ song is great. I’ll pick this new CD up.

  • Jay Smooth

    good post

  • thoreauly77

    money = god, in america. thought you knew? plus, believing in god is not a prerequisite for morality.

  • SUN

    real talk this blog is the best shit that’s ever been posted here

  • nine

    finally…an objective writer!…funny b/c i said everything you’re saying the other day…i don’t know why peeps feel that jay can do no wrong…it’s not about hate, it’s called an OPINION…can we agree to disagree and leave it at that!…but yeah…feeling Witchdoctor on this one! rather ride to this than AG all day long!

  • The Infamous Mr. P

    its easy to see that rap has gone from the struggle in the streets to the struggle in the suburbs and everywhere else. we’ve become jaded to the game, we roll our eyes when we hear shit for the streets and we smirk at innovation in music like were too good for it or something. i think that the reality of it all is, that marketing schemes for rappers these days are based on how many cds they can sell to white people both here and overseas. like snoop has any business over in europe tryin to solve their gang problem. or increasing sales by promoting a movie with the same title. anyway in the end its up to the streets to decide what makes a cd classic not soundscan and especially not some advertising scheme. the movie hype takes away from the cd, but still kingdome come was better.

    • Fire

      “but still Kingdom Come was better.”
      Are you kidding me? At least AG has awesome beats and better rhymes. Though old Jay is better, AG is WAY WAY better than Kingdom Come. People who liked the record can fool themselves into thinking it went over people’s heads. It didn’t go over mine, I just didn’t like it.

  • Billy X. Sunday

    nice drop.

    *pulls WitchDoctor album link from e-mail*

    *starts download*

    *daps Jus*

    *sparks that green ish*

  • Casper

    Ain’t being a pirate just great?

  • clarknova

    Billy, Witchdoctor needs your support. Money’s tight for all of us, but I’ll be buying it. I want to support guys like EJ.

  • chronwell

    I like crackhop (for ex.Clipse,Jeezy,USDA, Old Scarface) but Jay dont do it for me. His lyrical excellence and abilty to svengalize a huge fanbase amongst hood ppl and college ppl and George Clooneys is undeniable. Dude is a monster but maybe EJ the Witchdoctor deserves some attention too.I will check for his new joint. I loved the old SWAT Healing Ritual joint.

  • Vee

    Cool post.

    Off topic:
    “I didn’t grow up where the only choice I had in life was to sell heroin to my neighbors.”

    Actually I’m tired of this sentiment or idea. Many people repeat this as if it were indeed their only choice. It’s soaked up and believe to be true although history will refute their claims.

    Sure some people lived in urban war zones but there are many other choices outside of selling crills, yay, white girl, etc.

    So yeah, I’m fan and I appreciated some of the growth and direction of Kingdom Come but the overall execution, simply fell short.


    Fire why do you constantly think Kingdom come is wack.That1s grow men music that1s why you cannot relate with.At least it`s better than curtis.
    AG is the shit.I`km gonna cop it together with that nas new albulm when it drop.nice post Black ice.


    Dam I cant wait to hear both. Witchdoctor was always one of my favorite. I been waiting for him to drop again. Good music is making a comeback!

  • Fernando


    Good look on the Witchdoctor album. SWAT Healin Ritual was a staple in my collection, and I actually bumped it on the freeway the other day while traveling to watch my Ducks BEAT USC. That cat should have a much bigger collection of songs than what he puts out though. He has real MUSICAL skill as well as some interesting rhymes. “It was you / pull the trigger he was through!!”

    You dropping the Witchdoctor note is almost as good as NOZ giving props to Mac Mall’s “Untouchable”


    Check that #5 off S.W.A.T. –

    “Holy Grounds”

    That’s been my shit for years. That’s how I knew that Dungeon was not really paying enough attention to either Witchdoctor or Cool Breeze.

    Shout out to Ray Murray, Pat and Rico. DF is still unbeatable, even without a significant hit in the last, um, “few” years. Definitely put Atlanta and The Souf on the map.

    Bwoi, deez grounds are hoooley!!

  • D

    sweet jesus someone in the media picked witchdoctor over jay…
    the talent over the money
    the worker over the manager
    the artist over the ..well you get the picture

    maybe the worlds gonna be ok after all

  • Battlecataclysmic

    ‘Bout time Witch got his just due. I’m tired of people being so money conscious that they forget what real life was really all about from the beginning. No wonder the Bible says that “THE LOVE of money is the root of all evil”; there’s nothing wrong with making money if you’ve got the right ATTITUDE. But if you love money more than you love God and more than you love life, you have no future.

    Cuz when you die, you can’t take that lil change witch… witch… witchu…

  • Lord Of Kingz

    I grew up on “A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual” while everybody else was stuck on Reasonable Doubt…It’s a shame really. Just be thankful “The Diary of An American Witchdoctor” so you late bloomers can catch up…

  • Schedule One

    hmmm… well, for one, i dont even think there IS a comparison between these two artists. they both come from two TOTALLY different worlds. one (jay-z) is a major major artist, and the other (witchdoctor) is UNFORTUNATLY a so-called, “nobody”. and the “nobody” gets my vote any day of the week. witchdoctor is a wonderfully talented artist with a lot of sustenance for the head. jay-z, or like i choose to call him, gay-z, is just your everyday dude that really has nothing to say. sure, it’s nice to hear how the “other side” lives, but id rather listen to somebody that hits home anytime, and everytime! jay-z is just another commercial rapper that’s in it for the money yet CLAIMS to be a someone as far as hip hop goes. i know of his history in the game, and ive NEVER been a fan… he’s garbage! the ONLY album from him that even got a FEW listens is the blueprint. other than that… his shit gets thrown away. witchdoctor on the other hand, ive been a fan for YEARS! there’s no denying that what comes out of his mouth is from the heart. just the overall sound of witchdoctor albums sinks straight into your soul… and without that quality… none of it matters… its just a sound. THANK YOU witchdoctor… youve been “on” since you started, and you continue to provide what your fans wanna hear, and, have come to expect. i dont know, im sure im the a**hole here, but there really is NO comparison… not that one’s better than the other, they’re just two TOTALLY different sounds. personally, they shouldnt be on the same blog… sorry big time xxl mag writer, but you’re off on this one. now… to rant and rave… the cheezy dudes talking about downloading the album for free, you should be shot… how can an artist EVER “make it” when people like you guys are pulling those types of stunts. last but not least… im appauled that this guy writes or even post blogs for xxl magazine. your grammer is HORRIBLE! WOW! how can you expect an intelligent person to takes you seriously when your writing is SO bad. man… and to all the guys quoting witchdoctor tracks… CHEEZY! whatever… just another piece of proof that the majority of the hip hop culture is ignorant, and will most likely forever stay this way. it’s yet another sad day down here in florida. GOD I HATE IGNORANCE!

  • fountaine

    much needed publication! witchdoctor is one of DFs best and the new LP is SAUCY!! check out that song OXYGEN that’s blessed me as well. WHOLE LP FIRE! welcome back EJ. much love