Uncontrollable Hustler’s Ambition
I don’t know where Cam’ron is, but I sure as hell know where Jay-Z is. He’s at a studio in Manhattan, CEO in full artist mode, feeling inspired and making his first true “concept” album. No he still doesn’t write his rhymes down but a pen and paper is getting heavy use today. It has the rough titles of the 14 songs Jigga has created and he’s carefully trying to create the perfect musical sequence for his new album. Inspired by the Denzel Washington flick that stays in rotation on a TV screen above him, Jay wants the album to tell a story from beginning to end.
He’s 100% sure he wants the album to begin with a song called “Pray,” his most intricate and vivid storytelling since the severely-underrated “Meet The Parents.” I believe it’s one of the four songs that will make the album that was produced by Puffy and the Hitmen. That’s right, Puffy and the Hitmen.
Jay told me a funny story in the elevator on the way to get his first look at the Hype Williams-directed “Blue Magic” video. He said Puff would always bug him like, “Nigga let me executive produce your next album.” Jay would basically be like, “What the fuck you talkin’ about? I’m a boss. And you’re a boss. That don’t even make any sense.” But finally Hova gave in and agreed to at least listen to what the Shiny Suit man had cookin’ in the stu. Surprisingly, he was blown away.
Supposedly, Puff had gotten all the D-Dots, Amen-Ras, Nashiems, Stevie J’s and Carlos Broadys back together again and they’ve been creating some funky 70’s soul inspired grooves. Jay asked Puff, “What are you doing with these tracks?” Puff was like, “I don’t even know. It’s just some cool shit, I listen to around my house. Walking around with my socks on and shit.”
Just how Just Blaze’s work inspired the beginning of Kingdom Come, the Hitmen tracks built the foundation of American Gangster. As it’s been widely reported (NY Times I see ya), most of Jay’s vocal content recounts hustler tales over neck snapping beats. Jay likens it to the lyrical side of Reasonable Doubt meets the musical majesty of Blueprint.
The album marriages Jay’s real life experiences like buying out the bar with his hustler buddies (the d-boy celebratory next release “Roc Boys”) with songs inspired by scenes from the movie. Notably, the one where Denzel as Frank Lucas is distraught that his nephew played by T.I. has abandoned his dreams of being professional baseball player and wants to get into the “family business.” Jay moved by that scene applies it his own cautionary lesson to his nephews for them to always stay on the right path.
Fuck what ya heard. Truth be told, “Blue Magic” is not even one of the strongest songs on the album. But Jay insists it was the best way to introduce the direction of the new record. (“Let’s take ‘em to the ‘80s, before we take ‘em to the ‘70s.”) The other record that the Imperial Skateboard P did, is the only song that sounds like it could be a commercial smash. It’s a song about the effect of heroin disguised as a love song. The rest here is straight gutter. A lot of “aggressive content” for you goofies and doofies.
Tracks like “Success” (produced by No ID “The Mentor”) will have your trunk rattling as well as the somewhat Dream-inspired “No Hook.” Light on the choruses, Jigga flourishes when he addresses some of the hot stove topics you want him to touch on. DeHaven, the mad extorter, gets it on a couple of tracks. And Beyonce, the fiancée?, gets a dedicated verse on which Jay declares, “She’s on my dick and I’m on her bra strap.” Besides y’all haters of the male persuasion couldn’t afford to take ole girl on a “million dollar vacation” like the big homie.
As it stands now, the album has a surprising end. The final song is called “Fallen,” produced by Jermaine Dupri. That’s right Prez Carter’s supposed corporate rival. Bilal’s on the hook but again this ain’t no commercial ish. It aims to bring the whole album full circle. That as always, gangstas don’t get chubby and move to Miami, they end up in jail or they die. Thankfully, American Gangster will prove Young Hova’s career is alive and well.
There’s a DJ Toomp track Jay is still working on and another one with a Marvin Gaye sample that Jay still feels needs some more production muscle. There’s also a new version of “Ignorant Shit” that features Beanie Sigel (the only guest rapper I heard so far) and Jay lets Imus have it in the final verse.
Jesus, that’s it for now, I got an interview to prepare for. Any of you fuckers got any questions you want me to ask the Great One, holla atcha boy. Y’all owe me.
Supa engineer extraordinaire Young Guru granted me some clarity: Puff’s 2007 Hitmen consist of Sean C. and LV (aka Grind Music). LV is also Fat Joe’s DJ and Sean C. co-produced “Can’t Knock The Hustle.” They actually have five tracks on the album. And them niggas got some heat. You’ll see.