Thursday, November 8, 2007

Jay-Z Gets Gangster, Cassidy Sets The Record Straight, & Styles P Exclusive Video

When you're falling and you can't get up
All you do is push up, pull up and sit up

-Jay-Z, "Fallin'," American Gangster

Yea, I'm steppin' my blog game up with the video exclusive and reviews. First check out that Styles P & Swizzy video up top. Then, the day has finally come, I can't conceal my opinion on Jay's album any longer. Here is my review:


Grade: 3 ½ / 5

When Jay-Z announced he was creating a concept album inspired by the film American Gangster, critics and fans claimed a resurgence of his debut LP Reasonable Doubt sound.

Though the popular Brooklyn-bred rapper and current CEO/President of Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella Records can relate his life to the 1970s Harlem heroin boss Frank Lucas depicted in the movie, Jay needs to realize his drug dealing days are long gone in the time of his tenth release American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella Records).

Jay also attempts to prove that the “30 Something” from last year’s Kingdom Come that “partied with nice girls” and “used to play the block, but now he’s all grown up” is back to his street roots – nice try. In ‘06, he was a commercial thug. Now, the Jigga man has returned to regulating the block? Please, maybe the air is too thin where his desk sits atop Def Jam that he can’t think straight.

In Jay’s defense, the concept of American Gangster is he is reminiscing of the hustling days of his past by paralleling his experience with that of Lucas. It’s easier to take his rhymes seriously this way than it is to picture him today scuffing his chancletas on a curb in Marcy projects pitching dime bags.

The album is full of Hova’s familiar lyrical wittiness and charm on the mic, but he sounds softer than usual and rambles at times. A majority of the production here is handled by Diddy, who churned out six beats for the project. Just Blaze, No-ID, and The Neptunes bless two each while Toomp and Jermaine Dupri round out the musical backdrop.

American Gangster is a notch above mediocre not because its tracks are all average, but because songs are either exceptional or absolutely agonizing. From the introspective, spiritual high of “Pray” to the awful, unoriginal low of “Party Life,” the CD is hit-or-miss.

Jay recycles an old concept with a fresh spin on the JD-produced “Fallin’,” where he raps “The irony of sellin’ drugs is sort of like you’re using it/ I guess there’s two sides to what substance abuse is.”

The infectious horns compliments of Diddy on “Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)” let Jay show his gratitude while No-ID’s wild organs on “Success,” Jay’s second collaboration with Nas, allow the MCs to voice their views on accomplishment.

Jay gets real over Toomp’s Godfather strings on “Say Hello,” rapping “If Al Sharpton is speakin’ for me/ Somebody get him the word and tell him I don’t approve/ Tell him I’ll remove the curses if he tell me our schools don’t be perfect/ When Jena 6 don’t exist, tell him that’s when I’ll stop sayin’ bitch, bitch!” His use of double-entendre and complex wordplay throughout is also notable.

Still, every track is not as impressive. “No Hook” is a no-frills exercise in lyricism and “Ignorant Shit” with Beanie Sigel is a satirical tribute to today’s rap gimmicks – but both are held back by Jay’s exaggerated cockiness.

His holier-than-thou sentiment with constant references to gangster idolatry instead of rapper comparisons – “I’m more Frank Lucas than Ludacris” and “Scarface the movie did more than Scarface the rapper to me” – gets played out quickly.

Despite a well-placed Marvin Gaye sample flipped by Diddy on “American Dreamin’” and the synthy bounce of Neptunes’ heater on “Blue Magic,” the tracks fail to keep the listener’s attention as a result of Jay’s meandering content. Plus, no one could predict that a collaboration with Lil’ Wayne on the corny nursery rhyme “Hello Brooklyn 2.0” would flop as miserably as it does.

Jay-Z’s rags-to-riches story on American Gangster is in a similar vein of his late, great friend of Notorious B.I.G.’s work but can not be compared to classics like Life After Death or even the Jigga man’s previous effort in Reasonable Doubt due to a lack of consistency and haphazard track quality.


If it's long, too bad. I had to analyze one of our generation's legendary MC's at a different level. I've also read that Jay could achieve his 10th number 1 on the Billboard Top 200 here and that Hov' is behind only Kanye and Fitty for first-day sales.
Round 2, begin:


Grade: 3 / 5

Philly MC Cassidy has been through a lot personally in the two years since I’m A Hustla, from serving eight months in jail for involuntary manslaughter to surviving a car crash. His new effort B.A.R.S.: The Barry Adrian Reese Story on RCA/ Full Surface Records is his most personal album to date but suffers from a generic sound and outwardly false statements that get in the way of the overall message.

Refusing to be confined as a battle rapper with hard-hitting one-liners, Cassidy reaches to Swizz Beatz, Hi-Tek, Neo Da Matrix, and Don Cannon for instrumentals to let him vent on topics ranging from the standard materialism of “money, cash, hoes” to captivating narratives about religion and the justice system.

Lead single “My Drink & My 2 Step” featuring Swizz Beatz is a catchy welcome back party for the 25-year old rapper while John Legend’s silky vocals blend with Cass’ new swagger on “Celebrate” as he assures “Get the obituary ready, get the reverend/ My old style died and went to punch line Heaven.”

Cassidy adopts a speedy delivery on “Cash Rulez” featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Eve, snapping upper vertebrae in his path. The MC even shows versatility by taking a seat behind the mixing boards and sampler, self-producing the loner anthem “Me, Myself and I.”

One theme of B.A.R.S. is Cassidy’s experimentation with his softer side on “Done 4 Me” and “Leanin’ On The Lord” featuring Angie Stone, where he speaks on his faith and beliefs in light of his murder charges and near-death car crash. On the former, he raps “God is good, God is great/ There’s a reason that I’m breathin’ and it’s gotta be faith/ And I’m thankful that I’m eatin’, there’s a lot on my plate/ If the Lord wasn’t watchin’, I’d be rottin’ upstate.” Pass Cassidy some Kleenex, por favor.

The CD’s downfall is that Cassidy tries to be more than what he is, and fails. His random rants show that he’s no Martin Luther King when it comes to speeches and ordinary song structure lacks any type of creativity such as the irritating “I Get My Paper.”

Cassidy disses “dumb rap” on the artificial “Damn I Miss The Game,” but falls into a similar trap on B.A.R.S. with too much glitter and not enough gold.


I guess you could say I was in a hatin' mood. I like to think of it as being critical - that's not to say I didn't enjoy certain songs on these CDs. It's just tough to please someone who has an ear for the real.
And if you were smart, you'd get your hands on that new DJ Allah Mathematics Wu-Tang mixtape to hold you over until 8 Diagrams drops.

[dom corleone ain't nothin' ta F wit]

Some people choose not to believe
But I pray everyday when I drop to my knees

-Cassidy, "Done 4 Me," B.A.R.S.: The Barry Adrian Reese Story

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