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American Gangster (album)

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American Gangster
A silhouette of a man in a suit walking into a closed business where the chairs have been put on the tables.
Studio album by Jay-Z
Released November 6, 2007
Genre Hip hop
Length 58:38
Label Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
Producer Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter (exec.), Antonio "L.A." Reid (exec.), Sean "Puffy" Combs with The Hitmen (assoc.), Bigg D, Chris Flame, DJ Toomp, Idris "Driis" Elba, Jermaine Dupri, Just Blaze, No I.D., The Neptunes
Jay-Z chronology
Kingdom Come
American Gangster
The Blueprint 3
Singles from American Gangster
  1. "Blue Magic"
    Released: September 20, 2007
  2. "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)..."
    Released: October 10, 2007
  3. "I Know"
    Released: November 4, 2007

American Gangster is the tenth studio album by American rapper Jay-Z. It was recorded as a concept album—inspired by the 2007 film of the same name—and was released on November 6, 2007, by Roc-A-Fella Records. The album features production from Diddy & The Hitmen, Just Blaze, and The Neptunes, among others. Guest appearances include Beanie Sigel, Lil Wayne, Pharrell and Nas.

American Gangster was released to commercial success, despite being pulled from the iTunes Store at Jay-Z's request, at the time of its initial release. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 425,861 copies in its first week, while tying Elvis Presley for the second most American number-one albums. American Gangster received widespread critical acclaim and was viewed as a return to form for Jay-Z after the 2006 album Kingdom Come.


Jay-Z originally stated he recorded nine tracks for the album,[1] but the final track listing accumulated fifteen overall cuts (two bonus tracks). He also stated that almost every song is based on a specific scene from the film based on Frank Lucas, a former drug kingpin.[1] Def Jam executive Tracey Waples noted each track from the album will have its own "mini-film".The Album cover and music videos were costume designed by June Ambrose.[2] As for the direction of the album, Jay-Z used personal memories he hadn't touched on in a while, specifically memories from his early life when he lived in Brooklyn's Marcy Houses.[3]

On November 9, 2007, Jay-Z appeared on the Charlie Rose Show to discuss the album.[4] When asked about how the film gave life to this album, he stated "It's a New York City true story, you know. So as soon as the movie came on, it was like familiar, things that my pop seen and my uncles seen and, you know, different things like that, things I've seen growing up. So they resonated with me in a way, the story, as well as, I mean, even though everything happens, you know, the way it turns out, you know, it's one of those movies that where you champion the bad guy, because the bad guy, you know, he don't seem like a bad guy, and the good guy — I mean the good guys are bad. You know, that complex — the complexity of human beings in this thing was amazing to me. I loved the complexity of the human beings".[5]

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to Yahoo! Music journalist Angus Batey, American Gangster used "a selection of beats built from '70s soul and funk" to reflects "the period setting; lyrically, its primary theme is an investigation of the evolution of the gangsta archetype, looking at how the drug dealer became a semi-sympathetic outlaw figure, examining the contradictions inherent in those who chase the American Dream on the far side of legality, and ruminating on what this period of US history might yet come to mean".[6] Although Jay-Z says American Gangster was inspired by the movie of the same name, songs such as "Say Hello" touch on the topics of censorship and the Jena 6 controversy.[7]

The Neptunes provide production twice on the album, with the first single "Blue Magic" which is the fourteenth track, and the eighth track "I Know".[8] Diddy and two of his producers known as LV & Sean C, who are from his production team, The Hitmen, are responsible for six tracks on the album. They are credited with the second single "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)...", "American Dreamin'" (where his other production partner Mario Winans assists), "No Hook", "Party Life", "Pray", and finally "Sweet".[8] DJ Toomp delivers one track for the album, while Just Blaze is credited for a bonus track and the re-make of "Ignorant Shit".[8] Kanye West mentor No I.D. gives two tracks also, one which he co-produces with Jermaine Dupri and vice versa.[8] Finally, three lesser known producers lend hand to the "Intro", which is credited to Chris Flames and co-production from Idris "Driis" Elba, while Bigg D produces the Beastie Boys-sampling Lil Wayne assisted track, "Hello Brooklyn 2.0".[8]

Jay-Z would have the film – American Gangster – playing on the monitors above the recording booth as a source of motivation during the recording sessions.[9] In an interview with MTV, producer LV from The Hitmen said "Jay would have the beats...He'd do the record, and he'd send it back to us. We'd fill in the blanks as far as making them full records. From having live horns, live strings, live drummers. This percussion dude, he was coming in with bottles, banging on bottles, just sprinkles of shit. We went all out. We brought in musicians to bring it out. Jay probably just heard a sample and some drums. Once we got the vocals back, we brought in all the extra candy".[10]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[11]
The A.V. Club A−[12]
Entertainment Weekly B+[13]
The Irish Times 4/5 stars[14]
NME 5/10[15]
Pitchfork 8.6/10[16]
Q 4/5 stars[17]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[18]
Uncut 4/5 stars[19]
USA Today 3.5/4 stars[20]

American Gangster was made available for digital download in its entirety, at, Roc-A-Fella's website, and Rhapsody on November 6, 2007. Jay-Z had the album removed from the iTunes Store, explaining that "as movies are not sold scene by scene, this collection will not be sold as individual singles."[21] It was eventually released to iTunes in 2011.[22] In the first week of release, American Gangster debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 425,861 copies in the United States.[23] It was Jay-Z's tenth number-one album, tying him with Elvis Presley at second for total number-one albums; the record is held by The Beatles.[24] On December 6, 2007, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[25] Jay-Z promoted the album with the American Gangster Live concert tour, performing material only from the album in five smaller sized venues across the US, starting on November 6 in Los Angeles and ending on November 12 in Philadelphia.[26] According to a statement from, the five-city club tour sold out in less than 60 seconds.[27]

American Gangster received widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 83, based on 25 reviews.[28] Rob Sheffield deemed it a vast improvement over Jay-Z's previous record, Kingdom Come, writing in Rolling Stone that the rapper "sounds relaxed, no longer worried about impressing anyone."[18] Reviewing the album for Entertainment Weekly, Neil Drumming said it was more than "a throwback album" and that Jay-Z adjusts his flow to each production while "emerging cockier than ever on the next track".[13] Village Voice critic Amy Linden praised its live instrumentation, finding it lush, sexy, and "tailor-made for the '70s theme ... without being shamelessly retro".[29] According to The Observer's Steve Yates, "it's Jay-Z's and American Gangster's triumph that reflecting on his appetite seems to have reawakened it".[30] Nathan Rabin from The A.V. Club called the record a "surprisingly strong return to form",[12] while Hot Press journalist Chris Wasser found its songs smooth and clever, "intelligent numbers that, instead of bombarding us with stale rhyming schemes and plastic beats, groove ever so effectively."[31] Greg Kot was impressed by the complexity of Jay-Z's metaphors about drug trafficking, making music, and relationships; he wrote in the Chicago Tribune that the rapper offers the kind of multidimensional lyrics that characterize classic hip hop.[32]

Kelefa Sanneh wrote a lukewarm review of the album in The New York Times, believing that Jay-Z's reluctance to indulge in the gangsta rap lyricism of his past resulted in wavering, equivocal songs such as "No Hook" and "Say Hello". "Once, words just seemed to flow out of him, as if he couldn't help himself", Sanneh wrote. "Now it's clearer than ever that he’s choosing them carefully."[33] Louis Pattison of NME was more critical and called it a regression from the "slightly bloated" Kingdom Come, lamenting the shortage of "don't-give-a-fuck attitude" highlighted on "Success" in favor of less effective raps exploiting Jay-Z's entrepreneurial personage.[15] In MSN Music, Robert Christgau cited "Say Hello" and "Blue Magic" as highlights while humorously using sampled film dialogue from the latter track to frame his lukewarm opinion of the album: "Jay-Z, that's a brand name, like Pepsi, that's a brand name – he stands behind it, he guarantees it, even if you don't know him any more than you know the chairman of Universal Music".[34]

American Gangster was ranked in the top ten of several music publications' end-of-year lists, including The Austin Chronicle (number one), Spin (number eight), and Rolling Stone magazine (number three).[35][36] Rolling Stone also named the album's second single, "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is...)", the best single of 2007.[37] In The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll, American Gangster finished 18th in the best albums voting.[38] In an interview with Jeff Johnson of cable network BET, 44th United States President Barack Obama said he was a fan of the album.[39]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Producer(s) Length
1. "Intro"   Chris Flames, Idris Elba (co.) 2:00
2. "Pray"   Sean "Puffy" Combs, Sean C & LV for The Hitmen 4:24
3. "American Dreamin'"   Sean "Puffy" Combs, Sean C, LV, Mario Winans for The Hitmen (co.) 4:47
4. "Hello Brooklyn 2.0" (featuring Lil Wayne) Bigg D 3:55
5. "No Hook"   Sean "Puffy" Combs, Sean C & LV for The Hitmen 3:13
6. "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)..."   Sean "Puffy" Combs, Sean C & LV for The Hitmen 4:12
7. "Sweet"   Sean "Puffy" Combs, Sean C & LV for The Hitmen 3:26
8. "I Know" (featuring Pharrell) The Neptunes 3:42
9. "Party Life"   Sean "Puffy" Combs, Sean C & LV for The Hitmen 4:29
10. "Ignorant Shit" (featuring Beanie Sigel) Just Blaze 3:41
11. "Say Hello"   DJ Toomp 5:26
12. "Success" (featuring Nas) No I.D., Jermaine Dupri (co.) 3:30
13. "Fallin'"   Jermaine Dupri, No I.D. (co.) 4:06
14. "Blue Magic"   The Neptunes 4:10
15. "American Gangster"   Just Blaze 3:40

 • (co.) Co-producer


# Title Notes
1 "Intro"

Arrangers: Hector Delgado & Idris Elba
Guitar: Marty Reid
Additional strings: Timon Abuptah
Additional vocals: Angel Wood
Dialogue from the motion picture American Gangster, dialogue excerpts spoken by Denzel Washington

2 "Pray"

Songwriters: S. Carter, S. Combs, D. Matthews, L. Coppin, and A. Hawkshaw
Sample: "New Earth" by Hank Marvin
Strings & drums: Mario Winans
Bass clarinet & bass trombone: Aaron J. Johnson
Bass & guitar: James Lewis
Vocals: Adonis Shropshire, Carmen Cameron, Cheri Dennis, Leisa Johnson, Shannon Jones, Jayms Madison & A.J. Walker
Additional vocals: Beyoncé Knowles (uncredited)

3 "American Dreamin'"

Songwriters: S. Carter, S. Combs, D. Matthews, L. Coppin, M. Gaye, A. Ross, L. Ware
Sample: "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" by Marvin Gaye
Bass, piano & strings: Arden "Keys" Altino
Live drums & strings: Mario Winans
Background vocals: Keon Bryce

4 "Hello Brooklyn 2.0"

Songwriters: S. Carter, D. Carter, D. Baker
Sample: "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" (Section 5, "Hello Brooklyn") by the Beastie Boys
All instruments: Bigg D

5 "No Hook"

Songwriters: S. Carter, S. Combs, D. Matthews, L. Coppin, B. White
Sample: "Love Serenade" by Barry White
Percussion: Bashiri Johnson
Bass & guitar: Ed "Wolverine" Goldson
Strings & drums: Mario Winans
Keyboards, strings, Rhodes & piano: Arden "Keyz" Altino
Vocals: Jayms Madison

6 "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)..."

Songwriters: S. Carter, S. Combs, D. Matthews, L. Coppin, T. Brenneck, D. Guy, M. Deller, L. Michels, B. Mann
Sample: "Make the Road by Walking" by Menahan Street Band
Arrangement & tenor saxophone: Kenneth "Scooter" Whalum
Trumpet: Keyon Harrold & Cameron Johnson
Trombone: Saunders Sermon
Bass & guitar: Ed "Wolverine" Goldson
Percussion: Bashiri Johnson
Drums: Mario Winans
Addition vocals: Beyoncé Knowles, Cassie & Kanye West

7 "Sweet"

Songwriters: S. Carter, S. Combs, D. Matthews, L. Coppin, R. Love
Sample: "Does Your Mama Know" by Rudy Love & The Love Family
Bass & guitar: Ed "Wolverine" Goldson
Percussion: Bashiri Johnson
Additional vocals: Cassie, Carmen Cameron & A.J. Walker

8 "I Know"

Songwriters: S. Carter, P. Williams
Additional vocals: Pharrell Williams

9 "Party Life"

Songwriters: S. Carter, S. Combs, D. Matthews, L. Coppin, W. Hale, D. Stone
Sample: "Get into the Party Life" by Little Beaver
Bass & guitar: Ed "Wolverine" Goldson
Percussion: Bashiri Johnson
Drums: Mario Winans
Trumpet: Keyon Harrold
Additional vocals: Shannon Jones

10 "Ignorant Shit"

Songwriters: S. Carter, J. Smith, D. Grant, R. Isley, O. Isley, R. Isley, M. Isley, E. Isley, C. Jasper
Sample: "Between the Sheets" by The Isley Brothers

11 "Say Hello"

Songwriters: S. Carter, A. Davis, T. Brocker
Sample: "The Love We Share Is the Greatest of Them All" by Tom Brock
Production coordination: Keke & Amy
Background vocals: Rhonda Robinson

12 "Success"

Songwriters: S. Carter, E. Wilson, N. Jones, L. Ellis
Sample: "Funky Thing (Part 1)" by Larry Ellis & The Black Hammer
Background vocals: Juan "OG" Perez
Interpolation: I'm Back By Eminem from The Marshall Mathers LP
Dialogue from the motion picture American Gangster, dialogue excerpts spoken by Armand Assante

13 "Fallin'"

Songwriters: S. Carter, J. Dupri, T. Hester
Sample: "Fell for You" by The Dramatics
Background vocals: Bilal

14 "Blue Magic"

Songwriters: S. Carter, P. Williams, D. Foster, T. McElroy, T. Ellis, C. Herron, M. Jones, D. Robinson and B. Kaun
Sample: "Hold On" by En Vogue
Sample: "Main Title/Neighbor Burial" by Bernhard Kaun
Additional vocals: Pharrell Williams
Dialogue from the motion picture American Gangster, dialogue excerpts spoken by Denzel Washington
Dialogue from the motion picture Frankenstein Directed by James Whale

15 "American Gangster"

Songwriters: S. Carter, J. Smith, C. Mayfield
Sample: "Short Eyes" by Curtis Mayfield
Live drums: Stillphil
Additional piano: Canei Finch
Alto saxophone: Andy Snitzer
Tenor saxophone: Charles Pillow
Trombone: Mike David
Trumpet: Jeff Kievet
Violins: Sandra Park, Sharon Yamada, Sarah Boyle, Jeanine WYnton, Lisa Kim, Minyoung Chang, Matt Lehmann, Liz Lim
Violas: Dawn Hannay & Sue Pray
Cellos: Eileen Moon & Jeanne LeBlanc
Strings contractor: Sandra Park


Charts (2007) Peak
Belgian Albums Chart 88
Canadian Albums Chart[40] 3
Dutch Albums Chart 64
French Albums Chart[41] 58
German Albums Chart 99
Irish Albums Chart[41] 59
Norwegian Albums Chart 29
Swiss Albums Chart[41] 17
UK Albums Chart[41] 30
US Billboard 200[41] 1
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[42] 1
US Top Rap Albums (Billboard)[43] 1


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[44] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[45] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[46] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b David M. Halbfinger and Jeff Leeds (September 20, 2007). For Jay-Z, Inspiration Arrives in a Movie. The New York Times. Accessed September 20, 2007.
  2. ^ Omar Burgess (October 4, 2007). Def Jam Speaks on American Gangster Project. HipHopDX. Accessed October 4, 2007.
  3. ^ Lyrical Thought (October 15, 2007). Jay-Z Regrets Kingdom Come, Corrects Kanye. Def Sounds. Accessed October 15, 2007.
  4. ^ Charlie Rose - Jay - Z on YouTube. Accessed November 8, 2007.
  5. ^ A conversation with rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z. Charlie Rose Show (November 9, 2007). Accessed November 7, 2007.
  6. ^ Batey, Angus. Review: American Gangster. Yahoo! Music. Retrieved on 2010-02-22.
  7. ^ Jokesta (November 8, 2007). Jay Z Addresses Censoring Hip Hop On New Album, To Debut with 10th Number 1. Def Sounds. Accessed November 19, 2007.
  8. ^ a b c d e The Producers Behind Jay-Z's American Gangster. XXL (October 25, 2007). Accessed October 25, 2007.
  9. ^ Elliott Wilson (October 19, 2007). Jay-Z: I'll Still Kill (Part I) XXL. Accessed December 2, 2007.
  10. ^ Andres Tardio (October 9, 2007). Jay-Z Delivers The Goods On American Gangster. HipHopDX. Accessed December 2, 2007.
  11. ^ Kellman, Andy. Review: American Gangster. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-07-22.
  12. ^ a b Rabin, Nathan. Review: American Gangster. The A.V. Club. Retrieved on 2010-02-22.
  13. ^ a b Drumming, Neil. Review: American Gangster. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-07-22.
  14. ^ Carroll, Jim (November 16, 2007). "Hip-hop". The Irish Times. Retrieved September 10, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Pattison, Louis. Review: American Gangster. NME. Retrieved on 2010-02-22.
  16. ^ Breihan, Tom. Review: American Gangster. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved on 2009-07-22.
  17. ^ "Review". Q. January 2008. p. 103. 
  18. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob. Review: American Gangster. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-07-22.
  19. ^ "Review: American Gangstar". Uncut. London: IPC Media: 91. January 2008. 
  20. ^ Gundersen, Edna (November 5, 2007). "'Gangster': Say hello to Jay-Z's epic album". USA Today. Retrieved September 10, 2016. 
  21. ^ Jay-Z Pulls American Gangster from iTunes XXL (November 6, 2007). Accessed November 6, 2007.
  22. ^ "American Gangster by Jay-Z". iTunes Store. Apple Inc. Archived from the original on January 2, 2014. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  23. ^ Jay-Z Scores 10th #1 Album. XXL (November 14, 2007). Accessed November 19, 2007.
  24. ^ Katie Hasty. Jay-Z Leapfrogs Eagles, Britney For No. 1 Debut. Billboard. Accessed November 14, 2007.
  25. ^ Gold & Platinum - Searchable Database: American Gangster. Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on 2010-05-01.
  26. ^ Jay-Z Announces American Gangster Live Tour XXL. (October 22, 2007). Accessed November 2, 2007.
  27. ^ Jay-Z's American Gangster Tour Sells Out in Under A Minute XXL. (October 29, 2007). Accessed November 2, 2007.
  28. ^ American Gangster (2007): Reviews. Metacritic. Accessed November 5, 2007.
  29. ^ Linden, Amy. Review: American Gangster. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2009-07-22.
  30. ^ Yates, Steve. Review: American Gangster. The Observer. Retrieved on 2010-02-22.
  31. ^ Wasser, Chris (November 28, 2007). "American Gangster". Hot Press. Retrieved September 10, 2016. 
  32. ^ Kot, Greg (November 4, 2007). "'American Gangster' freshens Jay-Z's storytelling". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 10, 2016. 
  33. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa. Review: American Gangster. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-07-22.
  34. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 2008). "Consumer Guide". MSN Music. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  35. ^ Best Albums of 2007. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-06-29.
  36. ^ Robert Christgau, David Fricke, Christian Hoard and Rob Sheffield (December 17, 2007). The Top 50 Albums of 2007. Rolling Stone. Accessed December 19, 2007.
  37. ^ The 100 Best Songs of 2007 Rolling Stone (December 11, 2007). Accessed December 13, 2007.
  38. ^ "Pazz & Jop". The Village Voice. 2007. Retrieved September 11, 2016. 
  39. ^ Barack Obama Digs Jay-Z But Wishes He Was A Little Kinder, Gentler Idolator. Accessed June 6, 2009.
  40. ^ Albums : Top 100 – 11 November, 2007 (for the Week Ending 15 November, 2007) Archived March 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.. Canoe – Jam! Music. Accessed November 15, 2007.
  41. ^ a b c d e Jay-Z – American Gangster. aCharts. Accessed November 15, 2007.
  42. ^ Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums – American Gangster. Billboard. Accessed November 18, 2007.
  43. ^ Top Rap Albums – American Gangster. Billboard. Accessed November 18, 2007.
  44. ^ "Canadian album certifications – JAY Z – American Gangster". Music Canada. 
  45. ^ "British album certifications – JAY Z – American Gangster". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter American Gangster in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  46. ^ "American album certifications – JAY Z – American Gangster". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Long Road Out of Eden by Eagles
Billboard 200 number-one album
November 18, 2007 - November 24, 2007
Succeeded by
As I Am by Alicia Keys