Apparently Jay saw the forthcoming Ridley Scott-helmed Denzel flick American Gangster and got inspired. Over the last several weeks he’s written 8 tracks: “It immediately clicked with me, ” he said.
The movie, set for a Nov. 2 release, depicts the Lucas character as an underworld Horatio Alger and an innovator who, despite keeping a low public profile, rose to such power that he was able to defy the Mafia bosses who had traditionally dominated the New York drug trade before being brought down by a special narcotics task force. (Its leader is played by Russell Crowe.) Jay-Z said he thought his fans would be struck by the image of a black man reaching such heights of success, even on the wrong side of the law, much like such ruthlessly efficient Al Pacino antiheroes as Tony Montana and Michael Corleone.
His decision to record “American Gangster” is a surprise, given that his last album was released less than a year ago. “Kingdom Come” sold about 1.5 million copies, his lowest figure for a full studio album since 1997. And its elaborate marketing campaign, including alliances with Budweiser and ESPN, prompted some suggestions that Jay-Z’s branching-out into other business endeavors, and taste for the jet-setting life, had begun to undermine his street credibility.
He made no apologies for his transformation into a global brand. “Jay doesn’t live in Brooklyn any more,” he said. Rather, he ventured that “Kingdom Come” was a little too “sophisticated” for some listeners. “American Gangster,” he said, would be a return to a tougher, more unflinching view of street life.
Here’s hoping for a better album than Kingdom Come.