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The DL issue 877 - American Gangstas

Author: Cyclone
Thursday, 27 September 2007
There is much debate about the downturn in hip hop sales, which has coincided with the marketing ‘war’ between Kanye West and 50 Cent in the lead-up to their respective LPs. If urban stats are down, it’s due to changing consumer habits more than a declining genre. However, with most big urban artists now pressured to submit albums annually, a fall in quality will ensue. And, ironically, this is compounding the problem with illegal sharefiling. Who wants to buy an LP only to discover one or two stand-out tracks-
As such, today some key hip hop artists are, perhaps unfairly, expected to carry an entire genre. In recent years, with seasoned hip hop heads suss on Fiddy’s G-Unit, Kanye has carried that mantle - occasionally sharing it with the ‘conscious’ Common, whose career he (partly) revived.
When at the end of 2006 Jay-Z came out of retirement, fans were elated. The Brooklynite is still considered the best MC of his generation along with Nas and, yes, Eminem. But Hova dismayed with Kingdom Come. It was a good album, but no classic, with Hova showing a newfound maturity. Coming on the back of the impassioned Black Album, it lacked forcefulness.
Nevertheless, Hova ain’t done yet. He’ll drop American Gangster in November. The LP is heavily inspired by the new Ridley Scott film of the same title that stars Denzel Washington as well as our own Russell Crowe, always impressive in the right role. Crowe owes his international stature to Scott’s Gladiator, which Jigga sampled on What More Can I Say. (We’ll be kind and make just a passing reference to Crowe’s last collaboration with Scott, the awkward comedy A Good Year, in these brackets.)
American Gangster centres on the notorious drug lord Frank Lucas (Washington), who became an informant. He helped Richie Roberts - Crowe - to expose an entire drug network and endemic corruption.
Hip hop heads should, like Jigga, dig the film, which also features TI, Common and The RZA, the latter of whom befriended Crowe during filming. At any rate, we hope Hova caps off an otherwise depressing year in commercial hip hop.
Jay-Z isn’t the only key MC emerging from semi-retirement. Eminem, who’s been dealing with ‘personal’ dramas, is plotting his next album. Shady last ventured out with 2004’s Encore.
And, while we’ll believe it when we hear it, Dr Dre is again hyping up his farewell LP, Detox. We can apparently anticipate it in 2008.
The Godfather of G-funk, currently working on Em’s comeback, is infamous for his slow turnover and, frankly, The DL is as hopeful in ever obtaining Detox as Lauryn Hill’s sequel to The Miseducation Of...
On track for November is the Wu-Tang Clan’s reunion, The 8 Diagrams. The project has generated surprisingly little momentum but, if The RZA and company do deliver, their triumph will be all the greater.