You may have been in the know or you may have been like me and the millions of others who took this most recent “I quit” flip-flop as so much blog watercooler chatter, but from the horse’s mouth in the New York Times, there’s a new Jay-Z album dropping in November, a (hold me) “concept album” sparked by a private screening of a forthcoming Ridley Scott film about (no way!) a drug dealer:
The movie, set for a Nov. 2 release, depicts the [Frank] 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.
“It immediately clicked with me,” said Jay-Z, who has made passing references to gangster movies in previous recordings but has never delved so deeply into the genre. “Like ‘Scarface,’ or any one of those films, you take the good out of it, and you can see it as an inspiring film.”
Even discounting him dredging up the specter of Scarface for the billionth time, the fact that that the guy hasn’t bothered to put out an enjoyable-all-the-way-through album in six years doesn’t fill me with hope for the American Gangster non-soundtrack’s overall listenability, but less than two months until street date hardly seems like enough time to cook up a Kanye/50-style marketing angle for, as the Times intimates in slightly more polite terms, what will likely be the only hip-hop album left in 2007 to do those sort of last-century numbers. Unless of course Jay’s perennial status as (at least) a million-seller makes him confident enough as a label owner to forego the sort of obnoxious promotional pushes he’s more than willing to employ (or at least turn a blind eye to) for his own artists.