The back story should be widely-known by now: Jay, inspired by the upcoming Denzel Washington/Russell Crowe vehicle of the same name, went back to the studio and made an ’80s-inspired album of mini-film-styled drug tales. He’s “partied for a while and now he’s back to the block”. His 2nd single, “Roc Boys”, starts with a shoutout to his connect and duffle bag. These tracks, while certainly catchy, aren’t exactly ringtone-selling record-breakers in the making, and Jay’s not going for that anyways. He’s pissed that Mims can make a mil saying nothing on a track. This album is for “us” and not “them” (though we’re expecting “them” to still check for it, because, shit, it’s Jay-Z). This is his Reasonable Doubt II (as for where I’m going with all this, there’s your hint).
Jay is able to put out American Gangster because he runs his own record label, has something to prove after Kingdom Come, and is arguably the most relevant rapper of this century thus far, a span of years in which he had been “retired” for quite a few. Not to mention, the cross-promotion with the upcoming movie should gather more attention than any Budweiser and HP commercials did. Kingdom Come sold 2.5 million copies despite the fact that seemingly no one can say anything good about it — there’s no reason why American Gangster shouldn’t be an even bigger success.
And when it does become a success, maybe it’ll open up Dr. Dre’s eyes to see that he’s sitting on a goldmine in Only Built For Cuban Linx II. On the surface, the albums’ themes sound similar: classic NY rapper taking it back to his roots to add something fresh to the game. But Raekwon hasn’t been high on Dre’s list of priorities for a few years now — case in point, 2 recent high profile interviews with Dre, and no apparent mention of Rae’s name anywhere. Maybe Jay getting a victory with American Gangster will motivate Dre to put some backing behind Cuban Linx II. Maybe Jay’s now-infamous listening session and working the internet for buzz will provide a blueprint (pun intended) for Aftermath to follow when promoting Rae’s album… or, maybe I’m just the only person who still doesn’t want to accept that this Wu-Tang/Aftermath collaboration was doomed from the start.
To tide yourself over (it could be a while), be sure to check out Rae’s latest mixtape, The Vatican Mixtape Vol. III (House of Wax), which can be streamed over at HipHopDX. I haven’t followed Rae’s Vatican series too closely, but this volume is definitely top-notch. Also, be sure to check out ML in the days leading up to the release of 8 Diagrams (not that you don’t already check out ML every day), as we’ll be doing a special countdown-style series of posts to get heads properly anticipating the Wu’s return. (And, though I’m no betting man, I think this whole Ghostface vs. the Wu-Tang “hierarchy” turmoil will die down sooner or later. Inner-Wu-beef never seems to last that long.)