Once again, Jay-Z had the goodwill (and the business sense) to put out an acapella CD of his latest masterpiece, “American Gangster,” so that producers could have a go at attempting to better the original – or at least come up with a clever take on it. So here is this effort from Chief Sneed (part of a group called “The Braves” also featuring Solo.X – who I reviewed a few months back) – and “Native American Gangster” is the result.
It only seems fair to judge the album track by track, comparing how each song compares to the original – as well as how the album as a whole works. Taking this anal approach even further, I have decided to score each song out of ten, and average out the final result. Goodness knows if it is going to work, but let’s give it a shot…
1) “Intro” – Very clever, “I insist you change the name” quote from the film. Short but sweet. 9/10.
2) “No Hook” – Strong start, triumphant horns. Slightly repetitive though. Great scratches from Rob Swift. 7/10.
3) “Success” – Almost ragga/bashment beat, flips Jigga’s timing perfectly. Works very well. 9/10.
4) “American Gangster” – Pure funky 80’s synth beat. Could have better melody but otherwise stunning, and better than original. 9/10.
5) “Say Hello” – Hard job topping uplifting original, so turns into a real bad guy, dirty, swarthy track. Very good again. 9/10.
6) “Pray” – Sounds like outtake from “The Grey Album” and doesn’t fit lyrics too well. Good effort but no. 5/10.
7) “Party Life” – Hmmm interesting, but again doesn’t work. Should’ve just made it a straight-up drum’n’bass/house song. 6/10.
8) “Fallin'” – The drums are excellent, and everything suits Jay well. Bilal suffers a touch though, but still very good. 9/10.
9) “I Know” – This is on par with the original, easily. Some may even prefer it. Wicked. 9/10.
10) “Roc Boys” – Solid but somewhat deflates energy from original. Alright. 6/10.
11) “Hello Brooklyn 2.1” – Brill. Probably more palatable than the original. Brings out Jay’s lyrics more. 9/10.
12) “Sweet” – Strange but interesting, more standard than original. 8/10.
13) “American Dreamin'” – Primo type of shit, wicked. Again, perhaps on par with original. 9/10.
14) “Ignorant Shit” – Awesome. I prefer this to the real version. This idea would have improved the actual album. 10/10.
15) “Red Magic” – Good, but not comparable to minimalist genius of “Blue Magic” – creditable nonetheless. 7/10.
Ok give me a minute… right, 121 divided by 15 is basically 8 out of 10. Yes, that works for me. I would have to deduct a mark from the lyrics (full marks for the original) simply because the beats haven’t been tailored enough to bring out the best lines, and certain tracks suppress Jigga. But considering the amount of effort that has gone into this remix album by the impressive Chief Sneed (irrelevant, but the man can actually freestyle whilst solving a Rubik’s Cube, for goodness sake – Google!), not to mention the fact that it is being pressed up on limited edition red CASSETTE – with all proceeds going to the Red Cross in Harlem – you really should pick up a copy of this if you can. It will be worth your while. Check out the extremely WICKED websiteNativeAmericanGangster.com for further information and to listen to a stream of it… L’chaim!