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Music Of American Gangster
"Please don't compare me to other rappers. Compare me to trappers. I'm more Frank Lucas than Ludacris. And Lude is my dude, I ain't trying to dis. Just like Frank Lucas is cool, but I ain't tryin' to snitch. —Jay-Z, "No Hook” from Roc-A-Fella Records' album "American Gangster”

Director/producer Scott and producer Grazer were adamant that the soundtrack for their drama was intercut with the great music that was the reality of Frank Lucas' world. Grazer offers, "I wanted the film to be encased with music like B-sides of albums from the era. As much as I like the songs we recognize, I wanted to introduce a visual and sonic world that is a contained entity of the '70s.” Likewise, Scott felt it was vital to have "the brand of music that was Harlem at the time.”

As the film's music supervisor, Kathy Nelson, explains, "This was probably one of the richest eras of music. It was right at the beginning of the whole funk scene. Harlem was as much about music as it was about drugs and whatever else was going on. The music scene was really exploding, particularly in the R & B and funk areas.”

Music of the soundtrack offers an album full of not just funk and R & B, but also classic blues, soul and hip-hop. Tracks from blues originator John Lee Hooker; guitar legend Bobby Womack; rhythm, country and blues greats The Staple Singers; gritty, illfated soul duo Sam & Dave; and multihyphenate blues man Lowell Fulson permeate the film.

Drawing upon inspiration from such legends, the first single released, "Do You Feel Me,” written by legendary Grammy-winning songwriter Diane Warren and performed by platinum artist Anthony Hamilton—a musician known for his raw emotions and smooth sounds—reflects a 2007 perspective on the world influenced by Frank "Haint of Harlem” Lucas. It serves to introduce him to his bride-to-be, Lydia, in Small's Paradise, a nightclub filled with the smooth, dangerous characters one would easily find at the hottest club in town back in the day.

An event no one involved in the production expected was that the film would have such a profound effect on one hip-hop mogul that he would create an album of entirely original material to be released in conjunction with American Gangster. After he viewed an early screening, rap superstar and president of Def Jam Records Jay-Z was deeply moved by Denzel Washington's portrayal of Frank Lucas. So much so, he felt inspired to create original material that drew upon his past experiences as a hustler and drug dealer, a life somewhat parallel to the '70s gangster Lucas.

The artist notes that the film sparked an unexpected burst of creativity from him, because it felt like "this guy was looking in my window.” He was so affected by this true story, because where he was from, "we had never seen someone ascend to those heights. It was unfathomable to be over the mob, for people coming from these neighborhoods. I felt a sense of being proud, but at the same time, it was illegal activity with human beings on the other side of this tale.”

The film's trailer was already using "Heart of the City,” an older song by Jay-Z, when Jay-Z made his decision. For the conceptual album he wrote to accompany Gangster, the singer/songwriter notes that he wanted to go a different direction from previous work. He admits that he is taking the listener on a musical journey that speaks to the harsh reality of the drug trade occurring in our nation. In the songs, the rapper articulates a tale that follows the conflicting lure of a gangster's life and stands as an example of one who chose to leave the danger of those streets behind for a career in music.

The Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn native has become one of the most successful black entrepreneurs of our day; his difficult journey is not lost in this album. To complement the story of the<


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