Jay-Z, photographed on the red carpet at the premiere of the film American Gangster, held at the Apollo Theater on October 19, 2007.
His early-viewing of the Ridley Scott-directed film in September had inspired his classic tenth studio album American Gangster. Hov would explain in an interview that the film “immediately clicked with [him.] Like ‘Scarface,’ or any one of those films, you take the good out of it, and you can see it as an inspiring film.” Funnily enough, a year beforehand lead actor Denzel Washington had pushed for Jay to be the soundtrack’s solo artist and curator. The film’s producer, Brian Grazer, didn’t believe he could record an album to act as a soundtrack to the movie, due to the story being set in the 1970s. He said he wanted an authentic feel, and felt the President of Def Jam couldn’t pull it off. The week that Jay took to record American Gangster certainly proved him wrong.
Under the guidance of Diddy, every track on the album was built around ‘70s soul and funk samples to mirror the movie’s time-period. Although Hov hadn’t heard much of kingpin Frank Lucas before seeing the film, he recognized many parts of himself in Lucas and his demeanor: “The way Denzel portrayed the character was very laid back, and I saw similar traits in my personality. But mostly, I just pulled emotions from the film and not so much his particular story.”
When asked by journalist Charlie Rose about how the film gave life to this album, Jay expanded on why its themes resonated with him: “It’s a New York City true story, you know. So as soon as the movie came on, it was like familiar, things that my pop seen and my uncles seen and, you know, different things like that, things I’ve seen growing up. So they resonated with me in a way, the story, as well as, I mean, even though everything happens, you know, the way it turns out, you know, it’s one of those movies that where you champion the bad guy, because the bad guy, you know, he don’t seem like a bad guy, and the good guy—I mean the good guys are bad. You know, that complex—the complexity of human beings in this thing was amazing to me. I loved the complexity of the human beings.”
The album’s second single "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)…” was voted by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest song of 2007.
Since we are living in the age of “fake news” and “true facts”, I’ve decided to just make up my own commemorative days because why the hell not? First up - Russell Crowe Facial Expression Appreciation Day.