Jay-Z, the rap superstar and president of Def Jam Records, has quietly returned to the studio to record an album of new songs inspired by the forthcoming movie "American Gangster," his first "concept" album and second CD in less than a year.
The Trailer for 'American Gangster,' featuring music by Jay-Z
The album, which his label plans to release in early November, came together over the past few weeks after Jay-Z was shown the film, directed by Ridley Scott, in which Denzel Washington portrays Frank Lucas, a early 1970s Harlem heroin kingpin.
Though it's not uncommon for films to be released alongside "inspired by" albums, it is rare for them to be recorded by a single artist, let alone by a major star who had no role in the movie.
In an hourlong telephone interview, Jay-Z, 37, who has spoken of spending his early years in Brooklyn both rapping and drug dealing, said that the movie had tremendous resonance for him and had sparked a burst of creative activity that even he found surprising. He has already recorded nine tracks, almost every one prompted by a specific scene.
"It was like I was watching the film, and putting it on pause, and giving a back story to the story," he said.
"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."
Instead Jay-Z offered to make his own album and release it in conjunction with the movie; Def Jam is also releasing the film's official soundtrack, which features songs by Bobby Womack, the Staple Singers and Sam & Dave. Jay-Z plans to attend the film's premiere but any cross-promotion deals have not been completed, executives said. The movie's trailer already includes an older Jay-Z song, "Heart of the City."
Mr. Grazer, who visited Jay-Z in the studio last week and heard seven of the new songs, said he was impressed by how the movie had "ignited all these memories of his childhood and how he grew up and the experiences he had, and the moral crossroads he had constantly in his life that were so parallel to Frank Lucas's."...
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