It is no secret that Jim Jones has his issues with Jay-Z. So it only made matters worse when S. Carter released the American Gangster motion picture inspired album of the same title detailing his life synonymously with the film and its protagonist (or antagonist, depending on your viewpoint), Harlem’s own Frank Lucas. So Capo took that as a sign of disrespect and decided to release an album from the perspective of a true Harlemite. First released as a mixtape, Harlem’s American Gangsta serves as Jones’ dissertation of what it means to be from Harlem. Even though the album is filled with “One Eyed Willie’s” signature bravado and tales of fast living, it lacks diversity leaving the album entertaining, but uneven.
What makes this LP appealing is that Jones brings presence to each song through charisma, strong cadence, and great delivery. This is exemplified on the album’s best track, “Rockefeller Laws,” an indictment of the judicial system for its unfair practices when it comes to drug sentences. Jones perfectly paints the picture of the situation from the offender’s perspective as he rhymes, “And now we caught up in this maze/It’s like suicide, caught up in these ways/Institutionalized, forty thousand and forty days/A fifteen year bid off of two ounces of raw yay…” In addition, the hooks on the album are outstanding. Mainly done by guest artists, each chorus is very melodic and will have you singing along with every word, most notably the lead single “Love Me No More” and “Byrd Gang Money.” But tight swagger and sing-a-long hooks are not enough to make Harlem’s American Gangsta sufficient. The album’s subject matter is very redundant where every song is basically about the same thing- living good and evading the law. Also, being that it is essentially a mixtape that was rehashed into a full-length album does not help much but rather just adds to the list of imperfections through poor track transition, subpar production, and a lack of an original concept.
Listening to Jim Jones is similar to watching James Dean or Steve McQueen in a film. All carry that mystique that one could only emulate, but even both actors worked with an array of original material only to enhance their status. Jim Jones is not going to excel when he is either imitating or being envious of others. Being your own man stands for something and until Jones realizes that, he will be left sitting on the sideline watching greatness pass him by. - Ryan Harrison
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