Jim Jones - Harlem’s American Gangster

Posted February 18, 2008
Tags: Jim Jones,

What’s beef? Beef is when you decide to tell the whole world that you’re the “best...

Harlem's American Gangster Album Review

What’s beef? Beef is when you decide to tell the whole world that you’re the “best rapper alive.” Beef is when your best friend and business partner cuts ties with you to run a major label. Beef is when you make a mixtape called Harlem’s American Gangster.

Jim Jones must be looking to get into the fast food business, because with the release of his mixtape/album hybrid Harlem’s American Gangster (which I’ve ingeniously titled a mixalbum), he’s gonna have so much beef they’ll have to discontinue the Whopper for real. Not only is the title a deliberate swipe at Hova’s instant classic of almost-the-same-name, not only does he attempt to claim Hova’s title with a ‘best rapper alive” boast, but he brings in Damon Dash to host.

So let’s get one thing clear; this mixalbum is a Jay diss. If Jones starts claiming in interviews that this mixalbum was more about reppin’ Harlem than attacking Jay, he’s lying. Flat out. How do I know? Dame starts the festivities off with this little monologue: “You know what I find amusing? How much ni**as wanna be like a Harlem ni**a. How ni**as run around calling themselves American gangsters. Well first and foremost, a real bona fide official Harlem ni**a would never betray his friends.” You gonna tell me that’s not about Hova? Seriously? Beef is entertaining, beef gets you press (like from yours truly) and beef sells. Jones is too smart not to be doing this deliberately, and it’s an insult to hip-hop’s intelligence if he claims otherwise.

So if this is a fight, let’s get into round one. Strangely enough, the Intro, featuring the aforementioned Dame monologue, may just be the best song on the mixalbum. The beat rides with a perfect New York City styled mix of organs and snapping snares, the kind of fly production that fits perfectly with Mr. Ballin’s raspy vocals. Jones’ appeal is about 70 percent delivery and 30 percent lyrics, and Intro hits that formula with precision. His voice is so raw, so distinctive, it’s become the prototypical East Coast gangster voice; much like Jeezy has the prototypical Dirty South gangster voice. But then Jones ends the song with “we push the workout plan like Richard Simmons.” Here’s a little homework assignment: go to Google Images and type in Richard Simmons. Take a long hard look. See that white man wearing a leotard and an afro? Yeah, that’s Richard Simmons. And that’s why “we push the workout like Richard Simmons” is the front-runner for 2008’s Worst Rap Line of the Year.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I am not a Jim Jones fan. But even though I now just straight up slap anyone who even thinks about yelling “Ballin!” I have come to respect the man. His emotional and thoughtful appearance on 106 & Park during AIDS Awareness Week proved he’s human, not just a money-making robot, and I promised myself I’d listen to this mixalbum with an open mind. Well I have, and frankly I still don’t know what all the hype’s about. Harlem’s American Gangster’s lead single, if a mixalbum can have a lead single, is Love Me No More, a slowly winding hit that’s perfect for a slow cruise around the neighborhood on a winter day. Jones runs through his usual paper-chasing paces with skill, but his drawling rhyme style just leaves me cold. The same goes for the Bird Gang Money, a leisurely-paced track constructed with equal parts synths and piano. It’s a perfectly enjoyable track, nothing great; in fact the most memorable part is the fact that featured rapper Noe’s voice sounds exactly like Jay-Z’s, if Jay-Z was a mediocre MC.

Speaking of which, let’s go back to the beginning. Sorry if I sound like I’m hating, but Jones basically asked for me to compare him to Hova and I’m only too happy to oblige. While Hova’s American Gangster is a complex man, simultaneously in love with and distraught over his ambition, Jones’ American Gangster is a man who, well, really likes money. Jay’s Gangster is an epic movie, Jones’ Gangster is a TV show. They’re both entertaining, but they’re just not on the same level. Jim Jones is a rapper whose found a place in the game, and it looks like he’s here to stay, but is he the best rapper alive? Not even close, in a real rap battle Jay would beat him like a red-headed stepchild. There, how’s that for beef?

DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins

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Posted February 18, 2008
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