Metascore
83

Universal acclaim - based on 25 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 25
  2. Negative: 0 out of 25
  1. It is, really and truly, an experience.
  2. Judging by this surprisingly strong return to form, Jay-Z might want to consider spending less time in the office and more time at the movies.
  3. Feb 4, 2011
    90
    It's excellent, to be honest. Jay-Z sounds relaxed and comfortable in his legacy on the mic: he's not feeling as pressed to perform as he did on Kingdom Come, and the MC just lets his talent flow effortlessly.
  4. This is the best music Jay-Z can make as a human--at least by my (his) definitions of what he (we) can do.
  5. Musically, American Gangster is lush and spacious.
  6. There are also sparse, programmed beats from the Neptunes and lesser-knowns like No I.D., with Jay-Z fixing his flow accordingly. What unites the collection more than a specific sound is a narrative arc that loosely parallels Lucas' rise and decline.
  7. This is a very good Jay-Z album. He is, for the most part, doing what he has done before: what he does best.
  8. Forget Frank Lucas: The real black superhero here is Jay, and with American Gangster, Gray-Hova is back in black.
  9. Jay-Z sounds much more engaged on American Gangster, a collection of taut, focused songs heavy on musical references to the '70s
  10. He's not a real gangster, but he is a real poet. And like the greatest of American poets, he admits that, very well then, he contradicts himself. American Gangster contains multitudes.
  11. Ya boy is back with another dark soul-saturated album in the vein of "The Blueprint."
  12. Despite the intro being borrowed from the trailer to American Gangster it essentially reclaims the genre Shawn Carter helped to pioneer from the studio gangstas and plastic pimps that hip-pop is swamped with.
  13. The more you listen to it, the more powerful it becomes.
  14. The "Gangster" portion of the record is, as you'd expect, effortlessly strong.
  15. For all American Gangster's conceptual flair, the purest joy comes from 'Success', a tune which could have slotted into any Jay-Z album.
  16. Jay-Z has rebounded to make one of the year's most interesting and engaging rap records with a sense of immediacy and wordplay that no Denzel Washington film could match.
  17. A tight collection of intelligent numbers that, instead of bombarding us with stale rhyming schemes and plastic beats, groove ever so effectively.
  18. Q Magazine
    80
    American Gangster sounds less like a last gasp than the possible start to a second act in Jay-Z's career. [Jan 2008, p.103]
  19. The beat selection, personal insight, wit, and overall coherence surpasses that of "Kingdom Come" and fulfills many of the expectations that the latter album failed to meet.
  20. Uncut
    80
    With his delivery having reached comfortable cruising altitude, this is an effective reminder of what success is about--leaving the hustle behind. [Jan 2008, p.91]
  21. This equivocation--a rapper inspired by a movie about a gangster, trying simultaneously to distance himself from rappers, actors and the gangster in question--sums up the album's greatest strength and greatest weakness. Jay-Z is too discerning to ignore the contradictions in his music, even when he's trying to play the role of a coldblooded killer.
  22. Hearing him coast is still better than listening to most rappers trying; but the Jay-Z of today sounds like someone for whom making music is an enjoyable hobby, not a burning need.
  23. Patchy, perhaps, but there's plenty over the course of American Gangster to suggest that, even if sullied by a lack of prolificacy, at least the Brooklyn beatnik is keeping the right company again.
User Score
8.3

Universal acclaim- based on 183 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 13 out of 183
  1. ajayd
    Sep 11, 2009
    10
    Stop tryin to compare this to lupe...lupe has nothing on Jay. THis album is a hip hop master piece.
  2. Jul 18, 2017
    8
    greatgreat album............................................................................................................................................................ Full Review »
  3. Aug 26, 2013
    6
    American Gangster, Jay-Z’s tenth studio album, is the unofficial soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s movie of the same name, but it is absolutely noAmerican Gangster, Jay-Z’s tenth studio album, is the unofficial soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s movie of the same name, but it is absolutely no concept album. I’m aware that the New York rapper wanted his audience to believe this and he even ‘forbid’ iTunes to sell the individual songs on their own, but there is no continuity at all, it follows the same desultory formula as every other of his albums before and after it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but promoting it as one is and made me resent Jay-Z. However, I managed to get over that disappointment and then, American Gangster really is a fine record and not only in comparison to his previous album, Kingdom Come. A multitude of able producers, a good general message, and most of all Mr. Carter’s rapping skills make it absolutely worth listening to and an entertaining hour of hip hop that can entertain you more than just once. There are only rare instances in which Jay-Z shows off his ingenuity in rapping No Hook, I Know, and Blue Magic but even the indifferent tracks are still above average when likened to other hip hop songs in this day and age. And while that does prove that Mr. Carter is one of the best rappers alive, it’s also undeniable that this is far behind of what he’s able to do the worst song on The Black Album is better than the best one on American Gangster. Full Review »