Music notes: Jay-Z plans to release new concept album, film

Music fans everywhere have been buzzing about the impromptu return of Jay-Z. The veteran artist recently announced that he will release a new album in less than two months.

What is most interesting about this new album is the process through which Jay-Z is recording it. He had no plans to make a new album – his latest album, Kingdom Come, a "comeback" album, was his first release since he retired after 2003’s The Black Album a year ago – but all that changed a few weeks ago.

Jay-Z told The New York Times last week that he was completely inspired to make an album after watching a screening of American Gangster, a Ridley Scott-directed epic starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington and featuring smaller roles for musicians Common, T.I. and RZA. Jay explained to the Times how the scenes from American Gangster inspired him: "It was like I was watching the film and putting it on pause and giving a back story to the story. It immediately clicked with me," he said. "Watching that film, it brought back all these memories. It took me back to those emotions."

Despite the impromptu announcement of the album, the record processing is finished, with the exception of one additional song that†Jay-Z says he wants to record. The album will be out on Nov. 6, just days after the premiere of the film on Nov. 2.

This should not be confused for a soundtrack: there will be a soundtrack released with 1970s-era music that fits with the film’s time period. However, the music on the album is very soulful and features live instrumentation. Jay is planning to tour next summer with a band, which he hasn’t picked yet, and told, "I look forward to touring with American Gangster, ’cause of the musicality."

Fans received†a taste of the album’s soulfulness with†"Roc Boys (And The Winner Is…),"†the album’s second single that leaked to the Internet a few weeks ago. The celebratory song features live horns and cymbals, epitomizing the†musical†style of this LP.

The first single, "Blue Magic,"†which has a simple, un-soulful sound, is nothing like the rest of†the LP and has been relegated to "bonus track" status.†Still, Jay has complex lyrics on it and doesn’t dumb down his writing to†give†the song crossover appeal. In fact, this album will be a "concept album" (a first for Jay-Z), so it will feature him exploring new areas creatively. It†will have only three guest appearances.†The LP’s music will also be better understood by listeners who have watched the film first.

Jay†told XXL Magazine that he plans on shooting a separate film to accompany his album and that he also expanded on scenes from the real film.

"I took that emotion†(from certain scenes)†and pulled it into my song. So it’s my own movie. I call it an indie film now: It’s the indie-film version of American Gangster," he said.

While many artists who aren’t very well known make concept albums all the time, it is more rare to see a superstar making a concept album, and an impromptu one at that. It will probably not sell many records because it will unabashedly eschew any attempts to have mass appeal, but fans that appreciate the more complex and creative material that Jay has produced on albums such as his debut Reasonable Doubt will enjoy it.

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