Picks and Pans Review: Jay-Z

updated 11/26/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

American Gangster

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"I'm more Frank Lucas than Ludacris." So raps Jay-Z on the menacing "No Hook," likening himself to the real-life mobster played by Denzel Washington in the hit movie American Gangster, which inspired the emcee's dope new CD of the same name. (It is not the official soundtrack.) The concept—tracing the rise and fall of a drug dealer while drawing from Jay-Z's own past on the mean streets—makes for a more focused effort than last year's comeback album Kingdom Come. It reels you in with snippets of dialogue from the film, cinematic production that nods to the blaxploitation-flick era on cuts like the Scarface-inspired "Say Hello," and Jay-Z serving as a vivid narrator for all the action.

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