Jim Jones

Harlem's American Gangster

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Diplomats member Jim Jones began 2007 with the number one single/number one ringtone "We Fly High," then spent the rest of the year suffering a series of setbacks. His Byrd Gang crew stalled with main member and Jones protégé Max B sitting in jail, then Jones and his Dipset brother Cam'ron stopped talking, putting the future of their purple crew in question. Then there's the way his rival Jay-Z dominated the end of the year with his American Gangster soundtrack, an album Jones' Harlem's American Gangster apes in great street fashion. No, this isn't a Jay-Z raps over Dipset beats bootleg, but it is a street-level mixtape now liberated, rearranged, and cleaned a bit before seeing official release thanks to Koch. Former Jay-Z associate Dame Dash is brought in to host and upset the Jigga man a little while the Byrd Gang are pimped with the hooky "Byrd Gang Money," which is also the street-worthy highlight. "Love Me No More" is the standout club track, but its short run time is a disappointment repeated throughout the release, with only a handful of tracks allowed to develop past the three-minute mark. If this was still a true street-level mixtape, the short run times would be easier to explain, but with fadeouts and cold endings the flow feels bumpy and ragged. At least the money spent on licensing Schoolly D's "Gucci Time" isn't wasted, since "Lookin' at the Game" rocks that funky beat for four glorious minutes. One track later, Jones spits venom all over the war on drugs and the "Rockefeller Laws," offering something surprisingly substantial in the fourth quarter of this frustrating release. It suggests Jones is growing as a lyricist, but most of Harlem's American Gangster just suggests he had some dues to pay at Koch before moving on to his new deal with Columbia Records. Think of this one as an almost-out-the-door, "hardcore fans only," or everyday stopgap release.

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