American Gangster was an accidental classic. Jay Z accidentally brought his “A” game on every damn song. But don’t forget to also laud the project’s producers and engineers–many of whom gave Jay their best work in years–which included Diddy and two members from The Hitmen, Sean C and LV. This group was responsible for the album’s soulful ingredients, defining the whole taste and sound of American Gangster.
Of the six tracks Diddy, Sean C, and LV concocted, “American Dreamin’” sounds the most overproduced, but with just cause. The immediate Marvin Gaye vocal sample serenades the listener into waiting around for Mr. Motown’s verse–even though it never comes.
What you do get are smooth ad-libs lifted right from Marvin’s “Soon I’ll Be Loving You,” and recreated improvisations from singer Keon Bryce. All of this crooning drapes over some refreshing live drums (instead of programmed drum kits), toms, piano, bass and strings, provided by Mario Winans and Arden Altino. The additional piano and violins help to place you right into the heart of the song, adding a dramatic effect as if you’re hearing a movie score.
Unlike a lot of samples we hear on American Gangster, the work done on “American Dreamin’” stands out because the song was made into something with its own melody and significance. Marvin’s voice and the subtle congas are only part of the resulting instrumental bliss, which you don’t hear too often in Hip-Hop anymore.
I mean, Mario absolutely kills it on the drums. His attention to detail with the ride cymbal and high hats relegates Jay’s verses to an afterthought.