Jim Jones, Harlem’s American Gangster

Hua Hsu

By Hua Hsu

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Cartographers, grammarians, Jay-Z, even Frank Lucas himself no doubt all would be confused by the title to Jim Jones'fourth — not counting the dashed-off Dipset X-Mas — solo album. Even those who find the Harlem Capo's hoarse, in-the-ballpark style of rapping tantalizing might consider Jones'latest effort underwhelming. The album's “Intro” casts Jones over a mighty Runners fanfare, as a stern Dame Dash ducks in between verses and speaks on what it means to be from Harlem: “You know what I find amusing? How much ni–as want to be like a Harlem ni–a. How ni–as run around calling themselves American gangsters.”

Dipset capo stumbles.

A bullet aimed squarely at Jay-Z — and probably the most eloquent thing on the whole album. There's no “We Fly High” or “Crunk Muzik” this time around, none of Cam'ron's kookiness or Juelz Santana's chill arrogance to balance Jones'substance-less swagger. Despite the “P.S.K.”-jacking “Lookin'at the Game” and the well-intentioned “Rockefeller Laws” — wherein Jones sounds like he's narrating a TV special — much of HAG flounders. On “Up in Harlem” he lamely laments that “life's a bitch and ain't no way to make it love you,” while “Love Me No More” finds him pensive about the once-mighty Diplomats: “Used to say money ain't a thing til'I blew up/ Now money's everything, but the thang can break a crew up.” Some of the most compelling stuff here are the four installments of “Dame Dash Skit,” wherein a grandfatherly Dash talks about label politics, how to be fresh and the uptown Chili's that got shot up by some kids from Brooklyn.