American Gangster

Music review by
Heidi Kotansky, Common Sense Media
American Gangster Music Poster Image
Honest look at thug life has drugs, some violence.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Jay-Z talks about being a gangster and working the streets selling drugs. A few songs celebrate this life, while others reject its glory ("We ain't doing crime for the sake of doing crime/We movin' dimes cause we ain't doin' fine/One out of three of us is locked up doing time/You know what that type of s--t can do to a N---- mind?").


The most violent thing on the album is the angry "Ignorant S--t" --"And with that said, I will kill N----- dead/Cut N----- short, give you wheels for legs/I'm a K-I-double-L-E-R, see y'all in Hell/Shoot N----- straight through the E.R." The intro has gunshots and some of the tracks talk about owning a gun. Most of the violence has a consequence ("bullet wounds'll stop your buffoonery/thanks to the pastor rapping at your eulogy").


"I grind slower than out in time" is the worst it gets. A couple of "bitches" here and there.


Jay-Z is loose with the language; most songs have at least one swear word (f--k, bitch, s--t, ass). He also uses the "N" word freely. "Ignorant S--t" is one long list of profanity.


Lexus, Timberland, Pepsi, Rolls Royce, Porsche, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

"Party Life" compares lust to heroin ("she want those heroin tracks/that Sugar Hill, she call me her sweet thing/That Black Rain that take away your pain"). Some other drug references: "table full of powder," "head to the heights where big coke is processed," and "dope needles on the ground."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that despite its title, this album isn't connected with the movie -- and contains much less violence than it could have. Other than in the song "Ignorant S--t," where Jay-Z talks about shooting someone, and a mention of a gun here and there, the CD really doesn't glorify the violence in thug life. It does, however, talk about working the streets selling drugs, and celebrates making money through the drug trade, but covers the consequences. There's plenty of swearing (f--k, bitch, s--t, ass) and the "N" word.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAlexandre M. February 23, 2018
Good but not amazing
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byjsharpe October 24, 2009
loaded with f-bobms
Teen, 14 years old Written byspeyan727 September 11, 2018
Teen, 13 years old Written byBestPicture1996 October 12, 2009

Lyrically a masterpiece on some tracks

Nothing your kids haven't heard in a middle school lunchroom. Great production, and Hov chooses his guest artists very wisely. Most will not understand the... Continue reading

What's the story?

Jay-Z credits the movie American Gangster (about a 1970s heroin kingpin) as inspiration for getting back to his roots. On his AMERICAN GANGSTER CD, Jay-Z joins forces with girlfriend Beyonce and some of the big guns in hip-hop -- Diddy, Lil' Wayne, Kanye West, and Pharrell Williams -- to deliver songs about life on the streets, trying to escape that life, selling drugs, and growing up without a father.

Is it any good?

One album removed from his much-hyped "comeback" from retirement, rapper-mogul Jay-Z returns to form with an album that shows him reclaiming his title as one of the best rappers alive. He tackles his subjects with honesty and strength, and even though there's a fair share of drug references, swearing, and gun touting, teens and parents can appreciate Jay-Z's MCing talent -- and the life he's lived.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the image of hip-hop artists. Why do they use tough, real-life experiences such as selling dope on the streets as material for songwriting? Do you think singing about it glorifies it? Why or why not?

Music details

  • Artist: Jay-Z
  • Release date: November 6, 2007
  • Label: Roc-A-Fella
  • Genre: Hip-hop
  • Parental advisory: Yes
  • Edited version available: Yes
  • Last updated: June 19, 2019

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