Music Without Borders Releases Indian-Inspired Version of ‘American Gangster’
Somewhere in the Aughts, America's national pastime subtly shifted from baseball and apple pie to creating mixtapes of varying quality by putting Jay-Z's vocals over new beats. Most of this activity surrounded 'The Black Album' -- a record featuring a set of lyrical contributions from Hova that were so strong it didn't really matter if you mixed them with your wildest fantasy.
'American Gangster' didn't receive the full-album remix treatment to the same extent as Jay-Z's faux-retirement swansong, but now Music Without Borders has remedied that issue with the creation of a new mixtape called 'Hindustani Gangster.'
Here's the simple recipe: take Hova's vocals from the entire 2007 epic and remix with evocative samples from (and inspired by) 1970s Indian film. Bollywood movies are beloved by audiences for their uniquely crazy song and dance routines -- an often-grimy style that mixes esoteric instruments, repetition and some howling vocals into a danceable frenzy.
"Being a concept record, we hope people listen to 'Hindustani Gangster' from start to finish in succession as it's meant to be heard," reads a post on the record's website. "Try not to compare it to Jay's album, but rather treat it as an original work with a familiar narrator."
Considering the track list and vocals are lifted line-for-line from 'American Gangster,' listening to the mixtape as a wholly original work is both hard to do and sort of an absurd suggestion. The final mixes feature eight original backing tracks, a turn by ElekTro4, six mash-ups and edits based on productions from Dan The Automator and Batsauce. It's actually a surprisingly enjoyable listen and has solid replay value even though the beats fail to reach the quality of similarly Indian-inspired efforts by producers like Madlib (see 'Beat Konducta in India') or turn of the century Timbaland.
"What was unique about our 'American Gangster' experience were the unmistakable parallels we observed between the men Jay-Z and Denzel portrayed to the gangsters depicted in 1970s Bollywood films," reads the explanation behind the mixing choices. "One such movie, 'Don,' with its storyline, brilliant colors, and disco-era style of clothing was reminiscent of American Blaxploitation films (e.g., Superfly, Foxy Brown) of the 1970s. The more we watched and listened to American Gangster, and the more we revisited Bollywood classics like 'Don', the more inevitable fusing the stories of the American and Indian gangster themes became."