Attaching Jay-Z’s name to anything music related is usually a pretty safe bet. When the news first leaked that director Baz Lurhmann was using Shawn Carter songs to inspire the cast of his new film “The Great Gatsby” it didn’t seem like that much of a stretch. J. Gatsby is a multi-millionaire playboy in the upper crust of New York City that started from the bottom. I even came up with a few Jay-Z songs that made a thematic match to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s trouble man.
However, after actually watching this second film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” (the first was done in 1974 starring Robert Redford) I have to admit that the selection of moderns songs was a bit jarring when juxtaposed with the 1920’s environment. In one of few scenes that focus on African-Americans in the film, a carload of folks are driving across a bridge with champagne chilling in buckets of ice while Jay-Z’s “Izzo” plays in the background. Sit with that.
While I get that Lurhmann is arguing for “jazz was the hip-hop of the 1920s” this was a missed opportunity to effectively show the connection. Why not cull the myriad of jazz influenced hip-hop songs to give the modern feel without it feeling so out of place?
So I took a moment to play armchair A&R and select some songs that may have been a better fit for the new “Great Gatsby” film.
1) Madlib, “Slim’s Return”
Scratched vocal samples of the late Guru riding over this expert rework of Gene Harris and The Three Sounds “Book of Slim” is tailor made for any modern Jazz era film.
2) ATCQ, “Excursions”
Buoyed by the bassline of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers ‘A Chant For Bu’ Q-Tip speaks to the musical bridge between the generations that director Baz Lurhmann made his case for Jay-Z on. “My pops used to say that it reminded him of bebop…daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles..” It’s not like you didn’t already have The Abstract on the soundtrack, this was a lay-up.
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