Rapper Jay-Z Un-Retires Again

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Jay-Z 200

Jay-Z arrives at the New York premiere of the film American Gangster. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Tuesday means new music releases — which in turn means that it's time for Andy Langer, music critic for Esquire, to look at three albums out Nov. 6: Jay-Z, Tokyo Police Club and Stevie Ray Vaughan all have new releases.

Jay-Z is back with his 10th studio album. It isn't the soundtrack to American Gangster, but it is inspired by the movie. Jay-Z saw the movie a couple months ago and rushed into the studio. Luckily, P. Diddy happened to have some extra tracks in the '70s vein laying around, and the result is a '70s hustler record that follows a narrative arc similar to that in the movie. It's Jay-Z playing a character that he's played most of his career—yet sounding inspired doing it. Recently, that hasn't been the case, as he's been struggling to decide if he's a record executive or a rapper. In this case, he sounds like somebody who wants to be back in the game. It's a huge comeback.

The Tokyo Police Club's new EP is called Smith. "This is the band that a lot of people have always wanted The Strokes to be," Langer says, adding that they're a solid, tuneful Canadian rock band that's developed on its own schedule. Smith is its second EP, though it's working on recording its first full-length album now.

Sony is putting out a new Stevie Ray Vaughan CD titled Solos, Sessions, and Encores. He's been dead since 1990, but this posthumous release features mostly new material. Seven of the songs are live, while six were previously unreleased. One of the tracks that is only now surfacing is "Change It," recorded on Saturday Night Live in 1985. Says Langer, "There is some amazing guitar playing on this record, and it'll really change the way you look at modern blues."

Also, Paste Magazine is conducting an interesting experiment to get new subscribers: Pay what you wish. They seem to be inspired by the new Radiohead model, which also happens to be the public radio model.

The idea for the Paste folks is simple. If they can establish some loyal readers (other than music publicists and musicians) by giving them what is essentially a free subscription, maybe the readers will pay $19.99 to re-up next year. Plus, all the press the magazine has been getting for this experiment can't hurt. Music magazines are in a crowded field, and with people reading so much online about music, it's that much harder to break through. By being the first out of the gate with this business model, Paste may give itself an edge.



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