The Jay-Z and Johnny “Guitar” Watson “Gangster” Connection

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Little-known rapper Jay-Z just released his low-key Magna Carta Holy Grail album without a hint of fanfare (in the Bizarro Universe where everything is backwards, anyway). One of its niftiest samples is the snaky, honking percussion-and-horn groove that powers “Somewhere in America,” Jay’s free-form meditation on upward mobility.
If you look at the credits for “Somewhere in America,” they note that Hit-Boy and Mike Dean’s production “embodies portions of ’Gangster of Love (Part 1)’ written by Johnny ’Guitar’ Watson.” (Yes, the same Johnny “Guitar” Watson who wrote “I Don’t Want to Be a Lone Ranger,” as featured in this column last week. But it’s not Watson’s own version of that song sampled in the Jay-Z track — it’s Jimmy Norman’s 1968 cover.

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