Simon Vozick-Levinson
November 07, 2007 AT 12:00 PM EST

This just in: Jay-Z put out a new album this week! Yes, yes, you’ve already heard all about his American Gangster CD, which has been on shelves in brick-and-mortar retail outlets for a couple days now. But don’t bother looking for it on iTunes — as far as the digital-music giant is concerned, the last thing he put out was last year’s Kingdom Come. What gives?

Apparently that’s exactly how Hov wants it. “AMERICAN GANGSTER WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE ON ITUNES,” a press release from his label trumpeted yesterday. The statement goes on to include a quote in which he explains that is a matter of artistic integrity for him: “As movies are not sold scene by scene, this collection will not be sold as individual singles.” Call him the anti-Radiohead.

I respect what he’s trying to do — one of the great things about American Gangster isthe way that its beats and lyrics fit into a powerful, overarchingstoryline. Jay’s said repeatedly that he set out to make a real conceptalbum with this one, not just a collection of hot tracks, and hedefinitely pulled it off. But what’s the point of pulling it from sucha major music provider? A lot of people just don’t consume albums ascohesive start-to-finish experiences anymore these days, and Jay can’tforce that genie back into the bottle single-handedly. Besides, thenarrative flow of this particular album should speak for itself. Jayshould probably just trust his fans to figure that out on their own,even if they start by hearing his new songs out of order.

Then again, he also premiered a cameo-packed video for AGsingle “Roc Boys” on BET yesterday — that is, an individual “scene”that you can view out of the album’s context for free. So who knowswhat he’s really thinking? (By the way, will you lose respect for me ifI say that that five-minute video is a more fun, fully realized viewingexperience than American Gangster, the cool-but-sorta-patchy Ridley Scott movie?) Your call: Is Jay’s iTunes snub a canny move to protect his creative vision, or a short-sighted stunt? 

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