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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a classic American tale of modest living transformed into high society, of doing anything it takes to win the heart of a loved one, and of the illusion that wealth equals happiness. So it seemed a natural fit for Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming visual feat of an adaptation to take musical guidance from Jay-Z, a rapper who came up from the streets to own them. But he’s not involved in quite the way we’d originally assumed.
While Warner Bros. had been keeping a tight lip about Jigga’s involvement up until now, Reuters confirms Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter will serve as the executive producer for the soundtrack, and he’ll be performing at least one song for it. While soundtrack duties don’t sound quite as important as working on the score, which is what tricky wording on Twitter will get you, but this is not your average soundtrack. Incidentally, Luhrmann’s go-to collaborator Craig Thompson is indeed the film’s composer, while his go-to music supervisor Anton Monsted is also on board.
Luhrmann and Jay-Z met a couple of years ago thanks to Gatsby star Leonardo DiCaprio, and it spared a collaborative effort to bring the unpredictability of Fitzgerald’s 1920s “Jazz Age” into the modernity of today’s energetic hip-hop, or “1920s-Meets-Now” as the release so eloquently puts it. While no other musicians were namechecked – thus neither confirming nor denying rumors of Lady Gaga and Prince’s involvement – but it does say the soundtrack will “feature a varied collection of the world’s most talented and compelling musical artists.”
Luhrman had only encouraging words to say about Jay-Z, calling him “a credible and natural fit,” before going on to explain the connections between the story and the artist.
"Fitzgerald was a pioneer, famed and controversial for using the then-new and explosive sound called jazz in his novels and short stories-not just as decoration, but to actively tell story using the immediacy of pop culture. He coined the phrase `the Jazz Age.` So, the question for me in approaching Gatsby was how to elicit from our audience the same level of excitement and pop-cultural immediacy toward the world that Fitzgerald did for his audience? And in our age, the energy of jazz is caught in the energy of hip-hop. Not only is JAY Z a great artist, full stop, but I had heard that he was a great collaborator. Leonardo and I were lucky enough to be present in a recording session over two years ago as JAY Z was recording `No Church in the Wild,` and the collaboration grew from there."
J-Hova wasn’t exactly disappointed to be involved either. "As soon as I spoke with Baz and Leonardo, I knew this was the right project,” he said. “The Great Gatsby is that classic American story of one`s introduction to extravagance, decadence and illusion. It`s ripe for experimentation and ready to be interpreted with a modern twist. The imagination Baz brought to `Moulin Rouge` made it a masterpiece, and `Romeo + Juliet`s` score wasn`t just in the background; the music became a character.”
Love him or not, Jay-Z has been sitting on top of his game for many years now, never hesitating to adapt to the styles of the time, making them his own. There’s no doubt it will be an interesting project, and Luhrman definitely knows how to represent music visually. When The Great Gatsby gets its May 10 release, we’ll know for sure if the Brooklyn rapper has what it takes to run this 1920s town.