Jay-Z: The Blueprint 3

Blueprint_3The Blueprint 3. Say it in your head a few times, hell say it out loud, I’ve been letting the whole thing marinate since it leaked; making sure that my immediate positive reaction wasn’t an exercise in “stannery”.

Most of the music journalists on the planet pretty much had their mind made up about The Blueprint 3 before it was even released, I wanted to make sure I didn’t look as foolish as most of them will in a year or two; because while most people are inexplicably hung up on the lack of rapping from Drake, a few “sub-par” (and this is truly a relative term here) Timbaland beats, and Kanye Wests fingerprints pretty much everywhere, I’ve comfortably settled into the realization that this is Jay-Z’s best CD since the Black Album: full of the cocksure grown man talk he was trying to perfect on Kingdom Come, and far more progressive than the fun but completely unnecessary crack rap of American Gangster.

Before I can really get into the album, I have to address the aforementioned complaints against it. Firstly, Drake; to put it bluntly, get off his fucking dick. Drake is extremely talented, he is without a doubt going to be one of the leading voices in the next generation of rap and his debut CD will undoubtedly be huge, but people complaining that he was “relegated to chorus duty” on the (not at all disappointing) Timbaland produced “Off That” should just quit writing about hip-hop. Jay-Z is Jay-Z, Drake is the hottest new thing in rap. There is absolutely no reason Jay should feel it necessary to go head to head on a track with him. For gods sake there was less complaining when Lil Wayne was pushed to the same chorus duties on American Gangster.

Secondly, Timbaland’s production is dope, end of story. Especially Venus vs. Mars, a quiet little trip that reminds me of his heyday with Missy Elliot. And Kanye West. Yeah, he’s fucking everywhere on this album, but considering he had his version of The Blueprint 3 ready and sequenced for “Big Brother” around the time of 808’s this should come as no surprise. He gets not one, but two guest apperances, both of which make sense thematically.

His standout verse on “Run This Town” early on the album is the perfect ending to that victory lap of a song, which acts as the introduction to Roc Nation. Any further evidence of the monster trio collaboration being successful has been displayed twice in the past week, as they performed on Jay Leno’s premiere and at Jay-Z’s spellbinding Madison Square Garden 9/11 benefit concert. Later on the album, Ye’ and Jay address the haters on “Hate”, a Kanye produced joint that has them trading verses like practically nobody does anymore.

So yeah, conceptually speaking The Blueprint 3 is nearly half a Kanye West album; but considering the not so slow transition of power to Kanye and Lil Wayne during the past couple of years this is more endearing in the “Big-Little Brother” sense than a sign of weakness. And when you look at the way Jay’s presences was all over “Graduation”, and looking further back at the first Blueprint as Kanye’s big introduction to stardom, it’s as if the mentor-trainee relationship has come full circle.

But god, at this point I’m starting to feel like Jay-Z. I’ve spent so much time addressing the narrow minded complaints I’ve barely had time to show off how great most of the album is. The high point may be “Empire State of Mind”, in which Alicia Keys lets her vocal chords go completely off to give Jay an instant classic. You also have to admire the way Mr. Hudson plays it straight with “Young Forever”, not a smirk of irony in sight, and Jay almost dips back into his old double time flow before reverting back to his new ways,a wink and a nod at the fact he’s still got “it” at nearly the age of 40.

Elsewhere Jay calls up a few old friends and requests their best work. Look at the surprisingly awesome Swizz Beatz produced and assisted “On To the Next One” or the welcome Neptunes addition “So Ambitious”, which is one of  those beats that you forget they are even capable of anymore.

I’ve barely covered half the CD: Kid Cudi gets a great chorus,  J. Cole gets the star treatment on the aptly titled “A Star is Born”, in which Jay both runs down the accomplishments of his peers since his debut in ’96 while at the same time anointing his new potential superstar. There’s also an exhilarating Young Jeezy collaboration, which was supposedly primed to be Jeezy’s first single off Thug Motivation: 103.

But when all is said and done, amongst the numerous features, crazy beat selection and 13 years of legacy to live up to Jay comes out on top this time. It’s still undeniably his album, and it’s a full bodied one at that, one that looks towards the future, concerning a man who is worth half a billion dollars and still genuinely trying to be an artist. It’s inspiring really. How I’ve gone through this whole review without quoting a single thing is pretty shocking, but it’s no reflection on the quality of his lyrics; its just that with Jay-Z there’s so much more to talk about, but it’s probably best to just press play and let him tell it.


~ by rozco on September 15, 2009.

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