Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 (Album Review)

Blueprint 3, Jay-Z’s “three-quel,” dropped Sept. 8. It was supposed to be released on Sept. 11, the eighth anniversary of the original Blueprint album, but a leak forced Jay-Z to move the release date.

“I may be the most bootlegged artist in history,” Jay-Z told MTV News. “It’s a preview. I’m excited for people to hear the album. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done, so enjoy it.”

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Don’t feel too bad for Jay-Z, by moving the release date from a Friday to a Tuesday all but guarantees the album will reach number one on the Billboard 200.

When it does reach number one, it will be Jay-Z’s 11th, moving him ahead of Elvis Presley as the solo artist with the most chart toppers. Only The Beatles have more number ones.

Jay-Z has announced a tour to support Blueprint 3, it officially begins Oct. 9. Until then you can get tickets to see Jay-Z at Madison Square Garden. He’ll be performing there on Sept. 11 for the Answer the Call Benefit.

That’s just the beginning of his jam-packed itinerary. He’s schedule takes him to the U.K. for a gig with Coldplay on Sept. 12. The next day he returns to the States to attend the Video Music Award’s on Sept. 13.

The following day it’s off to Los Angeles for an appearance on the new Jay Leno Show. After a much needed day off, he heads back to England for more shows with Coldplay.

Back to the album, Oliver Wang of NPR has mused that “Jay-Z has attained the rap equivalent of Bruce Springsteen or U2.” The Telegraph.co.uk quipped that Jay-Z is “the rapper it’s OK for everyone to like.”

These are just nice ways to frame the fact that hip-hop isn’t really the place for a 40-year old rapper. Jay-Z’s wisdom, wit, and persuasion are perceived by some as going soft. Others see it as maturity. Even so, Hova likes to reminds us he’s a little of both.

“I’m a multimillionaire, so how is it I’m still the hardest here?” Jay-Z raps in D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).

Certainly his “hardness” matters to those energized by the recklessness of youth and connoisseurs of the hip hop genre, but most of us are just looking for a good album. Fortunately, Blueprint 3 is just that.

Those coming at Blueprint 3 with a knowledge and history of hip-hop will tell you it’s a solid album, not Jay-Z’s best but nowhere near his worst. Jay-Z still has skills.

Those on the outskirts of the hippity-hop will tell you Blueprint 3 is accessible and catchy. Jay-Z is still ultra cool and even if “sucker emcees” proclaim Gray-Z is soft, he’s still edgier than 99% of the population.

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The album begins with “What We Talkin’ About.” It’s an interesting mid-tempo jam with a haunting bridge.

The pithy “Thank You” is next and it has a groove you hope never stops.

The album’s first single “D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-tune)” is next. It’s a textured ditty that showcases Jay-Z at his best.

By the way, auto-tune is an audio processor that corrects a singer’s pitch when they’re performing. It may be the first single ever released about an appliance.

“Run This Town” is the album’s other single. Musically it’s one of the album’s most interesting tracks, but lyrically it gets a little tedious.

“Empire State Of Mind” is a real toe-tapper (has anyone ever described a Jay-Z song like that?). Thanks to an appearance by Alicia Keys, this is one of the best tracks on the album.

“Real As It Gets” is skip worthy—hey, there’s 15 tracks they can’t all be gems.

On to the next one, “On To The Next One” features one of Land of Punt’s favorite lyrics:

“No I’m not a Jonas/Brother, I’m a groaner/No, I’m not a virgin/I use my cahones”

Track 8, the album’s mid-way point, is the up-tempo “Off That.” This space-age jam features digs at political pundits Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh as well as a shout out to Chris Martin.

“A Star Is Born” has a nice horn sample and an attention-grabbing beat, but other than that it’s another weak spot.

“Venus Vs. Mars” is Jay’s attempt at rhythmic seduction but instead of being romantic it’s actually quite pithy.

The music on “Already Home” is captivating and Jay-Z really brings the flow (we used “flow” correctly, right?).

Coming in at 2:31, the churning “Hate” is the albums shortest song. This track’s minimalism is a nice change of pace.

Jay-Z raps his resume to the big beat of “Reminder.” The chorus is a little annoying, but the song will definitely get you up and out of your chair.

The infectious grove of “So Ambitious” will have you coming back for more. Not to mention it has the great line: “I’m so ambitious/I might hit two sistas.”

“Young Forever” blatantly rips off (or is it a cover?) of Alphaville’s “Forever Young.” Then again talent borrows and genius steals. You’ll either love or hate this final track. That’s probably while it’s last.

A plethora of guests join Jay-Z on the album (see below) and he employs a number of different producers (see below), most notably Kanye West and Timbaland.

Jay-Z’s boasting can get a little old and even though he’s more mature and sagacious than other emcees, he’s still pretty fixated on material possessions. However the 15 tracks on Blueprint 3 still proves that Shawn Carter is the Jehovah of rap.

Track List

1. “What We Talkin’ About” (featuring Luke Steele) Producers: Kanye West, No I.D.
2. “Thank You” Producers: Kanye West, No I.D.
3. “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” Producer: No I.D.
4. “Run This Town” Producers: Kanye West, No I.D.
5. “Empire State of Mind” Producer: Al Shux
6. “Real as It Gets” Producers: The Inkredibles
7. “On to the Next One” Producers: Swizz Beatz
8. “Off That” (featuring Drake) Producer: Timbaland
9. “A Star Is Born” (featuring J. Cole) Producers: Kanye West, No I.D.
10. “Venus vs. Mars” Producers: Timbaland
11. “Already Home” (featuring Kid Cudi) Producer: Kanye West
12. “Hate” (featuring Kanye West) Producer: Kanye West
13. “Reminder” Producer: Timbaland
14. “So Ambitious” Producers: The Neptunes
15. “Young Forever” (featuring Mr Hudson) Producer: Kanye West

Samples

“What We Talkin’ About” samples “Spirit” by Frederic Mercier
“Thank You” samples “Ele E Ela” by Marcos Valle
“D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” samples “In the Space” by Janko Nilovic and Dave Sucky
“Run This Town” samples “Someday in Athens” by The Four Levels of Existence
“Empire State of Mind” samples “Love on a Two Way Street” by The Moments
“On to the Next One” samples “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice
“A Star Is Born” samples “Touch Me” by Mother Freedom Band
“Already Home” samples “Mad Mad Ivy” by Gladdy’s Allstars
“Young Forever” samples “Forever Young” by Alphaville

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