On his eleventh album, the Jigga man returns to finish off the Blueprint trilogy that has served him so well, particularly with 2001’s The Blueprint. Like most sequels though, The Blueprint 3 is an occasionally frustrating grand attempt to match its predecessors.
No other rapper’s stock is higher in 2009 than Jay-Z. No other rapper in history has managed to stay at the forefront of the genre’s popularity or relevancy as long as Shawn Carter. I’d wager that your mother has at least heard a Jay-Z song. It’s a long way from the bustling Brooklyn projects of old. Jay-Z is an elder at this stage. At 40 years of age, he’s been a mogul, a CEO, a patron and a businessman. When you’ve got everything you want, including Beyonce on your arm, you’ve not got too much to rally against or to be pissed off about. So what does a contented and wealthy Jay-Z have to offer us these days?
Maintaining a place at the top it seems. On The Blueprint 3, Jay-Z spends much of his time in the lyrical booth finding new ways to tell us he’s the greatest rapper alive and sometimes, he’s right. Few rappers demand attention more than Jay-Z. His strong point this time around is his flow over his lyrics. When Jay-Z is at his best as he was on The Black Album, you’re along for the ride, swallowing every detail of his life. Only occasionally, very occasionally on The Blueprint 3 are we truly marvelling at his craft.
On opening tune ‘What We Talkin’ About’ he claims he’s “a small part of the reason the President is black” and for about five songs you nearly believe him. The album is frontloaded by good tunes. ‘D.O.A (Death of Autotune)’ the street single from the album is classic Jay-Z, full of swagger and good production by No. I.D and Kanye West. The latter pops up in ‘Run This Town’ alongside Rihanna’s hook and almost steals the show while Alicia Keys provides the radio glitter on ‘Empire State of Mind’, Jay’s ode to New York set to bumping beats and emotional late-night piano.
From there on in though there is little to recommend here, save for the D.A.N.C.E-sampling, Swizz Beats-produced tribal excitement of ‘On To The Next One’ and the click-clacking ‘A Star of Born’, which is where it all starts to unravel. Having a song lambasting Autotune in the first half and then utilising the same tool on ‘Reminder’ and ‘A Star is Born’ later on is at least, a little egregious and at worst, insulting not to mention a little stupid. We expect better from someone of Jay-Z’s calibre.
Even Timbaland, who produces three songs here, seems a little off the game as are contributions from Pharrell on ‘So Ambitious’ and Kanye’s protegÃ© Mr. Hudson. The less said about the sickly sweet ‘Young Forever’, the better. Yes, it is a cover of Alphaville’s Forever Young, now best known for soundtracking the awkward high school dance in Napolean Dynamite.
The Blueprint 3 lacks a sense of urgency and hunger of the old Jay-Z and the result is a sprawling hour-long album with no identity that yields a few standout singles. He’s still on top but at what cost?
Get The Blueprint 3 at Amazon.