March 8, 2007

Jay-Z - The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (November 12, 2002)



I really like it when people read all the way through my reviews before they discover my opinion on a given subject, but in the case of The Blueprint 2, I'll make an exception.

What the fuck was Shawn Carter thinking?

The original Blueprint (Jay-Z's album, not BDP's) was both a critical and commercial success, and deservedly so, as it was actually a good album. Kanye West and Just Blaze both brought their "A" game, and Jay was rapping his ass off about a subject that we don't really grow tired of: his own life. Anyone can talk about "throwing some d's" on their brand new Cadillac, or you can use any fucking rap song in the top ten Billboard pop chart right now as an example of why hip hop is a dying art form, but when Jay talks about something that he actually knows about and lived through, the authenticity feels fresh and new.
So, accordingly, Jay made two huge mistakes. First, he called his follow up album by the same title. The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse. Horrible fucking title; just typing it out again makes my stomach hurt. Secondly, Shawn Carter performs what amounts to the cardinal sin of hip hop: he put out a double album.

Anytime a double album is released (that's not a greatest hits compilation), I grow wary. Nine times out of ten, this means that the artist is super mega successful and has surrounded himself (not to sound misogynistic, but there have been no female emcees who have released double albums) with a bunch of yes-men who are waaaay too shook to tell the artist that the majority of his output sounds like ass.

The Blueprint 2 is no exception. Titled to entice customers into thinking they were purchasing some more quality shit, he made the sequel the complete opposite of what made The Blueprint so successful. Too many guests, not enough introspective lyrics, and a lot of the beats here sound awful.

As I believe wholeheartedly in irony, I find a GZA quote from the Wu-Tang Clan's Wu-Tang Forever appropriate (ironic because Forever is a double CD, but I feel one of the few that were justified): "Keep it brief, son / Half short, twice as strong". Well played, sir.

DISC ONE: "THE GIFT" (yes, this is actually how he labeled the CDs)

1. A DREAM (FEAT FAITH EVANS & THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.)
I suppose I should be thankful that an intro doesn't precede this song. The beat doesn't sound like your average Kanye. The Biggie verse is lifted straight from his single "Juicy", with the references to "blow[ing] up like the World Trade" censored out for obvious reasons.

2. HOVI BABY
Just Blaze provides an odd five-bar structure for Jay to flow over. The experiment doesn't work. A lot of folks don't realize that this was the chosen first single for The Blueprint 2, but was quickly forgotten when Track #4 came out.

3. THE WATCHER 2 (FEAT DR. DRE, RAKIM, & TRUTH HURTS)
A sequel to Dre's own song, on Jay's album. Making up for past mistakes, the good Doctor produces the hell out of this song, which sounds like the original beat from 2001, except run through a James Bond / spaghetti western movie marathon.

4. '03 BONNIE & CLYDE (FEAT BEYONCE KNOWLES)
I know this was the hit single (and probably the reason the pair hooked up in the first place), but I can't really believe anything the Bee sings about, knowing that she sang about selling crack on a Cam'ron song hook. Irreplaceable, indeed.

5. EXCUSE ME MISS
The Neptunes finally misstep while handling Jay's vocals. This is a running theme for them all throughout the review, by the way.

6. WHAT THEY GONNA DO (FEAT SEAN PAUL)
Timbaland + Jay-Z = really questionable collabos. How the mighty have fallen.

7. ALL AROUND THE WORLD (FEAT LATOYA WILLIAMS)
Produced by No I.D., who used to be Common's main producer on his early albums. This does not mean that this song sounds like a Common song.

8. POPPIN' TAGS (FEAT BIG BOI, KILLER MIKE, & TWISTA)
Kanye's Outkast impression pays off. Jay's hyper flow makes a brief comeback. This song is catchy as hell, even if the title is stupid as shit.

9. FUCK ALL NITE
Neptunes again. Surprisingly, I like this song; it reminds me of bad '80s synth pop. Jay rips off more Biggie verses verbatim.

10. THE BOUNCE (FEAT KANYE WEST)
Timbo's best contribution to the double album. Kanye is actually uncredited in the liner notes; this is the first time I ever heard him rhyme, and I'm sure my reaction was similar to everyone else's: This guy sucks. Who knew?

11. I DID IT MY WAY
Jay samples Paul Anka. Go ahead, you can re-read that last sentence; I can wait.


DISC TWO: "THE CURSE"

1. DIAMOND IS FOREVER
Kanye has a song off of Late Registration called "Diamonds From Sierra Leone", featuring Jay-Z, which is fucking brilliant. This song is fucking awful. And no, Kanye didn't produce this one.

2. GUNS & ROSES (FEAT LENNY KRAVITZ)
Produced by Heavy D. (Weird, I know.) Sounds like I tripped over my shoelaces and fell into a hot mess.

3. U DON'T KNOW (REMIX) (FEAT M.O.P.)
I love it when the hip hop gods grant one of my wishes. This song is fire.

4. MEET THE PARENTS
From the popular Nicolas Cage film of the same film distribution company.

5. SOME HOW SOME WAY (FEAT BEANIE SIGEL & SCARFACE)
I remember taking out the trash at my old apartment complex once, and the upstairs neighbor was blasting this song on his porch. It sucked back then, too. I realize now that Just Blaze isn't that good of a producer, if you're using these Jay-Z albums as your evidence. (Read: he does better work with other artists.)

6. SOME PEOPLE HATE
Eh, what are you gonna do?

7. BLUEPRINT 2
Disses Nas and Jaz-O (Big Jaz), but the rhymes are terrible, especially the hook. The story here is the beat, which samples Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy Of Gold" from The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly; one of the best film music pieces ever.

8. N---A PLEASE (FEAT YOUNG CHRIS)
I guess Older 'N' Wiser Chris was working the late shift cleaning the V.I.P. at Scores. Another Neptunes mess for Jay to work with; however, in another artist's hands, the beat could work well.

9. 2 MANY HOES
Tim Mosley provides what probably would have been a good instrumental. Terrible otherwise.

10. AS ONE (FEAT MEMPHIS BLEEK, FREEWAY, YOUNG GUNS, PEEDI CRAKK, SPARKS, & RELL)
The dreaded return of Bleek, along with the decent Freeway, two guys who named themselves after an Emilio Estevez movie, a guy who is now a member of the far-superior Roots crew, and I won't even pretend I remember who Sparks and Rell are. Simply awful.

11. A BALLAD FOR THE FALLEN SOLDIER
The best Neptunes track on here. May have sounded good on the original Blueprint.

The following are listed as bonus tracks for some stupid reason:

12. SHOW YOU HOW
Probably the second best Just Blaze contribution, behind "I Know What Girls L...", sorry, I mean "U Don't Know (Remix)".

13. BITCHES & SISTERS
Ostensibly about the difference between female dogs and female siblings. J-Zone did this concept in a funnier, all-around better manner, although I like the second verse.

14. WHAT THEY GONNA DO PART II
Not produced by Timbo, but still: how the mighty have fallen.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Don't you put that Gift & Curse on me, Shawn Carter! This was the worst possible way for Jay to follow up The Blueprint. I imagine the board meetings went something like this:

JAY: I want to release every single song from the Blueprint 2 sessions to the public.
DEF JAM: Yes, sir! (kisses Jay's ass while drinking Armadale and wearing Roc-a-Wear)

And he wasn't even the president of Def Jam at that point. Related note: I bought this album on the same day as Missy Elliott's Under Construction, which featured the Missy and Jay collabo "Back In The Day"; that song is better than everything on this double album save for the "Best Tracks" I list below.

Before I conclude the review, I need to inform my two readers that this album was widely trashed by both the critics and the hip hop community (for good reason). As such, Jay-Z decided to release his "eighth" album, The Blueprint 2.1, on April 8, 2003.



Clever what he did with the cover, eh? Instead of being flush to the right, he's on the left. That certainly justifies calling this a completely different album.

The Blueprint 2.1 can be considered the "greatest hits" from The Blueprint 2, but if you actually think about it in that fashion, then you really weren't paying attention to my review. However, it is a cheaper way to get the few good songs from the double disc. The tracklisting is as follows.

1. A DREAM (FEAT FAITH EVANS & THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.)

2. HOVI BABY

3. THE WATCHER 2 (FEAT DR. DRE, RAKIM, & TRUTH HURTS)

4. '03 BONNIE & CLYDE (FEAT BEYONCE KNOWLES)

5. EXCUSE ME MISS

6. ALL AROUND THE WORLD (FEAT LATOYA WILLIAMS)

7. GUNS & ROSES (FEAT LENNY KRAVITZ)

8. U DON'T KNOW (REMIX) (FEAT M.O.P.)

9. MEET THE PARENTS

10. SOME HOW SOME WAY (FEAT BEANIE SIGEL & SCARFACE)

11. THE BOUNCE (FEAT KANYE WEST*) (*uncredited)

12. WHAT THEY GONNA DO PART II

Essentially, Jay admits here that the second disc was mostly filler. The Blueprint 2.1 contains two bonus tracks:

EXCUSE ME MISS AGAIN

Also known as "La La La" from the Bad Boys II soundtrack. A sequel to the original Neptunes track, once again produced by the production duo. The difference here is that the sequel is a great fucking track.

STOP

Another failure of a collabo between Jay-Z and Swizz Beats.

BUY OR BURN? The Blueprint 2 is for collectors only. I can't recommend that shit. The Blueprint 2.1 is for the discerning listener that has money to burn and absolutely, positively needs to purchase a Jay-Z album before their head explodes. And if that was truly the case, you should buy Reasonable Doubt instead.

BEST TRACKS: "The Watcher 2"; "U Don't Know (Remix)"; "Excuse Me Miss Again" (from 2.1); "The Bounce"

Coming to the home stretch with the Jigga discography. The Black Album on the way.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:

Jay-Z - The Blueprint

Jay-Z - The Dynasty: Roc La Familia

Jay-Z - Vol. 3...Life and Times of S. Carter

Jay-Z - Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life

Jay-Z - In My Lifetime, Vol. 1

Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt

4 comments:

  1. I hate this album every once of hatered in my soul. Shit wasn't even good enough to be an EP, let alone a double album. And I like Jay. If I ever meet him though, I'm going to ask for a refund for that album

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  2. Ha... actually, I found Just Blaze's work to be one of the redeeming things about the album. Just Blaze not being a very good producer is indeed a figment of your imagination... However, I must agree when you say this was a bad, bad album. It could've easily been another good Jay album had it been condensed (not like 2.1 was condensed though- they still did a bad job with that)- 13-14 good tracks woulda been no problem. But yeah, bad move Jay.

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  3. He's on the left! Shit, I'm getting 2.1 now.
    This review was pretty funny.

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  4. I feel like more attention needs to be drawn to the fact that Jay references The Spy Who Fucking Shagged Me on the title track. Bet that one holds up good in concerts these days, eh?
    That was sarcasm.

    ReplyDelete