September 8, 2009

My Gut Reaction: Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 (September 8, 2009)

This was supposed to drop on Friday, September 11th, but I assume rampant bootlegging after the highly-anticipated leak caused Roc Nation/Atlantic to push this one up. For those of you disappointed to not see a Raekwon review today, let me just say: I am, too. But this gives me more time to digest Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II.

Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3, featuring the best cover art in his entire catalog, is the first album to be released under his new deal with LiveNation. It was recorded for his own Roc Nation label and distributed by Atlantic Records, making it Shawn Carter's first effort since his debut, Reasonable Doubt, to not see a release date on the calendar of Def Jam Records. Allegedly, Hova still had one album left to deliver after American Gangster, but instead of sticking around, he opted to go with LiveNation and bought himself out of the building, leaving behind the artists that he originally signed (among them Ne-Yo, Rihianna, and Kanye West). Not to be deterred, Def Jam released a box set of Hova's other two parts of the Blueprint trilogy, designed with an empty space in which The Blueprint 3 can easily be inserted. Which is probably one of the dumbest ideas ever in the entertainment industry, but fuck it, there are lots of people that keep buying up every single version of Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead that finds its way to store shelves, so it isn't without precedent.

The Blueprint 3 has been one of the most highly anticipated hip hop albums of all time (not entitled Detox) ever since last year, when several tracks found their way to the Interweb, none of which actually made the final cut. DJ Clue started the trending topic by unleashing "Ain't I", a Timbaland-produced cut that was recorded for a past project but never saw the light of day. Clue anounced it as the first single from The Blueprint 3, which Jay denied was even in the recording stages, although Hova later recanted that tale. Later, a Kanye West-produced old-school track called "Jockin' Jay-Z" hit the radio, but failed to kick up much dust in the industry. Another Kanye-laced track, "Brooklyn Go Hard", was allegedly going to be included on here, but ended up being showcased exclusively on the soundtrack to Notorious, the biopic of The Notorious B.I.G. Finally, "History" was a one-off that Jay recorded in honor of the newly-elected president at the time, Barack Obama.

The fucker was actually recording The Blueprint 3, though. Kanye West took over as the leader on the project: although Timbaland originally told the media that he would be taking the reigns, he ended up with only three production credits. Kanye tasked himself to make sure that Jay-Z would be rapping the the greatest beats in hip hop history, and Shawn was game: he tried to ensure The Blueprint 3's longevity by looking to the future of rap and trying to bring it to today's audience. Whether he actually accomplished that goal, though, only time (and other bloggers) will tell, but one thing is for certain: The Blueprint 3 will move units, whether I tell you its any good or not.

But if some of you two tell your friends, and they tell their friends, then who knows what can happen.

A weird introductory track, in that Kanye West's production is on some entirely other shit (including Luke Steele from the Australian electronic dance act Empire Of The Sun doesn't exactly scream “Hip Hop!”, either). Hova's lyrics are typical of his album intros, though. This song features the “freestyle” that Jay spit live at concerts over the summer, the one that re-ignited his feud with The Game (and Jaz-O), although does anybody really give a fuck about who The Game hates this month? Musically, this isn't that bad.

I thought this was corny as hell. The beat is alright, if a bit plain, but I didn't care for Hova's lyrics, delivery-wise and content-wise. I enjoyed the portion of the track where the drums went outside for a walk, but otherwise, I'll pass.

I've written about this one before, and my initial complaint is still my primary one: this song isn't aggressive enough in attacking Auto-Tune. As a result, the number of Auto-Tuned songs on the radio seem to have increased, so Jay-Z may have lost this war. No I.D.'s beat remains the best part of this song, and Jigga's constant shout-outs help keep the producer formerly known as Immenslope's name in the spotlight.

Personally, I don't like the video for this song: I find it fucking ridiculous. However, this track has kind of grown on me, to an extent. Not because of Jigga, though: Hova keeps repeating the phrase “Whassup?” as if he has no real concept of what's going on around him. (A fun idea for a drinking game: every time Shawn utters that phrase, you take a shot. The room will be spinning, guaranteed, before Kanye West even says a word.) Kanye easily murders Shawn on his own shit, and 'Ye's beat actually fucking rocks: maybe he should have saved this collaboration for his next magnum opus instead. Personally, I'd like to know how exactly would this have been a Rihianna solo song before Hov and Kanye took over, but that may just be my own curiosity showing.

Hova's favorite song on the album. Rumor has it that Nas was invited to contribute lyrics to this song. That would have actually made sense, as this is a love letter to New York (which happens to be Nasir's state of mind), but I suppose the ongoing divorce proceedings were a bit overwhelming. I don't have anything against Alicia Keys, but she sounds just like any other generic nameless studio vocalist while singing on the hook: was she chosen only because she has a song called “Streets Of New York” (that, conveniently, sampled “New York State Of Mind” by...Nas)? I really think that Hova should have gotten Mary J. Blige to sing on the hook (as a nod to “Can't Knock The Hustle”) or, well, motherfucking Nas. Wow, I can't believe I've become such an advocate for Nasir Jones: that doesn't sound like me at all.
The Inkredibles provide a beat that sounds like one of the boring songs on The Black Album that I used to skip. I'm convinced that Jay-Z and Kanye West keep Young Jeezy around them at all times so that, in a pinch, they can prove their respective mic dominance by out-rapping him at the drop of a hat. That has to be the only reason, right?

I didn't realize this was possible, but I actually fucking loved the Swizz beat on here. (His vocals, though, should have been deleted.) Hova's boasts are punctuated by the instrumental's attempt to create a darker version of Lil' Wayne's “A Milli”, and it actually succeeds. Hova couldn't resist taking shots at Auto-Tune, the makers of Cristal (“that fucker's racist”) and his old Def Jam home (“I don't get dropped/I drop the label”), though.

Yeah, yeah, Drake only handles the hook, and he sounds interchangeable with any other artist, kind of like how you can change out facial features on a Mr. Potato Head, but that doesn't mean that Aubrey won't jack the song and put out a version with a verse of his own on a mixtape or something. Hova's rant against current fads (because he's already moved on, you see) isn't as bad as a lot of bloggers claim, mainly because Timbaland's beat is on an entirely different plane than his previous collaborations with Shawn. Not the man's finest hour or anything, but this is decent, I suppose.

Shawn plays the role of a hip hop fan, expressing his awe in his peers from the unique perspective of a guy who was doing the same shit. He even calls Eminem “fuckin' awesome” at one point, which is hilarious. He also can't resist taking pot shots at both Curtis Jackson and Prodigy, even though their respective beefs are allegedly over. He even shouts out Raekwon, probably because, as the only other major rapper in direct competition with him today (as Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II drops today, too), Shawn knows that he already has the man beat when it comes to first week sales. The production, with its simulated handclaps, was really good, and J. Cole's guest verse is impressive enough to make listeners forget that they were angry at Drake's non-contribution on the previous track.

So this Timbaland-produced track didn't sound good when it leaked, according to the bloggers, but here's the thing: Timbo's minimalist beat works very well, and Hova's verses are all intricately constructed (lots of double meanings here), but the chorus is what flat-out ruins the song for me and, I'm willing to bet, for a lot of you, as well.

If Kanye West was going to use The Blueprint 3 to promote his own stable of artists (like KiD CuDi, on here, and Mr. Hudson), where are the guest spots from Consequence and GLC? Hova sounds pretty good on here, but 'Ye's beat is terrible, and KiD CuDi's presence on the hook was almost completely useless. So why is he poised to be the next big thing again?

Kanye's beat sounds like a screwed version of something from 808's & Heartbreak. Kanye's rhymes are almost hilarious in how fucking terrible they are: I guess he felt awful about stealing “Run This Town” away from his gracious host. I'll never need to hear this shit again. Hell, I don't even want to finish the song now, but at least it's short.

This has got to be the worst Timbo/Hova collaboration ever recorded. Yes, I said ever recorded. Discuss below.

I love how the best Jay-Z/Neptunes collaborations have always been the upbeat club tracks, but Shawn insists on getting Pharrell and Chad's quiet storm castoffs (“Allure”, “Ballad For The Fallen Soldier”). To their credit, this doesn't really sound like a Neptunes song, but just because they branched out doesn't make this song any good. Nice try, though.

Remember the Chris Martin-produced “Beach Chair” from Kingdom Come? This is on that song's level. “Young Forever” borrows from Alphaville's “Forever Young”, which I'm sure will annoy almost all of you (if you're as protective of music as I am, anyway), but 'Ye's beat truly doesn't sound like anything that he's ever done before, so that was fairly ambitious of him. Mr. Hudson's singing sounds out of place, but fuck it, he cashed a paycheck, right? With this, Jay-Z ends The Blueprint 3 on a relatively low note.

THE LAST WORD: As fucked up as it sounds, The Blueprint achieved its otherworldly status because of the unfortunate events that occurred on its release date. Its sequel failed because it was full of bloated excess (as most double albums tend to be, right, Nas?). The Blueprint 3 is partially brilliant and mostly really really meh. Having Kanye West produce the majority of the project was a mistake (seriously, were DJ Premier, Just Blaze, Dr. Dre, or even Ski not returning your calls, Shawn?), as he takes over the album to further his own agenda and, out of pure coincidence, I'm sure, finds work for his two latest artists. Timbaland's contributions are also disappointing, although, save for “Reminder”, they're not entirely without merit. A heavy reliance on guests is a detriment: Jay-Z doesn't really need to have someone singing hooks on every single one of his songs. But, hey, Memphis Bleek isn't on here, so that's fuckin' awesome. While this comes nowhere close to meeting my own (or anybody else's) sky-high expectations, The Blueprint 3 has its moments, and hell, I never thought I would ever hear fucking Swizz Beats out-Timbaland Timbaland, so that was weird. It's not a great album, and it won't be up for contention as a classic, but some of it is pretty goddamn entertaining, which is all that actually matters. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to craft a write-up for something that I was actually looking forward to hitting store shelves today, so I'll see you tomorrow.


Read more about my Jay-Z stannery by clicking here.


  1. This album is probably the second worst in Carter's arsenal and it's only cause of Young Forever, Run This Town and Empire State of Mind that it over-shadows Kingdom Come...

    Jay-Z PLEASE fucking retire and stop being out-rhymed by Lupe, Nas, Marshall and others.

    Also, Ob4CL II>>> B3

    Moreover... I thought I'd never hear a bad Kanye beat but then I listened to this shit.

  2. nice review as always max. i hesitated to download it since the tracklist looked like a rehashing of bp2 (just with updated artists) so i never got a chance to listen to it. maybe i'll get a chance once i stop listening to cuban linx 2...

  3. fuck cuban linx 2

  4. “were DJ Premier, Just Blaze, Dr. Dre, or even Ski not returning your calls, Shawn?”

    I have to ask an additional question. Where was the hip hop on this album? It feels that Jay was catering to the same demographic that he criticized on DOA when making these tracks.

    This is Universal Mind Control 2. Moment of silence………………………………………

  5. already home gets better with more plays. trust me. might be my favorite track from the album.

  6. You bastard!

    And BP3 wasn't even in the store that I went to. Not that I cared much, was just very surprising. They even advertised today's date and all.
    I'll probably borrow it from my cousin (a Jigga stan) and maybe express my short opinion later.

    As for the new release that I DID get today ... well, I'm at school, so it'll have to wait a few hours. Safe and unwrapped in my bag though; it's like Christmas come early. I pray that the insides are delicious.

  7. Great Review man...I gotta get it, oh yea that Raekwon is fucking INCREDIBLE!!

  8. I thought that Swizz Beats song was TERRIBLE. The beat gave me a migrane. I also don't know how you don't love Empire State Of Mind. I think that track is a classic.

  9. ur tripping..Alicia sound amazing on empire state...that song is powerful simply because of the hook. She sounds way better than Rihanna on some real convo

  10. BP3 is a hot steaming pile of shit

  11. "fuck cuban linx 2"

    fuck you protoman

  12. Fuck Blueprint 3, Cuban Linx 2 shits all over this Camel garbage.

  13. i think its ironic that jay-z made an album catered to the hipster/indie rock crowd when most likely that crowd will gravitate more to the rae album. rae's new album reminds me of Fishscale and those people ate that shit up

  14. Yep gotta agree that Empire State of Mind is stolen by Alicia Keys. She makes the song, lifting it beyond Hova's trite lyrics.

  15. This album was very.... AVERAGE to me. I know that Jay-Z has more talent than what is shown here. All in all tho, I enjoyed the album. I gave it a good, pleasant listen. Then I put on Raekwon's album the rest of the DAY. Still can't get that D.O.A. beat out of my head tho. It's crazy good. Quality music comming from legendary rappers this year. 2009: the resurrection of hip hop?

    P.S. You should review Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II (HA!) I'm looking forward to reading what you write about that album.

  16. All this hype fo nothin'...
    Album is crap.

    Cant wait for the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II review.

  17. So am I the only one whol ikes the new reflective Jay? The man is a multimillionaire he owns a chain of night clubs and is part owner of the New Jersey Nets so if he still was grimey and hood everybody would still bitch. The President is a fan of his music if anybody deserves to not give a fuck its Jay. that being said yeah I thought some of the hooks like Swizz & Drake were not needed but all in all it was a good album (sorry for the rant)

  18. Tussins right though, the Swizz shit is so horrible it made me use a year dose of aspirin in advance. I hate the whole album safe for NO IDs beats and will probably nevereverandeverever listen to it again!!!

  19. this was either a love or hate album. i'm inclining towards the first. this has grown on me after bumping a few times...

    however, Reminder and Hate are terrible indeed. maybe Jay should have placed History, Brooklyn We Go Hard or Jockin' Jay-Z instead.

    other than that, it was good IMO.

  20. Well, it's not that bad... it's just disappointing. Also I don't see tracks that can grow on me, good shit rocks from the first listen, bad shit seems to stay bad forever.

    Jay needs to retire? Maybe.. But one thing for sure - TIMBALAND NEEDS TO RETIRE ASAP!


  21. this shit sucks, i bought it yesterday and i was extremely disapointed, jay z has no ears for beats and neither has the mouth for words

  22. Quite a boring album in all honesty, I'd rather get 2 copies of OB4CL2

    On a side note, I quite enjoyed 'Hate'. Kanye's lyrics are horrible but his delivery is so stupid it's funny (in a good way!)

  23. word the beats suck on this imo

  24. i didint like the album aither but i have been thinkink about the fakt that Jay-Z's status has becoma a rock-legend staus.. but in hip hop.. i mean we where all wondering how come AC/DC can go on tour and cell all the tickets for the conserts but big daddy kane raps in a club in front of 200 people.. well the latter generation of big rap artist wont be that way.. and once again - the album is bad..

  25. I gotta agree with "the Lion" regarding Already Home. Definately one of my favourites. I like the subtle vocal chops and horns that build in the chorus (no homo).

    That Swizzy collabo is a certified banger.

  26. Today I listened to this album...

    Jay-Z's albums are getting more and more ridiculous. This here's got nothing to do with hip hop. The guest appearances are terrible and the music sucks too.

    I don't know when Jay-Z is gonna retire, but something tells me that he's got at least 5 albums ready.

    He tries to destroy hip hop by creating a trend of singing loops and spoken words.

    It's awful at all! This s not rap music, he's not a rap figure.

  27. Most Anticipated hip-hop album of all-time?? "Detox" (yes entitled) "Cuban Linx 2" and another OutKast album would up this album in any stretch!! I just had it with this dude.. anyway not to ammuse you max w/ low vibe comments but every Jay stan i think should watch this....

  28. Okay, this is not commentary on this specific album as much as it's commentary on Jay-Z as a whole (I figured the latest review is the best place for this) but... Is it just me or is Jay-Z the most overrated rapper ever?

    I have his discography, and I would be lying if I said I have paid much attention to Jay's works. But I've listened enough to form a good opinion of him as a musician, and frankly I just don't see it. He has some good ones here and there, but most of his songs are just him talking off-beat on top of a repetitive beat (U Don't Know), or him talking off-beat on top of a good beat (the ever so fresh Hard Knock Life). And even when the beat (and/or chorus) is good, Jay somehow manages to mess it up with the flow that just doesn't flow.

    I don't see any talent in his words. I could write half the stuff he says overnight. Your average Jay-Z track is "Bling, I'm the king, I have a ring and butloads of money and I did a track with Biggie once. And I'm from Brooklyn."

    I mean who the hell cares if he makes ten trillion albums if most of the content is mediocre at best.

    1. Naaaaaah you need to listen again

  29. AnonymousJuly 21, 2012

    I played the Run This Town drinking game (everytime Hov says "Wassup" take a shot) i was long gone after the 2nd time the hook came in. Good drinking game

    1. At least SOMEONE finally acknowledged that joke. Thanks for being a brave, alcoholic soul.

  30. I remember going to the store to buy Cuban
    Linx 2 and bought this instead, not knowing it was already on sale. I quickly regretted that decision.

  31. Agreed this album is Universal Mind Control 2. I actually find this album completely unlistenable. A massive let down from Jay, particularly after American Gangster