(Today's Reader Review comes from Red Magic, who provides another take on my write-up for Jay-Z's Roc Nation debut, The Blueprint 3. And I know I'm in the minority, but I still feel that “On To The Next One”, while ignorant as fuck, is still entertaining. Be sure to leave your thoughts on Red Magic's review below.)
What a brilliant businessman Shawn Carter has proven to be. Every time he declares his retirement, Jay-Z (which is his birth name) announces another album, earning more millions. Personally, I have never been a fan, as I already own most of Christopher Wallace’s lyrics, and I thought that The Blueprint, the first entry in what is now a trilogy, proved both Jay-Z’s heavy reliance on powerful beats and Eminem's superiority over the old warhorse. Having Kanye West in your arsenal also boosts anybody's chance of gaining worldwide critical acclaim: naturally, this fact cemented Shawn’s decision to have West produce the majority of The Blueprint 3. As I am a huge Kanye fan, and because I also appreciated MGMT’s production on their Oracular Spectacular, I was interested to see how The Blueprint 3 would pan out. My curiosity was further enhanced by the leakage of two songs attacking Auto-Tune and featuring Rihanna, respectively. Yet the idea of having Drake on a track, in addition to Mr. Hudson singing a chorus, did not exactly tickle my desire to buy the album. Nevertheless, Kanye rarely disappoints, so let's see if he can help Shaun re-mobilise a soupcon of spark.
1. WHAT WE TALKIIN' ABOUT (FEAT LUKE STEELE OF EMPIRE OF THE SUN)
I have only heard one Empire of the Sun track and Luke
2. THANK YOU
No, thank you for the skip button, iTunes.
3. D.O.A. (DEATH OF AUTO-TUNE)
The first single, and to be honest, it is not exactly magical. Jay-Z starts off strong, but then falls back into his let's-use-a-Biggie-verse mentality (guess which one!). Royce da 5’9 also released a freestyle over this beat which sounded much better. On the other hand, this song inspired Jayceon Taylor’s amusing line “No one on the corner got a swagger like you / 'cause no one on the fuckin’ corner is 42.” Nevertheless, this should have been better.
4. RUN THIS TOWN (FEAT RIHANNA & KANYE WEST)
Hova copies T.I.’s brilliant idea of featuring Rihanna on a single, thereby ballooning his own radio airplay. Lyrically, this is bullshit, especially Kanye’s verse, which is beyond belief. Rihanna steals the show by singing the chorus beautifully (especially her part at the end), and Kanye’s beat fits like a glove. I would not recommend this to anyone who only listens to old school rap, though.
5. EMPIRE STATE OF MIND (FEAT ALICIA KEYS)
Apparently this is Carter’s favourite song of the album, and I can see why. Some guy called Al Shux produces a beast of an instrumental, and Alicia Keys sounds quite harmonious. Furthermore, Jay’s line “I can trip a referee” is quite amusing. It's a shame that the actual words “Empire State Of Mind” are never mentioned.
6. REAL AS IT GETS (FEAT YOUNG JEEZY)
The Inkredibles have been on both Flo Rida’s R.O.O.T.S. and DJ Khaled’s We Global, so,it was only a matter of time before Jay requested their assistance (insert sarcasm here). Young Jeezy gets the honour of starting the song off, which he does by reminding us that that he totally sucks. To add insult to injury, he croaks the hook, and Carter rounds this heap of shit off by saying “Raaaar.”
7. ON TO THE NEXT ONE (FEAT SWIZZ BEATZ)
Swizz Beatz is a hit or miss producer, and he brings his F-game to the table on this track. Carter attacks auto-tune yet again (did he not realize he honoured his hatred for the instrument on an entire song already?) over the sort of track that does not seem to ever end.
8. OFF THAT (FEAT DRAKE)
The new wonder boy gets a guest spot here and strengthens my belief that he is nothing special. There really is nothing memorable to say about this track.
9. A STAR IS BORN (FEAT J. COLE)
Another pristine lad is introduced, but this one receives the honour of being allowed to spit a verse, one in which he sounds better than average. Yet Kanye’s beat is pretty lacklustre, and like “Off That”, it does not exactly spark anything mentionable.
10. VENUS VS. MARS
Apparently MGMT had a hand in helping Timbaland produce this track, and the instrumental is impressive. The song is good until the hook kicks in, which makes me feel uncomfortable and sick (“Daddy go hard”? What the fuck?). After this gruesome image, I can no longer concentrate on the rest of the song.
11. ALREADY HOME (FEAT KID CUDI)
Yet another gentleman who had critics looking at him as the second coming in hip hop is granted chorus duty. Kanye’s bouncy beat is not terrible, and I do like the brief change in the instrumental close to the end. And yet Jay-Z’s lyrics are not exactly hypnotizing, and Cudi sounds lazy on the hook.
12. HATE (FEAT KANYE WEST)
Jay-Z lets us know that his haters are still praying for his downfall, just like he did on”Heart Of The City”. This song reminds me off Kanye’s own “Drunk And Hot Girls” (yet another goofy song I like but nobody else seems to) as both Kanye and Jay-Z just bitch about random people. Thankfully, this song is not that long.
I actually like this bizarre instrumental by Timbaland, on which Jay-Z actually sounds hungry again. His boasting of being better than anyone but The Beatles is flabbergasting, and the odd chorus helps seal a song which was quite enjoyable.
14. SO AMBITIOUS (FEAT PHARRELL)
The only instrumental I have ever enjoyed by The Neptunes was Lupe Fiasco’s “I Gotcha”, and this does not change my mind. The chorus just does not fit and totally wrecks Jay’s attempted storytelling, which was, admittedly, quite good.
15. YOUNG FOREVER (FEAT MR. HUDSON)
Mr. Hudson’s “Supernova” is being played night and day on the British radio, which does not exactly thrill me with delight. However, Mr. Hudson sings a quite soothing chorus on here, which is aided by Kanye’s soulful instrumental. Shawn keeps it simple by telling us how wonderful his life is and how people will remember him when he is gone. All in all, a pretty good way to end the album.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The Blueprint 3 falls in line with the previous entry in the series, as it has nothing spellbinding to offer. Maybe I am being too harsh too soon, but according to other brief comments on the web it seems I am not the only one disappointed with Shawn: he seems to push no-names into the spotlight without exceptionally shining himself. Furthermore, there is no Nas or Biggie presence forcing him to step his game up lyrically. Don't get me wrong, there are some crumbs of comfort which suggest Jay-Z is still noteworthy, but like Eminem’s Relapse, Hova does not boast an album worthy of the rap throne. He doesn't seem to rhyme about anything interesting, continuing the run-off-the-mill albums thread which has snaked its way into the rap game.
BUY OR BURN?: I am going to recommend a burn. As I mentioned above, some of these songs are worth the listen, but most of the tracks are built over skeleton beats with boring lyrics. Therefore, if you choose to journey back and listen to The Black Album and Reasonable Doubt instead, I would not condemn you.
BEST TRACKS: “Reminder”; “Empire State Of Mind”; “Run This Town”
(Be sure to leave your comments below. Make your opinions known!)