Re: “Jay-Z’s Blooperprint” (Sept. 21). I agree that Jay-Z has had his share of missteps when releasing albums (note “Kingdom Come” and even “Blueprint 2”) since his “retirement” in 2003. But on “Blueprint 3,” he wants us to compare this “Blueprint” to the one that solidified his status as one of the best rappers in history, which I respected him for being before I even opened the album.
Everyone is saying that Jay fell off, like the author of this piece does. The album is not supposed to add “a new story to this edifice.” Jay-Z cannot go any higher. “Blueprint 3” is supposed to remind us that Jay-Z is the biggest fish in the sea, with multi-platinum artists, like Lil’ Wayne, threatening his title. Jay-Z is reasserting his status. He’s reminding us how peerless his flow can be; he kills on collaborations with pupils-turned-heavyweights Kanye and Jeezy.
He has already proved himself over and over again, but his insatiable ego forces him to make sure that we all remember how good he really is. “What We Talkin’ About” sets that tone as the first track as he essentially says he doesn’t have time for beef because he’s got better things to do, like kick it with President Obama.
And most of all he’s stretching the limits of the genre (as he stated recently in an XXL Magazine interview). Like any good businessman, he recognizes that in order to be on the top, he needs to stay relevant. Half of “Blueprint 3” is about reminding the world that Jay-Z is as big as his ego and that he’s “in The Hall already … a Warhol already … on another plane already, as he raps in “Already Home.”
It’s not necessarily his best work, but he’s proved on “American Gangster” he could churn out “street” hits. The other half is dedicated to pushing the envelope. Like he says in “Off That,” he’s already past “whatever you about to discover.” He says that he’s not a businessman, he’s a business; “Blueprint 3” is, from a business perspective, a new path to relevancy by including the failed experimentalism he sought with “Blueprint 2.”
Catering to pop culture sells records and gets his music and therefore influence out there. For the same reason he includes D.O.A. as a fake attack at auto-tuning, recognizing that beef will sell records (see the 50-Kanye spat a while back). With “Run This Town” and “Empire State of Mind,” he has three sure-fire singles that he knows pop culture will devour. That’s also why he collaborates with a lot of up-and-coming artists. Combining a rap legend with the new stars almost guarantees that our generation will be drawn to his music. (I fell in love with a leaked “Off That” YouTube video only to find out it was on “Blueprint 3” when I purchased the album.)
The album isn’t without its missteps. It’s not quite on the level of greatness that Jay-Z peaked at on “Blueprint” and “Black Album,” but he gets very close when he seems to try. Timbaland’s production is beginning to become stock. Drake and Kid Cudi needed to do more than choruses with their unique, new flows on their respective song. Swizz Beatz’s “On to the Next One” (setting my distaste for him aside) seems just poorly produced — the song doesn’t really go anywhere, and the instrumental track dominates Jay-Z vocals, muddying his vocals. “Hate” caters more to Kanye’s style, and Jay-Z seems a little out of place on the “808s”- and “Heartbreaks”-reminiscent beat; but, the more I listen to it, the more I like how he steps out of his comfort zone, pitting his skills against Kanye’s, but on his long-time protégé’s terms.
I think a lot of people fail to see that. The same goes for “Venus Vs. Mars”: Jay-Z tries something new (almost Lil’ Wayne-esque clever couplets) on something he has never had much success with (seduction rap tracks). But even through all these quasi-forced beats and experimental styles, Jay-Z includes ridiculous amounts of allusions to his previous tracks and personal history, cementing his dominating status as one of the most dominating rappers in the industry. He goes jazzy and reverts to his older flow on the Neptunes’ beat of “So Ambitious” like he did a lot on “American Gangster” (2007) to satisfy his constant urge to align himself with Sinatra. “Already Home” combines Kanye’s “Late Registration” production with Jay-Z’s swagger foiling the seeming stoicism of Kid Cudi. “Forever Young” reminded me a lot of Jay-Z’s collaboration with Coldplay (“Beach Chair,” “Kingdom Come,” 2006) because Jay-Z is immortalizing himself by transcending rap as a genre and looking at it and music more globally, serving well to wrap up the album.
The writer is a senior in Morse College.