As well all know at this point, Jay-Z “retired” in 2004. However he’s released two albums since than, but after listening to his 11th studio album “The Blueprint 3” it almost feels like those two previous efforts don’t count as a true Return or a true Comeback. 2006’s “Kingdom Come” came at a point where Hip Hop was so stagnant that he didn’t have to put much thought or skill into the album to sound better than the active Rappers at the time. And it came across that he didn’t, it was a bit of a lazy come-back effort. 2007’s “American Gangster” (which technically is a Soundtrack album)was a step in the right direction, with some great cuts but somehow the bulk of it was a little redundant.
Enter “The Blueprint 3”. An album that has virtually everything you want from a Hip Hop album on it. He pulled the Best producers to contribute some excellent tracks, and the album on the whole is very diverse and very different sonically than his last two albums.
The most important thing is that Jay-Z actually comes to the forefront and has obviously evolved, because his delivery and his lyrics are thoughtful, creative and shows that he truly is the Best Rapper Alive (well, one of very few). Thematically, I think this is the best of all “The Blueprint” albums, at least as far as staying true to the Blueprint concept. The first in the series is still his and one of the Best Hip Hop albums ever recorded, it was truly a original sound with really soulful emotional delivery on his part. “The Blueprint 2” was less about anything, great original production, but played more like a Hip Hop Mix Tape instead of sounding like one concept. This album, Jay is really talking to all the up and coming Rappers, and sticking to the concept of laying down the rules to have a successful Rap career. The albums first single “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” is a good example, where Jay talks about the contradictions in the Hip Hop game as of late “I don’t be in the project hallway, talking ’bout how I be in the project all day… If you a gangsta, prove it to me, just get violent”. He goes on to talk about how the new rappers shouldn’t wait for the downfall of Hip Hop Legends on “Already Home”, further saying they definitley shouldn’t compare themselves with said Legends or wait for them to open the door for them “the fact is, we not in the same bracket, not in the same league, don’t shoot at the same baskets, don’t pay the same taxes… So how am I in the way“. Timbaland produced tracks “Reminder” and “Off That” also display Jay’s irritation toward Rappers who obviously want to follow in his footsteps, but don’t want to give credit where it’s due.
One of the albums best tracks “A Star is Born”, has Jay-Z actually “applauding” alot of Rappers who have had success by forging their own lane. He name drops everybody from Ludacris, T.I., Eminem, Snoop and Nelly among others “Wayne’s scorching, I’ll applaud him, If he keep going, pass the torch to him“. He says “Drake’s up next, see what he do with it“, but the guest rapper on this track J-Cole actually does an impressively amazing job of keeping up with Jay on this track. Ofcourse leave no doubt “they come, they go, some friends, some hoes, but no, I goes nowhere this Hov“.
Jay goes through some pretty typical Hip Hop concepts, but takes them to another level. For instance “Venus vs. Mars” could have been your typical Rap Sex song, but he plays it well lyrically showing the buildup of a relationship and the eventual downfall “we were supposed to Takeover, I caught her bumping Ether, I thought shawty liked Mike, found out she like Prince, thought she was Adrian, it’s been Rocky ever since“. “Hate” “Empire State of Mind” “Thank You” “As Real As It Gets” and “Run this Town” cover things he’s talked about before, but further display his growth over the past few years, making them fresh all over again. Overall, a very very solid album and a true return to form. Save for the last two tracks (which may — and probably will — grow on me) every song here is catchy with excellent production with Jay-Z reminding us that he’s still got it and is still one of the best we’ve ever had.