When I first started listening to the new Jay-Z album, Blueprint 3, I was impressed. The first portion of the album is pretty fresh,beat and rhyme-wise, and obviously contains his first two singles.
“What We Talkin Bout” is synth-heavy, but Jay sounds good, but when he claims he is a small part of why the president is black, that kinda sets the tone for the majority of lyrical content that Jay brings forward: in a word, bragging. His constant boasting about material wealth may be well-founded, but at the same time, its juvenile for someone his age I think. His flow is on point, so is his voice for the most part, but its his content that kinda sucks here. Back to the song..the hook is kinda raggedy for something on a Jay-Z album, but I guess it’s still catchy.
“Thank You” is a pretty decent beat and Jay bodies it, with flow and swagger. Again, his content is not very interesting. On the production end, I see he is experimenting with live horn sections, and a ton of live instruments mixed over the sample tracks. This could be interesting, and definitely adds flavor but is not properly EQ’s to blend right with Hip-Hop in my opinion. This track should have been “lighter” and not as heavy-sounding, but these are very specific criticisms that won’t bother most people.
“DOA” and “Run this Town” – well, we all know these by now – well-produced, catchy, etc. Kanye kind of rips Jay a new one on “Run”, not so much in terms of flow, but how he crafts his ideas together lyrically. Neither of them have much in terms of content. Again on “Run” we hear quite a bit of live instrumentation (guitars mainly) added to the mix, which keeps it moving and interesting.
Surely, “Empire State of Mind” ft Alicia Keys will be the third single. If not, it would be a huge mistake in my opinion. Here, Jay finally has something to rhyme about and it works. He is rapping about New York! Alicia does justice to the hook, which is very catchy and will make this song a huge hit.
“Real as it Gets” features Jeezy, and he does his usual thing on here. It’s well-produced, again a synth drive track, but seems somewhat distorted on the recording end, especially on Jeezy’s vocals, which may or may not have been recorded at the same studio Jay was working out of. My bet is not. Nice chords on the synths, but there are two major annoyances on this song for me: 1) Jay using this “wassup” as a hook…..really? Cmon Jay, that just aint it! 2) Jeezy’s pronunciation (on the hook) “hands in the air” … and then.. here we are again with ANOTHER joint featuring the same old hook that Naughty by Nature made famous long ago with “Hip-Hop Hooray” -“HEY! HO!” cmon now…enough of that!
“One to the next One” is interesting because its a masterful musical creation by Swizzy, which is a very blatant nod to the new hipster movement. The beat sounds like a combination between a normal Swizz Anthem type track and something we might hear by “Cool Kids” or “Kidz in the Hall”. Jay also in my opinion bites Sha Stimuli on “Follow the Leader” where even though he proclaims Autotune to be dead, he still has the effect on one brief phrase. This is exactly what Sha did! Note: Jay also says the phrase “Follow the Leader” on “Run This Town”. Jay’s flow on this song shows the influence of the Hipster movement, but more specifically he sounds a little like Drake on this! I love the hook by Swizz Beats, it’s just funky as hell.
“Off That” – Jay sets it up by saying “welcome to the future… find me a place to land”.
And ironically, here comes Drake with the hook, saying “you can’t bring the future back”. Jay is DEFINITELY listening to the hipsters now, its official, as his flow on here is a straight nod to Wale. Why Jay keeps using these strange utterances as “swag hooks” now is beyond me, they just ain’t hot. (he keeps saying AHH like he does in D.O.A.) I guess flow-wise Jay is just showing skills as an emcee, battling the younger cats in their own style or something. It’s a fun track overall. Drake doesn’t get to rhyme, just does the hook.
“A Star is Born” – I have seen people say this song is a tribute to various “ex-enemies” like Nas, Wu, etc, but honestly, in some cases its still a diss because he is saying stuff like, ” they had their run” meaning they are now from the past. This whole song is like a history of rappers that “made it in the game”, but who are no longer of “today”. He gives Rae, O.D.B., and Ghost props, but ironically 2 of these artists were formerly on Rocafella/DefJam, so he is almost taking credit for them maybe? J.Cole gets to rap but Kid Kudi and Drake didn’t? Hmmmmmm…. This beat is annoying and wack, and its an attempt at a poppy, catchy hook, but is generally an uninspired song.
“Venus vs. Mars” is the story of a guy and a girl obviously. This is a mood track all the way with a “sexy, moaning” girl chant on the hook which make me yawn. Nice synths added to this track, and the sonics are nice and clear. Well-produced indeed by Timbaland. It just seems uninspired though.
“Already Home” – Jay borrows the old hook “Love me or leave me alone” subliminally but then yields to Kudi’s nice singing hook, but makes me personally wish I could hear more from Kudi on here. Live horns once again added but again mixed with a strange and muffled EQ that makes the horns seem to “real” and “live” and it just doesn’t blend, which annoys me. The beat is just ok, nothing exciting. Jay is just bragging again with limited content. He stays reminding us why we are all so damn inferior and inept, as well as poor. Left a bad taste in my mouth during these hard times.
“Hate” sounds like a Kanye track, and yep there is Kanye rhyming again too. It’s listenable but not extremely fresh or anything amazing to me. I guess this is supposed to be some of the “experimental” sound Jay has been mentioning? Try again. There is too much ill music out there these days. These boys been in the limelight too long!
“Reminder” is a really annoying bragging song where Jay basically stakes his claim above all artists of all time except the Beatles in terms of sales and success. Wow! So why am I unimpressed? And oh… here comes that new “fresh” (not) hook sound again “Ahhhh!” Listenable track due to Timbaland just knowing what he’s doing, but it goes absolutely nowhere due to Jay’s silly boasting.
“So Ambitious” is easily the weakest song on this album. I like Pharell ALOT but he is definitely one of the biggest hit-and-miss producers out there. This one is a straight miss. Lots of big synth hits – again, which makes the album start to feel very monotonous sonically. Pharell’s singing hook is wack and uninspired, bordering on annoying. Jay is virtually non-existent on this song. The only thing I noticed by listening carefully however is that he is re-using his rhyme scheme from older songs like “Hard Knock Life” and “Dead Presidents”.
“Young Forever” is an attempt at a quasi-1980’s synth-pop hit. Mr. Hudson does his thing as the token white, british singer, which is dumb because he is way more than that in all reality. But here it’s obviously the job of guest artists on this album, NOT to do THEIR thing but just augment Jay-Z and hold his nuts downs. Jay is boring as hell on this song. This song as the ending is ironic because not only is Jay bragging more, but additionally claiming to be YOUNG still, and claiming to have created timeless art. Truth be told, he really hasn’t and it’s getting old fast.
Overall, I like Blueprint 3, and give it 3.5 stars.