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First listen: Jay-Z's 'Blueprint 3'

Jay-z300 For those who have an intravenous Internet hookup, Jay-Z's long-delayed, much-anticipated "Blueprint 3" leaked sometime in the wee hours of yesterday morning and debuts today on Rhapsody's and MTV's websites. We listened to the entirety of Sean Carter's 11th album in one fell swoop -- not even taking a break to sip overpriced Champagne, smoke overpriced cigars or take our Maybach out for a leisurely spin. That's either dedication or... a paying assignment from our editor.


"What We Talkin' About" (ft. Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun)

Jay-Z has enlisted Luke Steele of Australian hairspray techno auteurs Empire of the Sun to sing the hook. For those doing the math at home, that means that the man behind this album has more face-time on a Jay-Z album than longtime collaborators DJ Premier and State Property.

In the course of the cut, Jay-Z claims, "I'm not talking about profit; I'm talking about pain." Within 30 seconds, he's bragging about being bff's with Barack Obama. Apparently, Jay-Z feels the pain of the potential loss of the public option more than we will ever know. Hova also declares "I'm not talking about [rivals] Jimmy [Jones], Game or Dame [Dash]," thus robbing him of any semblance of conflict that might make his music that much more interesting.

"Thank You"

Rather than use the liner notes, Jay-Z decides to write a song thanking the fans for supporting him. He mentions that he has 10 No. 1 albums -- a factual inaccuracy. He has 10 official solo albums released prior to this one, and not all reached No. 1. You'd think that with all of his money, he could at least pay sidekick Memphis Bleek to fact-check for him. He also mentions his predilection for wearing really nice suits and going to the opera.

"D.O.A."

The long-ago leaked first single proves that no matter how cranky and cantankerous Jay-Z sounds, a Janko Nilovic sample can salve all wounds. Moreover, whether you agree or not with his traditionalist stance, Jay at least has a coherent point here. 

"Run this Town" (ft. Rihanna & Kanye West)

The second single currently earning heavy urban radio play. You've probably heard it. If not, let me give you a hint about who runs this town -- it rhymes with May-B.   

"Empire State of Mind" (ft. Alicia Keys)

Essentially, a list of New York City streets with the titular inspiration seemingly swiped from Nas'  "New York State of Mind." For the 723rd time, Jay-Z compares himself to Frank Sinatra, an analogue that's becoming ill-fitting. There's something timeless about Sinatra's catalog and his choice of collaborators. Something tells me that Mr. Hudson, featured on the last track of "Blueprint 3," is no Antonio Carlos Jobim. Even Alicia Keys can't save this track from foundering.

"Real as it Gets" (ft. Young Jeezy)

This feels like a shameless shill to get Southern rap fans to buy the album, lured by the promise of a Young Jeezy cameo. When used properly, Jeezy's gravelly timbre can produce earthshaking force; but on "Real," the result is both rappers abandoning their gritty street raps for self-worshiping ennui. It's hard to blame them; it's tough to stay hungry when you have a personal chef.

"On to the Next One" (ft. Swizz Beatz)

The  first track yet that doesn't make me want to skip onto the next one. Swizz Beatz is clearly channeling "A Milli," and while he doesn't get the exact same results, he clearly creates one of the album's standout tracks, sounding simultaneously au courant and catchy. Jay-Z continues his recurring obsession with being artistically progressive and moving forward.

"Off That" (ft. Drake)

Timbaland's beat sounds like one of the better castoffs from the last Justin Timberlake album, and Drake's hook is cool and self-assured. But there's something here that reads as stasis: Timbaland continues to envision the future as silver suits and astronaut ice cream, while Jay sounds like he would probably try to lecture the “Say Hey” kid for wearing tight pants.

"A Star is Born" (ft. J. Cole)

Featuring a guest appearance from J. Cole, the fledgling artist whom Jay-Z has signed to Roc Nation. Cole acquits himself fine with a nimble resonant verse about coming from poverty, though his performance lacks the appeal of past Jay proteges Beanie Sigel, Kanye West or Memphis Bleek.

"Venus vs. Mars"

A naked play to entice female listeners, with Timbaland delivering a monstrous beat. Unfortunately, Jay utilizes the lurid leering tone of the rich guy at the bar promising helicopter rides to any nubile female who will look in his direction. In 10 years, "Venus vs. Mars," will go down in history as the first rap song ever inspired by a self-help romance guide intended to illuminate gender differences. I can't wait until Drake releases his prog-rap opus, "He's Just Not That Into You."

"Already Home" (ft. Kid Cudi)

The most organic and hence best song on the album. Kanye fulfills his symphonic "Late Registration"-era aspirations and Jay fills it with regnant "Blueprint" majesty. The decision to pair up with Kid Cudi and Kanye West finally yields some dividends for Jay's experimentation. Granted, it's not exactly the London Muddy Waters Sessions, but it works. Kid Cudi's stoned insularity proves a nice foil to Jay's swagger and the song sounds fun and spontaneous.  

"Hate" (ft. Kanye West)

The logical continuation of the "Graduation" dud "Drunk and Hot Girls," "Hate" sounds like the result of staying up all night in the studio mixing various liquors and then letting the tape recorder roll. You're in that deluded state where you think that everything you record is genius and filled with revelations. Then you wake up the next morning to realize that except for three seconds, everything you made was garbage. Except that never happened, and Jay and Kanye decided to put it on the album. 

"Reminder"

Where Jay-Z reminds us that he's better than you and me. Presumably, this is supposed to even out the hospitality of "Thank You." 

"So Ambitious" (ft. Pharrell)

Apparently, all ambition means these days is making songs that both Pharrell and Jay would've scoffed at during their "Roc La Familia"-era salad days.

"Young Forever" (ft. Mr. Hudson)

Sampling "Forever Young" on the the final track is one of the worst decisions of Jay-Z's legendary career and confirms everyone's deepest fears about the album: that it's a Hail Mary attempt by a veteran artist to stay relevant. There's maturing gracefully and then there's this -- a maudlin cut that sounds like bar mitzvah montage rap. After hearing this, cleanse with "Brooklyn's Finest" on repeat. 

Verdict: 

Regardless of this lackluster effort, nothing can alter Jay-Z's place as one of the greatest rappers of all time. That said, despite several strong moments, "Blueprint 3" documents an artist who refuses to wallow in the past, but lacks a (ahem) blueprint for the future. As with all Jay-Z albums, it tries to be all things to all people, and occasionally succeeds, but more often than not, it offers a tepid futurism. If Jay-Z is rap's Rolling Stones, this is his "Dirty Work," even if he maintains that he doesn't like his colors too bright. 

--Jeff Weiss

Photo by Jason Kempin / Getty Images


  

 
Comments () | Archives (72)

This article has a factual inaccuracy!!! Jay-Z actually has 10 1. albums behind him! He has 8 no. 1 solo albums, but he also has the two collabo-albums R. Kelly - Unfinished Business and The Best of Both Worlds...

Seems pretty stupid to knock somebody for there facts, when your own ain't straight...

Lackluster effort?! Dirty work?! Just another overpaid critic running his mouth. I heard BP3 yesterday, the wordplay, the flow patterns, the delivery, the beats, the hooks, the originality,the charisma, the vocabulary, you have got to be f'in kidding me if you don't think this album is a classic. This guy clearly doesn't know what the hell he is talking about. L.A. times go figure, make him a janitor because no one values this idiots opinion.

Hey there bro,

Actually, Jay-Z does have 10 No. 1 albums. They weren't all solo albums. He has a few collabo albums too... four I think.

Wow, this is a hot steaming mess of a review. You listing "On To The Next" as the first track you DIDN'T want to skip served as the perfect indicator that you have horrid taste in music. It's obvious that you are more interested in writing with a sensationalist agenda so as to appeal to the readership garnered by the currently snark filled world of blogs and forum posts. In fact, that's exactly what you sound like. Whoever signs the checks over there at the L.A. Times ought to fire the guy that hired such an untalented hack such as yourself to write reviews for hip hop music, and then dispense with you.

wow! what a slam, lol. I thought it was pretty good actually. Maybe i'm just getting old.

The album is near perfect, and I guess the LA Times couldn't afford an assistant to check Jeff's facts either because Jay has 10 No. 1 albums... who is Jeff Weiss anyway? He sounds like he would be better off reviewing a lawnmower or a microwave.

I am a Jigga fan and the album is a big disappointment. Timbaland, Swizz even Kanye faltered...Out of 15 tracks only 3 are solid hits..the rest is filler....again, disappointing...

I think he's being influence by his wife and not in a good way...

Why is that an archaic publication like the LA Times would even take on subject it can’t relate with, just because it’s a popular topic or so called pop culture? I do realize that the LA Times has a relevant opinion regarding a majority of the country’s events, but to review a subject like hip hop and not even have anyone on staff that could actually critique an album like Jay-Z ‘s ‘Blueprint 3’, clearly illustrates the fact why the new paper business is on the decline (flat-lined some time ago). Just because you digitize your publication doesn’t deem it as something current. Starting your review by reveling that the only reason for taking the assignment was because you’re getting paid! seriously. That’s what is wrong with this country, if the topic is something your not personally into, then screw it. Well that may work for the countless Bogglers and couch potato’s with their Monday Night criticism, but for someone who actually has a job, it’s shows how inept our educational system has failed us. Mr. Weiss your grade is a D-, you did at least make the required three hundred-word limit.

first of all i dont agree with you at all
jay-z blueprint 3 is the album of the year the album to save hip hop from this commercial t pain jewlery phaze
i love this album and track 15 young forever i loved how he remade the 1980s one hit wonder forever young my allphavile
i loved how it came out
my opnion blueprint 3 was way beter then cuban linx 2

i got the album yesterday and its a badass album I've had it in my cars radio and haven't gotten tired of it

those who dont like...
-it dont listen to lyrical content.
-it grows on you i didnt really like it at first. my opinion has changed in 24 hours...
best songs are forever young, venus vs mars, empire state of mind...
Those who like it and havent heard it are fake. Also this jeff guy has some good points but is also kind of ridiculous....
In 10 years, "Venus vs. Mars," will go down in history as the first rap song ever inspired by a self-help romance guide intended to illuminate gender differences. I can't wait until Drake releases his prog-rap opus, "He's Just Not That Into You."
Ya did you listen to the words

that article is a complete waste of well thought out words. like most people these days, mr. weiss either doesnt understand well thought out, pertinent rap and hip hop music, or hes just another member of the jay z hating peanut gallery. either way, he has eloquently proven he has no idea what hes talking about.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Jay-Z. There are allot of tracks that I love, and some that are garbage.. but for real fans- its like ya mom's cooking you still going to eat it if its bad..lol. Can't wait for Cuban linxII. Jay doesn't want to be categorized as commercial rap.. They all are to a certain degree (that's the music buiz)But the guy was just doing a review; it all his opinion, trust me no one can take Jay's success away from him, and he can be cocky about it if he wants..DOA!!!!!

If you don't like "Empire State of Mind" unquestionably the STRONGEST record on this album...I definitely have to question your ear.

I'm not a Jay Z Stan, but I do like alot of his music. And I believe this review was unwarranted, unresearched and probably written by someone unfit to review hip hop music. This is a good album, and I believe the record sales support that, and make that more of a fact, than an opinion.

It's hard to stay hungry when you have a personal chef. Hahaha -Good one, That one had me laughing. No mention of Kanye's beat production. No mention of No I.D.. I felt that Death of Auto-tune and Run this town stood out for their production value. Probably why they are the first 2 releases. Kanye sampling The Four Levels of Existence. What? Can't say inventive cuz it is a sampling but creative as all hell. Kanye is dipping into music and sounds that 99% of the general public have never heard of. All in all, BP3 is an album deserving of being #1 on the charts. I similarly feel that a few of the songs were incomplete hail mary passes. Why is Beyonce not on the album. She had one of the greatest videos of all time.

I agree, BP3 is bagging, the beats are great and the lyrics are dope. Not sure what album you were listening too, but BP3 is a classic already. I live in Philly and I can tell you how many times in a day people ride past pumping one of the tracks.

Maaaan stop hating. Jay is what it is and he is what it will be until others pick up the slack. Jay is showin' his grown man side, he has past Elivs on the charts and is second to The Bettles. You know what keep hating....Jay needs that to keep goin'. Hi hater

All one has to do is read the comments on this article to get an idea of whether or not this record is any good. If the reviewer knew as much about hip-hop as Jay-Z he would be making hit records, instead of just reviewing them.

On the young forever little analysis that you have givin is totally judge mental and is also very bais. Obvisoly you dont know good music when you here it and not just listen to it. Jay-Z(Sean Carter) explains how society should fell about life and explains the luxuries from diffrent social classes. This poetic master piece could even be compaired to some of "2-Pac"s greatest lyrical pieces.

P.S. Try to realte to some of the struggles and maybe you'll understand and see the obvious.

I am not a fan of jay-z, i have a deep rooted appreciation for Hip-Hop music and generally find most of his new music lackadaisical and uninspiring but i have to admit that i was disappointed and shocked by Jeff Weiss's half-assed review of this album. Jeff should know better....i am utterly disappointed that an album of this quality will be so battered by someone who is supposed to be a staff of the Los Angeles Times (especially at a time when hip-hop music has had very few oustanding acts). It is my opinion that Jeff should seek a career change as he seems to know little about music.

 
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