By Michelle Dreiling
For all those loyal Jay-Z fans out there, “The Blueprint 3” may raise some interesting questions. Why doesn’t this album sound like “Blueprints 1 and 2?” It is important to understand that “The Blueprint 3” sounds nothing like its predecessors as most would assume. Jay is not attempting to get back to his roots. “The Blueprint 3” is aiming for innovation.
In modern hip hop, we generally define innovation as a change in rhyme patterns or a new synthesizing technique. Rappers have started to dismiss deeper lyrics or even a new combination of poetic words as unimportant, and frankly it’s getting old. But this is exactly how Jay-Z offers innovation in the third installment of “The Blueprint.” I can honestly say I expected more from a 13 year veteran of hip hop.
What is Jay-Z trying to say with this album? The beat patterns are new and fresh, and if the album was completely instrumental, I would be thrilled with it. However, a couple of lines into each song, Jay-Z starts to rap. All we hear about is how great Jay-Z is. A certain amount of this is expected, especially from modern hip hop artists. But the only person who hasn’t gotten their fill of hearing about Jay’s greatness simply from listening to “Kingdom Come” and “American Gangster” is Sean Carter himself.
What is good about this album? One of the album’s best beat sequences appears in ‘On To The Next One’ featuring Swizz Beats. The beat’s repetitive sample paired with a high hat keeps the listener interested, and is broken up with a kick drum for drama. But even the catchy beat isn’t enough to distract from Jay’s lyrics. We get it, you moved up from throwbacks to suits, Range Rovers to Lexus’. If you hadn’t grown up at least a little bit over the last 13 years, then we’d be worried. But we don’t need to hear about it in every song.
The best vocal performance on this album, hands down, is Rihanna’s contribution to “Run This Town,” the album’s first single. These lyrics are a gem of significance in an otherwise slew of meaninglessness. Pair this with the fact that Rihanna is a singer, not a rapper. It is a refreshing compliment to the drone of Jay-Z praising himself. That’s probably why this song is the breakout single off “Blueprint 3.” It is meant to get the album as much airtime right off the bat, so the success of the album doesn’t have to rely so heavily on the rest of the songs.
An interesting song on this album is “A Star Is Born.” Again we find Jay telling us how great Jay is, but he takes a different approach in this song. He basically goes through a who’s who of hip hop, listing off artists one after another: Mase, Kanye West, Xzibit, Puffy, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Eminem, Dr. Dre, and that’s just in the first verse. The second verse goes on to point out Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Drake, Ja Rule, T.I., Young Jeezy, Outkast, Lauryn Hill, Mobb Deep, Prodigy, Wu-Tang Clan, Method Man, and Ghostface Killa. The whole point of this song is to recognize that all of these artists have come and gone, and Jay-Z is still here.
I’m not debating the fact that Jay-Z has been one of the most innovative and original hip hop artists of all time. But recently it seems he’s testing his listeners just to see how many meaningless albums they will buy just because it says Jay-Z on the cover.
Michelle Dreiling is a senior majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.