1, 1.5= (Travesty, Abysmal)
2, 2.5= (Waste of Time, Below Average)
3, 3.5= (Average, Above Average)
4, 4.5= (Superior... Likely a top release of the year, Near Classic... Some minor flaws)
Finally, the long awaited album that every Hip Hop fan has been waiting for... Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 is upon us. Many questions have come up with few answers leading up to its release, "will is live up to the first Blueprint?", "how will it fare with no production from Just Blaze?", and so on. Well, there is good news and bad news... The good news is Jay can still rap around 95% of mainstream artists, and he's made an album that is accessible to both Hip Hop heads and casual listeners. The bad news is it fails to live up to the immense hype. Jay's lyrical prowess, while still superior, is clearly not what it once was. It could be due to the fact that he chooses to show how he's "grown" musically, or quite simply he's lost a little bit of his God-given ability with age. While there are plenty of elder statesmen that prove the latter theory wrong (Ghostface, Raekwon, NaS, Common...), you never know. That said, fans of Jigga will be happy to hear that there is plenty of heat on this album to go around.
The album starts off with a rousing intro, "What We Talkin' About," where Hov raps about how he's moved on from certain beefs, "I ain't talkin bout gossip, I ain't talkin' bout Game, I ain't talkin' bout Jimmy, I ain't talkin' bout Dame," and how he's transcended rap music, "I don't run rap no more, I run the map." The opening stretch of the album sets the tone for what should be a smooth ride. No I.D.'s triumphant horns on "Thank You" are the exact instruments you would expect for Jay to boast over, with lines like, "I was gonna kill a couple rapper's but they did it to themselves, I was gonna do it with the flow, but they did it with the sales."
The strong showing continues with "D.O.A." and "Run This Town," and things get real interesting with "Empire State of Mind." Absolutely one of Jay's all-time great songs (and that's saying something), it isn't because of his lyrics so much as the epic beat along with Alicia Keys KILLING the hook. However, things quickly take an unfortunate turn for the worst.
With the exception of "A Star Is Born," the middle-to-end of the album is filled with mediocre songs. Never in my life would I have thought that Timbaland, the man behind classic Jay-Z collaborations like "Big Pimpin," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," "Is That Your Chick," and "Snoopy Track" would have provided such lackluster, uninspired beats. While Jay's metaphors on "Venus Vs. Mars" are on point, the beat will bore you to death. "Off That" seems like a forced attempt to make a hit, and "Reminder" is ruined by a terrible hook.
Another gripe I have is with the Swizz Beatz produced "On to the Next One" which has one of the worst, grating beats I've heard in some time. I've attempted to listen to this song at least ten times, and still can't get through it all the way. It's hard to believe that Just Blaze (who doesn't make one appearance on this album) didn't have any heaters locked away somewhere to replace this garbage. "Already Home" and "Hate," while not terrible by any means, lack the replay value needed to make these tracks anything more than just mediocre.
Is it worth checking out? Certainly. But unfortunately, it simply doesn't live up to the hype. Timbaland's beats are incredibly generic, and the production is surprisingly lackluster compared to the polished bangers one would expect from a Jay-Z album. That said, I applaud the direction that Jay tried to go in, but it could have been executed much better. There are absolutely some great songs, (Empire State of Mind, A Star Is Born), but there are far more mediocre/filler songs than there should be.
Highlights: D.O.A. (Death of Autotune), Empire State of Mind, Thank You
Skip These: Off That, On to the Next One, Hate