Friday, September 11, 2009

Album Review: Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 (4.5 / 5)


From my discography review earlier this month, you should know what terms I'm on when it comes to Jay-Z. He is indeed my favorite rapper, possibly of all time, and with a consistency of 11, mostly solid albums--he never fails to impress me, his last album, American Gangster, based on the movie of the same name, was a solid effort--maybe not as strong as his first album, Reasonable Doubt or even his second, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, but who's ever been able to top a masterpiece successfully and also its lack of commercial singles may have damped it a little, but for the most part it was all good.

The last installment in the, Blueprint, series was actually pretty disappointing, it featured the hit "03 Bonnie & Clyde" with Beyonce, which was only among the very few highlights. To say, The Blueprint 3, was an improvement would be an understatement as it's probably Jay-Z's most undoubtedly solid efforts in awhile without comparison--even more solid than, American Gangster. The formula is no different, maybe a bit more pop sounding than expected--the wonderful collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West on "Run This Town" is great--currently a #1 hit in the UK (his first ever one as a lead artist and 6th overall) a cutting edge composition, with a light rock/pop feel without dismissing the key hip-hop element. The electronic guitar running in the back is just awesome. With that said, Jay-Z's never been a stranger to poppy endeavours. In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, was his first trip, I thought it was brilliant--not many others thought so though.

The rest of the album holds up just as well, opening with two Kanye West produced tracks. "What We Talkin' About" an eerily horn and bass backed number, featuring vocals from Australian vocalist, Luke Steel. It's sounds pretty cool and downbeat, which is a bit of a shake up, it's not epically composed like the first track "Pray" from, American Gangster. Following is the self-indulgent "Thank You" (one of the few cuts Jay-Z appears on alone) It sounds good. It's fronted by the archetypal layered horns and handclap venture, Jay-Z has fashioned over the last couple albums.

The lead single "D.O.A. (Death to Auto-Tune)" I've been listening to for a long time and I still like it, maybe not as much as before--or as much as "Run This Time" but still a great deal. It's a stripped down venture, stripped down to trumpets, drums and an electronic guitar--giving a raw edge, hence the title. It sounds like a more raw version of "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)..." without the blasts of horns and jaunty ambiance. More indepth into the album we find a great collaboration with Alicia Keys on "Empire State of Mind" a jolly string, drum and piano key composition. Keys also sounds great on the chorus--definite choice for next single.

There's a lot of chanting in "Real As It Gets" with Young Jeezy--the chorus sounds like it could use a bit of shaking up, but for the most part makes for that great nostalgically styled hip-hop (darkening horns, light drums--I'm thinking hi-hats and bass) that has become a personal virtue. "Off That" with Drake, is a favorite--a haunting number, fixed with continuous clanging and recurring handclaps.

"A Star Is Born" has an awesome rhythmic handclap--almost armature cheerleading type--trip, which I really like. J. Cole sings the chorus wonderfully. Kanye West lends his producing talentds again on "Already Home" inwich Kid Cudi also lends his vocals. I really like this. It's a mostly orchestrated number, for the most part backed with violins. The albums weirdest moment, but still great moment is "Hate" which actually features vovals from Kanye West, who also produces the song. It's a darkening number, with gritty and static styled beat--also accompanied by a stynth soaked vocal in the background, which sounds like it would fit perfectly on West's 808s & Heartbreak, album.

I like the cool effects in "Reminder" and the sharp horns in "So Amibtious" with Pharrel Williams, which both set up the perfect leeway for the albums fantastic closing track "Young Forever" with Mr. Hudson. It's a spacey number, with crashing drum beats--Hudson, I'll admit, makes the song as good as it is as Jay-Z does sound a tad out of place, this is so not his style of music, but that doesn't detract from the fact that this is indeed a wonderful song.

Generic hip-hop fails to win me over on "On to the Next One" with Swizz Beatz, which is my least favorite track on the album. The Blueprint 3, is definitely the best hip-hop album of the year so far, beating out Busta Rhymes' Back on My B.S. which has unfortunately been flying under the radar. There was no douting Jay-Z was going to deliver on this album as he's done many times over on past albums and the number-one debut in the U.S. next week is well deserved.

Best: Run This Town, Young Forever, A Star Is Born, Death to Auto-Tune, Hate, So Amibitious, Reminder, Already Home

1 comment:

g said...

J.Cole has a crazy verse, but I'm not sure that he sings the hook. Check on that one man.