The release of Jay-Z’s eleventh studio album, “The Blueprint 3,” has become somewhat of a social phenomenon, as fans flock to their local Best Buy only to be met with the inevitable question, “Are you here for The Beatles or Jay-Z?”
That their releases fell within one day of each other (EMI remastered every Beatles’ studio album on Sept. 9) is a fitting coincidence: both artists are the kings of their respective genres, garnering the attention of the masses with any release they issue.
Unlike The Beatles, however, Jay-Z does not receive near-unanimous acclaim for his music; his genre often sparks controversy. Jay-Z has a history of perpetuating some of the biggest issues within rap music: misogyny, violence, and drug advocacy.
Although his reputation is polarizing, the inordinate amount of sales in less than a week, especially in a waning CD industry, Jay’s legacy is all but cemented as one of the most successful rappers in recent history.
Not that he is in any way modest about his impressive achievements. Throughout “The Blueprint 3,” listeners are reminded of Jay’s success and his self-proclaimed ownership of the rap world.
On the album’s second track, “Thank You,” which is as comical as it is self-indulgent, he flaunts his many accolades. Things stop getting funny when he drops an awful 9/11 analogy to describe modern rappers’ follies: “They put a building up as well / Then ran a plane into that building and when that building fell / Ran to the crash site with no mask and inhaled.”
Jay-Z continues the controversy on his heavily played first single, “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune),” which is a much more successful endeavor—and much more convincing in Jay-Z’s claim of sovereignty over the rap world.
Taking a gritty guitar line and brassy samples, the song is a dissonant outcry against the hyper-refined and auto-tuned rap world. The album continues with the star-studded single, “Run This Town,” featuring Rihanna and Kanye West, which is as entertaining as it is predictable.
After his collaboration with Alicia Keys on the triumphant and single-ready “Empire State of Mind,” Young Jeezy tackles the chorus on “Real As It Gets,” singing of the hackneyed and current politically incorrect theme of the rich flaunting their money. The song comes off as arrogant and flippant, while its smooth synthesizers, found on three of the album’s opening six tracks, seem to revert more to the style of the rappers that Jay-Z lambasts on “D.O.A” for using autotuners.
Things get a bit muddled beyond this, with frenetic tracks and the snoozer featuring Kanye West, “Hate,” stalling with its clangy drum beat. West, who produced seven of the album’s 15 tracks, should have focused more on perfecting the middle of the album instead of obsessively looking up Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video on youtube. Did you know it’s one of the best videos of all time?
Despite its flaws, the album will continue to top the charts, and Jay-Z will invariably be flaunting this release’s success whenever “The Blueprint 4” hits shelves.
However, this album’s inconsistency, shifting from brilliance to foolishness, will leave some fans scratching their heads as they view Jay-Z’s rap throne vulnerable to usurpation.
Kevin Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.