Jay-Z - Blueprint 3
Paul Cook 19/09/2009
Unlike previous records from rap's most powerful 'player' the tone and agenda of Blueprint 3 is hard to determine. Confidence is replaced with arrogance and fantastically stylish, catchy tracks like D.O.A. are preceded and followed by commercialised collaborations. What has made Jay-Z's previous material appealing to even the most dedicated indie/rock fans is his ability to incorporate a nostalgia for classic genres of jazz and rhythm and blues with his undeniable confidence and desire to stay true to his Brooklyn roots. His latest offering only has hints of this trademark blend of timelessness and immediacy.
Blueprint 3 is at best a misguided and confused LP, unsure of it's direction and purpose. An album that has had as many as nine producers not including Jay himself is nothing unusual for the New Yorker but somehow it hasn't worked this time around. Arguably Jay-Z's most fluid and complete album The Black Album had just as many people behind the glass so the problem can be seen to lie elsewhere. One definite drawback of Blueprint 3 is that it isn't really a Jay-Z album. Kanye West, Mr Hudson, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Pharrell all feature in collaboration and just as Kingdom Come did back in 2006 it feels disjointed and lost in its own self importance. Jay-Z proclaims “Please don't bow in my presence; how am I a legend? I just got ten #1 albums maybe now eleven”. It's just too far and too boastful even for Mr Carter.
Many of the tracks, a majority in fact, feel like they belong elsewhere. Hate featuring Kanye West is far more suited to the dance infused synths of 808's and Heartbreaks whilst the recent single Run This Town has the style and tone more at home on collaborator Rihanna's album. This is not to say the album doesn't feature any fulfilling material. The jazzy American Gangster sound of Thank You and the uplifting, piano-tinged Empire State of Mind both show Jay's still got it. The Pharrell produced So Ambitious and Already Home have the kind of effortless style and swagger that The Black Album is brilliantly renowned for.
Whilst Blueprint 3 arguably has some far stronger singles than the second Blueprint record Jay-Z is off form on his third outing and could even be criticised of somehow looking for more commercial success inviting a plethora of his A-list friends along for the ride.