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Jay-Z releases concluding album, labeled as anticlimactic

September 15, 2009

This story is from the September 15, 2009, edition of The Post, Ohio University’s student newspaper. At the time, I was working as a copy editor and music reviewer. And wow, I was wrong about this one.

On his contribution to Coldplay’s “Lost,” Jay-Z raps about the struggles of success, saying, “With the same sword they knight you, they gon’ goodnight you with / … That ain’t even half of what they might do. Don’t believe me? Ask Michael / See Martin, see Malcolm / … See Caesar, see Brutus, see success is like suicide.”

The Brooklyn rapper’s take on success seems to have made a 180-degree turn on his 11th album, The Blueprint 3, which brings a close to the Blueprint trilogy.

Instead of rapping about the perils of success, the hip-hop mogul is more concerned with reminding younger rappers that he’s still relevant and that they should be looking up to him as an example of how to make music and live their lives.

On the album’s first single, “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune),” Jay-Z says, “This is anti-Autotune, death of the ringtone / This ain’t for iTunes, this ain’t for sing along / This is Sinatra at the opera, bring a blonde / … I know we facing a recession, but the music y’all making gonna make it the Great Depression.”

Jay-Z can back what he is saying, even though some of it is heavy-handed and petty, because of his status as ex-CEO of Def Jam Recordings and his massive album sales.

Although he spends much of this album complaining about the current state of rap, Jay-Z does contribute with artists such as Kid Cudi, Drake, Alicia Keys, Pharrell, Kanye West and Young Jeezy.

Perhaps the best contribution, however, comes on “Young Forever,” a semi-cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” that features Mr. Hudson, a protégé of West, singing the chorus and stealing the song from Jay-Z. Keys’ contribution is also excellent, helping “Empire State of Mind,” a homage to New York City, become the best song on the album.

Ultimately, the issue with The Blueprint 3 isn’t with the rhyming, which is more original than any other current rapper’s and on par with Jay-Z’s past work. It’s that the rapper is trying to portray himself as hip-hop’s poet emeritus, but spends the entire time talking about how successful he’s been, therefore falling into the same trap that he accuses modern rappers of succumbing to.

If this were someone’s first album, it would be a strong initial effort. We have, however, come to expect much more from Jay-Z, and he has failed to deliver.

The Blueprint 3
Artist: Jay-Z
Label: Roc Nation
Summary: “The rapper’s take on success seems to have made a 180-degree turn.”
Stars: 3/5

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