CD review: Blueprint 3

bp3The problem facing Jay-Z as he relases his latest opus, “Blueprint 3,” is that he has simply been too successful in his craft over the years to remain relevant as a rapper.

Rap is a funny game, one that relies on paradoxes and willful ignorance by the listener. Like fellow rap mogul Eminem, Jay-Z has reached a point where, while sonically proficient, his albums don’t have the impact they once did.

Gangsta rap, Jay’s speciality, hinges on the contract between the rapper and the audience that these over-the-top tales of sex, drugs and violence are an exaggerated fiction of said rhyme-slinger’s life.

But just as we tired of hearing Eminem complain about Kim and his crazy mother, we know too much about the successes of Jay-Z’s life – multi-platinum recording career, ascendancy to label head, marriage to Beyonce, etc. – to sit and listen to tales of the street without calling bullshit.

But when Jay tried the honest approach with “Kingdom Come,” we all revolted, because no one wants to listen to someone brag about their (real) riches and famous friends for 80 minutes.

And so Jay is left with rhyming about concepts, like “Death of Autotune (D.O.A.), his ironic screed against the voice-altering software so prevalent in today’s music scene. Ironic because the second-biggest user of Autotune is Kanye West, whose sonic presence is felt throughout the synth-heavy “BP3.”

Jay’s best work has been done with West on the boards, but the chipmunk-soul style that Jay helped pioneer is played out, I guess, so now we have lots of bleeps and bloops, which works for Kanye and not so much for Jay-Z.

On the Timberland produced “Off That” and the Swizz Beats atrocity “On To The Next One,” Jay doesn’t seem comfortable altering his flow to fit the stop-and-start trademark styles of the producers. “Venus vs. Mars” is a strange attempt at a club song and “Hate” is a brief foray into West-style weirdness.

“D.O.A.” and “Run This Town,” the Rihanna-West assisted second single, were both strong choices to come out of the gate with, but I don’t smell a lot of other big smashes here.

And again, I stand by my argument that Jay’s mindset isn’t on par with the general rap audience. I mean, how many people are going to get an Anna Wintour reference?

But I do think the album ends on a strong note thanks to two laid-back songs – the Pharell-assisted “So Ambitious” and the completely¬†out-of-left-field “Young Forever,” which co-opts the 1984 Alphaville song “Forever Young” and turns it into another one of Jay’s introspective classics.

I would be fine if Jay hung up the mic – not because he’s pushing 40, but because he’s said everything he needs to say.

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~ by Elliott on September 9, 2009.

One Response to “CD review: Blueprint 3”

  1. I couldnt agree more. I grew up on jays tales of hoes clothes and dough but now that he has all three I really dont wanna hear about it anymore. He seems so disgruntled now too, always pining about how he is grown and everyone else is not. If thats the case Jay, leave the young mans rap game to the young men. Go be rich with the hottest chick in the game. Dont pull a Jordan…I was glad to see him play but it was painful in the end. Let it go Hova.

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