Jay-Z's The Blueprint, Is It Really That Good? | Album Review
Classic’ness: 4 / 6
Released: September 11, 2001
The Blueprint was Jay-Z’s sixth album and it was released on the day of the biggest foreign attack on American soil. Initially, the album was set for release one week later, but it was bumped up to avoid bootlegging. The recording famously took place over the course of two weeks in July of 2001, with Jay-Z penning the lyrics in 2 days. At the time Jay-Z also had two criminal trials awaiting him for gun possession and assault. Jay-Z was also feuding with a number of high profile rappers such as Nas, Mobb Deep, Jadakiss, and Fat Joe.
Lyrically Jay-Z has two-chips on his shoulders, one on each shoulder. The first chip being naysayers in hip hop’s fanbase, the second chip being his rival rappers in New York. Jay-Z handled both issues in a masterful way. Addressing firstly the fans and in-directly hip hop writers by announcing that he’s the best artist/rapper around and secondly belittling his competition with a great diss song.
Those who listened closely either became fans or at least tried hard to see the best aspects of Jay-Z’s music. It also didn’t hurt that he was slightly more commercially successful at the time than his main rival, Nas, who hadn’t had a critically acclaimed album since 1994 or 1996. Coupled with Jay-Z’s own assertions that he was head and shoulders above the rest of the rappers in the game, the public/media eventually agreed, cementing Jay-Z’s position.
Musically The Blueprint is notable for cashing in on a Hip Hop trend at the time of having a vocal from a soul sample played during the chorus. There are only three tracks which don’t include this formula, and it works well, but it does sound somewhat contrived like this whole album. The Blueprint is also notable for introducing the hip hop world to two well-known producers, Just Blaze and more importantly Kanye West. The production on The Blueprint is very clean, uniform and simple but it doesn’t necessarily have an instant appeal and neither does it have a long-lasting appeal. Although there is nothing bad about this record’s production, to the contrary it’s very solid, but it doesn’t have a lot of tracks that people really love.
Although the hype around The Blueprint was mostly due to marketing than music, we can still mention some interesting facts about the music. Firstly the album opens with a Slick Rick reference and sample on “The Ruler’s Back”. The second track “Takeover” was the track which took aim at Mobb Deep and Nas, causing the latter to write what many consider the greatest diss track of all time, namely “Ether”.
The first single, “IZZO (H.O.V.A.)”, could be heard on the radio 24/7 from coast to coast, samples the Jackson 5. While “Girls, Girls, Girls” features vocals from golden age rappers Slick Rick, Biz Markie and Q-Tip who each sing a chorus. Then on “Renegade” Jay-Z utilized the hottest upcoming producer at the time, who was none other than Slim Shady himself Eminem. The track also has the two rappers going back-back and forth, each explaining their controversial careers word for word.
At the end of the day, The Blueprint was considered an instant classic and appeared on most top 10 albums of the year lists. At the end of the decade, it still maintained a similar position and ended up on several top 100 albums of the 2000s lists. However many fans have stated over the years that they just don’t feel the album, even after trying hard to do so. For some people, marketing and hype just doesn’t affect them and these people are not won over unless you produce amazing music. Amazing...it is not. Classic Hip Hop Magazine says that The Blueprint is just good and sometimes great.