Review Summary: A couple of brilliant moments sit amidst his worst album in 10 years.This is anti-autotune, death of the ringtone
This ain’t for Itunes, this ain’t for sing-along
Ayo. Jay's tired of using technology.
Why these n-ggas always talking Lear talk Ye?
Why I never see em at the clear port Ye?
Why I always hear they at the Airport?
Why i fly daily like i’m in the Airforce?
Who are you? Where am I?
And you can choose ta
Sit in front of your computer
Shooting Youtube up
You niggas singin too much,
Get back to rap, you're T-Paining too much
I REMEMBER WHEN THIS WAS ALL ORANGE GROVES, FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE!!!
And that's as close as I can come to an interesting and witty intro that discusses the music itself; that's pretty much the problem with The Blueprint III
. So much has been written about this album, and Jay-Z has tried so hard to get people talking about anything other than the music itself, that once you actually hear it it's difficult to know what to say, or how to react. Well done, Jay, you've proved your business acumen once again - you've managed to use a release date, a self-referential album title, a few leftfield collaborations, and a confrontational, hip-hop-is-dead first single to distract everybody from how crushingly disappointing your 11th album is.
I'd love to tell you that The Blueprint III
had a concept or an idea behind it. I'd love to tell that it's got anything to do with the original The Blueprint
, or that it was even in the same league. I'd love to tell you that the people he's got in guests have put their own mark on the album, and made it Jay's most interesting record yet. But none of it would be true, because this album is so lazily put together, so obviously rushed to meet the 9/11 deadline. You could genuinely go through almost every song and lay out, in bulletpoint format, what's wrong with each one, because the flaws are so completely obvious.
There's "What We Talkin' About", which despite sheets of synths, ultimately borrows nothing from Luke Steele other than his all-pervading mediocrity. There's "Thank You", which has such a weak, arrhythmic beat that Jay simply can't flow over it, and his cadence makes him sound like Mike Skinner as a result. There's "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)", which has a seriously cluttered and messy production, using that God-awful 'nah nah, hey hey, goodbye' line, and is later revealed as a moment of stunning hypocrisy. There's "Empire State of Mind", where - get this - Jay is completely and utterly out-performed by Alicia Keys. There's "Real As it Gets", which has a pretty awful guest rap by Young Jeezy and one of the laziest production jobs on a mainstream rap song in living memory. There's "A Star is Born", with its seriously wack auto-tuned hook (see the hypocrisy now?) - it's obvious what it's trying to copy, but this makes Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar" sound like M.O.P. butt-***ing a rhino. There's "Already Home", which could barely be more obvious as filler. There's "Hate", which has a whole beat based around an auto-tuned voice (there's the hypocrisy again!), and sees both Kanye and Jay sounding like they have no idea how to rap over the beat, resorting to stupid voices and stop-start lines that are the exact opposite of 'flow'. There's "Reminder", which is just Jean Michael Jarre's "Oxygene" with somebody rapping over it, livened up only by yet ANOTHER auto-tuned hook. There's the hilariously named "So Ambitious", which is damning evidence that Pharrell Williams has completely failed to update his sound since Kelis' Kaleidoscope
came out in 2002, and which occasionally falls back onto the kind of cocktail piano that would have seemed hokey if Sam had played it in Casablanca
. And then there's "Young Forever", which defies description. It's absolutely ***ing horrendous, like Enigma remixing Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" with Pete Doherty offering up guest vocals. If you make it two minutes through this disaster without vomiting, you're a better man than I am.
Luckily, three songs - "Run This Town", "On to the Next One", and "Venus vs. Mars" - pull the album out of the mire. "Run This Town" you'll already know about, but it's a guitar-driven epic that stands as arguably Kanye West's best moment since "Jesus Walks". Rihanna sounds great too, which is a little surprising - after Jay did his best to ruin "Umbrella" with his laziest rap ever, you'd think she might have returned the favour. "On to the Next One" has the best Swiss Beatz production ever on a Jay-Z album, with cut-up chants that sound like ghosts, bleeps that sound like a space-age version of Mimm's "This is Why I'm Hot", a distorted chorus, and militant drums recurring throughout - if this was a Timbaland beat Pitchfork would already be calling it the song of the year. "Venus vs. Mars" might be the best of the lot though - it could be an updated version of LL Cool J's overlooked "Mr. Goodbar", with its lurching, sexually charged beat and Jay's sly, sleek rapping. It's his personal best performance on the album. If these three tracks had served as a plan of action for the rest of the album, we could genuinely have been looking at the best Jay-Z album ever. It's a shame the rest is so bad, and seems even worse in comparison.
Jay hasn't exactly been great even since he reneged on his retirement, but The Blueprint III
is lazy and inconsistent enough to represent a new low for this stage of his career, and arguably, his career as a whole. The last time he released an album this bad (1998's Vol. 2....Hard Knock Life
), he popped out of his funk with another installment in the same series. Maybe it'll work again, but right now, it looks like Jay-Z needs to leave this blueprint alone. It just ain't working.