On September 11, 2001, Jay-Z’s now classic The Blueprint was born. Backing up by the then-hungry producers like Kanye West and Just Blaze, Jay-Z ran his own show with his impeccable rhymes and ruthless disses. The Blueprint featured only one guest spot (Eminem on “Renegade”) and no club hits (yet the beats were still banging). A year later, Jay-Z followed up with the double-troubled The Blueprint, Vol. 2: The Gift and the Curse and boasted, “Rumor has it, The Blueprint classic / Couldn’t even be stopped by bin Laden.” True, the first installment was unstoppable, but the second was a disaster full of distracting guests. The double disc was so unnecessary long that Jay-Z had to quickly release a 2.1 to trim down the fillers.
The final installment of the Blueprint trilogy is scheduled to release on September 11, 2009. Unfortunately, The Blueprint 3 is more like the second album than the first classic. Guests show up on most of the tracks and nearly every production is a club banger. On a Swizz Beatz’s typical bouncy production, “On to the Next One,” Jay-Z shows that he is still a maestro of flow and he could wrap his swag around any beat even the forgettable ones. The problem is that the beat doesn’t match up to his bravado: “Baby I am a boss / I don’t know what they do / I don’t get dropped / I drop the label / World can’t hold me / too much ambition / Always knew I will be like this when I was in the kitchen.”
One of Jay-Z’s artistic assets is, without a doubt, his braggadocio. The down side is that he uses it way too much already. We already know that Jay-Z doesn’t run rap anymore; he runs the map (“What We Talkin’ About”). We already know that Jay-Z’s the only rapper to rewrite history (“D.O.A.”). We already know that Jay-Z makes the Yankee hat more famous than the Yankee can (“Empire State of Mind”).
What lit the fire under Jay-Z’s ass though are his enemies. On the Kanye-produced “Already Home,” Jay goes hard at rappers and his critics: “Tell me I don’t get it / Everybody could tell you how to do it / They never did it.” Jay-Z obviously still doesn’t get it. If he got it, he would have learned his lesson from The Blueprint 2 and he wouldn’t cut embarrassing tracks like the sex-bragging “Venus vs. Mars,” self-congratulating “Reminder” and age-denying “Young Forever.” Jigga, get your grown-man on!