Jay-Z - The Blueprint

Few artists can claim to have released one classic album.  Shawn Carter is perhaps the only solo emcee who can justifiably claim to have recorded three classic works.  Over the past 13+ years, the words 'Jay-Z' and 'Hip Hop' have become synonymous.  J-Hova's 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt is widely considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of all time and everyone recognizes The Blueprint and The Black Album (the first album I memorized every word of) as classics.  The thing that keeps us coming back to these albums time and time again is Jay-Z's ability to throw together diverse song styles (both subject and production-wise) and still have the songs flow seamlessly into one another.  The reason why I can listen to these albums all day long as opposed to albums like Legend of the Liquid Swords or When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold isn't because the songs on those albums aren't of a high quality, but rather because they all sound the same (something that takes its toll on the listener by the 4th or 5th song in).

Hova's 2001 album is an undisputed classic.  The Blueprint, released on September 11th, sold over 426K in the first week despite being overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks (Jay would later boast on "The Bounce" that "Rumor has it, The Blueprint, classic, couldn't even be stopped by Bin Laden") and is a nearly perfect album.  The album begins with the applicably named "The Ruler's Back," a great intro track which sets the stage for the classic battle track "Takeover."  A lot of people only remember this heavy hitting track (over a sample of The Doors' "Five to One") as the song that escalated the beef between Jay-Z and Nas.  Though this track helped revitalize Nas' career (which had slumped following the release of his second LP to the point that many thought that this track would end him.  Instead he responded with the lethal "Ether" and the classic Stillmatic) and brought Jay back to his Reasonable Doubt-lyrical prowess, many people forget that the song completely destroyed Mobb Deep emcee Prodigy's credibility.  No pun intended, but since Jay-Z Infamously burned him on Takeover, the Queens MC just hasn't been the same.  The album then drops into some more pop-oriented songs like "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" over a Jackson 5 sample, "Girls, Girls, Girls" and "Jigga that Nigga."

Though these songs are more pop-oriented and meant to move more units (the man is a businessman after all),  that doesn't decrease the lyrical content as is the case with many other pop singles of today.  Next up comes the hard hitting "U Don't Know" and "Hola' Hovito," a swagger filled ode to himself over spanish guitars.  This is followed swiftly by one of my favorite tracks of all time "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)," a classic track over the R&B Bobby Blue Band sample (this track along with "Takeover" is just more proof that Kanye West will always be a better producer than lyricist).  This is followed by two of Hov's more introspective and apologetic tracks, "Never Change" and "Song Cry" (a song where he apologizes to a former girlfriend for the wrongs that he had done her and laments the fact that his songs are his only true emotional outlet.  "I can't see'em coming down my eyes, so I gotta make the song cry.")  The album finishes strong with "All I Need," the Eminem-assisted "Renegade" (a classic track the has some of the best verses of either emcees' career.  A lot of people claim that Em killed Jay on this song.  I think they both murder this track), the soulful "Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)" (another great Jay song), and the hidden tracks"Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise)" (one of my favorite tracks from the album) and "Girls, Girls, Girls pt. 2."

Anyway you look at it, The Blueprint is about as close to perfect as any album gets.  If you currently do not have it in your music library, do yourself a favor and go and cop it immediately.  B3 drops September 11th.  Get excited people!

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