Jay-Z: The Blueprint 3

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Jay-Z: <em>The Blueprint 3</em>

This plan needed a few more drafts

production from Kanye West and Timbaland, and muffling his own voice in favor of a guest-heavy tracklist.

which sounds like Mark Mothersbaugh filtered through a Super Nintendo. “Hate” mines the nadir of hater-bating braggadocio while Kanye softballs some of the worst verses of his career: “'Cause we too high up in the a-yur / we blastin' off just like a la-zur," he spits, adding in his own lazer sounds to embarrassing results. The tracks without a featured guest are even worse. On obligatory club number "Venus Vs. Mars," for example, Hova comes off as a creepy, sex-starved voyer.

Blueprint 3 ’s flashes of inspiration are few, but needed. Jay and Kid Cudi offer a cheery point-counterpoint between swagger and introspection on the orchestral “Already Home,” which is easily his most well-realized track since anything from The Black Album . And there’s a wry nod to hipster hip-hop heads in Luke Steele’s backing vocals on synth-soaked opener “What We Talkin’ About,” and the chopped-up sample of Justice on superb minimalist screed “On to the Next One.”

But Jay gives the whole damn game away on “Young Forever,” an Alphaville-sampling histrionic fit that may as well be the credit-montage music to his biopic. It’s a thematic reprise of Kingdom Come’s “Beach Chair,” naked in its anxiety about his legacy. The track rides Mr. Hudson’s crooning for a full minute before Jay launches into a rhapsodic vision of his personal heaven: “Just a picture-perfect day that lasts a whole lifetime / and it never ends 'cause all we have to do is hit rewind.”

And there it is. This supposedly forward-thinking album is just another facet of Jay’s post-“retirement” obsession with recapturing his peak, finger forever poised on that proverbial rewind button. Blueprint 3 is the portrait of a rapper no longer able to lift his eyes above his navel, or his swagger above the sartorial. He promised a paradigm shift for hip-hop, and came to his own revolution armed with pastiches and feigned indifference.

equivalent of Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, growling “get off my lawn.” Yet there’s no moment of redemption here, only a musician who is, for all his protestations to the contrary, perfectly content with mediocrity.

Listen to Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 in full here.

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