Jay-Z sells big, but without the struggle
13 years after his debut release, Jay-Z has again scored another No. 1 album. The pauper turned president, as he boasts in the song "So Ambitious," now trails only The Beatles as a solo act with the most No. 1 albums in Billboard 200 history. After all this time in the game, there is not much we can say about Jay-Z that hasn't already been said.
The Blueprint 3 was scheduled to drop Friday, September 11, but in response to leaks, the release was moved up to Tuesday, September 8 in an attempt to stop illegal online sharing. When asked about it in an interview with MTV news, he coolly responded, "That's pretty much how it happens with all my albums." The sudden change, however, didn't seem to affect his chart numbers as the album sold 476,000 copies in its first week, a statistic that doesn't even account for the thousands of copies probably picked off the internet.
Those who bought The Blueprint 3 will get what they were looking for, an album with good beats and cunning lyrics. They will also notice the influence of Kanye West present in the beats of most of the songs as he co-executive produced, along with Shawn Carter. The album also features beats by other industry leaders such as No I.D., The Inkredibles and Swizz Beatz. What all this talent amounts to is an album with songs that are highly experimental yet still fraught with lyrical prowess. It is a solid album that is simultaneously classic and original, with collaborations that push his artistry but stay true to his legacy and musical foundation.
In The Blueprint 3, Jay-Z reiterates his self-made success and celebrity, by delivering humbling lines to those who doubted him. The problem, however, is that Jay-Z doesn't have enough problems. The tales of hardship and suffering that propelled this man from the streets of the Marcy Projects to the pinnacle of his trade are not completely absent from the tracks, but they are certainly not the driving force behind this album. His trademark line, "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man," has perhaps become all too true. The Blueprint 3 is an indicator of the commercial mentality that has been suffocating rap since the end of Hip-Hop's "golden age" in the late 1980s and early 90s. Rap seems to be drowning in its money-cars-clothes-hoes mentality, but if there is one person who could breathe some life into it, it's Jay-Z. He has been an artist who has addressed some of the deeper parts of life, and whose story was once wrought with struggle and overcoming challenges.
The bottom line is that this is a commercial album that lacks what was present in his earlier works such as Reasonable Doubt. Rap is built on struggling and in this album, the only struggle Jay-Z addresses is his contempt for the Auto-Tune and fad rappers such as Soulja Boy. The beats are intriguing and though the lyrics will peak your interest, the story behind them may not live up to his past parables.