The Blueprint 3 is Jay-Z's strongest album since 2003's Black Album. Many thought Jay had lost his edge, but one listen to this new batch of tracks dismisses that notion. It’s got to be difficult for an artist like Jay-Z to escape the shadow of his own legacy, but despite that, The Blueprint 3 manages to hold its own among a string of classic hip-hop albums. Kanye West provides the sonic backdrop on 7 of the 15 songs as Jay flows on track after track with vigor that fans haven't heard in a while.
Despite the out of control ego and ridiculous antics at the 2009 MTV VMA show, you can’t deny West's production skill. West had his first taste of success when he produced the hit single "H.O.V.A." on the original Blueprint album. After staggering solo success, West returns to where it all began with impressive results.
The album provides a fresh take in an era of hip-hop dominated by over-produced party anthems. Jay points this out throughout the album. Most notably on the track "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)," which slams rapper T-Pain. (Ironically, West released an album that utilized auto-tune last year.)
One of the most unexpected tracks on the disc is "Forever Young," sampling the Alphaville classic of the same name. Another interesting listen that may not be for all Jay-Z fans is the slow-flowing "Hate" with Kanye West. Standout tracks include the Swizz Beats-produced "On to the Next One" and radio hit "We Run This Town."
Although he is staring down the barrel at 40, Jay shows no signs of fatigue. This may not be the edgiest hip-hop, but it's the best you'll find in the mainstream.
Album title: The Blueprint 3
Songs: 1. What We Talkin' About 2. Thank You 3. D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) 4. Run This Town 5. Empire State of Mind 6. Real As It Gets 7. On to the Next One 8. Off That 9. A Star Is Born 10. Venus vs. Mars 11. Already Home 12. Hate 13. Reminder 14. So Ambitious 15. Young Forever