The Blueprint - JAY-Z
Twenty years ago today JAY-Z released his magnum opus and sixth studio album, The Blueprint. It is safe to say that Jay changed Hip-Hop with the release of The Blueprint and it is a certified classic. Jay is largely regarded as one of, if not the best rapper of all time. That is a subject that I'm not going to comment on today, but Hov is certainly a legend.
When Jay dropped this album he was determined. He wanted to remind everyone who was the king, and he certainly did, and naming the intro track The Ruler's Back is just a testament to it. Right off the bat Jay came back like he never left dropping gem after gem over a bombastic and eccentric beat. This track is nearly the perfect intro with the booming horns playing while Jay is as charismatic as ever, and rightfully so. The next track, Takeover, is boisterous, in your face and intimidating. Hov has had enough of the disrespect and on one of the most ruthless tracks of all time disses the entire game and any hater he had. He is amazing lyrically on this track with his confidence through the coming at the necks of fellow New York natives Nas and Mobb Deep. It's safe to say that JAY-Z is running this rap shit, Takeover is one of several legendary Hip-Hop songs on this album.
Another strength Jay utilizes on this album is his elite hitmaking ability. The aforementioned Takeover is just one of a handful of legendary Hip-Hop tracks featured on The Blueprint. Izzo features an upbeat, poppy instrumental where Jay drops off a hook that is an absolute earworm, doing nothing but reciting his nicknames in comparison to a godly stature (Jay Hova, Jehovah). In the verses Jay is just gassing himself up for being a legend and the track is just so fun and enjoyable to listen to. Jigga That ***** is another classic Hip-Hop anthem that has a vibrant and unique instrumental that is just so bouncy and entrancing. It is a tune you get lost between the great instrumental and another catchy chorus delivered by Hova. Hola Hovito is the third and final song that I would classify as an anthem on The Blueprint, but there are still several more classic songs. Hola Hovito is another song with a super catchy chorus, where on the verses Jay doesn't just float, he flies over the instrumental with one of his smoothest flows on the album.
Girls, Girls, Girls is not only a classic, but a revolutionary Hip-Hop song. Many artists nowadays drop a song in their catalogue similar to this one, where they just describe their relationships with different women in a tongue-and-cheek way, and they are always fun. But of course Girls, Girls, Girls is the best. This instrumental also feels a beautifully placed vocal sample, and another catchy hook from Hova. Girls, Girls, Girls Part 2 is a great closer to the album as well, reminding you that the instrumental and hook were so nice that Jay could kill it twice. Heart of the City is another classic anthem that features another great sample woven into the chorus. This is another track where Jay is flaunting his king status, and with great rhymes and lyricism as he drops gem after gem in his verse. Jay's braggadocious topics do not get boring throughout the album either as his charisma and song writing ensure that they never get old.
Never Change and Song Cry are both rare moments of vulnerability for New York's top gangsta. The soulful sample on Never Change creates the perfect environment for Jay to get intimate about how his life in the streets helped him and he never wants to leave. Song Cry features a sample reminiscent of a children's music box where Jay spits about his past relationships and how they affected him, and not in a comical way like Girls, Girls, Girls, but a more intimate and personal fashion. All I Need and You Don't Know both serve as the least entertaining moments on the album. Both these songs are better than the highest of highs on most rappers albums however. All I Need provides a grand and impactful instrumental that Hov just flows his ass off on. You Don't Know features a similar type of instrumental in terms of being grand and boisterous, but Jay's lyricism serves as the highlight on this track, as opposed to his flow.
Renegade is an absolute banger where Jay is accompanied by another huge star at the time, Eminem. A duo like this could not disappoint as Em and Jay both obliterate the beat to make the hardest track on the album. They both let everyone know that they are running Hip-Hop right now, and I don't think anyone would challenge that. Blueprint, like many other songs on the album features a great sample accompanied by some great lyricism and storytelling, and is certainly a highlight here. Lyrical Exercise is another track where Jay is just letting everyone know that he's the best, and here's why. It's one of the more high tempo tracks on the album which is perfect for Jay's ruthless approach.
The Blueprint is one of the most confident and charismatic albums of all time, as the entirety of the album is just Jay flexing his prowess on the game. There is not a dull moment on the album. The whole record will have you engaged through and through waiting for Jay's next catchy chorus or ruthless diss. He is also, as usual, putting on a firework show with his lyrical ability, and his charismatic delivery just takes it to the next level. The use of samples on this album is also incredible and under appreciated by much of the Hip-Hop community, as not only the samples sound great, most serve a cohesive purpose in the song. Every track has a completely different sound too, which is hard to pull off when you have the relatively same topics on each track, but JAY-Z executes it effortlessly. The Blueprint is an undisputable Hip-Hop classic.