Jay-Z - D.O.A. [Death Of Auto-Tune] [Ft. Luke Steele] The Blueprint 3
During The Blueprint 3s opening salvo What We Talkin About?, Jay-Z spits, I dont run rap no more; I run the map. Its a typical top-of-the-world boast that Jay has been spewing since 1998, but in some respects, it feels like hes finally earned it. Hes not only the biggest rapper of all time (by far), but hes also one of the last big pop stars -- a rapper whom even your mom knows and whose every album is an event to be reckoned with. Its hard to imagine a new 50 Cent album, or even a new Lady Gaga album, being subject to a kind of hype that includes blog posts that boast exclusive looks at the scanned CD booklet. In other words, Jay-Z is right.
The increased exposure of a marriage to Beyonce and a largely unchallenged rap-king throne (at least since Nas dropped Ether) hangs heavy over Jay-Zs 11th album, The Blueprint 3. A return to The Blueprint brand is supposed to signal a recommitment by Jay-Z to the street-wise but pop-friendly auspices of the first two Blueprint albums. Instead it serves as a better version of Kingdom Come, Jays much-maligned comeback album, which found him struggling to find relevant non-drug related things to say apart from how people who hate him are losers and how hes got more money than the U.S. Treasury.
The Blueprint 3 starts well enough. Its first half is good to great, starting with the Empire of the Sun-featuring What We Talkin About? and running through the the futuristic zoom-bip of the Swizz Beatz-produced On to the Next One. Lead single D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune) sounds better in context, where its crotchety assertions about hating iTunes, Auto-Tuners and ringtone rappers fit in between the fan-thanking Thank You and the boastful Run This Town (which features a fire Kanye verse that far outshines Jays). A never-better Young Jeezy trades increasingly entertaining verses with Jay over a horn-heavy Incredibles-produced beat on Real As It Gets. On joyous album highlight Empire State of Mind, Jay references Nas NY State of Mind, but instead of a nightmare hellscape, Jays New York is a place of fast streets, sports teams and fulfilled dreams.
But around the time we get to the Timbaland-produced, Limbaugh-dissing, Drake-featuring Off That, a song about how far ahead of the curve Jay is, the album's quality falls off considerably. (You can make the case that The Blueprint 3 would be better as an EP, with the back half of the album trashed.) Jay runs through raps recent history on A Star is Born, a track with the startling revelations that Eminem was great when he came out, Andre 3000 is really ill, Wu-Tang Clan had a hell of a run, and that Jay is the biggest rapper in the world. The abysmal Venus VS. Mars has Jay delivering cliché-heavy my girl is different than me (example: Shorty like Pac/ Me, Big Poppa) verses over a recycled Timbaland beat. The closing four-track run of Hate through the incredibly corny Young Forever, a Mr. Hudson-featuring clunker, may be the weakest stretch on any Jay-Z album, with the Neptunes produced, Pharrell-produced So Ambitious winning the contest for the worst Neptunes-related track not on any of N.E.R.D.s three albums.
But really, the music hasnt meant much in relationship to the Jay-Z brand since The Black Album -- the multi-million dollar endorsement deals and business expansions have meant more since then. 2007s American Gangster was an anomaly; the guy was only able to go back to his creative coke-rap well under the auspices of a concept album. Albums like Kingdom Come and The Blueprint 3 are Jays norm now. That is to say, the guy could keep doing half-assed records like this until 2030, and hell still be able to call himself the most popular rapper of all time. Hes like a classic rock group (like, say, U2) in that respect; we expect him to keep delivering same-old, same-old new music, but were not going to like it more than we liked Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, or Vol. 2.
1What We Talkin' About ft. Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun
3D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)
4Run This Town ft. Kanye West and Rihanna
5Empire State of Mind ft. Alicia Keys
6Real As It Gets ft Young Jeezy
7On To the Next One ft. Swizz Beatz
8Off That ft. Drake
9A Star is Bortn ft. J. Cole
10Venus VS. Mars
11Already Home ft. Kid Cudi
12Hate ft. Kanye West
14So Ambitious ft. Pharrell
15Young Forever ft. Mr. Hudson
Jay Z What We Talkin' About Ft Luke Steele (The Blueprint 3) - 01