Thank God for bootlegs! During a recession when every penny counts, no one wants to waste money. So I was happy when I got my hands on an early copy of Jay-Z’s highly-anticipated, eleventh studio release, Blueprint 3. After I listened to it, I instantly knew where fifteen of my dollars wouldn’t be going this week.
If I can be plain, allow me to say that the album sucks more than the most explicit, xxx-rated chapter from Karrine Steffans’ memoirs. Listening to Blueprint 3 was tantamount to watching Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform missing a wide-open, uncontested dunk on a fast break during the 2002 all star game. Observing legends plummet from grace is embarrassing and Blueprint 3 demonstrates that Jay-Z is not immune to gravity.
While this effort is entitled Blueprint 3, it sounds more like the sequel to his prior dud, Kingdom Come. At any rate, both are Frisbees… and what is a Frisbee you ask? Answer: wack music that you rapidly toss out the window without looking back!
With the streets (translated: marginalized black masses) heralding two out of Jay-Z’s last three albums to be Frisbees, Jay-Z’s post retirement run is beginning to look like Muhammad Ali’s. And just as Ali was embarrassed and put down by his longtime apprentice and sparring partner, Larry Holmes, Jay-Z is currently being outclassed and upstaged by his producer turned emcee, Kanye West. “Run This Town” is a perfect example. You could have never paid me to believe that Jay-Z would regress to the point where we would fast-forward through Hova’s verses in order to get to Kanye, but alas, it is what it tragically is…
Besides the sonic and artistic ineptitude of the album, the main problem with Blueprint 3 is how it functions. Blueprint 3, like many other Jay-Z albums that preceded it, is an egregious endorsement of vicious capitalism aimed at the broken communities most oppressed and affected by capitalism. This is what Amiri Baraka calls “imperialism ruling through native agents.” Although this is nothing new for Jay-Z, what makes Blueprint 3 particularly odious is how Jay-Z propagandized the album up to its release.
When “D.O.A.” was originally released, Jigga said that this song was the tip of the iceberg and that “D.O.A.” is indicative of the direction that Blueprint 3 would chart. He said he was tired of the singing and rap’s lighthearted, dance aesthetic. He claimed that he was going to bring the streets back, that he would return Hip Hop back to its gritty and fundamental essence and that he was crafting an album impervious to commercial and mainstream tastes, but in the end, with tangible product in hand, we see that this was all marketing and spin.
Blueprint 3 is clearly a commercial endeavor. Overran with the radio and pop-friendly production of Kanye West and Timbaland, this album stands in direct contradiction to “D.O.A.” Blueprint 3 was especially made for Z100 and the pop sensibilities of white America as Jay is now governed by his Live Nation obligations and how he will pack out stadium arenas. Just a cursory listen of Blueprint 3 reveals that this album was crafted with no cultural ties to the streets and with no interest in the daily lives of the black and poor. Jay-Z and Kanye West isolated themselves in Hawaii for months in order to manufacture this product and it shows. The result is a culturally-detached and socially-aloof body of music that reinforces the bourgeois elitism that Jay-Z has rapped about for years. While the majority of black America’s struggles to secure gainful employment and healthcare have intensified with horrific pressure, Jigga still relishes in the fact that “broke niggas can’t ball like me.”
Despite its lackluster and uninspiring musical quality, Blueprint 3 will probably gross high sales and add to Jay-Z’s iconic status, but this is far from the real story. The real story lies in the widening chasm between Jay-Z’s (i.e. America’s) vulgar capitalists drives and the desperate streets he purports to represent. But how will we respond to this cancerous social injustice? Will we resist the empire’s latest pied piper leading us away to our demise, or will we turn the music up and try to convince ourselves that this oppressive, stylized capitalism never sounded so good?