Forever Gone: A review of Blueprint 3

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.

 More...

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?  More...

22 Comments to ‘Forever Gone: A review of Blueprint 3’:

  1. HS classmate on 8 Sep 2009 at 2:34 pm: 1

    Brilliant metaphors include: 1. Karrine Stephan’s sucking reference (classic) 2. Michael Jordan’s missed dunk reference 3. Frisbee reference

    Where to begin w/ Sean Carter? He is what he is… a 40 year old insecure man pretending to be relevant to America’s youth. I remember in Cam’Ron’s classic diss ode to Jigga, he proclaims..”We got more dudes in BK than you.” He was right on the money, since Jay-Z is a joke in BK. I lost respect for Jay, when he and Dame parted ways. That was the moment in time, when it was quite evident that the man had sold his soul to the devil.
    Since that moment in time, his rhymes have been horrible and his flows have been even worse. He preoccupies his time pretending to be a mogul; however he needs to understand the difference between being a great man (which he is not), and a man doing what is perceived to be great things. Jay-Z fits the tone of Uncle Tom in the fact that he is no longer a threat to the ruling majority. He has convinced himself, that he has made himself and his friends are only those at the top with him.
    Jay-Z WAS a great lyricist, and he should have retired a long time ago. In all realms of life, greatness has an expiration date, and his was back in 2005 (being generous).
    The one thing that I disagree with is when you referenced Kanye. Kanye is overrated, and has the lyrical ability of a chipmunk. He makes up words, and only talks about fashion and other non-relevant items. You are right in that he represents what went wrong when Black people entered into the middle class and produced weak men like him. Speaking of DOA, didn’t Kanye just make a garbage album that used in Autotune in every song? The hypocrisy of this certified stick-rider!
    Jay and Kanye have a lot in common as far as their obvious lack of real confidence and talent, and as you said…their isolation from real people. When I hear these two idiots together on multiple songs, it makes me sick! I have no idea what they are talking about? I see gringas nodding their head to this garbage music, and remembering every single word, which makes me think that we have truly lost this artform. I’m not a believer in the ‘giving back’ notion so readily expected of black celebrities; however it’s time for both Jay and Kanye to stop taking away from our culture for their own selfish benefits.

  2. Professor Def Beat aka Bryon D. Turman on 8 Sep 2009 at 2:38 pm: 2

    Aight…Brotha Olagbala has concocted another dish for us to gnaw on. However, his comments teeter on a contradictory ledge. He simultaneously sees Jay’s last effort as hyper commercial with extra capitalistic leanings and rightfully criticizes the king of Brook- nam for doing so while admittng that Jay is up to his now standard tricks. This criticism seems a lil disengenuious especially when the writer admits that this is–excuse the pun–biznass as usual! That line of ad hominem attack doesn’t work because I’m sure that Jay would agree. Aside from his duly noted aforemention remarks, Jay Z has always been about the money. Shit, on some level, ALL artists are! Its hard to second all of Bro. Olagbala’s criticisms because as Chuck D once said, “Rap is supposed to sell; that’s the whole point”. Yes, Jay is commercial as hell and capitalism seems to be his main driving force. As Bro. Olagbala so poigantly tells us “it is what it is”.

  3. Rashad on 8 Sep 2009 at 2:59 pm: 3

    Damn! When you lay out the facts, its hard to disagree. Is Bro O saying that Jay-Z is a 40 Million Dollar Slave?

  4. Olokun Shangol Olugbala on 8 Sep 2009 at 3:14 pm: 4

    Yes I am! A 40 Million Dollar Slave fa show!

  5. b on 8 Sep 2009 at 3:36 pm: 5

    So I would write it if y’all could get it
    Bein intricate’ll get you wood, critic
    On the internet, they like you should spit it
    I’m like you should buy it, nigga that’s good business.
    – Kingdom Come (The Prelude)

    This “review” is not only reckless and irresponsible, it is also profoundly hypocritical. To say that something “sucks” reflects an under-developed understanding of art and its place in society. To rate (and devalue) another man’s art is to do exactly what you accuse Jay-Z of doing; attack community. Further, to accuse a self-proclaimed business.man of trying to maximize sales is just plain simple. For the record, I don’t particularly like the album myself- and I’m not defending Jay-Z in the slightest degree. Jay-Z is participant in an industry- plain and simple. Your multi-syllabic attempts at painting him as anything other than a profit generating tool only serve to expose the exact same element in yourself. If you don’t believe me (which I suspect that you don’t), ask yourself this: why write a review in the first place? Is it intended to affect Jay-Z’s work, or Jay-Z personally? Is it intended to inform community about the evils of Jay-Zism? I hope not, as your review does none of these. Profit comes in many forms…all of which involve taking from others.

    Your review is intended to profit by relieving some of the anger/ despair/ frustration/ sadness that you feel deep in your being by lashing out at someone else. Like a knee-jerk reaction, you highlight the bad in others in order to ignore the bad in you.

    The entire universe is one, my Afrikan brother. The bad (and good) which lives and breathes in Jay-Z also lives and breathes in each one of us. You are no better than him, a point proven by your own shallow, short-sighted negativity.

  6. HS Classmate on 8 Sep 2009 at 4:30 pm: 6

    b-
    Are you actually serious? This seems to be more a personal attack rather than a valid commentary of his work?
    I strongly suggest that you do the following: 1. Read the previous entries where he discusses Jay-Z having tremendous talent in 1996 2. Read beyond the title of his last work, and understand that the basis of his opinion is based on Jay-Z’s own precedence of making great music; of which he clearly isn’t making anymore.
    It’s cool to play devil’s advocate, but attacking the author, when it is clear that you didn’t even read the entire entry is not very ‘blackademic’ of you.

  7. roni on 8 Sep 2009 at 4:55 pm: 7

    stop bitching, and get some new “talented” artists on the radio so we can stop listening to this fluff shit. stop whining and DO something about it, if it upsets you so damn much…

    I can agree Jay-z is not as lyrically equipped as he used to be.. but think about what he WAS rapping about. drugs, the hood, hoes, the struggle to get where he is clearly, he’s not at that stage in his life anymore he’s rapping about his current life and if he rapped about anything else you would be the first person calling him a hypocrite, stating and complaining and bitching about how he’s not where he claims to be.. leave him alone.. and stop bitching!

  8. jamilah on 8 Sep 2009 at 5:49 pm: 8

    most insightful review i’ve read on bp3.

    what i don’t get is why people are surprised that jay-z’s lyrical dexterity has declined basically in conjunction w/ his commercial appeal. don’t get me wrong, i love him as next as the next fan. but they say you gotta rap what you know, and so far, commercial viability & superficiality is where he’s at.

  9. alterego on 8 Sep 2009 at 5:57 pm: 9

    i agree with this critique, but i can’t help but think about the timeless issue of what responsibility rappers have to their audiences & issues of authenticity.

    i think it’s dangerous to box jay-z, or any rapper, into the politically and socially stagnant category of “revolutionary rapper.”

    just because jay’s from brooklyn, does that mean he has to rap about the projects all his life? and if that’s the case, what are we saying about “authentic blackness”?

  10. Benz on 8 Sep 2009 at 9:22 pm: 10

    Before hearing the album and reading this review I already knew that Jay-Z’s album would not resonate with me….so I definitely agree with your assessment of the music…but for the latter part of your review I do not agree. Jay-Z has clearly stated from day one that he wanted to attain abundant wealth and that rap was a tool for him to do so..without digressing I do understand we could debate the merits/evils of capitalism but thats not what this is about….

    It is clear through his signing with Live Nation that he is continuing on his pursuit of monetary accomplishments rather then a love for hip hop.

    I would not be so quick to judge Shawn Carter..yes the verdict is out but to call him a pied piper I think is out of line…

    Have you checked into all of his philanthrophic endeavors? (foundation for disadvantaged youth, Arthur Ashe Aids Awareness donations, etc etc.) Have you thought about all of the economic opportunities he has opened for his immediate circle?

    As I said before the verdict is still out on Jay-Z but what I know today is that if he had not sold so many RECORDS that he would not have done half of what he has done…

    There are many different roads to the upliftment and inclusion of our people in this society…It doesnt come over night and is not always visible in its current form…but yet instill the wheels have been put in motion well before any of us were ever born…and we must all follow a different path and I believe Jay-Z has his in mind…

  11. Pierce on 8 Sep 2009 at 11:36 pm: 11

    HA!!! I remember Mike’s uncontested missed dunk so vividly. The reason it stung so bad was because we were all at the edge of our seats, like “oh sh, it’s about to go down!!!”.. then BINK. You’re done. And we’re glad.

    It makes me think of Biggie’s Victory lyrics: “Any Night I Perform Like Mike – anyone, Tyson, Jackson, Jordan”. Which was followed up by Cam’ron, who said – “You’re career’s OVER like Mike – anyone, Tyson, Jackson, Jordan.”

    Is Jay the latter? I haven’t listened to the album yet. But I will, and get back to yall.

  12. vandee on 9 Sep 2009 at 12:06 am: 12

    brother O, come on over to the dark side. Unleash that hate with full force. Together we can let fat crack and joe camel have it.

  13. Gil on 9 Sep 2009 at 6:31 am: 13

    good article my dude. my boys were pressing me to listen to bp3, and i still haven’t for exactly the reasons you outlined. jz has never been revolutionary, has never incited me to pen or think or act to do anything to transcend my current thinking and/or station.. he’s only and always appealed to my materialism. some people just need to hear a reinforcing voice to assuage their own guilt and confusion about why they lust the way they lust….

    good work my man

  14. HS classmate on 9 Sep 2009 at 1:18 pm: 14

    BTW- the whining/bitching continues LOL. To those who are ardent supporters, or excuse-givers (same thing)…read this article and defend the man’s actions:

    http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1621037/20090909/t_pain.jhtml

    Dude is a douche…

  15. Neil on 9 Sep 2009 at 3:16 pm: 15

    I hate to be the perpetual under-informed when I respond to your posts, Olokun, but my initial reaction is to agree with alterego. The lack of diversity in how blacks are presented to the world (by the media mainstream) is a significant causal factor in the unfair blighting of Afrikan greatness – but to dismiss Jay-Z for vying for space in the music sphere, beyond socially responsible or concious rap, seems unfair. I would agree that when contrasted with the apparent marketing, the album fails to meet the standard it set for itself – but beyond that, the nature, tone, and subjects under discussion should not necessarily be the barometer against which the value of the peice is assessed.

    As we have discussed, I have limited exposure to Jay-Z, but, being a Coldplay fan, was impressed with the lyrics he used when he partnered with them for a version of the Coldplay song, ‘Lost’:

    With the same sword they knight you, they gon’ good night you with
    Shit, that’s only half if they like you
    That ain’t even the half what they might do
    Don’t believe me, ask Michael
    See Martin, see Malcolm
    See Biggie, see Pac, see success and its outcome
    See Jesus, see Judas
    See Caesar, see Brutus, see success is like suicide
    Suicide, it’s a suicide
    If you succeed, prepare to be crucified
    Media meddles, niggaz sue you, you settle
    Every step you take, they remind you you’re ghetto
    So it’s tough being Bobby Brown
    To be Bobby then, you have to be Bobby now
    And the question is, “Is to have had and lost
    Better than not having at all?”

    I am curious how you feel these lyrics relate to his current product?

  16. Weusi on 9 Sep 2009 at 4:51 pm: 16

    great review & great comments …

    for real … i think Jay z was headed in the right direction. i felt like he was trying to get on the inside of the industry to make some changes as a executive. but … he tells us it didn’t go well …

    “I’m a couple bands down and I’m tryna get back
    I gave Doug a grip, I lost a flip for five stacks
    Yeah, I’m talking five comma six zeroes dot zero ?”

    he’s a pawn in the game now.

  17. drewcipher108 on 9 Sep 2009 at 10:25 pm: 17

    Beautiful comments people. O I love you like a brother and with that energy I tell you that I have conflicting views with your review. For me it did not go into the depths of the issues. It is obvious that you do not like Jay Z the person because he does not resonate with you anymore. Just like Rick Ross does not resonate with me. It happens. Hip hop has a short memory though and that I find humorous. I am not a huge fan of what I have heard of the album but I also recall that his last cd was excellent sonically. And those who question AG well…Jay is far from Jordan because we all know if Jay wants he can still out rhyme most of his peers. He is an artist and whether or not I like this cd I at least partially credit him for trying something new. Can we blame him as trying new things is one of the luxuries of money? It allowed Kayne to put out 808’s. Even if we consider this a failure his catalogue still speaks for itself. Nas had his dud. And countless others from T.I to 2Pac have had albums that were not amazing. Even Raekwon who has just released the widely acclaimed classic OB4CL2 dropped two bad albums in between the first installment. Let’s not forget that it took 15 years for OB4CL2 to come out as well as Jay was dropping album after album. The fact that we complain so much when Jay drops something subpar is proof of the standard he set. So what if he records in Hawaii. Nas and Ghostface are notorious for recording in sandy Miami. This is not really issue of Jay Z’s content it seems but instead quality because if the album was more sonically pleasing I doubt you would be complaining about “the gregarious endorsement of vicious capitalism aimed at broken communities” with the same intensity. That would be overlooked because the album was “dope” . We many times (myself included) only care about content when we question the quality. A song by a regular artist about tricking is looked at as wack but ‘Big Pimping’ with the same concept is “that shit” as disrespectful as it is. Jay Z has been talking about the same thing for 13 years now so how can we be surprised now. And how come we don’t speak of the “gregarious endorsement of capitalism” in albums like OB4CL2. That album too speaks to the “widening chasm between vulgar capitalist drives and the desperate streets”. The difference between Raekwon and Jay is that Rae never made it on a mass level so of course he’s hungrier and has different drives. And that is not to let Mr. Carter off the hook. If Jay Z is a 40 million dollar slave is Raekwon a 400,000 one. Yes Weusi Jay Z is a pawn but do we honestly think Raekwon is any different because he is keeping it street. Miles Davis transformed the face of jazz three distinct times in his career because he did not want to look back and he dropped a few lackluster albums during that run yet his artistic creativity is unquestionable. Should I be excited that Raekwon felt the urge to have ’Pyrex Visions’ of ’Bagging Crack’ 15 years after the original album at 38 trying to recreate 23? My question is not one of quality though more of the lack of the growth in hiphop. Artist are fearful to be artist. It seems like Jay Z wrote a commercial album for the pop scene and on the flipside Rae felt like he had to recreate his past to succeed. Olukun told me that Fat Joe is coming out with J.O.S.E 2 this year. Is this the beginning of the Al Bundy movement for hiphop? Will Snoop be dropping Doggystyle2 next? The verdict is out…

  18. B on 11 Sep 2009 at 8:18 pm: 18

    I’ll get back to reading the article in a minute but Kingdom Come was not a got dam frisbee or weed plate! It was grown man music through evolution. You had to be in the time and space to digg that joint. It was his most mature album to date. He showed so much growth and artistry and for that to not be appreciated is a dam shame. Had to get that one of my chest. Back to the article.

  19. B on 11 Sep 2009 at 8:20 pm: 19

    not to be confused with “b”

  20. Andrew Borgelin on 13 Sep 2009 at 11:50 pm: 20

    I finally had a chance to sit down and hear all of Blueprint 3 and:

    In 2000 the Lox released We Are The Streets as a follow up to their shiny suit Bad Boy debut Money, Power, Respect. To remind the people of how hard they were they made the first track ‘Fuck You’ to all the those who had their name in their mouth unnecessarily. In a similar fashion Jay Z has boldly come out with Blueprint 3 to say one thing: he’s already home. The album follows its own lane with a stylized middle finger thrown up to his naysayers. It is not a classic; instead it is what it is an individual piece of art made to stand on its own. Jay wants you to remember one thing: that he had a vision and he has made it come to pass. Even if you disagree with what he says the metaphysical principles that he is touching on is powerful. He is not in the same league and not in the same bracket with most other rappers. ‘Everybody can tell you how to do it but they never did it’. On Reminder he tells the listener ‘They think that I’m out of shape I guess I have to jog their memory’ and ‘what the hell have y’all done to even have an opinion of what I’ve done’. And on the intro ‘I don’t owe nobody jack…Grown man want me to sit them on my lap but I don’t have a beard and Santa Claus ain’t black, I repeat can’t sit on my lap I don’t have a beard so get off my sack’. That’s some hard shit. And a thumbs up from me. Already Home with Kid Cudi by itself is worth the purchase. Oh they want me to fall, they want me to drop, fall from the top…’I open the door for them they want me to walk for them’…’I taught them about fishscale they want me to fish for them’…’this is just what i planned to do oh don’t be mad’…’if y’all can’t already see I ain’t worried bout y’all cause I’m already me, do you already enough of the complaining boo hoo already’…Tuff!!!

  21. Elijah on 28 Sep 2009 at 8:26 pm: 21

    I CANT HELP THE POOR IF IM ONE OF THEM, SO I GOT RICH AND GAVE BACK TO ME THATS THE WIN/WIN!!

    Sean Carter Black Album 04..

    This post is very disturbing, it doesnt come off opinionated, it is more so an attack on the man personally. This is not about an poor album for you, its about Sean Carter the person. Your disdain for the man is obvious, and it comes off as such in your article. Clear your self of some of that hate man!!

    We can’t even get the last installment of the Hip Hop Chronicles, but you write this disrespectful, biased, hateful article in 3 seconds!!!

  22. Nil Roze on 29 Feb 2012 at 7:38 am: 22

    Great and great review!!! :) I just impressed to read this nice review. It is really very easy to read and understand. Thanks for this great job. :)

Leave a Reply

Published on September 8, 2009 at 9:57 am. 22 Comments.
Filed under art,Hip-Hip,music,popular culture.