Diggin’ in the Crates: A Look Back On Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint”

Posted: December 4, 2012 in Album, Dyscyplynary Action, Hip-Hop

The Blueprint

Well this is fun. Considering that it is Jay-Z’s 43rd birthday, I felt that it was right to give y’all an old piece I’ve written for my English 101 class in 2009. It was this writing sample along with a few others from that year that led me to decide what I should really do with my life. And that is with writing for music and Hip-Hop, of course. I touched up on it a bit since it’s been some time, but I guess it was worth putting out for the time being:

In 1996, a man by the name of Jay-Z (born Shawn Carter) broke into the Hip-Hop scene with his first solo debut Reasonable Doubt and quickly became a recognizable figure in the music genre. His unique voice, bravado, and lyrical flow made him easy to like among fans and peers, providing a number of hit singles throughout his career. After releasing five successful albums on the Hip-Hop charts, Hova (which is one of his popular nicknames) went into recording for his sixth effort in 2001. It didn’t take long for this album to be a defining milestone in his career. From the soulful production, lyrical dexterity, and variety of songs that appeals to all, The Blueprint was a defining achievement that stood tall during an era of synthesized beats.

From the start of listening to the opening cut, “The Ruler’s Back” Jay goes in a smooth and calm demeanor, already claiming that he’s still on top his game. He shifts directions on “The Takeover”, taking shots at longtime and respected rapper Nas. In the song, he calls Nas “garbage” and says that he have “One hot album every ten years”, claiming that Nas failed to live up to his past album Illmatic. Not all of Jay songs on the album are full of braggart, as he shows a humorous side of him in the witty “Girls, Girls, Girls” (Now that’s Spanish chick, French chick, Indian and black/That’s fried chicken, curry chicken, damn I’m getting’ fat/Arroz con pollo, French fries and crepe/An appetite for destruction but I scrape the plate). He can also vividly recall heartbreak (“Song Cry”) and the love of growing up in Brooklyn and being raised by those around him (“Blueprint/Momma Loves Me”). The depth of quality in his songs is strong enough for those to relate to, make your head nod, or even shed a tear.

While the lyricism is great in every way, the production is pretty much notch above and something that was rarely used at the time. The flow of the album did not drag or lose direction in its duration and each song went to the next wonderfully. With producers B!nk, Kanye West, Just Blaze, and Timbaland, The Blueprint is a solid top to bottom mix of smooth tracks. West and Blaze are the two that stand out of all them, producing 7 of the 13 songs (four from West and three from Blaze respectively). Their beats are the most noticeable from the album as they took samples from classic soul songs and gave a relaxing feel for the listener. With successful songs like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, “Heart of the City”, and “Song Cry”, West and Blaze became two of the most sought after producers in Hip-Hop. The dense sound complemented Jay’s style perfectly, and it was simply fresh.

Another interesting factor on this album is the lack of featured guests, which is common in Hip-Hop. The only person that earned a spot on a track was Eminem in “Renegade” which was also produced by him. This collaboration was rare as they were two of the biggest rap names in the early decade. Eminem showed that he was not only on par with Jay-Z lyrically, but also vented out his frustration with his detractors, calling them hypocrites in the process (But I’m debated disputed hated and viewed in America as a motherfuckin’ drug addict – like you didn’t experiment?). This was one of those songs that many would cherished as both were in their prime and haven’t done a song together since.

Throughout its time, The Blueprint has grown to be an album loved by Jay-Z fans around the globe. Its soulful beats appealed to those on the streets and mainstream, which is a heavy testament to those involved and Jay increases in creativity and confidence with each and every rhyme. Could it be his best album ever? It is arguable, but everyone can agree that The Blueprint is the album that solidified Jay’s status as one of the true greats in Hip-Hop.

Damn, it feels good to run back to old writings I have and be surprise of the content I did originally put down. It keeps me motivated. I might have to do more of this.


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