CD review: New York's true giant, Jay-Z
Published: Thursday, November 12, 2009 - 12:44am
"The Blueprint 3"
Released: Sept. 8, 2009
EVER SINCE THE days when Notorious B.I.G. was the talk of New York City, one name has been synonymous with NYC and East Coast rap.
Coming from the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, has been able to create a musical empire from the ground up with Roc-A-Fella Records and a stable of some of the top artists in the world.
A living legend is how he is seen by many for his unique style of lyrics and his ingeniously crafted beats. Jay-Z has been critically acclaimed his entire career, starting with his classic first album, "Reasonable Doubt."
Not only is Jay-Z a musical talent, he is an entrepreneur as well. The rap mogul has his own major fashion line ("Rocawear), he owns parts of several professional sport teams, and he's a co-owner of one of the hottest high-scale sports bars in the country, "The 40/40 Club.
It would seem someone so successful could just stop working. That's exactly what Jay did after "The Black Album" in 2003, but like many artists who can't stand still, he soon found himself back in the game.
Though Jay has released two good albums since then — "Kingdom Come" (2006) and the movie soundtrack "American Gangster" (2007) — he has not been able to replicate the fire and passion he had on his early work. His latest release, "The Blueprint 3," is no exception.
Even though it is his best work since "The Black Album," Jay-Z has used his old tricks to reaffirm his new artistic ideas. His material ranges from a musical call to arms in "DOA (Death of Autotune)," an anthem for the city that gave him his shot in "Empire State of Mind," and an overall reassertion that he is, no question, the hottest rapper in the industry today ("Run This Town").
While this album is full of hits that will be ubiquitous on Top 40 radio stations for the next year, it is nothing new for Jay-Z as an artist and seems a bit dated.
He has moments throughout the album in which his genius shines through: his no-hooked "DOA" performance, his take on the Alphaville classic in "Young Forever," and his awesome duet with the talented Alicia Keys on "Empire State of Mind."
But most of the album falls flat and seems more like a jumble of work that Jay put together over the past year. And that's not good enough for an artist as talented as Jay-Z
To remain on top of the hip-hop world, he has to be the innovative entertainer who gave us a perfect rap/rock mix-up in "99 Problems," who took Broadway to the hood with "Hard Knock Life," and who put in all those amazing guest appearances over the years, including Kanye West's "Diamonds are Forever Remix," T.I.'s "Swagga Like Us," and Young Jeezy's "Put On Remix," just to name a few.
Jay-Z is no question one of the best rappers working today, but if he wants to be in the discussion for the greatest ever he has to take more time and focus on his output.
He has the tools to make more great albums, but he just has to apply himself and focus on what music is all about: entertaining the listener. If he can do that, the sky is the limit for New York's biggest entertainer.
"The Blueprint 3" TRACK LIST
Note: The following embedded songs from Jay-Z's latest album come from Grooveshark.com