Influential hip-hop writers, through a poll on blog Passion of the Weiss, recently determined that Jay-Z’s 2001 work, The Blueprint, is the best rap album of the decade. The only other thing most of them could agree on was that his follow-up, The Blueprint2: The Gift & the Curse, blew.
Unfortunately, The Blueprint 3 veers closer to the second, in that it’s less inspired and less fluid than the first. Having finally exhausted every drug-dealing anecdote, Jay doesn’t have much to rap about here, other than his new deal with Live Nation, being buddies with Obama and living in TriBeCa next to Robert De Niro. So he tries to razzle-dazzle us with a bunch of left-field, supposedly cutting-edge sounds, which range approximately from “soundtrack to a French mime show” (“Thank You”) to “Liza Minnelli after four shots of espresso” (“Empire State of Mind”). Mostly, though, the album is Jay’s attempt to get hip—or hipster—as he enlists a crop of fresh new talent (Kid Cudi, Mr Hudson) discovered by Kanye West to help him sound relevant. Unfortunately, much like a 40-year-old divorcee who hits the town with her daughter’s friends, it’s clear that Jay doesn’t quite fit in among this crowd, and The Blueprint 3 suffers for it.