“And now that that’s that, let’s talk about the future/ We have just seen the dream as predicted by Martin Luther/ Any you cuh/ Choose tah/ Sit in front of your computer posing with guns, shooting YouTube up/ Or you could come with me to the White House, get your suit up/ You stuck on being hardcore, I chuck the deuce up” – What We Talkin’ About
Unless you have been living under a rock, everyone has heard the album, or enough leaks to make their own judgment. One thing for sure with the album is the fact that Jay refuses to look back and only takes steps forward whether people are willing to walk with him or not. Overall he is pursuing progression which seems to be the theme of the last offering in The Blueprint collection. Being his eleventh album, H-O has left his mark already and established the fact that he has already finished the race so everyone else can only catch up to him. No matter who steps into the arena, he stands on top of the mountain until someone can throw him off and other than a sharp tremor from Nas, no one else has been able to shake Jigga.
Whether it be Jim Jones, Game, Jaz-O or the countless others that step up, it seems that everyone has had a problem with Jay as of late. As they have continued to throw jabs and pelt the thrown with rocks, there was not a sound coming from the Brooklyn rapper. As was with the second cut from the original Blueprint, the second track on the third installment allows Jay to air out his grievances in the usual Jay fashion.
“I was gonna kill a couple rappers, but they did it to themselves/ I was gonna do it with the flow, but they did it with their sales/ I was gonna 9-11 them, but they didn’t need the help/ And they did a good job, them boys is talented as hell/ Not only did they brick, they put a building up as well/ Then ran a plane into that building and when that building fell/ Ran to the crash site with no mask then inhaled/ Toxins deep inside their lungs until both of them was failed”- Thank You
“Star is Born” is a song where Jigga chooses to commemorate rappers that have been able to establish themselves in the game. For those that would think money could overwhelm anybody, the Brooklyn MC pays homage to those that have continued to shake up the game for the better. Naming greats such as Eminem, Outkast, Raekwon and countless others, it seems like an introduction to the next coming as he has his own artist, J. Cole featured on the track. Whether he is aware or oblivious to the amount of pressure in being showcased on The Blueprint, J. Cole seems to brush off any nervousness as he shows his focus and relentlessness to show Hip-Hop what he has in store.
“Could I be a star? /Does fame in this game have to change who you are? / Or could I be the same one that came from afar/ Way life just to make it in these Broadway lights/ Now I’m shining in the broad day light/ Go figure/ A slow transition from a lil broke ni**a/ From the ville/ Got a deal/ A real life saver/ Dreams of being behind the wheel like Jada” – Star Is Born
Although features may seem heavy for something like The Blueprint, everyone plays their role accordingly. Aside from Cole, only Young Jeezy and Kanye have actual verses whereas Drake and Kid Cudi are used for hooks so a balance is established.
Alicia Keys singing on “Empire State of Mind” was a match made in heaven as she beautifully christens the track as Jay goes back in time to show how New York raised the boy into the man that stands before us all and the fact that he has not forgotten where he comes from, no matter how far he has gone since then.
“So Ambitious” serves as a trip down memory lane as he reflects on the days where he was told that he would only end up dead or hooked on drugs. Being doubted, however, fueled his motivation to be more than what people perceived him to be and almost spit back in there face once he was on the top looking down on them. The best way to get someone back is never to enact revenge in a negative way, but become better while they stay in place. Clearly, Jay is neither a drug addict nor buried, so he can only thank those that doubted him for his place now.
Closing with “Young Forever” Jigga reflects back on what he has done to show that he is timeless and as long as his name is uttered and spoken on, he will live for a million years more. His legacy lives on as the older generation passes it down to the younger in a continuous cycle which makes him forever young. The second verse speaks onto life due to the fact that it shows listeners that you are what you make for yourself and no matter how long you live, as long as you choose to actually live, your memory will never be forgotten although your physical has long passed.
“Hate” and “Reminder” are two songs however that throw off the flow. Although Kanye may have bodied Jay for his verse on “Run This Town,” the same does not happen for “Hate.” Starting with his lasers “Pewn Pewn Pewn”….no, please never say that again. Trading bars back and forth, the song is just a build up that gets cut too short to truly see the outcome.
“Reminder” is really just a means to build up the ego an essentially remind everyone of who he is and what he has done in the game as people have continued to question his presence as his years continue to escalate. “Already Home” was the better suit and would have been sufficient enough.
Production wise, who would have thought that Swizz Beatz, Pharrell and Timbaland would still hold court over Hip-Hop tracks. In regards to producers, these are names that have been placed on the back burner since Florida (The Runners, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League) exploded with beats and Kanye West continued to handle his. West and No I.D. are able to remain consistent with their flow behind the board whether they are collaborating on a track or getting it in on a solo tip. Jay touched the Hip-Hop fans every time with soulful beats, but now it seems that he wants to broaden his audience which is evident in the overall sound.
Although these three haven’t been on anyone’s Hip-Hop radar for some time, they are effective in their limited presence. Maybe things are actually good in small doses.
Swizz seems to switch it up from the generic scheme with “On To The Next One” as parts of the backdrop within the production have a West Coast feel during the transitions. Pharrell, who hasn’t been as effective as he was in the past, might just be fit exclusively for Jay-Z as they mesh very well on “So Ambitious.”
Timbaland graced the album with three cuts in the form of “Venus vs. Mars,” “Off That” and “Reminder” as his more futuristic sound seemed to somewhat throw off the balance as these types of beats aren’t really a known territory for Jigga. But lyrics and a change with his flow may have been able to step in and save the day as he uses such lines:
“Thought shorty was the truth/ Found out she was a cheater/ We was suppose to takeover/ Caught her bumping Ether/ I thought shorty liked Mike/ Found out she liked Prince/ Thought she was Adrian/ It’s been Rocky ever since/ My dollars was done/ She left me for some Euros/ Took my whole flavor/ I call her Coke Zero” – Venus vs. Mars
The sequencing of the album almost seems perfect (outside of Timbaland’s production), meaning that each song easily flows into the next to continue the overall vibe of the album instead of jumping from soft to hardcore etc. It’s as though the songs couldn’t have been arranged any differently and came off as smooth as it has as it opens like a book with the first chapter being “What We Talkin’ About” and closing with the chapter, “Young Forever.”
When Jay-Z made American Gangster it was more than evident that he can do coke rap, he can rap about his past lifestyles without an issue. At the end of the day, however, Jay-Z is no longer that guy and he can’t continue to feed the same regurgitated material all over again. With that said, an artist can only evolve in their sound and no one can dictate what is necessary in that change but them. Many will listen to the album and probably feel as though it sounds nothing like the first two installments, but that is the point. Each Blueprint is meant to bring something different to the table and build another wheel instead of sticking to the general format.
“Hov on that new sh&%, ni**as like how come?/Ni**as want my old sh%&, buy my old album/Ni**as stuck on stupid, I gotta keep it movin/Ni**as make the same sh@%, me I make the blueprint” – On to the Next One
An artist of his caliber knows what he is doing so Jay is fully aware of the end result and the fact that there is no point in living in yesterday because this is the present and only the future stands before him.