Fresh from a headlining stint at
Glastonbury and a run of successful singles, irrepressible rap mogul
Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter returned in 2009 with his 11th
number one album, breaking a record previously held by none other
than Elvis Presley.
Featuring a slew of guest appearances
and some truly stellar production, The Blueprint 3 was an
infinitely more convincing effort than its somewhat mixed reception
would indicate. Contrary to what The Guardian’s plum-sucking
ponce of a reviewer claimed, for instance, the album doesn’t lose
momentum after the first few songs. Rather, midway through is where
it really gets going. Standout tracks include ‘On to the Next One’,
hit single ‘Empire State of Mind’ which features a brilliant guest
turn by Alicia Keys, and the surprisingly gracious ‘A Star is Born’,
on which Jay calls for an end to the fussin’ and feudin’ and states
his conviction that there’s more than enough success to go around.
He may well prove ‘the United Nations of this rap shit’ yet.
The album does contain a couple of
weaker moments, but these are few and far between. Opening cut
‘What We Talkin’ About’, featuring Luke Steele of Sleepy Jackson and
Empire of the Sun fame, is nicely drenched in synths but almost
entirely devoid of hooks. And Kanye West may be the greatest
producer on the planet, but on his vocal appearances proves capable
of spouting little more than claptrap, as on the single ‘Run This
Town’: ‘She got a ass that’ll swallow up a g-string/and up top, two
bee stings... Reebok, baby, you need to drop some new things/have
you ever had shoes without shoe strings?’
In spite of these minor deficiencies
The Blueprint 3 more than lives up to the hype. Thanks to
exemplary production courtesy not only of West but other urban
luminaries such as Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, the album manages to
remain fresh, immediate and vibrant for its hour-long duration. The
well-chosen guest appearances lend a collaborative air to the
proceedings, and Carter’s raps are potent and self-assured without
descending into the tiresome braggadocio favoured by so many of his
As he nears 40 Jay-Z has well and truly
cemented his position as the most influential and compelling rapper
in the game. Or as he puts it: ‘I’m cut from a different cloth...
I’m rare’. He sure is, and he has the Blueprints to prove it.