Jay-Z - The Blueprint

Jay-Z’s sensationally important The Blueprint turned 10 yesterday, and it’s an LP that deserves to be celebrated for myriad reasons outside its own obvious musical strengths. But, let’s just talk about the record first. Though I entered into the Jay-Z mythology somewhat in media res — I was 15 at the time and this was the first Jay-Z album I bought, though I suppose that’s because my parents wouldn’t let me buy Hard Knock Life, Vol. 2 when it came out — The Blueprint put a stranglehold on me all the way from “The Ruler’s Back” through the Jay-Z mod of “Renegade,” which previously existed as an unbelievably sick Royce da 5’9” and Eminem collaboration. It had every kind of track, and not too much of one thing; the battle track “Takeover,” the Kanye West-produced radio jam “H To The Izzo,” the introspective “Song Cry” as well as top tier Jay-Z anthems “Heart Of The City” and “Never Change.” It’s a balance of commercial aims and artistic triumph that Jay would never strike again; subsequent lesser albums with The Blueprint didn’t exactly tarnish the brand, but exist as lesser musical mounds in the long shadow of the original.

Musically, The Blueprint is Jay-Z’s best record, but it’s teeming with many levels of thick cultural significance as well. Though Hov had worked with Just Blaze and Kanye West previously, it wasn’t until The Blueprint that Jay-Z became hitched that to a pair of sonic architects that would would define the following decade’s sound. The music’s soul-centric leaning became mimicked, copied, parodied, phoned-in, but never utterly perfected to the extent of The Blueprint. Also, rap’s greatest feud ever — a feud that has its own Wikipedia page — struck full gale force as Jay fired “Takeover” at Nas’s “Ether,” launching a full lyrical barrage in the song’s third verse (sample: “You went from Nasty Nas to Esco’s trash / Had a spark when you started, now you’re just garbage.”). Surely, not little has been made of The Blueprint’s September 11, 2001 release date, and the symbolic notion of how the horror of that day didn’t seem to affect sales (The Blueprint sold 420,000 the first week). My experience of that day is certainly tied to The Blueprint; unsure of how to react, a few friends and I still made our regular Tuesday afternoon trip to Kansas City’s Streetside Records, and later that evening I sat in my room listening to it while doing my math homework and feeling weird, having reached a point with the onslaught of grim news television replays.

But, most of all, Jay-Z’s masterpiece started a movement; by smashing a couple of rap’s realms together for perhaps the first time (Jay-Z reached out to The Roots for his excellent Unplugged album), Jay-Z built the bridge from the “underground” to the mainstream with The Blueprint. Pitchfork awarded the album an 8.7, which I remember as being somewhat controversial, given that Pitchfork wasn’t reviewing rap really at all at this point in time. New audiences began to take mainstream rap seriously, and Jay-Z began his true ascent to the baron-like status he enjoys today. The game changed to reflect its most successful, critically-adored icon and it hasn’t been the same since.

The game needed him then more than it needs him now, but The Blueprint opened a door. Luckily, many others and I walked through into previously-unexplored music terrain and never looked back.

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Comments (43)
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    • Poor baby. We know you wish everyone was listening to Radiohead , but it’s a big world, sweetheart. Maybe listen to something that hasn’t been boinked by hipsters for the past 20 years and open your little brain up. Get some sunlight in there.

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          • “Sick of arguing with mentally challenged wiggers on the internet.” is efficient because you managed to use a modification of a racist slur AND insult those who are mentally disabled.
            Ok, that’s my last one. Pwomise.

          • FYI, I said “mentally challenged,” which is as PC as it gets unless you expect me to say “special.” And if you’ve been to a comedy or improv show in Brooklyn in the past six months, you know that making “wigger” jokes is the new apparent acceptable in thing no matter if the person standing up on stage is white, black, brown, male, female, transexual or whatever have you. I wouldn’t be typing it out as freely as I have been had I not heard it in the past six shows I’ve been to but hey I guess having a sense of humor is against the law here on the ‘gum.

          • Hahahaha! Holy Moly. The thing about Brooklyn comedy shows is easily the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. I finally get your persona. You are very good at the ironic Brooklyn hipster thing. Let me know the next time you are performing at one of these shows. Do you have a website?

          • I’m just so offended that Bros had to be attacked here.

    • aren’t you the blubbering twat who credited your lowest rated comment last week to ‘being grumpy all week’?

      what’s it going to be this time, or will just you concede that you are, evidently, a douche bag and we can be done with it?

  2. Blueprint is so good. Having only discovered it this past year, it’s still very fresh in my mind. When I think about my top albums of 2011, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s 10 years old.

  3. ” struck full gale force as Jay fired “Takeover” at Nas’s “Ether”

    “Takeover” was released months earlier, so really “Ether” would be the one firing at “Takeover”.

  4. The Blueprint is still one of my favs to this day. Introduced the rest of the world to Kanye West production and also is one of most lyrically strong albums of the early 2000s.

  5. The line “Faggots hate when you get money like athletes” ruins the best song on this album for me.

  6. I remember I got the Blueprint the week it came out. Back then it was more exciting to pick up a copy of a CD at the local record store more so than it is now since things like torrents and p2p sites weren’t so prevalent. It was also my freshman year in college and coupled with the events of 9/11, it seemed like so much was changing so quickly in my life. Everything new was around me, but if there’s one memory that sticks out in my head from that week, is how we were playing “H to the Izzo” in our dorm room having our first official “party” of the semester after all the bad news. For the first time that week, everyone looked like they were having the most fun they could at the time. I think I even got a kiss at the end of the night. Thanks, Hova.

  7. Also, I really don’t think that the album built a bridge between “the underground and the mainstream” — if any album did that it was Outkast’s Stankonia. I mean, come on. Look at the video for BOB…for a few moment those guys made psychedelia part of the urban rap scene. And yes, I am, and will forever be all over Outkast’s two-pronged dick.

    Not to get all hip-hop scholarly on you, but what Jay did was unite the two disparate styles of East coast and West coast hip hop — that were at odds throughout most of the 90s. I mean, Dr. Dre made great songs but lyrically they’re kinda shallow, even juvenile (bow-wow-wow, yippie yo yippie yay). Wu-Tang and Nas were great lyricists but they pretty much ignored melody and the chorus – which was just an opportunity for them to take a breath between verses. The Blueprint merges that great East-coast lyrical ingenuity with a West-coast emphasis on song-craft (and you could argue that Jay has been doing this his whole career) — and that’s why it’s important, I think.

  8. Am I the only person who finds theduchessofthomyorke/theduchessofhiddenduetolowcommentrating hilarious? Keep up the good work man!

  9. can you guys do that thing, that you did with Is This It, where you get a bunch of indie bands to cover classic albums, for the Blueprint?
    i think that would be so awesome.

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