Jay Z The Blueprint 3

Jay Z The Blueprint 3
What does the man who has everything have to give? Jay-Z has nothing to prove, that's a given, and at this stage in the game it's almost like hearing your old uncle rap. But we don't come to The Blueprint 3 to bury Jigga; we come to praise him. So, how do you effectively critique a 40-year-old dude who's 11 albums deep and still has the juice to set the modern day hip-hop agenda? No sense ripping on him for being out of touch ― outside of that egregious reworking of "Forever Young" ("Young Forever" with Mr. Hudson); it's more about having a deep appreciation for Jay-Z's ability to maintain the passion he exudes on the third (and final?) instalment of the highly illustrious Blueprint series. Musically, Jay-Z casts his net wide, pulling in Kanye West, Swizz Beatz' and Timbaland and No ID on production. The much-touted "Death of Autotune" doesn't leave the impression that Jigga intended but it still bumps. The Timbaland produced joints ("Venus vs. Mars," "Reminder" and "Off That") vary wildly in quality and sonic impact, and sound like ol' Timbo is peaking. And cuts like "Off That," featuring Drake, "Run This Town," featuring a predictably warbly Rihanna and startlingly strong Kanye West, and "Hate," featuring a stuck in neutral West, are as unbalanced and undistinguished as they come. But where the album shines is on tracks like "What We Talkin' About," "Thank You" and "Empire State of Mind," featuring the always welcome Alicia Keys, where Jay-Z simply does what he's known for: laidback lyrics and a finely-honed cadence backed by a tight groove. Even "So Ambitious," featuring Pharrell, is surprisingly better than expected, and is a definite standout. Is The Blueprint 3 a state of the hip-hop union address or masturbatory opus? You decide. (Roc Nation)