You Only Get Half a Post.

Sorry, Joel, but…

I mean, was Kingdom Come the worst major rap release of the aughts? No, because L.A.X. was the worst major rap release of the aughts. Is “Young Forever” the worst track ever rapped/sung/produced? No, but it’s somewhere in the bottom fifty, wedged between “Fast Lane” and a latter-day Canibus track.

But who cares? For all of the Blueprint 3 hate from hip hop’s newest Old Guard, I can’t really figure out what folks would have been happy with instead. I penned the following back in November:

The Blueprint 3 is sonically metrosexual, but the verses are mostly vintage – more thoughtful and certainly more disciplined than The Blueprint 2. ‘Empire State Of Mind’, ‘Thank You’, ‘A Star Is Born’, and ‘Already Home’ are all standout tracks. ‘Real As It Gets’ and ‘On To The Next One’ are the only filler verses, paired with equally uninspired beats. Still, 13 out of 15 ain’t bad.

Any listener could identify the tracks that were custom-built for clubs and radios: ‘Run This Town’, ‘Real As It Gets’, ‘On To The Next One’, ‘Off That’, ‘Venus vs. Mars’ – all bass- and groove-heavy, but still admirably lyrical. That’s always been Jay’s secret: he’s more Slick Rick than he is Rakim, but at his best he’s both.

I’ve listened through the album a few dozen more times since then; I still stand by my take on it and by my appreciation of Hov’s career:

The Blueprint 3 is a threat/promise: Jay-Z will keep making albums whether you like them or not. If you miss his old shit, “buy [his] old album” – that’s unbridled expression for you, but Shawn Corey Carter is still a b-boy. He’s still Hovi, baby. Thank God.

Yeah, okay, “Young Forever” is a virgin prom soundtrack. The Blueprint 2 is almost entirely vomit inducing, though, and do you remember what we got after The Blueprint 2? We got the Black Album, fam. Then we got some bullshit, then we got American Gangster. Is Jay consistent a la Ghostface? No, but if every “bad sign” signified the imminent Death of Hova, we’d have buried him after Vol. 1 dropped.

I don’t mean to overrate dude at present or overall; I think that Nas’ second album and a few other releases from 1996 — Ironman, The Score, All Eyez On Me — are lyrically and sonically more impressive than Reasonable Doubt, and that Jay coasts on his bottomless album budgets, and that he’s made some regrettably dumb music at his zenith, and that he maybe resembles Joe Camel, but how is he not “cool’? How is the dude who has white girls at Georgetown house parties drunkenly name-dropping Eric B. not cool? And complain about Kingdom Come all you want, blah blah, but how is American Gangster not a thoroughly dope ass album? (I think it’s his best album to date, but that’s another debate.)

I really just don’t get it, guys. Is it because he doesn’t do Smart Nigga(TM) beats? Should he name-drop Miriam Makeba more often? I don’t understand. Should he pose like he lives in the projects and still sells heroin? Should he pretend to actually be as young as you are?

How does he gain your favor, you haters?


Latest posts by R.A.B. (see all)

  • P.

    He’d gain favour by actually retiring when he says he will, for once.

    The man was once great. One of the greatest. But he peaked a decade ago. American Gangster was solid but uninspiring. The Blueprint 3 is actually at it’s best when he stops trying to write a modern, relevant rap record and instead writes Sex and The City sountracks (Empire State of Mind).

    I’m not saying he’s beyond the odd flash of brilliance now and then (American Gangster had a few of those), but why should be pay attention to him anymore? He listens to Coldplay. He had a track called ‘Justify My Thug’ based on ‘Justify My Love’. He’s done an incredible job of building his personal brand, to the point where people will write reams and reams about anything with his name on it, regardless of quality.

    But he’s just kind of past it.

  • R.A.B.

    He’s just kind of past it, except for when he isn’t. Okay.

    I need to know what, exactly, comprises the diff between “a modern, relevant rap record” and Empire State of Mind. An 808? A Joe Budden verse? Help me out with that one.

  • P.

    A half-decent verse?

  • Go play somewhere, I’m busy.

  • R.A.B.

    It’s frustrating just because 90% of y’all are essentially saying “fuck Off That; gimme the Hov who was rapping with Jermaine Dupri and rhyming “met her” with “feather.” smh.

  • blackink

    Ok. Watch me relapse on these hoes.

    I think, R.A.B., that you’re focusing on something other than my initial conclusion: that the old Jay-Z simply wouldn’t have recorded a song as terrible as “Young Forever.” Sure, there are some certified hits and heaters on BP3 – I particularly liked “Thank You,” “Real As It Gets,” and … well, I really liked those two cuts.

    Not to mention, had Hov actually blacked out and included the horrific “Ghetto Techno” on the album, he would have recorded two of the worst songs of his career in a very short span.

    So, no, I don’t think it’s beyond him to still make quality music. I hope he continues making albums; even a bad Jay-Z album is better than whatever someone like Red Cafe can come up with. But I do think that Hov is losing his ear, for whatever it’s worth.

    Which brings me to another point: Jay-Z has always made relatively uneven albums. I might argue that he didn’t put together an end-to-end great one until the first Blueprint, and it’s hard to overlook the fact that Kanye had his hands all over that album.

    But because Jay is/was cool and is something of a cultural tastemaker, we all became convinced of his greatness – in the absence of a real contender for the throne. Now, though, as he gets older and the flaws in his artistry are becoming more apparent, he can’t fake his way through it.

    But it’s all good. All of our favorite artists get older, lose a little something off their fastball. And Jay-Z isn’t the exception – that’s Frankie Beverly.

    Aight. That was mighty rambling. Done.

  • R.A.B.

    And my point was that “the old Jay-Z simply wouldn’t have recorded a song as terrible as ‘Young Forever'” overlooks, like, a lot of dude’s pre-Blueprint discography. Maybe your point is that Young Forever is bad in a particular kind of way, but there are some pretty say-what tracks on Vols 1-3.

    • blackink

      I still don’t think there’s a song in his catalogue worse than “Young Forever.” And have you heard “Ghetto Techno”? It’s better for you if you haven’t.

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