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?