Critical Voices: Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3

September 3, 2009

Jay-Z has an unfortunate habit of releasing half-assed, guest-filled victory laps following great albums. After The Blueprint came its overlong, overreaching sequel. After The Black Album came Kingdom Come, often considered his worst album. After the intensely focused American Gangster comes The Blueprint 3—and though it has its moments, the album ultimately fails to live up to its predecessors.

That’s a shame, because a quick look at the tracklist makes it clear Jay-Z was reaching for the stars here. He approached his old protégé Kanye West to handle the bulk of the production, but instead of  “Izzo” and “Lucifer,” we get whack crossover attempts like “A Star is Born,” which features one of the worst vocal hooks of any Hov record to date, and some lukewarm rapping from Jay, who tosses out shout-outs to Wayne and Em that lack any real substance.

It’s not all bad news, though. “Thank You” has a great jazzy horn section and wisely skips the sung vocal hook. The first single, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”, has a cosmopolitan, classy feel to it, even if it’s not spectacular, and “Already Home” works because of Kanye’s cinematic R&B beat.

Jay himself is at his best on “Empire State of Mind,” flowing with a growl that he has seldom used in the past. (The only other instance that comes to mind is “Brooklyn Go Hard,” a Santigold-featuring banger that should not have been left off this record.) It’s one of the few instances here that his swag doesn’t seem totally fabricated. When he drops lines like, “Shit, I made a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can,” you believe him.

But on most of the other tracks here, he raps alongside guests that should never have made it onto the album. J. Cole? Drake? Mr. Hudson? I understand these may be up-and-coming artists with few good tracks to their name, but we’re talking about Hov here! The greatest to spit, period. Jay should be wielding his considerable lyrical muscle and slaying these tracks—not taking a backseat to people that would be lucky just to ride in his limo.

But even on the guest-free tracks—including Timbaland’s flat “Venus vs. Mars” and “Reminder”—Jay fails to drop anything that stands up to his best work. And even if he did, it’d be tough to tell, with weak hooks filling the empty space.

Unfortunately, The Blueprint 3 isn’t The Blueprint. Thankfully, it isn’t Kingdom Come either, but that’s not good enough for Hov.

Voice’s Choices: “D.O.A.,” “Thank You,” “Empire State of Mind”

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ben again

I agree with this review, it sadly would appear the big names ie Jay,em and the likes are rappin as if they have nothing more to say,the world has so much goin on in it to be spoken of, however none such topics affect these millionaires…..i mean rappers! Jay reached his zenith on blueprint, if you take the best bits of the sets he dropped after that landmark you could easily make another classic,but he mixes those efforts with half assed self gratifying doodoo!
kingdom come was embarrassin only saved by the odd tune, minority report,show me what you got,lost ones, i jus wish rappers would find the hunger to do tunes which everyday folk relate to, not just 4 self records,hovi still nice but i think fans should jump to his fave group the roots, realest hip hop act goin

Jay Powell

I think you guys have this one wrong! Contrast Jay-z against the back drop of the current state of Hip-Hop and he is still the brightest crayon in the box! This album sounds new and fresh. I beleive his lyrics coukld be stronger but this is a complete album. Something that we dont see a lot from even the Waynes and Jeezy out here. The only rival to him is Kanye West. I love the versitility of Jay-z. He completely evolved to the new sound of today and he been doing this since 1996. If I had to make one critique, it would that he is simply bragging to much and he may need to connect to the average guys again but, besides this I think this easily a number one album for awhile.


Look, Jay-Z has fallen waaaay off. I remember when he was still credible and inventive. Now, he’s just old & out of touch. When you have a personal chef, it’s hard to stay hungry. He needs all these collabos to keep himself sounding fresh, meanwhile, it just makes him look stale. His career was dope while it lasted. He should’ve stayed retired. Now, Raekwon’s Cuban Linx 2 is the album to focus on! That album is fantastic!


Who ever wrote this knows little about rap. Jayz said in prior interviews that tb3 will be unlike any of his previous work and it fits that notion. tb3 has using a wide range of instruments on every insanely great beat from the album (hence the meaning behind the artwork) that was the sound Jay was going for. This album was Jay PURPOSELY taking a back seat because Jay is read y to pass the throne on. A king can not rile forever and Jay knows this. The features were excellent. Mr Hudson vocal..excellent J. cole’s verse… excellent Drake’s hook..excellent. Sit and relisten wo this work with the pre-notion of past albums thrown out