Hip Hop’s New Architect

“Sensitive thugs, y’all all need hugs.”

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September 11, 2001 was supposed to be just like most Tuesdays in the retail world. This is the day when you go to your nearest local Target or Wal-Mart to pick up the newest movie on DVD or music CD. I was a junior in high school and had planned to stop by the music store after school. I got out of school early that day. Very early in fact.

I sat in my classroom watching the news as the towers fell in New York. It took 4 airplanes to take my mind off the weekly trip I had become accustomed to making after school. A lot of things were pushed to the side for obvious reasons during that week. However it appears, no one put Jay-Z to the side that week.

The sixth studio album from Shawn Carter, The Blueprint came into the industry at a time where Jay-Z was dealing with a few things on his plate, namely criminal trials and beefs with other artists. Yet, despite this, he was able drop what is considered by some to be his best work and a bonafide classic of the early 2000s and of the rap genre in general.

I always wondered why Jay-Z picked The Blueprint for an album title, for this I went back and listened to the previous album in his discography The Dynasty Roc La Familia . Dynasty used a lot of old school soul samples that differed from the almost rougher sounds of his previous albums. This was due to the use of up and coming producers Kanye West and Just Blaze.

Now when an artist, particularly rap artist release an album, they are caught in a bit of a dichotomy. Do they keep thing gritty and to the streets? Making an album in this vein allows you to appease your loyal fans who have supported you from the beginning. Or do you find a way to expand and reach the masses? Some think the latter is selling out, but the goal of almost anybody in life is to make the most of your situation. So anyone who wants to reach more people, all power to you. What makes this album classic is how the soul samples that are used as a backbone give The Blueprint both street edge and mainstream popularity. Personally, this is great for a listener like myself who is by no means a man of the streets. From the use of the Jackson 5 for Izzo (H.O.V.A) to the legendary Bobby Blue Bland for Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love) and even some Natalie Cole as well, the samples used as well as Jay-Z’s almost straight laced, dead pan flow make this a perfect album. Well near perfect but only because of 2 tracks that really don’t belong on here, Jigga That N***a and Hola Hovito. I just feel that they do not fit the style of the album at all. The only reason I don’t skip them when listening is so I don’t finish the album sooner. What also makes this album great is that there are no guests aside from an awesome appearance from Eminem on Renegade, but I consider that a visit from another titan of the rap game rather than a guest spot.

This is my favorite of Jay-Z’s resume and a definite classic of hip hop. No collection should be with it. Aside from two miscues, The Blueprint lives up to its name perfectly, edgy and mainstream at the same time. All hip hop fans I feel must have this in their collection. It for sure has soul.

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