Instructions Not Included: Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3

200px-Blueprint_3It’s Jay-Z’s 11th studio album, and the first without his mug featured on the cover.    Is this a sign of new direction in the music contained on the disc as well?  Not really.  The smug rhymes are there, the big-name guests vocals are there (even more so than usual), and Jay-Z still spits about reaching the top.  It’s no mystery that Jay-Z is, and has been for quite a while, at the top of the rap game.  While The Blueprint 3 does contribute a lot of new elements to the genre,  it’s not groundbreaking. 

The first single, the excellent ‘D.O.A . (Death of Auto-Tune)’ has a killer guitar riff and hints of jazz throughout, yet seems to be contradictory.  The next track, the commercial-esque ‘Run this Town’ featuring VMA stuntman Kanye West and Rihanna tries its best to soften its electronic tweeking but Kanye’s other guest track, ‘Hate’, doesn’t even attempt to hide the effect.  It’s practically brimming with Auto-Tune.  Maybe the message is all tongue-in-cheek.  Fair enough.

One of the most enjoyable tracks off the album, ‘Empire State of Mind’, sounds like classic Jay, yet Alicia Keys’ guest spot adds polish and excitment.  One has to wonder, however, if it is the guest appearance that makes or breaks the track.  It’s a slippery slope when one starts to question the importance of the guests on other tracks and how much they really add to the song’s overall appeal. 

At almost 40, it is impossible not the credit Jay-Z for what he continues to do for rap music, he is still ‘on top’ for a reason.  While The Blueprint 3 does not reach the high level of The Black Album, it a good listen.  And as Jay says on the album’s closer, which samples an Alphaville classic, “so not for legends, I’m forever young.”

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