11 September 2013

11th September - Jay-Z's The Blueprint

Artist – Album: Jay-Z – The Blueprint
Released:  11th September 2001
Sounds Like: Probably the best thing to have happened on September 11, 2001…

There’s no shortage of rock and pop superstars that have enjoyed long lasting shelf lives: Cliff Richard may have (thus far!) failed to continue his sequence of reaching the UK singles chart in every decade since the 50’s, but the likes of David Bowie (46 years between charting singles), Michael Jackson (42 years), Red Hot Chili Peppers (33 years), Madonna (30 years), U2 (29 years) and The Cure (29 years) all enjoyed continued success for far longer than I’ve been alive. In hip hop, however, the chances of continuing for more than a decade or so are significantly reduced. Previous icons such as LL Cool J and Run DMC (the less said about MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice the better) fell by the wayside as times changed, whereas 2Pac and Biggie ruined what could have been lengthy and successful careers by mindlessly shooting each other, the silly billies. Of the others that were around during those dark days of mid-nineties gangsta rap, only a handful spring to mind as having especially protracted lifespans. Dr Dre had first appeared with N.W.A in 1987 and was probably last important in the early millennium, whilst his protégé Snoop Dogg has become a laughable caricature. But Jay-Z, a fresh faced up-and-comer back then, has since become – and remains – rap’s biggest star. As he brags on ‘Hola’ Hovito’, “If I ain’t better than B.I.G, I’m the closest one”.

The reason for his longevity? The Blueprint. Jay-Z a.k.a Shawn Carter survived the aftermath of gangsta rap’s self-inflicted implosion by virtue of two masterful albums in Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime, but he could clearly see that reinvention was needed if he was to maintain his exulted status. His first crossover attempt, Hard Knock Life, was not an unalloyed success, but for his second he produced the album that rewrote the hip hop rules and set the course that 21st century rap would follow. He spiked Nas and Mobb Deep on the stomping ‘Takeover’, but it was on the likes of ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A)’, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ and ‘Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)’ that he showcased his new template. The formula is simple: take one set of expertly written, self-aggrandizing lyrics; one handful of brilliant Seventies soul samples; and instruct half a dozen master producers to mix. Repeat thirteen times. If mixed correctly, this should produce a baker’s dozen of exceptional tracks, as well as a legion of crummy imitators. It also featured a guest appearance from the ever-durable Eminem and introduced the rap world’s last enduring icon, Kanye West. Not bad, eh?

Albumaday... rating: 9/10
1.       The Ruler’s Back – 3:50
2.       Takeover – 5:13
3.       Izzo (H.O.V.A.) – 4:00
4.       Girls, Girls, Girls – 4:35
5.       Jigga That Nigga – 3:24
6.       U Don’t Know – 3:19
7.       Hola’ Hovito – 4:33
8.       Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love) – 3:43
9.       Never Change – 3:59
10.   Song Cry – 5:04
11.   All I Need – 4:29
12.   Renegade – 5:38
13.   Blueprint (Momma Loves Me) – 3:41

Listen to ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A)’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tWmyPMf3wU

Also released on 11th September:
1973: Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
Also released on 11th September:
2000: Goldfrapp – Felt Mountain

Also released on 11th September:
2007: Kanye West - Graduation

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