The Blueprint 3 by Jay-Z (Album of the Week)


Gone Mild and I have decided to write our own impressions of our weekly album. Here it goes for this week’s choice.

Album: The Blueprint 3

Artist: Jay-Z

Year: 2009

Details: 15 songs; 1 hour, 1 minute

Who’s Choice: Gone Mild

So I have spent a week listening to Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3. I bought this one when it came out a few years ago, so I kind of knew it. I had never, however, really listened to it carefully. I did always wonder what that line in Empire State of Mind was (something about a wintry tomato?), so this provided an excellent opportunity to delve at least deeply enough to answer that question.

First a word on the cover art. I found out that this is Jay-Z’s first album that does not feature a picture of him. It shows a white room with white instruments stacked in the corner. Three red lines are superimposed over it. Jay says that this represents that it is still all about the music, and the lines represent the number 3. Got it. If you had asked me prior to this what was on the cover, I would have come up with the stripes, but no idea what the rest was.

I do like this album, but I really dislike the language that is so prevalent – racial or sexist or plain old profanity. I just don’t get it. Listening to it superficially, as I had done before, I could kind of ignore it and concentrate on the catch of the music – of which, there is a lot. Listening to it closely; reading the lyrics – it’s hard to ignore it, and it made me a little bit sad – maybe a little bit mad.

Not, however, as sad or mad as I felt poor Jay was when he made this album. Good lord. I just wanted to give the man a hug. If the lyrics are him, he is angry with everyone. He trusts no one. He doesn’t feel respected. He’s got it all – I mean, he really has it all! – but no one seems to want to learn from him. He is to the point where he thinks, why should he bother? He can just roll around in his riches and the rest of them can go to Hades (of note, Jay would phrase that much more vibrantly). That is kind of the theme of every song. After listening through this, there is a part of me that feels for him. The lyrics include lots of references to people not believing in him. Yep, he’s right. Times when no one champions you and your talents – especially when you are a kid – are tough. The message that he used that as a motivator is strong (“The motivation for me is telling me what I could not be – f*** y’all”). Dear Jay-Z: I hope this album got all of that angst out of your system. Gee willikers!

This is a long album – 15 songs and it lasts just over an hour. I think it could have used some editing. I liked best the tracks that featured other artists, and I liked getting to know a few. My favorite is Kid Cudi on “Already Home.” I love the driving beat and I love Kid Cudi’s raspy voice. I liked J. Cole on “A Star is Born.” This is interesting. Turns out J. Cole is a magna cum laude graduate from St. John’s, and he lost to Bon Iver for the Grammy for best new artist in 2011.

Probably it is cheezy, but I liked Young Forever with Mr. Hudson. It has that young anthem-y vibe that I would wave my arms in the air to, if I did that kind of thing. But it is, again, a very blue song when listened to closely. I don’t really like the song, but the gypsy rif on DOA (Death to Autotune), I love. And finally, probably cheeziest of all, I eat up Empire State of Mind. Alicia Keys’ vocals soar. It is a time and place anthem. And, it turns out that she is not saying wintry tomato. The line is “concrete jungles where dreams are made, oh.” Now I know.

Here is what Gone Mild had to say on his listen. We agree that this makes us tap our toes, but turned up some differences in opinion.

Next week’s pick (Deliberate Obfuscation’s): Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park



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