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12 September, 2001@12:00 am

What else can be said about Jay-Z? He is perhaps the only artist in New York City, much less this industry, who demands equal respect from the streets, the underground, and lovers of pop music – the determining factor that separates him from every other hip-hop artist, surpassing even the late great Frank White. Jigga is the streets – the personification of Brooklyn in 2001, which is why he demands its respect. And while some finicky underground heads continue to dis him, most likely only because they have only seen the MTV video version of Jigga, heads that actually peep his albums see him for the incredible, intelligent, and overlooked lyricist he truly is. And let’s not forget the ladies – the people who really push a rapper from gold to platinum (and beyond) – they love Jiggaman for his cool attitude, and always catchy singles.

At this level in his career, he has gone from successful rapper to equal parts Jay-Z, the artist, and Sean Carter, the businessman. No longer is it necessary for Jay to sample “Rockin’ It” for his lead single, or even to employ the hottest beatmakers (DJ Premier , Rockwilder , Neptunes , Dr. Dre ) to make you buy his album, like every other rapper is stuck doing nowadays, because you’ll buy his new album every winter, on the strength of the one before it. Jay instead defines the hottest beatmakers, as evidenced on last album’s “Change The Game”, which did just that, adding Ric Rock to the list of “hot” beatmakers. The man isn’t following trends like everyone else – he’s setting them.

His latest entry, The Blueprint, is his sixth consecutive album in six years, almost releasing an album every nine months. While Jay believes that this is his best album since Reasonable Doubt, (praised as a classic, by some), how it will be received by the public, as well as how itself will change the game, remains to be seen in retrospect.

Not missing a beat, Jigga remains in top form, as the album’s most incredible track is the result of a long-brewing beef between S.Carter and two of QB’s finest. Over it’s raw, hard-hitting production, Jay targets the Prodigy of Mobb Deep on “Takeover”, with lyrics first spit at this year’s Summer Jam, ballerina lines in tact. Nas is next to catch a bad one (a really bad one), as Jay reminds him of his “one hot album every ten year average” and how his “bodyguard’s ‘Oochie Wallie’ verse was better than ya’lls”. More waves are made on “Renegades”, with Eminem , as the industry’s two hottest lyricists attack critics and picky parents who disrespect their interpretations of entertainment. While Jayhova laments, “do you fools listen to music, or do you just skim through it”, Eminem takes a similar toll with a seemingly never-ending, multi-layered rhyme: “Maybe it’s hatred I spew / Maybe it’s food for the spirit / Maybe it’s beautiful music I made for you to just cherish / But I’m debated, disputed, hated and viewed in America / As a motherfuckin’ drug addict, like you didn’t experiment?”

At the top of his game, some of Jay’s brightest moments are when he’s bragging – most likely because he’s incredibly confident, and given his astronomical success levels, it’s actually believable. Unlike virtually any other flossy, rich rap types, songs like “U Don’t Know” and “Heart Of The City (Ain’t No Love)” have you egging him on to continue, not only because of his incredibly clever rhymes, (“Oh you not feeling me? Fine, pay me no mind / it won’t cost you a dime”), but simply because he’s so damn good at it. While this album does not include as many deep, personal verses that The Dynasty did, Jay still does open up a bit, as on “Blueprint”, where he speaks on his humble beginnings, thanking virtually everyone who made him the man he is today. And while he makes light of his carefree attitude with the ladies on the innocently fun, playeristic “Girls Girls Girls”, he becomes apologetic for it on “Song Cry”, exploring a relationship he ruined living the Jiggman lifestyle.

Objectively, The Blueprint doesn’t seem as solid as his biggest and best selling album, Volume 3: The Life & Times Of S.Carter, but on the other hand, does include some of the most raw cuts of his career. Not bearing any signature producers, except his home team, Just Blaze & Kanye West , (and the exception of one Timbaland track), this album does falter from so-so production at times, but Jigga leaves the listener hanging on every word, making some of the more iffy beats acceptable. Minor discrepancies aside, Jigga sixth sensed ‘em with another solid release.

  Mixtape D.L.
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