Jigga couldn’t wait. With a hot new album that was being widely bootlegged by street vendors and on the internet, Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter took a rare step for a rap artist — he pushed UP an album release date. Usually when drop dates are changed they are inexplicably pushed back either for weeks or for months; and in some ill-fated cases (such as Cormega’s “Testament”) they never come out at all. Jay’s decision undoubtedly pleased millions of his fans, and like them I eagerly waited for the stroke of midnight on September 11th to purchase his newest magnum opus – a tome he titled “The Blueprint” to show us the architecture of his master plan to run rap.
Listening to this album that night, I was immediately struck by the high-quality of the musical production – some of Jigga’s best tracks to date. Beats by Kanye West, Bink, Just Blaze, Timbaland and even Eminem of all people rang with authority. I was also struck by the viciousness of Jay-Z’s response to Nas on the song “Takeover.” For those who don’t know or hadn’t heard, Nas called Jay “h to the izzo, m to the izzo” (read H-O-M-O) on a widely dubbed and distributed diss freestyled to the beat of Eric B. & Rakim’s classic “Paid in Full” remix. Jigga pulled no punches in his reply, and I found myself enjoying the thunderous beat and wryly comedic jabs he threw while slyly referencing a well known David Bowie song:
“I know you missin all the – FAAAAAAAME!
But along with celebrity comes bout seventy shots to your brain
Nigga; you a – LAAAAAAAME!
Youse the fag model for Karl Kani/Esco ads
Went from, Nasty Nas to Esco’s trash
Had a spark when you started but now you’re just garbage
Fell from top ten to not mentioned at all
to your bodyguard’s ‘Oochie Wally’ verse better than yours
Matter fact you had the worst flow on the whole fuckin song
but I know – the sun don’t shine, then son don’t shine
That’s why your – LAAAAAAAME!”
As I listened to the album, I also appreciated how unlike his previous “Dynasty” LP this album was almost entirely Jay-Hova going for dolo. Even though Q-Tip, Slick Rick, and Biz Markie all appear on “Girls, Girls, Girls” they only provide the chorus. The only real shine time any rapper shares with Jay is Eminem on the song he produced, “Renagade.” (Yes, they spelled it wrong on the album – don’t bitch at me.) Track after track of Jay’s delf show the highest caliber quality: the bouncy espaÃ±ol party anthem “Hola’ Hovito”, the smoothly nostalgic “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)”, and somber track “Song Cry.” A wack song on this album? None that I could find. A few that may be just average – most notably the poorly titled “Jigga That Nigga” – but none of the “Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life” variety that cause you to constantly skip tracks. In fact, the album is a solid listen from start to finish – in no way dissapointing to any fan of anthemic East coast rap or Jay’s professional flow.
Unfortunately, the tragic events of September 11th render this album’s pushed up release date totally meaningless. In the words of one of his own hit songs, “Jigga what? Jigga who?” I doubt many people were thinking about this album Tuesday morning, and even now a lot of people who were planning to go to stores to purchase it may have yet to cop this CD. This reviewer has no compunction about giving it an unqualified thumbs up and saying it’s worth the $12-$15 you’d spend – except that right now it seems so trivial to be buying new albums at all. If there’s an upside to the unfortunate timing of his new LP’s release, it may be that people who do purchase it this week will have something to listen to that will take their minds off the horrific site of New York’s skyline being resculpted and thousands of innocent people losing their lives there and elsewhere. Maybe.