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Ten Favorite Moments on Blueprint 3: Part One

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1. The Beat on “What We Talkin’ About”

A big, swooshing, synthy soundscape anchored by some stumbling, awesomely limp Kanye drums. Could be from a Jeezy album cut or a Vangelis soundtrack (which are basically the same) and either way, it’s open-spacey enough for Jay to just kinda go off on any and everything. Rap’s at its best when it’s either obsessively, perfectly formal and cohesive or when it’s a big, weird mess. “What We Talkin’ About” is the latter: Jay rapping distinctly grown man shit over production that’s trying in every way to sound hyper-contemporary.

2. What There “Ain’t nothing cool” About On “What We Talkin’ About”

Amongst many of Jay’s winning qualities, it’s his understanding of balance that will keep him relevant. That’s to say, getting serious and all guidance counselor-like in your raps, when you don’t do it all the time, holds more weight: “Ain’t nothing cool about carryin’ a strap/About worryin’ your moms and burying your best cat/Talkin’ about revenge while carrying his casket/All teary-eyed about to take it to a mattress-”. This stems from experience and gained knowledge. Jay’s not speaking in platitudes there.

3. Extended 9-11 Shit-Talk Metaphor on “Thank You”

Just an impressive piece of visceral writing, touching on sense and action and weaving it into a moment-to-moment narrative: “I was gonna 9-11 them but they didn’t need the help/And they did a good job, them boys is talented as hell/Not only did they brick they put a building up as well/Then ran a plane into that building and when that building fell/Ran to the crash site with no mask on and inhaled/Toxins deep inside they lungs until both of them was filled/Blew a cloud out like a L/Into a jar then took a smell/Because they heard that second-hand smoke kills.” The genius of this is that though he egregiously uses 9-11 for some shit-talk, his attention to detail–moment-to-moment it gets uglier with each line–touches on some of the chaos of the real event.

4. “Empire State of Mind”s Glorious Chorus

There’s this cornball, guitar chug stuck in this otherwise formalist, super-respectable song and who knows why it’s there, but it’s a good cue just how out-there explosive the hook on “Empire State of Mind” is gonna be. Wrapped up in the hook is not only Jay’s success but all the stuff that led to it and that’s very, very different from many of his recent “I’m rich now” songs which were fully concerned with the moment. As if wealth and comfort were proof enough for him to do and say anything and to address his poor kid past, crack-pushing career, his buncha years as a nobody rapper, on a level more complex than “I used to be this and now I ain’t” is beneath him. Here he’s finally navigating two worlds with the same level of detail and acceptance. Real grown-man stuff.

5. Jay’s “Probably” on “Real As It Gets”

“Now I eat quail, I’ll probably never go to jail”. The quail line is just plain hilarious–a straight-faced parody of food-as-materialism in rap–and the jail line is just devastating. It’s that “probably”. Like even at forty with a shit-ton of money and success and everything else, Jay can’t for sure say he won’t end up in jail. He’s touching on the “street” shit still rolling around in his brain–for anyone that’s ever lived recklessly, the appeal’s always there–and acknowledging his own like, latent self-destruction. There’s also something about BP3 that has Jay not only dealing with his past, but his blackness, something he either avoids–because he’s something of a like hyper-capitalist Neo-Con and can’t acknowledge multi-culti nonsense–or reaches for (like his street-cred references), just to short-cut thoughtful discussion. But throughout BP3, there’s something about realizing that he’s still a black dude in America and being mad-rich matters…and just doesn’t at all. This coupled with the many, joyous references to Obama’s election and sometimes clunky, but politically-minded lines like “It’s 2010, not 1864″ (from “Off That”), develops BP3’s strand of terse but wise commentary on race in America in 2009.

further reading/viewing:
-”Ten Favorite Moments” on Kanye West’s Graduation by Tom Breihan
-”Citizen Jay Z” by Armond White
-Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
-The All-American Skin Game or, The Decoy of Race: The Long and Short of It 1990-1994 by Stanley Crouch
-Wikipedia Entry for 1864

Written by Brandon

September 8th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Blueprint 3, Jay-Z

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