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Ten Favorite Moments on Blueprint 3: Part Two


6. Swizz Beatz Destroying “D.A.N.CE” And Putting It Back Together

Every Jay Z album since Blueprint has been an event in part, because you were waiting to hear the production: What producers, what samples, how they’re flipped, etc. There was always a big surprise or two and here, it’s Swizz Beatz grabbing Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E” and slicing it into a hundred pieces, rendering it close to unrecognizable. There’s these shards of the original, like a syllable of the hook popping-up in the verse, these weird, downward-falling “Beat It”-esque chunks of bassy synth, etc. This is just a dude in his studio completely destroying a song and having fun using the weirdest chopped parts and seeing if he can get away with it–he does. It’s also “hipster rap” done right, broadening your samples arsenal then treating it no different than some old Stax 45.

7. Jay’s Conflicted History Lesson on “A Star is Born”

Make no mistake, this song’s not a homage to the rap history before and after Jay’s debut, it’s a cynical, slyly dismissive diss song and comment on the fleeting rap scene of the Web 2.0 world. Rappers are disposable, they’ll stop being relevant…unless they’re Jay Z. The message is downright loathsome really, awesomely loathsome though. If Daniel Plainview were a rapper, this is how he’d talk about his peers. Still, like the 9-11 metaphor–itself a piece of history Jay takes full, obnoxious possession of–simply by going for it and committing to the concept, some slivers of fun and reverence peak through. The points where his attempt at “objectivity” totally break down–the clever suggestion that Wayne needs to get his shit together (“I’ll applaud him, if he keeps going”), the implicit speculation of Drake’s ability to be a star, and especially the line about Prodigy–are fascinating. Speculative rap nerds can spend hour with this pithy history lesson reading all kinds of shit into it.

8. When “Venus Vs. Mars” Ends

“Venus Vs. Mars” ends up being pretty fun once you listen to BP3 enough, but it’s also just kind of…icky. And so, when it ends, the album is better for it, but the real reason “Venus Vs. Mars” fading-out is a top-ten moment is because it has this time-traveling feeling to it–it’s a three minute song that feels like it’s 45 seconds. And when it ends, you’re like “Huh, what?” for a moment or two. In part because Jay digs-in and really focuses on the song’s dopey lyrical conceit, but mainly because Timbaland’s beat, a lurching, low-energy, low BPM, electronic groove wraps around your ears, making you lose all sense of time. Dance music and electronic music can do this: Confuse your brain, making it unsure whether the song’s been playing for a few minutes or a few hours. Timbaland’s a master of this…when he isn’t making perfect avant-pop bangers.

9. The Slow-Rising Horns on “Already Home”

Kanye and No I.D’s production on most of BP3 is really what holds it together. Despite the bad sequencing, the album eventually finds its way back to their big, loud, but strangely immaculate beats and that, coupled with Jay’s interest in being honest, works. Really, “Already Home”, just as a piece of music, is gorgeous–all about tension and release, strings pinging back and forth and then stopping, low hums of horn that turns to a swell of mournful but victorious joy. A lot of the tracks also have these weird mumbles of voices in them, a stranger, more subliminal version of Kanye’s obsession with Leslie West of Mountain’s wordless mumbles he was tossing-in everything a few years ago. But those horns, the way they rise above the rest at peak moments, the way they’re talking to some strikes of piano or keyboard…wow. It’s the feeling of comfort and warmth and sincerity. The feeling of BP3.

10. Jay Z “living life like a video” in “Young Forever”

Jay drums up some utopian vision of success that exists only in music videos. A vision of success that’s then projected onto MTV and BET to a bunch of kids that’ll then aspire to the same kind of success. They’re probably not aware that this kind of perfection only exists in the video–the completed project at that. If you’ve ever been on a music video set, it’s an ugly, boring, awkward bunch of hours, all spent obsessively making it seem like it’s the total opposite of ugly, boring, and awkward. Jay’s rapping a music video treatment here and he’s really knowing about it, blowing-up the unreality like Hype Williams, then exposing the complete unreality of it all but yearning for it anyway. Jay’s no longer rapping wish fulfillment, he’s rapping about that untouchable whatever whatever, willing it to existence in his mind alone and realizing that sometimes, that’s enough. The idea can be as important as the reality. A strangely perfect ending to the album.

further reading/viewing:
-”Jay Z’s Midlife Crisis Is Over” by Zach Baron
-”Parse Some Bars: Forever Young” from Rockabye Review
-”Plato’s Idealism” by Dmitry Pisarev

Written by Brandon

September 9th, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Blueprint 3, Jay-Z

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