Jay-Z - The Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse (2CD)

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As rumoured Jay does fire back at a Nas and his hypocritical claims on Blueprint 2. The hauntingly hypnotic production compliments Hov's verses perfectly as he tries to figure out where Nas' head is at...

Everyone is wondering, so let's get this out of the way now. IT IS NOT A CLASSIC. But fuck you and fuck me for saying it. It's albums like this, that remind me why I fell in love H.E.R. in the first place, but they also make me wanna smack myself for being a critic and picking the albums apart.

Yes, The Gift & The Curse is amazing, but it is flawed. Let's get the bad over with before I proceed to ride his dick. For starters, it's an excess of songs that, like most double CD's, could have been trimmed down; there's songs to skip through. There are some unwanted features. And stylistically, The Blueprint 2 is very experimental and all over the place, where-as, its predecessor's praise was due in-part because it revolved around the same soulful sound. But in the same breath, The Gift & The Curse wins because of Jay-Z's experimentation and the fact that he didn't try and make the same album again.

As soon as the Gift CD begins, Jay-Z shows you how great he truly is. A Dream has Hov retelling a conversation he had with B.I.G. in "I said, he said" fashion. It's fucking incredible. Peep, First thing I wanted to know, what's the reason he was dead/ Mo' money, mo problems. Better believe it, he said/ be careful what you wish, you might receive it, he said/ I see, I said/ jealousy, I said/ got the whole industry mad at me, I said/Then B.I. said, Hov remind yourself/nobody built like you, you designed yourself.

There's plenty of hot shit on here, but Jay really showcases his gift on The Curse disc- the hands down, better of the two.

As rumoured Jay does fire back at a Nas and his hypocritical claims on Blueprint 2. The hauntingly hypnotic production compliments Hov's verses perfectly as he tries to figure out where Nas' head is at, is it "Oochie Wally Wally" or is it "One Mic"/ Is it "Black Girl Lost" or shorty owe you for ice. He goes on to admit he lost the battle but won in the greater scheme of things, I will not lose, for even in defeat/ there's a valuable lesson learnt, so it evens it up for me.

At the end of it all, even though it's no classic, Jay-Z is great- word to the hyphen in his name.

3 Comments

  • Spin

    Tenures at the top are short in hip-hop--short like, say, leprechauns. Native Tongues lose their lucky Africa medallions. Gangstas' colors fade. Those who invented the remix find themselves in reality-show purgatory. But for the better part of a decade, Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter has been a force of nature. And he's done more than keep his pockets lined and his name up in lights; he's actually gotten better. In a neat inversion of standard hip-hop devolution, Jay-Z's commercial success has paved the way for his emergence as an artist. It began with the maturation of his go-to producers, Kanye West and Just Blaze. On last year's The Blueprint, West tugged heartstrings with borrowed Philly-soul arrangements, while Blaze punched up the Stax jam session of his dreams. And between the beats, you could hear Jay-Z falling in love with music again, demanding more volume in his headphones, scatting back at the drums, and spitting witty, barbed rhymes. Exploring the chinks in his iced-out armor and meditating on his childhood, he humanized the rap blockbuster, using it to show millions who he was and how he saw the world. So, welcome back, Carter. The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse approaches the difficult task of trumping a creative and commercial peak the way you'd expect: by turning the music (and the bombast) high, high, higher. "So far ahead of my time I'm about to start another life," he brags on "Hovi Baby." But there's no sleep till reincarnation, so Jigga-Man lays it down 25 songs deep and two discs thick. Sidewalk snaps ("You rappers are noodles / I got more ziti to bake") meet self-promotion of holy proportions ("Get stoned every day, like Jesus did") and from this Blueprint, Jay builds a magic kingdom. The Gift disc is mostly good times, a house party in a crib as big as the Georgia Dome. West jacks a Tupac beat for the Beyonc-assisted single "'03 Bonnie & Clyde." Timbaland officially goes to heaven with "What They Gonna Do," an early contender for best dance-floor track of 2016. And when Jay declares "Trouble man / I'm the Marvin of the flow," shortly after ranking himself with Rembrandt and Rilke, you've got to give it up: Tightening the screws on his delivery, he's found a bruising poetry in a flow that once seemed clumsily conversational. Things turn darker on Disc 2. On "Diamonds Is Forever," a typical Roc-a-Fella roll call gets derailed when Jay rhymes, "Victim of a single-parent household / Born in a mouse hole." On the surreally badass "Guns & Roses," Jay brags, "I gather no moss like a rollin' stone / In case the Grim Reaper visit my home, man, I'm gone," while Lenny Kravitz howls the hook. Meanwhile, Just Blaze gets the blues on "Meet the Parents" and guides the moving ghetto flashback "Some How, Some Way." As usual, Jay-Z has hinted that this will be his last album, that he's planning to hang up the mic while it's still hot. At this point, dude's made and broken more retirement promises than Gene Simmons, but he's never sounded this serious before. On "A Dream," Jay gets a beyond-the-grave pep talk from the Notorious B.I.G., who advises, "Just keep doin' ya thing." But the song ends with a question mark: As the DJ cuts up Biggie's "Juicy" over a haunted piano sample, it's as if Jay himself is winding it back, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. The record is laced with complaints about the music industry. "I got a chip on my shoulder the size of the Golden Nugget," our hero gripes; there's even a song that samples a version of the Frank Sinatra curtain-dropper "My Way," a CEO's sayonara if there ever was one. Here's hoping it's just more hyperbole, though. Stick around, Jigga: Music sounds better with you.

  • Pitchfork Media

    The double album can mean a number of things for an artist. For the Wu-Tang Clan and Michael Jackson, it led to exponential career declines. For Biggie and Tupac, it led to grisly deaths. Jay-Z has chosen his own route: The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse lobbies for a position on top of the commercial hip-hop market. On his mid-to-late 90s Volume trilogy, Jay had steadily lost track of his confident street corner philosophy, but a series of battles led him to re-evaluate his career, resulting in the landmark album of his career: the prequel to this two-disc blowout was an inarguable masterwork of beautiful soul-struck production and serrated bling 'n' sting street rhymes sharp enough to eclipse even the heralded, barbs on 1996's world-memorized classic Reasonable Doubt. There's no deep concept or surrounding purpose behind this record: it's just pure confidence. Jay weaves his way through every imaginable style and flavor with unyielding expertise-- from the natural repetition of "A Dream" to the extreme assonance of "The Bounce" to the classic cocky confidence of "2 Many Hoes"-- driving home clear evidence that his top-tier emcee ranking is deserved, and that few could be as entitled. He's straight showing off on "Hovi Baby": somehow flowing effortlessly over Just Blaze's ridiculous 5/4 future-cop production, Jay's lyrics sound as if they were made on the will of God, with himself as the conduit and his voice as the fluid, talking about "chasin' the hi-hat all over the track" to the point that "the snare is scared of the air in here." Equally thrilling is the varied subject matter Hova touches on. Whether he's engaged in lucid conversation with Biggie ("A Dream"), contemplating the nature of his maturation in regards to relationships ("Excuse Me Miss", "Fuck All Nite"), his ever-present public issues ("I Did It My Way", "Diamond is Forever") or discussing the nature of his upbringing ("Some How Some Way"), even Jay's most exhausted subjects sound invigoratingly fresh. A powerful testament to Shawn Carter's underrated storytelling abilities, "Meet the Parents" unveils a delicate tapestry of modern black archetypes and the flaws with the African-American family structure. He begins with the family that created a thug and slowly shifts into the life that thug creates for himself as a result of his fractured upbringing. It's a tale of death, parental absence and drug dealing that spirals into a face-off between father and son, spun into a metaphor for the intense need for a solid patriarchal bond. As a premier rapper in the commercial spotlight, Carter's got a way of leveling his albums out with a wide variety of beats. Ranging from the Cake-sampling guitar strum of "Guns and Roses" (produced by Heavy D?!!) to the Hugo Williams connection's dark, squirt-bass stomper "Nigga Please" to Kanye West's anthemic chopped EWF sampling firestorm "As One", Jay attempts to please everyone and very nearly succeeds. Although the Tupac-flavored ambient keyboard beats aren't quite as sharp as they could be, and the uncharacteristically pedestrian Timbaland collaborations disappoint, they do offer a solid pace to the album to that virtually all other doubles lack. And pace is one of many places that Blueprint 2.1 fails. Released six months after The Gift and the Curse as a sampling of some of the album's more seemingly intriguing tracks and chart hits, it was a transparent ploy to bank on increased record sales and create the illusion of cost-effectivity, when, in fact, Blueprint 2.1 ran about the same price as the original, and offered roughly half the tracks. It's bad enough that its two bonus tracks aren't even worth talking about, but it omits nearly half the standouts from the original, leaving as many as eight stronger tracks out in lieu of lesser collaborations with dollar-winning names. 2.1 doesn't even include the song "Blueprint 2", effectively contradicting its purpose. So, for the classic bloated double-album prototype, the filler helps more than it hinders, as evidenced by the spectacular failure of the condensed version. Truly, Carter's vision of the streets had to stretch out over two discs, if only to handle the spectrum of influence he's drawn from and continues to create. With his final set, The Black Album, due next month under the tutelage of The Neptunes, Rick Rubin, Timbaland, Kanye, Lil' Jon and seven others, all eyes are on Hov, hoping for-- and rightfully expecting-- a classic last salvo to bookend his perfect debut. The Blueprint 2 may be less than filler-free, but it stands regardless as a testament to Jay-Z's mastery of the written and spoken word: the fortifying teaser to a pay-per-view-worthy finale.