15.) Jay-Z - The Blueprint (2001)
It's impossible to discuss Jay-Z's triumphant The Blueprint without acknowledging the fact that it was released on September 11th. That an artist so tied to New York would release such a landmark album on what would go down as the worst day in our cities history isn't necessarily ironic, but it's certainly something. Having said that, The Blueprint is such a great record that I'd imagine it gave a lot of people comfort during that tough time and because of that, it came out at exactly the right time.
The Blueprint is Jay-Z's best record. I know, I know Reasonable Doubt. I get it. Great album. I prefer The Blueprint. Let's start wih Kanye (and Just Blaze). The Blueprint put Kanye on the map and pulled hip hop production out of the tunnel visioned beat making of the 90s and into the sample-heavy 2000s. I always prefer samples over hip hop tracks to Timbaland-type beats. I like the "spot the sample" game. It's fun and it also makes the music warmer, less synthetic.
Jay is probably the most important artist of the decade. He's made great records and done great things. He's been in the spotlight and has only eclipsed career high after career high. 2001's The Blueprint was a great start. Let's talk about the songs, shall we. Is there a better diss track than "Takeover"? Hell, no, and Jay's math that reduces Nas' ratio of 1 good record per decade is hilarious and, hate to say it, one hundred percent true. "Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)" is another highlight, personal and vulnerable with the ability to strike an emotional chord that most rappers can't begin to understand. Then there's Jay anointing himself hip-hop's messiah on "Izzo" and he began his Sinatra name-checking ("I did it my way") on "Hola Hovito". Blueprint certainly found Jay very confident and incredibly boastful ("If you haven't heard I'm Michael,Magic and Bird all rolled into one") but tell me he didn't back it up? And no matter how cocky Jay got, never forget that the first thing he does on The Blueprint is thank all of the people who bought the record. A nice touch.
The Blueprint marked the torch of East Coast hip hop was posthumously passed from BIG to Hov and this is the one thing I think actually humbled Jay. In "Hola Hovito" Jay says "and if I ain't better than BIG, I'm the closest one". Boastful for sure, but with an overt respect and admiration for the man that ruled the scene prior. I don't think Jay ever assumed he was better than BIG, but he knew, as evidenced in the line, there was no one else even close and truthfully, there still isn't.
Plus there's no fucking skits on it, so that's a million points right there.
Posted by Pat Driscoll