When it comes to Not-Very-Surprising Un-Retirements, it's tempting to compare Jay-Z to Brett Favre, but it's hard to argue with what is probably Jay's third- or fourth-best record in "Blueprint 3," which augments the sound of his past with a star-studded guest list and modern production tricks.
Is it fair to compare Jay-Z to Brett Favre? Probably not, except in terms of the lack of surprise on everyone's faces at the news that one or the other is coming out of retirement ... again.
Hoo ... ray ...
There's no disputing Jay-Z's rightful place in the pantheon of hip-hop greatness, by virtue of his ability to simultaneously appeal to the street and, at the same time, cross right over to the mainstream and sell records by the crate.
But in terms of musical quality and overall excellence - even though many give the title to the original "Blueprint" record - "Reasonable Doubt" is arguably still Jigga's high-water mark. Sure, he went on to sell many, many more units with "Vol. 2" and the aforementioned "Blueprint," but as he began to move away from the street and into the executive lounge, his records occasionally took on a plasticized feel. Kind of like he was just sort of phoning it in; and to be fair, Jay-Z phoning it in is still several levels above your average rap record, and maybe that allowed him to get away with it.
Regardless, "Blueprint 3" has a lot more surprising moments than we're used to hearing from Jay-Hova (how many nicknames can I run through?): the tinkling xylophone and crunchy guitar of "DOA (Death of Auto-Tune)"; the stuttering drums and Jay's triumphant, ain't-this-easy verses on the opener, "What We Talkin' About"; the big-band horns of "Thank You."
"Blueprint 3" balances the sound of Jay's past with modern production tricks and a star-studded guest list (Young Jeezy, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Kanye West and more), and is probably on par with "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1" as Jay's third- or fourth-best record.
"Blueprint 3" will be released Sept. 11.