Sunday, November 1, 2009

464. The Blueprint- Okay, whatever you say.


Artist: Jayz

Album: The Blueprint.

Year: 2001

Genre: Rap.

Tracks.

1. Ruler's Back

2. Takeover

3. Izzo (H.O.V.A.)

4. Girls, Girls, Girls

5. Jigga That N***a

6. U Don't Know

7. Hola' Hovito

8. Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)

9. Never Change

10. Song Cry

11. All I Need

12. Renagade

13. Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)


I think one of the reasons I like instrumental music is that it requires no explanation. You can just sit back and appreciate the fact that Miles Davis was in a mood to play that way and he managed to find a talented bunch of people to join him. You can play Kind of Blue to anyone and they don’t need to follow the back story. After I listen to a rap album I have to spend time on the internet reading lyrics and researching the history so I have some handle on what’s going on.

A blueprint is a document supposed to help you understand something but I needed an interpreter to work out what JayZ’s The Blueprint was on about. There was a lot of stuff that I didn’t understand. One track is called Izzo and features the repeated line “H to the izz-O, V to The Izz-A” which had me completely baffled. I had to read the lyrics to understand what was being said. Apparently it just spells out HOVA, the izz is just a word JayZ has inserted for reasons of his own. Of course knowing this doesn’t necessarily help all that much since I still didn’t know what the heck a HOVA was. Some research told me it was JayZ’s nickname (it’s short for Jehovah, he’s a modest chap). I also had no idea who the venom of another track was aimed at. Apparently it was some rapper who either upset Jayz or was upset that Jayz upset him or something. The album needed to kick off with an introduction like Keifer Sutherland always gives at the start of a 24 episode: "Previously on 24" or in this case "Previously in the life of Hova." Jayz uses the phrase R.O.C . in several tracks which I still haven’t found an explanation for: Rock Out Completely? Right On Cousin? Rip Off Cheat? Rank Outside Chance? Red Orange Colour? Radical Oragami Creations? Riley O’Cafferty? Really Opinionated Comedian? Risk Of Cancer? Rapping On CD? Rambo Owns Cardigans? I have no idea what it stands for but I’d really like it to be Radical Oragami Creations. Honestly I would.


Most of JayZ’s songs seemed to be about something but I struggled to work out what. There were a few exceptions. Song Cry is based on the rather neat idea that JayZ isn’t allowed to cry so he lets his music cry for him; Renegade is a duet with Eminem in which they both managed to claim the title renegade without looking like a complete wanker (no mean trick, traditionally anyone who says they're a renegade is actually a dickhead who hasn't realised it yet) and Heart of the City (Ain’t no love) which is the album’s highlight for me and possibly the first ever Rap track I actually kind of enjoyed. The question is how much credit JayZ can take for my enjoyment. The aspect of Heart of the City that I really responded to was the backing track which was a sample of an old blues song. The instrumentation on The Blueprint is almost entirely made up of recorded samples. People criticise Hip Hop as being “a bunch of people talking over old records” and you can’t help but admit they’ve got a bit of a point.

Like every other Rap album I’ve heard, The Blueprint is full of boasting about JayZ’s talent (he does compare himself to Jehovah after all), dissing of other rappers and accounts of how much money he has. Why is rap the only genre of music that is allowed to behave like this? Imagine if Bob Dylan behaved this way. How would if have looked if before he went electric he walked out onstage with just his acoustic guitar and started playing diss songs and tracks about how good he is? “Here’s a song called My Wack Pages and it’s about how I’m the greatest” or “This next track is called Forever Not Young and it’s a diss track aimed directly at N to the izz I to the izz E to the L yo!” The entire crowd would spontaneously shout “Judas” as one. It’s weird how rap stars are supposed to release lyrics talking about how rich they are and how their lifestyle is completely separate from their fans while equally rich Rock stars have to pretend they still have some sort of common life. Rock stars write songs about meeting a girl at the supermarket even though you know that the only contact they have with a grocery outlet is when they purchase shares in the parent company. If they sang about the hardships they faced finding a really reliable nanny for their strangely-named children they wouldn’t shift a single CD. But rap stars can write entire songs boasting about their material wealth and possessions.

While I enjoyed Blueprint more than the other hip hop albums I’ve heard so far (and infinitely more than LL Cool J) I can’t really get into rap music but then I think that’s just as well. There’s nothing sillier than a 30-something year old white fan of rap music. Jayz can get away with comparing himself to Jehovah and spelling things with izz but if I tried I’d just look like a D to the izz I to the C to the K. To be honest I probably look like a bit of a prat in my beatles T-shirt but if I wore rap gear I’d look like a total prannie.


Highlight: Aint no love in the heart of the city.

Lowlight: Girls Girls Girls.

Influenced by: Rappers who went before him.

Influenced: Rappers who came after (I think I need to put more effort into this highlights bit)


Favourite amazon customer review quote:U REALLY DON'T KNO WAT U DOIN IF U DONT GOT THIS ALBUM EVERYTHING THIS DUDE DROPS IS OFFICIAL

-Frankly it’s a bit galling being told that you don’t know what you’re doing by a guy who can’t spell, has no understanding of punctuation and doesn't know how to turn off the caps lock.

So is JayZ wack? Or not? And is wack good or bad? I haven't a clue and don't care. Either way let me know below.

2 comments:

  1. Hip-hop is not just a different style of music; it's basically a completely different culture. So, while it's understandable that some people, including people who are not rooted in the culture, enjoy hip-hop, its equally understandable that other people dislike equally as much. I'm not HUGE into rap or hip-hop, but I still like my fair share of hip-hop, and this one being one of my very favorites. In fact, this album is actually one of the very first hip-hop albums that I bought, and I have liked it since Day One. The best part about this album is the production. I know that you like production that is not overtly noticeable, that complements the music well. However, because hip-hop production itself is for the most part (with some exceptions) based in taking old material and turning into something new by use of samples and such, I can see why hip-hop production would be an acquired taste for somebody like you. Having said that, I can firmly say that the production on this album is amazing. It is so good that the lyrics don't even matter to me lol. Interestingly enough, my favorite songs on the album are Izzo (H.O.V.A.) and, your favorite, "In the Heart of the City," both of which are produced by none other than Kanye West, who, by the way, made his production debut on this album. Kanye, in my opinion, is one of the best, if not the best, producers in hip-hop history, and if you like the production on his songs, I would highly recommend his solo albums if you have not checked them out already. My favorite is "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," but I would start with his "college bear" triolgy: "College Dropout," "Late Registration" and "Graduation." I would also recommend his brand new (as of this point) album, "Yeezus," though its not for the faint of heart. It's just somehow, Kanye West, like Madlib, has mastered the art of sampling, as he takes old material and turns them into something completely new, fresh and original.
    Anyways, I would be interested to know what you think about the production of this album.

    btw, the artist's name should be "Jay-Z" instead of "Jayz."

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I've had other people recommend Kanye West and I've got him down as someone I will give a decent listen to in the future.

      It's difficult for me to comment on the production of this album. I've always thought production is at it's best when you just don't notice it at all but that's coming from a rock perspective where production isn't such an integral part of the production. I understand that in Hip Hop music production is a huge part of the overall package. I'll re-listen to this when I've given Kanye a couple of spins and see if I can comment further with a better understanding.

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