Eight years after the original Blueprint, Jay-Z drops one of the most anticipated albums of the year, The Blueprint 3, on Tuesday. Has Jay solidified his position as the greatest rapper alive? Find out below.
Entertainment Weekly: Even if it lacks the raw power of his earlier work, the album succeeds at its larger goal—reaching maximum commercial blast radius while maintaining its street bona fides. B+
USA Today: There was a time when a rapper couldn’t expect to last past his 20s. Jay-Z, who is nearing 40 and releasing his 11th studio album, shows that for someone who is measured mostly against himself, lyrical dexterity doesn’t have an expiration date. 3.5 out of 4
Los Angeles Times: Regardless of this lackluster effort, nothing can alter Jay-Z’s place as one of the greatest rappers of all time. That said, despite several strong moments, Blueprint 3 documents an artist who refuses to wallow in the past, but lacks a (ahem) blueprint for the future.
Newsday: Sorry, young rappers, Jay-Z’s whole Blueprint thing was a trick. These albums don’t show a path to success. They show how Jay succeeds, why he cannot be duplicated. And The Blueprint 3 (Roc Nation) is the most untouchable of them all.
The Boston Globe: In the end, the key is in the names Jay chooses to acknowledge or ignore. It’s not that Jay-Z believes he’s the only star in the genre. It’s that he has a set idea of who else is worthy. And it’s not that the Blueprint is Jay-Z’s idea of what hip-hop should be like. It’s that this is what it sounds like when he makes it.
Chicago Tribune: Blueprint 3 splits the difference between its two predecessors, with Jay-Z sounding hungrier than he has in years on about half the tracks while sharing time with guest stars or grappling with undercooked production on the rest. At its core, the album is less about introducing newfound skills or subject matter than it is a platform for Jay-Z to showcase his imperious flow, to reassert his world-conquering ego, to remind everyone just who the heck he is. 2.5 out of 4
The Washington Post: The rap icon’s 11th album is the first full-scale disaster of his career, a collection devoid of the mega-jams we expect from hip-hop’s undisputed alpha male. Instead, we suffer lyrics that suggest a new credo: Shrug that dirt off your shoulder.
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Run This Town,” “Empire State of Mind,” “Off That,” “Young Forever”