The Blueprint 3

The Blueprint 3

By the time The Blueprint 3 arrived in 2009, JAY-Z’s relationship to rap had gotten complicated. He’d headlined rock-oriented festivals like Glastonbury and materialized at shows by Brooklyn bands like Grizzly Bear, saying he hoped indie-rock might help shake up what he saw as the stagnancy of hip-hop. The Blueprint 3 positions him as an elder statesman of rap, one who condemn trends (“D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)”), but who isn’t afraid of the crossover moves that made him famous in the first place (the Rihanna-featuring “Run This Town,” the Alicia Keys-featuring “Empire State of Mind”). At one point on The Blueprint 3, Jay claims he’s so tomorrow, his watch says yesterday. But on the precipice of 40, he knows better than to worry about time. After all, plenty of rappers have excelled at the game; JAY-Z wrote the rules. So where to go? Talking to Oprah the month before the album came out—an event that in and of itself illustrates his transformation—Jay said the trouble with writing music people can relate to is that his life isn’t normal anymore. Thematically, The Blueprint 3 fixates on legacy: building it (“So Ambitious”), defending it (“Real As It Gets”), enjoying it (“Thank You”), and sharing it (“A Star Is Born”). Maybe Jay has bigger things to think about—Barack Obama once claimed he’s probably the only rapper to get played in the Oval Office. But on The Blueprint 3, his ego won’t let him rest from going after trap rappers (“Real As It Gets”) or smirking while he polishes his reputation. He’s happy to bring new voices to the table—including Drake (“Off That”), Kid Cudi (“Already Home”), and J. Cole (“A Star Is Born”)—but woe be to any who try and take his seat.

Other Versions

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada