Before ‘The Blueprint’ I’d have left the room if rap music made its way on to the stereo. The swearing, violence and references to ‘ma bitch’ just didn’t appeal. It wasn’t until recently that I failed to leave the room fast enough and realised the same rules apply to rap as other music – there’s bad rap and good rap, and I’d never heard Jay-Z.

‘The Blueprint’ rolls through the speakers opening with ‘The Ruler’s Back’. Vocals are backed with a 70’s soul brass sample, and that’s the first surprise, the music that slides over the rap is slick and inventive.

The next revelation is that ‘The Blueprint’ has a sense of humour. Jay-Z not only raps with a smooth rhythm, gliding from one line to the next, his words are narrative and at times pretty funny. Track 3, ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A.)’ has the line “Cops wanna knock me/D.A. wanna box me in/but somehow,I beat them charges like Rocky”– trust me, when Jay-Z says it it’s funny.

‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ manages to pull off lyrics about how many women he has on the go at once while maintaining the sincerity of a Motown love song. Not many singers could do that.

The bass line behind Jay-Z’s rap music is also a surprise. ‘Hola Hovito’ has a tinny drum beat that bounces along the bass line giving the song a reggae quality while still tying in with the overall soul sound of the album.

The samples on ‘Heart Of The City’, ‘Never Change’ and ‘Song Cry’ are right out of the Motown era and would not expect to lend themselves to rap, but do with incredible ease. Although when comparing Jay-Z’s lyrics about growing up and city life to Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, the parallels are not hard to spot, so perhaps the mix isn’t such a shock.

One of the biggest surprises on the album is ‘Takeover’. The only way to describe the song, is that is sounds like how ‘cool’ would sound. It sums up Jay-Z’s effortless ‘cool’, which is one of the things so appealing about his music. It’s hard to put a finger on but there’s a quality to his music that gives it an edge not many could pull off.

With ‘The Blueprint’ Jay-Z has managed to make rap accessible without diluting the genre or ‘pop-ifying’ it. I’d certainly not heard rap like this before and it’s persuaded me to linger at the sound of a hip-hop beat rather than close the door behind me.











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