The Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse

Jay-Z

Roc-A-Fella, 2002

http://www.rocafella.com

REVIEW BY: Ben Ehrenreich

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/09/2007

The only reason Jay-Z made The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse was to add a double album to his already respectable accolades. By 2002, he had pretty much accomplished everything one could have in the world of hip-hop: six studio albums (two of them classics), a movie soundtrack, a live album and a collaboration with R. Kelly.

So, like most classic rockers, Jay-Z turned to the double disc, and like most of them it's kind of a mistake. Few artists can pull off a truly classic double album -- for all their glories, even Tommy and The Wall get tiring. For Jay-Z, it seemed like following The Blueprint with an equally strong 13 tracks was a better choice.

The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse is simply a watered-down version of its brilliant predecessor. Kanye West, Just Blaze and Timbaland appear on both records and account for more than half of the production, but the difference is that instead of bringing in the extremely versatile Bink and ominous Eminem for the other fifty percent, Jay brings in a couple of no names and the Neptunes.

Although Kanye, Just and Timbo handle their end of the production phenomenally, Jay isn’t always lyrically on point like he was on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Blueprint. Of course it’s much harder to stay lyrically sharp over 25 tracks than 13, which is why it made no sense to attempt a double album. Part of the failure is with the Neptunes, who create a generic sound and spark Jay-Z into writing some rather bland commercial lyrics.  

Even the title does not make a whole lot of sense. At first, I assumed the first disc would contain the generic club joints, while the second would contain the more introspective Jay-Z. The discs roughly follow this pattern but songs like “2 Many Hoes” and “N***a Please” on the second disc fail to follow through with the concept, which makes one wonder why he bothered in the first place.

The first disc features with a great amount of filler, including the two singles (“‘03 Bonnie & Clyde” and “Excuse Me Miss”), “Fuck All Nite” and “What They Gonna Do,” which left me bored and let down. A couple of highlights are sprinkled in; “The Watcher 2” is an excellent track laced with basically the same beat from the track off of Dr. Dre’s 2001 with the same name. Jay, Dre, and Rakim!!!! all bring heat to the track and revamp the concept made for 2001. “Hovi Baby” and “The Bounce” also are very solid tracks with great production and on-point lyrical performances.

The second disc ended up being my gift, not my curse, because it contains the two best songs. When my CD player went to No. 3 and I first heard the same sample used for “U Don’t Know” off of The Blueprint, my jaw dropped; I was only more surprised when the Brownsville bombers M.O.P. came in with their lyrical nukes. I still believe “U Don’t Know Remix” is Just Blaze’s best production ever and M.O.P. was born to appear on this track. Their rambunctious stop and go flow perfectly compliments the excellent beat.

That remix is only topped by “Meet The Parents,” Jay-Z’s most underrated song of all time. Narrating over another beautiful Just Blaze track, Jay sings about a son who grows up and is murdered by his father. Jay’s lyrics criticize fathers who abandon their kin, with the haunting last lines saying it all: “Six shots into his kid, out of the gun / N----s be a father, you killin’ your sons.” The point is poignant because Jay’s own father abandoned him, making this both personal and compelling.  

Although this one has the pitfalls of any double album, the highlights are worth checking out on their own, as they stand among Jay-Z’s best work. It’s just a shame the entire album couldn’t be as solid.

Rating: C+

User Rating: C+


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