He's had a mess of a year with legal battles, while awaiting two separate trials, but rapper Jay-Z's still got the world on a string.
The Blueprint follows two consecutive chart-topping releases, and it's another crafty mix of freewheelin' rhymes and some of the smartest use of samples in all of hip-hop nation. For example, Jay-Z leans a lot on the Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back” during the anthemic lead single “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” but not nearly as much as the way in which he disassembles The Doors' “Five to One” and then rebuilds it as the fully-fueled “Takeover.” Somewhere, Jim Morrison has got to be loving this.
The disc is also highlighted by the undeniably soulful “Girls Girls Girls” (an alternate take can be found buried later in the disc) and “Heart of the City,” which is a takeoff of Bobby “Blue” Bland's “Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City.” One of the album's few disappointments is the quite lifeless rap duet with Eminem on “Renegade.”