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DAR Hip Hop: Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse



Tracklist 

Disc 1: The Gift 
1. A Dream 
2. Hovi Baby 
3. The Watcher 2
4. 03 Bonnie and Clyde
5. Excuse Me Miss
6. What They Gonna Do
7. All Around The World
8. Poppin' Tags 
9. Fuck All Nite 
10. The Bounce 
11. I Did It My Way 

Disc 2: The Curse 
1. Diamond Is Forever 
2. Guns & Roses 
3. U Don't Know (Remix)
4. Meet The Parents
5. Some How Some Way 
6. Some People Hate 
7. Blueprint 2
8. Nigga Please 
9. 2 Many Hoes 
10. As One 
11. A Ballad For The Fallen Soldier 
12. Show You How 
13. Bitches and Sisters 
14. What They Gonna Do Part 2


Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-When 2002 began, Jay-Z was honestly dealing with the effects of a possible loss in the rap battle to Nas. Granted, the battle remains debatable to this day, it's no denial that Jay took a hit when "Ether" dropped and oddly enough seemed to be under pressure. What's interesting to me is that Jay was supposedly hard at work at the time called The 8th Wonder, but that would soon turn into the double album sequel to his previous project The Blueprint. Now, the Blueprint was soulful, cohesive (for the most part), and showcased Jay at his most vulnerable lyrically. What could we expect from the sequel? One would assume that Jay would go for a more lyrical and hip hop centered approach, being that he technically lost the battle, but instead what we got is an album that's admittedly middle of the road, a bit confusing in execution, yet also very entertaining in spurts.

The issue with double albums tend to be the fact that they teeter the line between overkill and too much filler or they're solid, but it's just too much music in one sitting. For the few double albums that don't suffer this problem, there is usually a cohesion within the album, despite the creativity and different sounds they usually employ. The issue with Blueprint 2 IMO is that it doesn't have any cohesion and features a number of unnecessary songs. This is the album that many people said Jay borrowed (or stole) the flow from his Roc-A-Fella cohort Young Chris and to be honest, I can see why people say that. Jay had a much tighter flow this album, and one could possibly attribute that to his working relationship with the Roc family. However, when we break down the album and the best songs on it, as well as the best verses, it's almost as if Jay purposely separated the quality tracks within the beginning of each disc.



Disc 1 features the candid track "A Dream" with Faith Evans on the hook, a Biggie verse to boot, and a vivid conversation that Jay had with Big, as well as the Dr. Dre and Rakim featured "The Watcher 2", which was interesting. I'd have loved to see a Dr. Dre original beat for Jay and Rakim to feast on, instead of the recycled production from the Dr. Dre "2001" album. Still, the verses are all solid, and a highlight on the first disc. The best songs on disc 1 however are "Hovi Baby" and "Excuse Me Miss", but that's where it stops. The rest of the disc suffers from a lack of focus as songs like "Fuck All Nite", "What They Gonna Do", "I Did It My Way", and "The Bounce" (though entertaining) all seem to fall flat. The lack of an Andre 3000 verse on "Poppin Tags" was disappointing and a song like "All Around The World" isn't bad, it just feels lifeless on this album. Disc 1 starts off well and tapers off at the end to me. I'd like to think if to Jay kept about 5 or 6 of these songs and added them to the best songs of disc 2, this album would be seen as much better.

Speaking of disc 2, it starts off well with "Diamond Is Forever", and keeps that momentum going with the Lenny Kravitz assisted "Guns & Roses", but stumbles a bit with the unnecessary "U Don't Know (Remix)", which sees M.O.P. almost out of place with the intense Just Blaze instrumental and while Jay has a solid verse here, it really isn't needed. Jay recovers with one of his most masterful songs, the storytelling gem "Meet The Parents", but stumbles again with the generic soulful collab with Scarface and Beanie Sigel "Some How, Some Way". Though the song isn't bad, it just feels a bit generic compared to similar songs in the catalog of Jay. However, Jay hits hard with the super underrated "Some People Hate" and the Nas' diss centered title track, as those are two of the best songs on the entire album. Unfortunately, after this, the rest of the album is subpar and lackluster. The songs are pointless, lifeless, and showcase the worst of Jay and an attempt to add too many pop elements into his songs.

I'd personally rank The Blueprint 2 around a 6/10, but I admit it is far from one of my favorite Jay albums and has a lot of lackluster Jay moments. What does the rest of the team think? Let's get into it.




@IUseCondoms
Blueprint 2 isn't as bad as you think it is. Clearly, it's not Jay-Z's best work, but it's not TERRIBLE, like Kingdom Come or his later albums. I think the problem is Blueprint was just released the year before, and the album was so well received and liked that since this was a sequel, people expected an even better album. Well, we didn't get that. But, let's look at the good from this album like Excuse Me Miss, '03 Bonnie & Clyde, The Watcher 2, and a few other songs.

See, this album wasn't really Jay-Z's type of music. It was more of a pop-rap album, and that's not what we like to hear from the rapper we can rely on, or used to. Production wasn't great, but he helped distract it by having a great flow on every track. But still, not enough to make a strong case for it to be a classic or even close to that.



@CherchezLaPorsh
Since his debut in 1996, it seemed Jay-Z was unstoppable. “Reasonable Doubt” was a classic and created the momentum Jay needed. He was creating exceptional albums, clever concepts and of course lyrics that would be forever referenced and quoted. By 2002, we had seen a debut, a trilogy (of sorts), a showcase of all the Roc-A-Fella artists in “The Dynasty…” and “The Blueprint”, which was written, recorded, and released during what would be Jay’s most tumultuous period. He was dealing with two trials, he was getting dissed by several rappers as a result and he was caught up in his own rap beef. While this may have negatively affected others, it worked in Jay’s favor. “The Blueprint” was and still is regarded as one of his best works and it allowed him to do a follow up/sequel.

2002, we would see the release of “The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse” which would be Jay-Z’s only double album. Now there’s no denying that Jay is a legend as he’s incredible with lyrics, with flow, with beats and especially consistency. Up until this point, we had seen nothing but truly amazing projects, and as much as I love Jay as an artist, even he falls short from time to time. This was one of those times. The first (of a few) with over a dozen producers and featured artists, this album had the variation, the lyrics and the tracks we know we can expect from Jay, but with an exhaustive tracklist there are definitely some that didn’t quite hold up and I could do without. Let me take you through it starting with songs that I didn’t like so much:

My most disliked song on this entire album is “As One” featuring Memphis Bleek, Young Gunz, Beanie Sigel and a couple of others. It sounds completely disorganized, it doesn’t have a real storyline and to be honest, I lose interest almost immediately. I do like the chorus/hook and the beat, but that’s about it. It was just too out of place for my liking.

Another one that falls in my disliked category is the title track “Blueprint 2” and although this one does has some dope bars, overall it’s repetitive and probably works more as a filler than anything else. As soon as I heard Jay say “I got my mojo back baby, oh behave” in the hook, I was convinced he just needed something that sounded catchy and met the syllable quota against the beat.

Other tracks I didn’t like were “Bitches & Sisters” and “What They Gonna Do Pt. 2”. Again, they seemed to work as entertaining fillers than anything of real substance. It doesn’t surprise me that the songs I wasn’t a fan of all appear on the second disc, since anytime you have a double album, you start it off with the best and allow them to carry the album. And that brings me to the songs I loved, which are plentiful. Since I can’t list all the tracks, I will mention the few that stand out the most.

This album holds a special place to me and that’s because of “A Dream” featuring Faith and BIG. I like everything about this track, from Jay’s recounting of his dream about BIG, to Faith’s vocals to the sample of BIG from “Juicy” against a rougher beat that was just out of this world, thanks to Kanye. This was genius work and not only was it the best song on this album, but one of the best in Jay’s whole catalog.





Another one I really like is “The Watcher 2” featuring Dr. Dre, Rakim and Truth Hurts. I think this was another very well executed song with a great backstory. The fact that Jay did a sequel to Dre’s song and featured him on the track and on production is dope. The lyrics are incredible, the featured artists are amazing and the production is on point. Everything about this song is great and I love these clever lyrics:

“The past, present nigga, the future, proper/
The holy trinity of hip-hop is us
We give, Dre his props/
BUT that's where it stops, It's the Roc/”

Everyone knows I’m a sucker for the “cute, sweet and heartfelt” stuff in rap, so of course “03’ Bonnie & Clyde” is another one of the highlights on here. I hate that it had to be ‘Pac inspired because it’s so left of what Pac’s version was, but I still love the way Jay and Bey executed this. It was their way of telling the “world” they were officially together and they did it in the cutest way possible. He even put it on “The Gift” side of the album…(aww!!!). From beginning to end, from beats to lyrics, they nailed it. It’s sweet but not sappy, cute but not sickening and enjoyable all around.

The last track I’ll mention is “Guns & Roses” featuring Lenny Kravitz. I must admit, when I first saw this collaboration, I was sure it would sound horrible but once I heard it, I was proven wrong. The fusion of hip hop and rock sounds excellent here. I love the guitar/bass he uses and his vocals against Jay’s rapping is a great balance. On the lyrical side, I think Jay drops some clear gems that are filled with meanings. Here are some of the best (imo):

"Post Postatono/ 
Hov' hanging with Bono/
You too can live like Salvatore Ferragamo/
And you too can cool out poolside at the Delano/
If you too, flow like you was out of your mind yo/
And who knew, dude who loved apple pies from McDonalds/
Would soon be the boss of the Big Apple"

"They giveth and they taketh life is cruel that way/
But even a broken clock is right at least two times a day/
You could have turned Guns into Roses like two times today/
Now there's something you gotta say, two times to Jay/"

"Every time I get out they put me right back in/
The Michael Corleone of the microphone/
The Michelangelo of flow I paint pictures with poems/"

I like how Jay manages to reference a story he later told in his book "Decoded" with the Bono reference, I like that he mentions Michael Corleone and he uses "guns and roses" as a comparison to negatives/positives. This track is brilliant and probably my favorite on the second disc.

Although "The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse" isn't as good as some other in Jay's catalog, he did drop some great tracks and as always dropped some amazing lyrics. The features on this album were good, but sometimes worked against him. Like I said, someone as consistent as Jay who delivers at a very high caliber of rapping rarely misses and even in those instances where he comes up short, there are still some fantastic tracks and this album is an example of that.



Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-Where does the Blueprint 2 rank in Jay's catalog? If I had to say so myself, I'd rank it at the bottom half of his album, probably slightly above Blueprint 3 and MCHG, but below Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 of course. This album has gems as expected, but suffers like most double albums from too much content. When all is said and done, Jay gave us a solid album that would be remembered much better as a single disc project.

-DAR 

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