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Jay-Z — The Blueprint 3

The Blueprint 3Released September 8, 2009
Recorded 2008–2009
Genre Hip hop
Length 60:47
Label Roc Nation, Atlantic
Producer Jay-Z, Kanye West (exec.), No I.D., Al Shux, The Inkredibles, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, The Neptunes, Jermone Harmon, Jeff Bhasker

The Blueprint 3 is the 11th studio album by American hip hop rapper Jay-Z, released September 8, 2009 on Roc Nation in the United States. The album was released digitally on September 11, 2009, and its United Kingdom and international release followed on September 14 that same year. It is the final installment in The Blueprint trilogy, preceded by the critically acclaimed The Blueprint (2001) and its follow-up The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002).

The entire album was leaked on August 31, 2009. When asked about the leak, Jay-Z stated: "It's a preview. I'm excited for people to hear the album. I'm very proud of the work I've done, so enjoy it". Upon its release, The Blueprint 3 received generally positive reviews from music critics, based on an aggregate score of 65/100 from Metacritic. The album sold an estimated 476,000 copies in its first week and it became his 11th US number one album, breaking the record he had previously shared with Elvis Presley.

The earliest hype over The Blueprint 3 came when DJ Clue released in January 2008 a mixtape song called "Ain't I", produced by Timbaland. In the intro, Clue says, "Off that Blueprint 3 baby!" However, a spokesperson for Jay-Z said that it was an old, unreleased song and that the recording of The Blueprint 3 had not yet started. In July, Timbaland, a frequent contributor of previous Jay-Z albums, told MTV News that he would be producing the whole album. But in an interview with the Rolling Stone magazine, Jay-Z called the statement "premature". Later that month, Jay-Z appeared onstage to perform the Kanye West–produced song "Jockin' Jay-Z" during the latter's Glow in the Dark Tour. The following day, Jay-Z confirmed The Blueprint 3 as the album's title during an interview with radio station Shade 45.

By November 2008, he had finished the album but with lengthy negotiations with Def Jam, he went onto reworking it. In January 2009, Jay-Z confirmed continued production of the album and admitted the leak of several songs. The album's street single "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)" was premiered on June 5 via New York radio station Hot 97. On May 20, 2009, Jay-Z confirmed that he bought out the remainder of his contract from Def Jam Records in order to start his contract with Live Nation, as The Blueprint 3 was set to be released under Roc Nation and distributed by Atlantic Records.

Most of the album's recording sessions took place in Hawaii to avoid leakage. West's protege Mr Hudson explained to the The Times that he "won't get bothered there" compared to a major city such as New York or Los Angeles. Jay-Z told Rolling Stone magazine his method of selecting producers: "If Timbaland makes ten great tracks then he produces the album, if Kanye West makes ten great tracks then he produces the album; if he makes three, I'll take three. I let the music dictate the direction." However, judging by the final track listing, it appears that West is producing majority of tracks in the album, and three done by Timbaland. West confirmed two songs, "A Star Is Born" and "Young Forever", during an appearance on the The Wake Up Show in February 2009. Mr Hudson, who is the featured artist on the latter, described it as a flip on the Alphaville record of a similar name. During a joint interview with Hudson, West confirmed that the pop artist would be featured on three songs. Pharrell stated that he emailed "So Ambitious" to Jay-Z the day he was mastering the album. He loved the track so much that he put off the mastering. Jay-Z also wanted to collab with up and coming rapper Stevie-E (www.stevie-e.net) but that did not happen due to time constraints.

In a Billboard magazine interview, Jay-Zconfirmed "What We Talkin' About", the album's intro, "Thank You", and "Already Home" as song names and collaborations with Australian dance group Empire of the Sun, rappers Drake and Kid Cudi and singer Rihanna. He also mentioned in an interview with DJ Semtex that his favorite song on the album is "Empire State of Mind". The official tracklist for Blueprint 3 was revealed on August 18, confirming the guest appearances from Drake, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, J. Cole, and more.

Commercial performance
The Blueprint 3 debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, selling 476,000 units in its first week. It became his 11th US number one album, breaking the record he had previously shared with Elvis Presley. In its second week, it remained at number 1, shifting a further 298,000 units. In its third week it dropped one spot at number 2 selling another 134,000 bringing the albums total sales figures to 908,000 in its first three weeks. In its fourth week is sold 89,000 copies, bringing the four week total to 997,000, just three thousand copies short of platinum status after four weeks of sales. The album also debuted strongly in the United Kingdom at number 4, becoming Jay-Z's first top 10 album in the U.K. (his highest before then was his collaboration album with Linkin Park Collision Course back in 2004 which peaked at number fifteen). It is the second highest selling hip hop/rap album of 2009 behind Eminem's Relapse.

Critical response
The Blueprint 3 received generally positive reviews from music critics, based on an aggregate score of 65/100 from Metacritic. Newday gave it an A rating, and Robert Christgau gave it an A- rating and called it "fairly superb". USA Today gave the album 3½ out of 4 stars and praised its lyrical qualities, stating "There was a time when a rapper couldn't expect to last past his 20s. Jay-Z, who is nearing 40 and releasing his 11th studio album, shows that for someone who is measured mostly against himself, lyrical dexterity doesn't have an expiration date". Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+ rating and wrote that it succeeds at its goal of "reaching maximum commercial blast radius while maintaining its street bona fides". The Daily Telegraph gave The Blueprint 3 4 out of 5 stars and commended its modern sound. About.com gave the album 3½ out of 5 stars and wrote that it "is a fresh listen, but it doesn’t live up to the hype". The A.V. Club gave it a B+ rating and wrote that "Jay-Z sounds liberated by his legacy rather than weighed down by expectations".

Despite giving it a generally favorable review, Slant Magazine's William McBee called it "predictable" and "complacent", and wrote that "The album is a hip-hop feast, for sure, filled to the brim with elite production and elite rapping, but it lacks the hungriness, the spirit, and the craziness that marks a classic album". The Smoking Section had a similar sentiment, writing "While he's always been able to connect with listeners either by drawing on his humble beginnings or giving them something to aspire to, there’s just not much of that this go around". The Washington Post gave the album a negative review and criticized its lyrical substance. Despite calling the songs "more superficial" than Jay-Z's best work, Chris Carle of IGN gave it a rating of 7.9/10 and wrote that "This is commercial rap, but it's well-made, and many of the tracks have been tailor-made to be singles". The Times gave the album 3 out of 5 stars and called it "no great milestone, but far from the predicted disaster". The Guardian's Alexis Petridis gave it a mixed review and wrote that the album "peters out in a mass of indistinct tracks" following its first four songs. In a generally favorable review of The Blueprint 3, Kiilian Fox of The Observer wrote that Jay-Z is "maturing into a responsible elder statesman" through the album.

1."What We Talkin' About" (featuring Luke Steele)4:03
2."Thank You"4:10
3."D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)"4:15
4."Run This Town" (featuring Rihanna & Kanye West)4:27
5."Empire State of Mind" (featuring Alicia Keys)4:36
6."Real as It Gets" (featuring Young Jeezy)4:12
7."On to the Next One" (featuring Swizz Beatz)  4:17
8."Off That" (featuring Drake)4:06
9."A Star Is Born" (featuring J. Cole)3:48
10."Venus vs. Mars" (additional vocal by Beyonce)4:29
11."Already Home" (featuring Kid Cudi)4:29
12."Hate" (featuring Kanye West)2:31
13."Reminder" (additional vocal by Cassie)4:18
14."So Ambitious" (featuring Pharrell)4:12
15."Young Forever" (featuring Mr Hudson)4:13