A more than unfortunate day, September 11, 2001 goes down in history and is marked as the day America lost a piece of ourselves. Thousands of lives were lost, and you didn’t have to be a New York resident to feel the effects of that day for the rest of your life.
Weeks before, and we had Jay-Z preparing to release his sixth studio album titled The Blueprint. Originally slated for a Sept. 18th release, it was pushed up to September 11th due to heavy bootlegging. The streets were talking in Jay’s favor though, and reviews were more than favorable. The Blueprint is highly regarded as the day rap grew up and for considerable reason that I’ll explain later. Despite 9/11 attacks, the album marked his fourth number one debut on the charts, and sold an impressive 420,000 units in the first week. After its release, it was blessed with The Source Magazine’s honorable 5 Mics, XXL Magazine’s coveted XXL rating, 5 stars from Vibe Magazine and was even ranked number 464 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
What makes this album so important you ask? Well for starters the production. Then newcomer Kanye West brought an element to Jay’s lyrics that hadn’t been introduced to mainstream hip hop yet. Soulful instrumentals meshed with coy lyrics as evident on “Heart Of The City” which samples Bobby Blue Band’s hit song of the same title, or a scathing diss track such as “The Takeover” which samples from 3 different artist (KRS One, David Bowie, and The Doors sampled on one song!?). It was a game changer that still appears to be difficult to follow up from many artist.
There are 6 important elements that make a song amazing; Purpose and Message, the cool factor, rhythm, melody, lyrics, and delivery. This album can be divided and filed under each category, and that’s what made it special. Not only that, but it could be applied to a bevy of different situations in your life. “Song Cry” pulled you in with the production, and sat you down for a closer listen with lyrics you could relate to, “U Don’t Know” had you on your street sh*t even if you were from the burbs:
“I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell, I’am a hustler baby i sell water to a whale”
“All I Need” you were leaving for a night out but checking for all the necessary accessories. “Rocawear, (check) Nike airs, (check) mean bucket.” Oh and then there’s “Renegade.” The Eminem-featured classic that caused much debate about who delivered the best. Jay approached the song challenging listeners, and with his incredible flow that matched Em’s production but Em’s flow, his tone of voice and the way he approached the subject matter just appealed to me; sh*t he even laced it with his sick sense of humor:
“And I got nothing to do but make you look stupid as parents you fu*kin do-gooders, too bad you couldn’t do good at marriage!”
Getting back to me calling this album the day Hip Hop grew up. Prior to the release of the “The Blueprint”, the topic of choice for most rappers was the drug game, women, money, so forth and so on, and even though those are still the most popular topics, a new and refreshing way of expression was introduced. Jay matured and it showed with his more mature beat selections, and perfected rhyme patterns. As said by writer Jake Hamilton, The Blueprint didn’t so much re invent rap, as the possibilities of rap stardom, which might just be more significant. Underneath the tragedy and horrific events that will plague this date forever, lies a flawless album. Dust it off, and relive the better moments, but never forget.