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JAY-Z: THE BLUEPRINT 3 (ROC NATION)

The Blueprint 3, bookend to Jay-Z's best-selling trilogy, is everything a listener would expect from the veteran MC: solid rhymes, deadly delivery, big beats and an awful amount of swagger.

It doesn't compare to The Blueprint or The Black Album, but it is strong enough that you could get away with calling it great. The album stumbles, however, mostly on songs produced by Timbaland. Venus vs. Mars, about the differences between men and women, had quite a few clever lines, with references to feuds ranging from Apple and PC to Jay-Z and Nas, but in the end, the song had little point and grew extremely annoying.

The beat for On to the Next One was an epic failure. Producer Swizz Beatz was blessed with the gift of sampling D.A.N.C.E. by French house group Justice. However, the result was as obnoxious and irritating as Lil Wayne's A Millie beat after the millionth listen, but not nearly as good.

However, the tracks produced by Kanye West and No I.D. are a revelation. Thank You is classic Jay-Z, with a beat that's heavy on the horn section and a cocky delivery of rhymes about his illustrious career and divine rapping skills.

The guest appearances on the album are a definite plus, with the exception of Off That featuring Drake, perhaps the greatest disappointment on the album. The best track on the album is Empire State of Mind, an homage to Jay-Z's hometown with the angelic voice of Alicia Keys in the chorus. Other standout tracks include Real As It Gets featuring Young Jeezy, A Star is Born featuring J. Cole and Already Home featuring Kid Cudi. The album is far from a disappointment, and helps maintain Jay-Z's status as one of the premier rappers of all time.

Grade: *** 1/2

GYTIS GARSYS Tampa Preparatory School

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