Album: The Blueprint 3
Label: Roc Nation
For as many albums as Jay-Z has put out over his lengthy career, The Blueprint 3 may be the most different. Yes, it still maintained that trademark swagger the rapper has established over the years, but it was presented in a totally new package. The album did not just embrace pop as an element of hip-hop, but actually made hip-hop an element of pop-- not the easiest feat. Yet, The Blueprint 3 is as experimental as it is straightforward; as familiar as it is fresh.
Employing a lengthy cast of characters as his co-contributors, Jay-Z undertook the project as a mash-up of favorite musical styles, including his own. "Run This Town," which features Kanye West and Rihanna appears as more of an R&B track. "Already Home" shows his role as an ambassador to the new school of hip-hop, while featuring Kid Cudi. There's the pure, unabashed pop of the closer, "Young Forever," and even the harsh criticism of the current rap game on "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)." Mix these elements together, and you're left with an album that has more potential for repetition than anything he's put out in years. If you can get past the few brief moments of over confidence, you're sure to be rewarded by every second of the powerful, and energetic recording.
Best Track: "Empire State of Mind (Feat. Alicia Keys)"
[Previously on Animal Noises: Best Albums of 2009: #29, Why?'s Eskimo Snow]