Finding The GOAT Album: Jay Z’s The Blueprint vs. Scarface’s The Fix. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Kicking off Round 2 of the 2000s are two albums released on the same Def Jam Records label, less than one year apart. Jay Z’s The Blueprint and Scarface’s The Fix feature several of the same producers, and a very similar sound. Jay was instrumental in ‘Face’s first album off of Rap-A-Lot, and Scarface has oft been cited as one of Jay’s biggest influences. These two albums are both mid-career gems from two of Rap’s elite MCs. While The Blueprint is a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated work, The Fix would garner critical acclaim, but be the first solo work from Scarface to not achieve a plaque. Numbers can be illusive though. Your vote is all that matters in this space (Click one then click “vote”).
The Blueprint by Jay-Z
First Round Winner (against Nelly’s Country Grammar, 83% to 17%)
In late 2001, Jay-Z (as it was spelled then) was unabashedly jockeying for Hip-Hop’s top spot. An artist with ties to The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac (in very different ways), Jay aimed to squarely own the #1 spot. One of the most poised contestants, Eminem, was a producer and lone guest MC on the album. The other contestant, Nas, was in Jay’s cross-hairs of high profile usurp, “The Takeover.” On The Blueprint, Jay-Z reinvented his sound with Kanye West and Just Blaze. The Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder found the ultimate five-year progression from debut Reasonable Doubt. With a D-boy’s confidence and an exec’s get-it-done mentality, Jay pivoted to his 2000s stand as a Rap magnate. Often criticized for his resistance to vulnerability, Jay let the songs cry on his behalf. As the Roc Boy was lunging for the top, he made some of his most relatable music. The writing on The Blueprint is ultra-specific, but the themes, sounds, and attitude of the double platinum campaign seemingly spoke to all of us. Jigga had transformed to Hov’, and when he put his legacy on the line for the belt, Shawn Carter’s Blueprint was everlasting.
“The Takeover” was Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots-meets-Monopoly, as Jay-Z, perceptively an artistic underdog to Nas, knocked the Queensbridge icon off of his block. Moreover, with a few choice bars, Jay reallocated the worth of artists like Prodigy and Jayo Felony. The giant was awoken, and Jay was naming names—unlike his ’90s tussles on wax. “U Don’t Know” was the ringside celebration after the fight. Once dismissed as a drug-dealer MC, Jay-Z used the cold Just Blaze sample massage as a chance to show his Michael Corleone-like rise from New York crimes to The New York Times. The title track would also prove significant. The cold exterior of Hov gave way to an MC unafraid to not only acknowledge pain in his childhood, but say thank you to his circle. That, and “Song Cry” were hyper-aware reactions to Jay’s often lack of intimacy in songs. Together, the Roc’s in-house hit-makers of ‘Ye, Just, and BINK! made an album that may as well have been produced by one set of ears. The prominence of Soul, intricate chops, and broad instrumentation made this man’s words sound like prophecy. “Renegade” placed Jay and Eminem back-to-back, with a song that put the comparisons in the backseat, and the lyrically-dense message in the front. The Blueprint cemented Jay’s pole position, and it showed how a great MC and a gripping story still needs patience and refinement. In the Hip-Hop landscape, The Blueprint is a skyscraper.
Album Number: 6 (solo)
Released: September 11, 2001
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #1 (certified gold, October 2001; certified platinum, October 2001; certified 2x platinum May 2002)
Song Guests: Eminem, Slick Rick, Q-Tip, Biz Markie, Kanye West, Michelle Mills, Demme Ulloa, Stephanie Miller, Schevise Harrell, Lauren Leek, Josey Scott, Keon Bryce, Victor Flowers
Song Producers: Kanye West, Just Blaze, Timbaland, BINK!, Eminem, The Trackmasters (Poke & Tone), DJ Head
The Fix by Scarface
First Round Winner (against The Game’s Documentary, 55% to 45%)
Fifteen years into a wildly successful and acclaimed Rap career, Scarface raised the stakes. The Geto Boys veteran and Houston, Texas pioneer MC went on hiatus from Rap-A-Lot Records to test the major label system. With J. Prince’s logo still on the back of the disc, ‘Face aligned with Def Jam Records (where he was holding an executive position) and made the kind of album his peers and pupils were making, rich with features, exciting production, and fully-formed hits. Strategic, Scarface’s art did not waver. The Fix, packaged with a small sandwich bag and tin-foil insert, was raw to Brad Jordan’s core. The MC still barked at frauds and fakes, still publicly alluded to manic depressive perspectives, and still showed a love of combining Hip-Hop with roots music.
While Scarface was already a master of making incredible audio meals from limited ingredients, The Fix put Jay Z, Nas, and The Neptunes on his team. The Geto Boy called the plays (as he produced a lot of the album), and came out with radio-ready hits. “On My Block” explained what made ‘Face an O.G., and the loving, disciplined, and sometimes treacherous environment that delivered him. As all rappers were seemingly stuck on talking about the ghetto, Brad Jordan did so in a way with more soul, community, and tangibility. “In Cold Blood” showed that even in his thirties, the MC knew how to get his “the ski mask” way. The song, along with “Sell Out” and “I Ain’t The One” positioned Scarface as the Gangsta Rap pioneer that he was. On “Guess Who’s Back?” he had his peers and pupils beside him. On a crisp Kanye West beat, Scarface and Jay established their greatest collaboration to date, as Beanie Sigel stepped in as the product of each, part thug, part hustler. But with all the confidence and cocksure trigger fingers, Scarface’s range and vulnerability are what have made him a 30-year master. The platinum MC made “In Between Us” with Nas, a song about losing battles at times, only to win wars. Even on his most polished album, Scarface was never too big or too proud to admit defeats, reveal a lesson learned, or show the error in his way. The Fix was true game: the elevated kingpin talking to the corner-boys. Scarface treated this album as his final words, before taking a lengthy hiatus—that he would later break. That care, attention, and respect for detail shows in an album that, 15 years later, still feels like a phenomenally potent award tour for Brad Jordan.
Album Number: 7 (solo)
Released: August 6, 2002
Label: Def Jam South/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #4
Song Guests: Jay Z, Beanie Sigel, Kanye West, Nas, WC, Kelly Price, Faith Evans
Song Producers: (self), Kanye West, Mike Dean, The Neptunes (Pharrell & Chad Hugo), Nashiem, Nottz, T-Mix, Tony Pizarro, China Black, Flip, Lofey