JAY-Z’s Blueprint Album Will Be Preserved In The Library Of Congress
Every year, The Library Of Congress selects 25 musical titles to add to its National Recording Registry. This act is meant to honor pieces of art for their cultural significance for future generations. A National Recording Preservation Board decides the annual inclusions. This week, JAY-Z’s The Blueprint album became the most modern addition to the archive. It also becomes Shawn Carter’s first work of art to receive this prestigious honor.
Jay’s sixth album released on September 11, 2001, the same day as the attacks on the United States. Arriving less than a year after The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, The Blueprint marks the strongest pivot in Jay’s career. An artist with ties to The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac (in very different ways), to own the #1 spot squarely. 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, Just Blaze, and others during a series of sessions over just several days. 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, he 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. Jigga had transformed to Hov’, and when he put his legacy on the line for the belt.
“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. Also addressing Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, 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 chop as a chance to show his “Michael Corleone”-like transition 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 one who said 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 slices, 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.
Jay’s specificity, his sound, and his confidence gave way to 50 Cent, Cam’ron, T.I., Young Jeezy, The Game, Rick Ross, and a host of other dominant 2000s voices. Notably, Jay followed with two additional volumes of The Blueprint. However, few can argue that nothing compares to the double-platinum, chart-topping debut article.
Joining Jay’s album is Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly soundtrack album, Nina Simone’s Civil Rights outcry “Mississippi Goddamn,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” Cab Calloway’s “Minnie The Moocher” (which he performs in Blues Brothers), Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man,” Richie Valens’ “La Bamba,” and others.
In the last four years, Hip-Hop continues to occupy real estate on the registry. Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell, N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton, and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill have all been selected.
As the members of De La Soul have been negotiating the revenue tied to their first six albums, they have been discussing 3 Feet High And Rising‘s inclusion, which dates back to 2010. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message” became the first Rap recorded added, in 2002.