A recent poll of influential hip-hop writers determined that Jay-Z's 2001 work The Blueprint is the best rap album of the decade. The only other thing that most of this set could agree on? That his follow-up, The Blueprint: The Gift & The Curse, blew.

Unfortunately, Jay's latest installment, The Blueprint 3, veers closer to the second, in that it's less inspired and less fluid than the first. Having finally exhausted every last drug-dealing anecdote, Jay doesn't have much to rap about here, other than his new deal with Live Nation, being buddies with Obama and living in Tribeca next to Robert De Niro. And so he tries to razzle-dazzle us with a bunch of left-field, supposedly cutting-edge sounds, ranging approximately from "soundtrack to a French mime show" ("Thank You") to "Liza Minnelli after four shots of espresso" ("Empire State of Mind").

Mostly, though, the album is Jay's attempt to get hip—or rather hipster—and he enlists a crop of fresh new talent discovered by Kanye West (Kid Cudi, Mr. Hudson) to help him sound relevant. But much like a 40-year-old divorcee who hits the town with her daughter's friends, it's clear that Jay doesn't quite fit in among this crowd, and The Blueprint 3 suffers for it.

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Ben Westhoff
Contact: Ben Westhoff