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I'm working backwards (just about). I already owned the blueprint (excellent) and recently aquired the black album (which is absolutely amazing i might add!!1). Because of this, i think i've probably heard the best 2 albums first (in my opinion) and to be honest after very recently aquiring the blueprint 2 and reasonable doubt, neither live up to the others.
But, they are good albums, and definately worth looking into.
Another reason i think i'm not DEAD impressed with some of the other stuff is for the input of mr p. williams. It's just TOO JT!!! (Which i definately do NOT like). But then, for every not so good track, there's an amazing track. So, decide for yourselves.
The album kicks of in style with "A dream" a song featuring a verse by Notorious big lifted from the his song "juicy". Jay again uses a fallen stars' tune on the love or hate "03 Bonnie and Clyde" that uses Tupacs classic "me and my girlfriend", although this song will undoubtedly help shift albums fans of the song should check out the original.
Jay-z is at his best on the gift where he is being his own original self on tracks like "Hovi Baby" and the Kanye West produced "Poppin Tags".
The second disc the curse is where the albums real bangers can be found the mop remixed "u don't know" is hot, a potentially disastrous collabo with lenny Kravitz comes of real good, Jay-z takes more swipes at nemesis nas on the excellent "blueprint2" and answers critics who accuse him of misogyny on the sure to be controversial "bitches and sisters"
Although the usual and frequent references to diamonds, dating models and cash for which jay-z is often critized for are still there, the track "meet the parents" shows he can tell a story as well as anyone.
Overall his album is a must buy for most rap fans, it is one of, if not the best double rap albums I have heard (BIG's and tupacs efforts included), although this may be the last we will hear of Jay-z for a while there are enough hot tracks for this album to stay in the cd changer for a long time to come.
A classic album better by only a few in history.