Label: Roc Nation, Atlantic
Producers: Kanye West, No I.D, Al Shux, Janet Sewell-Ulepic, Angela Hunte, The Inkredibles, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Jerome Harmon, Kenoe, Jeff Bhasker, The Neptunes
Features: Luke Steele, Rihanna, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Young Jeezy, Swuzz Beatz, Drake, J.Cole, Kid Cudi, Pharrell Williams, Mr Hudson
Sales: 1.8 million copies
The fact that this album, which is far from a great album, but also far from a total disaster, ranks down here at number 12 says a lot about just how good Jay-Z is at making albums. Looking back, the Blueprint series stands as an argument against sequels. Why are nos. 2 and 3 called "The Blueprint?" There's no conceptual continuation evident, and really, neither comes anywhere near to living up to the name. That said, The Blueprint 3 does what it does quite well. For better or for worse (for better and for worse? a gift and a curse?!) Jay has mastered the art of making big, anthemic, pop songs to echo off the bleachers of the stadiums he plays. ("Bono pop," Complex's David Drake has dubbed it, accurately.) Songs for suburbanites worldwise—Parisian suburbanites, Milano suburbanites, Detroit! Dubai!—to wave their lighters to. Some of them feel stilted, too contrived. Jay gets his just deserts when Kanye's "beasting of the Reisling" verse bests his own rather lame one on "Run This Town," marking an important shift in their big-brother-lil-brother relationship. And "Young Forever" should have just been a Viagra commercial with Jay and Mr. Hudson sitting next to each other in bathtubs while the Alphaville original played. But some work great. I don't know you about you, but I love "Empire State of Mind." I sing it with my kid. — Dave Bry