When considering classics, it’s not enough to measure the impact an album has had on the artist’s career. We’ve also got to account for its legacy within hip-hop culture as a whole.
Since Jay was following trends and not setting them, RD didn’t make Mafioso rap any more popular than it already was. In fact, along with Biggie’s Life After Death, it was one of the last hurrahs for Mafiaso rap—a theme that was basically declared dead a year later with the release of The Firm’s The Album.
Had RD never been released, it’s fair to say DJ Premier would still be considered one of the greatest producers ever. Although producing Jay’s debut remains the highlight of both DJ Clark Kent and Ski’s careers, their popularity didn’t exactly soar because of their RD production credits. Jazz rap remained a viable sub-genre, but the dominant sound to emerge in hip-hop after RD was Puff Daddy’s Shiny Suit rap.
Maybe more rappers were popping Cristal and rocking ice after RD, but Raekwon and Ghostface could certainly make the claim that they were the ones who actually popularized those trends.
By contrast, TBP’s effect on hip-hop was both immediate and long-lasting. In the short term, it popularized those chipmunk-soul samples and made Kanye and Just Blaze in-demand producers. Kanye produced only one single in 2001 (“Izzo”) but he produced three in 2002 and five in 2003 (including one of his own). Meanwhile, Just Blaze produced over a dozen bangers in the next two years, including Freeway’s “What We Do,” Cam’Ron’s “Oh Boy,” and Erick Sermon’s “React.” In short, both ‘Ye and Just Blaze went on from TBP to have legendary careers.
During the post–Blueprint era, rappers would be lauded more and more for their business acumen, and boasting about entrepreneurial status became second-nature in hip-hop. Although Puffy, Master P, and other hip-hop moguls went from the block to the boardroom, none were able to articulate their tycoon status as well as Jigga did on TBP. When we hear guys like 50 Cent saying, “I took quarter water and sold it for two bucks/Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions, what the fuck?” we can’t help but think about Jay’s stated goal of raping Def Jam till he was the $100 million man.
There’s no question that Jigga himself understood what he had accomplished. On “The Bounce” from The Blueprint 2, Jigga boasted “Rumor has it The Blueprint classic/Couldn't even be stopped by Bin Laden...Now it's a whole museum of Hov MCers/Everybody duping the flow, you see 'em/Everybody looping up soul/It's like you trying to make The Blueprint 2 before Hov/Shout out to Just Bleezy and Kan-yeezy/See how we adjusted the game so easy.”
TBP struck that perfect balance between street and pop, introspection and boasting, album cuts and radio-ready hits. All rappers seek to find that zen-like equilibrium: When Jay did it and he created a new template for hip-hop.