Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday that isn't a national holiday, Rocks Off will have some of them here discussing issues relevant to their culture.
This Week's Panel: Bun B, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Chingo Bling, Chane, Pyrexx, Renzo, hasHBrown, Doughbeezy, Kyle Hubbard, KAB, more.
Not Invited: Beyonce. Because she was busy taking it to Mars.
This Week's Prompt: So, Jay-Z's The Blueprint is now 10 years old. A chance for you to music-nerd out, then: What is Jay-Z's best album and why?
Bun B: The one with me on it [1999's Vol. 3: The Life and Times of Shawn Carter]... cuz I'm on it.
Z-Ro: I've never listened to a whole Jay-Z album before. No disrespect.
Slim Thug: Blueprint, to me. I still listen to it. Played it today.
Chane: Vol.2: Hard Knock Life. That album marked a huge transition in Jay's career. It was his claim to the king of New York since Big passed. Commercially, successful and it had one of hip-hop's biggest tours ever. That was a classic time period for Jay.
Chingo Bling: When Reasonable Doubt dropped, it fit into my tamale-slangin' lifestyle... put it on and got to cooking.
Pyrexx: It don't matter. All of them went platinum. That speaks for themselves. J is the truth.
Mic Skills: The consensus is The Blueprint, which is great, but I think The Black Album jammed from beginning to end. Every song was epic, back to back. Beats and rhymes were hot, hooks were great. "Dirt Off Ya Shoulder"; "99 Problems"; etc. Classic.
Renzo: I fux wit American Gangster; very, very tough. He embodied the character very well and it flowed perfectly. Everything except "Hello Brooklyn." It seemed very out of place.
Hollywood Floss: It's a tie between Reasonable Doubt and Blueprint. I like Reasonable Doubt's lyrics, but Blueprint's music.
Doughbeezy: The Blueprint.
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Kyle Hubbard: Reasonable Doubt, American Gangster and Blueprint are all valed choices, but I have to give it to Blueprint. That album is more or less the reason I decided to start rapping in the first place. It came out when I was 14, a time when most people are their most impressionable. It changed everything for me. The Blueprint is the greatest, and most important, album released in my lifetime. By anyone in any genre.
KAB: Black Album.
Brad Gilmore: Kingdom Come. Just kidding. The best, no doubt, is Reasonable Doubt. Jay-Z's entire life was encapsulated in that first record. A close second is Blueprint, for the reasons of Kanye's production, releasing right after 9/11 and Jay-Z was fresh off that stabbing case. Made for interesting publicity and the album was super dope. "Renegade" and "Girls, Girls, Girls"?! Classics.
hasHBrown: Jay-Z's The Blueprint is his best album for a bunch of different reasons. I feel all great MCs peak more than once in their career, Jay came out of the gate strong with Reasonable Doubt, which is considered to be a classic rap album. Most artists would be happy with attaining one classic, but Jay peaked again with The Blueprint.
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I've always felt that Doubt, Blueprint, and the Black Album are Jay's best moments, album-wise. The Blueprint changed rap forever - the production style, the historic battle with Nas - and definitely solidified Jay as No. 1 at the time.
It's rare to get a rap album in 2011 that you can digest and enjoy from start to finish, but for it to sound better than most of what is out 10 years later is impressive.