Listening to Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 is an enjoyable lesson in humility for a guy like me. The enjoyable part is the music – much of it is catchy, upbeat and big. Drum riffs, rhythm, lyrics that are a guilty chuckle – it’s a fun album. But it’s also a bit humbling. There’s a whole world out there that I don’t know anything about, and Jay-Z isn’t writing his songs to make me feel hip. The album is full of references and slang that I simply do not catch.
Shocking, isn’t it, that a middle-class, middle-aged white guy might have a bit of this album go over his balding head?
Perhaps even more shocking is that I liked it. This music was definitely not written for my ears, but its head-bobbing, foot-tapping rhythms penetrate even my sluggish senses. You don’t want to visualize or even know this, but I even busted a few corpulent moves while playing it loud this morning.
It surprised me how many of these songs I recognized. Jay-Z is a big deal, and his music reaches us even if we’re not actively seeking it. “Thank You”, “Empire State of Mind”, “A Star is Born”, “Reminder”, and “Young Forever” were all familiar.
So, what about the lyrics? What about the “N-word”, and the disrespect for women? What can I say – what should I say? The Deliberate Obfuscator goes there, and her review of our shared album is much more high-minded, serious and probably insightful. You should read it – she makes some good points.
Honestly, though, I can’t get that worked up about it. Part of it is that most of the lyrics come too rapidly for me to really hear them clearly. They function more as sounds than as narrative for me. I catch a phrase here and there, and I can sing along with most of the choruses. Much of what I catch is slang I don’t know or references that I don’t know. “I gave Doug a grip and lost a flip for five stacks.” Huh? “Look here-ah, see Ye is running the Chi like Gale Sayers.” Alright, gather that someone known as “Ye” is thriving in Chicago like Gale Sayers, a running back whose name I do recognize. Yea, me – I’m hip! But what does running a town mean – he talks a lot about it with Kanye and Rihanna in “Run this Town”, but I don’t really know what he’s talking about.
Amusingly, Jay-Z sparked a whole lot less controversy than Megyn Kelly when he announced, “Grown men want me to sit em on my lap/But I don’t have a beard and Santa Claus ain’t black.”
Again, I know this is not an album designed to enthrall Dan Ryan. I’m listening in on something that doesn’t intend to pertain to me. I could probably find out what all those references are and become more fluent in the slang, but, really, I’m okay just listening to the music and enjoying it on a shallow level. But if he starts dating my daughter, he better show her more respect than Shawty, whoever she is.
Next up: Same Tralier Different Park, by Kacey Musgraves