Fresh Out Of His Deal With Def Jam Records, Jay-Z Unveils His Latest 'Blueprint' For Success.
Heading over to Sony seems an ideal fit for Jay-Z, who has a close relationship with Columbia Records co-chairman Rick Rubin, not to mention the fact that his wife, Beyoncé, is signed to the label. At one point he thought Def Jam would be more appropriate for such a partnership. But he says the Universal Music Group label passed on the opportunity to develop him into the kind of mogul he wanted to be. (Def Jam had no comment on its relationship with Jay-Z at press time.)
"You have to figure, this is like four years ago, and to them it was just like, 'Are you crazy? No! Make a song!' " he says. "To me it was like, 'I've sold companies for huge amounts of money. I'm an entrepreneur-that's what I've been all my life. I can't just sit here and make records and not do anything else. Why wouldn't you want to do this with me?' I felt underutilized."
Now all of Jay-Z's ventures are coming into alignment. He will release "The Blueprint 3" Sept. 11, eight years to the date from the debut of the original "Blueprint." "This being the end of the trilogy, I wanted to bring it full circle," he says. "The first 'Blueprint' was based on soul samples and more of a place where I came from and the records I listened to growing up with my mom and pop. This 'Blueprint,' I liken it to a new classic, simply because we-Usher, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, myself-are becoming the people that we looked up to musically growing up, like Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra."
This album has taken longer to record than anything Jay-Z has done before it. The rapper says that he finished the project in November, then held it back as he negotiated with Def Jam. "The time gave me a chance to step back, touch it, step back, touch it, rework it. Then I had to keep motivating myself because of the current state of music. My album is a single album, but it's part of a collective-the collectiveness of hip-hop," he says.
So Jay-Z took his time, and let his hair grow out-as he usually does when he's in the studio-and came back with collaborations with producers like Kanye West, No I.D. and Timbaland, as well as musician contributions from MGMT, Drake, Mr. Hudson, Rihanna and Kid Cudi. (As of now, there are no collaborations with Beyoncé, although he doesn't rule out the possibility.)
The album's first single, "D.O.A. ("Death of Auto-Tune)," entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 24, providing yet another confirmation of Jay's stature. On it he rhymes "I know we're facing a recession, but the music y'all making gonna make it the great depression . . . this ain't politically correct/This might offend my political connects/This is the death of Auto-Tune, moment of silence" over a sample from Janko Nilovic's "In the Space."
"In hip-hop our job is, once a trend becomes a gimmick, to get rid of it. We've done that since the beginning of time. This isn't some newfangled thing," Jay-Z says about the track, which criticizes the egregious overuse of the Pro Tools plug-in. "When people were wearing the black medallions Ice Cube came along and said, 'Get it outta here!' When Hammer was selling 50,000 records, Q-Tip came and said, 'Get it outta here!' Then Biggie Smalls came and said, 'Your life is played out like Kwame in the fucking polka dots. Get the polka dots outta here!' It's just a part of hip-hop."