Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3
Official release date: September 11
The Verdict: Last Thursday, we graphically expressed our disappointment with a few leaked Timbaland joints from BP3, hoping the album's unheard portion would be better. Thankfully, it is! Sure, it's too guest-heavy and its lyrics are super-crotchety, even by the high standards that "D.O.A" and "Off That" set (an inordinate number of Hov's barbs on this album are aimed at Internet haters, we think), but for the most part, this is a big, shiny, happy-making Jay-Z record, at least the equal of American Gangster and way better than Kingdom Come.
Among our favorite new tracks: the Jeezy-enhanced "Real As It Gets"; the Alicia Keys–featuring "Empire State of Mind," which has a hook that rivals the one on "Run This Town"; awesome closer "Thank You"; and the Kanye-starring "Hate," on which Jay cops to doing yoga to relieve anxiety brought on by googling himself. If blog snark can help inspire more albums like this, then we're happy to point out that we still think it was huge a mistake to omit "Jockin' Jay-Z," and that the following couplet (from "Real As It Gets") is pretty awful: "No, I'm not a Jonas, brother, I'm a grown-up / No, I'm not a virgin, I use my cojones." Otherwise, though, well done!