Rating: * * *
Verdict: Not a classic blueprint from hip-hop mogul, but decent nonetheless.
Jay-Z's legacy in hip-hop - that of arguably the best MC alive, money-making machine, and philanthropist - means he has a lot to live up to. And he pays fitting tribute to himself on posturing tracks Thank You and Reminder ("I crushed Elvis and his blue suede shoes") from his latest album The Blueprint 3.
This, his 11th studio album and final instalment of his Blueprint trilogy, the first of which was arguably his classic album from 2001, is a stylish and polished record that opens with the sumptuous synth-driven What We Talkin' About (featuring Empire of the Sun's Luke Steele).
However, The Blueprint 3 also has a fair few bland and samey tracks, like the dark and lifeless Hate (with Kanye West, who also produces nearly half the 15 tracks); and So Ambitious (featuring a soulful yet overwraught Pharrell Williams) and Young Forever are not the types of soft and soppy tracks that should end an album.
There are stunners, with deep rib-rattling beats and Jay-Z attacking the songs like a predator while hardly raising his pulse rate. There's the punishing and fit-inducing On To The Next One; rock 'n' roll first single D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune); and latest single, Run This Town, where Jay-Z teams up with R&B singer Rihanna who shows off a new staunch and slightly sinister style.
Although the tone is lowered on the last verse when West steps in (and this is not Kanye-bashing based on his idiot antics at this week's MTV Music Video Awards where he dissed the lovely Taylor Swift), because his smarmy banter about g-strings and bee-stings (as in boobies) sound ridiculous and tedious.
One of the album's other stars is Alicia Keys, who puts up a spirited and sonic performance on Empire State Of Mind - her best and most gutsy work since Fallin' way back in 2001.
Jay-Z might have come up with a few misses here, but one things for sure, he still lays down a mighty fine Blueprint.