Jay-Z

The Blueprint 2.1

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Jay-Z kept The Blueprint incredibly tight, focusing on a single sound and letting nothing interfere with some of the best raps of his career. The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse was a radically different record, with the most respected rapper in the business trying on a range of styles, collaborating with a lot of guests and working with an army of producers (Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Heavy D, Kanye West). Four months after its release, Roc-A-Fella issued Blueprint 2.1, a version of the record that cut in half the running time of the original and delivered most of the best material -- the Neptunes' bounce track "Excuse Me Miss," the horn-driven blast of "The Watcher 2" produced by Dr. Dre (featuring Truth Hurts), and the record's biggest hit, "'03 Bonnie & Clyde," a slick R&B crossover with Beyoncé Knowles. Just like the original, Blueprint 2.1 ranges from unapologetically sexed-up party joints to theatrical epics and even takes in a feature for the prince of rock Lenny Kravitz ("Guns & Roses"). Yes, it is slightly more focused than its two-disc predecessor, but it's still a sprawling commercial monster that lacks the creativity of The Blueprint.

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