It seems you’ve written off Blueprint 3 despite the fact that it features one of Jay-Z’s biggest, most identifiable songs — “Empire State of Mind.” In fact, in his storied career, it’s his only song to top the Hot 100.

I don’t think charts — especially the Hot 100 — are an accurate measure of cultural importance, but that’s all relative. Some might argue the success of “Empire State of Mind” was more of an achievement than things Jay had done earlier in his career. I’m not arguing that myself, but it’s a point of view worth considering.

Even still, other songs from Blueprint 3 made an impact — “Run This Town” and “One To The Next One” still get a lot of play. “Young Forever” was a major radio hit. Lebron James even just credited “A Star Is Born” for inspiring him on his road to an NBA championship. The album was shruggable to you, but I’m not sure it was to other people.

Magna Carta Holy Grail was an easy record to write off, mostly because of the hubbub over the Samsung deal. Personally, I’m not crazy about the record, and there are way more misses on it than hits. But “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” was and still is on every radio mixshow playlist in the country and almost every nightclub DJ has it somewhere in their playlist. It is as close to a standard by this point as a song could possibly get, a sort of “Who Shot Ya” for the modern day era. That counts for something.

You also seem to have overlooked 2007’s American Gangster, which is easily one of Jay’s most complete records. In fact, the only demonstrably bad song on an otherwise perfectly-executed LP is the ill-conceived record with Lil Wayne, “Hello Brooklyn 2.0.” Remove that song and end-to-end you’ve basically got an album without any skippable songs. That’s almost impossible to accomplish.

A Jay and Kobe comparison is fair, in as much as they’re both older men playing in a league populated by twenty-somethings. The difference is, the Lakers weren’t very good last year and Kobe played poorly. Jay-Z and Roc Nation, it’s the complete opposite. Can you spot a loss on Jay’s recent resume? Not really. I mean, Lemonade? It’s not like the guy got a divorce.

And elsewhere, think about it: in an era where artists sign away everything in 360 deals and technology companies squeeze every ounce of blood from the music industry’s dying carcass, Jay not only owns everything he makes, he actually owns the distribution platform too! And he’s given that platform to other people, effectively saying: hey, go ahead, use my silk road. What’s mine is yours! You can even own part of it!

I mean, Jesus, cut the guy some slack.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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