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JAY-Z, The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse, Roc-A-Fella
Ah, the double CD. MCs can't resist them. If done right, it's a gift to your fans. But more often than not it's a curse worse than the sophomore slump. And even Jay-Z can't avoid it on his second Blueprint, which pales in comparison to its namesake. What made the first Blueprint so solid was the limit on guest spots. The sequel, Jigga's first double dose, opens the floodgates on cameos, so much so that it should have been called Duets. The two theme is blatant throughout, from the welcome "Watcher 2" featuring the dream team of Jay, Rakim and Dr. Dre, to "A Dream," which gives us a second listen to a Biggie verse from "Juicy" in a collabo better suited for a Puffy album. The twos continue on "What They Gonna Do Part II," "2 Many Hoes," "The Blueprint 2," a "U Don't Know" remix, and even a track with a guy with two first names, Sean Paul. Big Boi, Scarface, Twista and M.O.P. make appearances, but so do Paul Anka, Lenny Kravitz and Beyonce (on a track that borrows from 2Pac's "Me & My Girlfriend" -- I swear I could hear Puffy whispering "remix" somewhere.) There's plenty of filler on this two-CD set that could be cut to make a decent single disc. We've been very kind to Jay-Z over the years, but in the spirit of the album we're going to give The Blueprint 2 The 411 Online's equivalent of two stars.
Click here to listen to samples or buy this album.

-- Mason Storm

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