With today marking the 16th anniversary of Jay-Z's The Blueprint, there's no question that the sixth studio album from the rap mogul is a certified classic. Beloved for its soulful production and heavy-hitting bravado, the fact that the album was released on one of the most memorable days in American history only cements its legendary status.
While many fans know of the often-publicized stories behind the album, here's a look at 10 facts that you may not know about the first installment in Hov's highly decorated trilogy.
Alleged to have been written in only two days and recorded in a fortnight, The Blueprint is a hip-hop urban legend of sorts. Considering its pointed choice of soulful samples and onslaught bars, however, there's no denying it's validity as a classic body of work.
The Blueprint's album art was shot by legendary photographer Jonathan Mannion (who also serves as the creative director for a majority of Jay’s album covers), but its minimalistic edge was inspired by British photographer Jocelyn Bain Hogg.
The image is from Jocelyn’s popular photo series "The Firm,” which was created after Jocelyn spent 10 years following British gangsters in South London.
During an in-depth interview with Complex, Just Blaze revealed that the creating of the emotional single served as the turning point in his career. According to the super-producer, after hearing the soul heavy track Jay called him up to say, “Right now you’re the best producer around. Nobody can take that from you.”
Blaze even claims that Jigga proceeded to reach out to Timbaland and tell him, “Yo, you cool but Just Blaze is the best.”
On the College Dropout closer “Last Call,” Kanye West reveals that “Heart of the City” was initially produced with DMX in mind.
What's less known is that Jay flirted with the idea of making it the album's first single. He was eventually talked out of it, which oddly enough worked out in his case considering the strong hold “Izzo” had on radio at the time.
Considering that Yeezy and Kellz are both from Chicago, and Jay and Kelly's “Fiesta (Remix)” was killing airwaves at the time, it seems plausible.
Since Reasonable Doubt, Jay has made it clear that he'll indefinitely "leave that weed alone, man." However, Jigga allegedly admitted to XXL that after constantly touching up "Izzo," he didn’t finish it until he blazed one.
In 2009, after Michael Jackson passed away, Hov paid tribute to the late icon in an issue of NME. In the article, he revealed that the legendary singer contributed uncredited vocals to “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
According to the Jigga man, the production battles between Yeezy and Just Blaze grew so intense it was like watching “a heavyweight slugfest.”
"For three days they was just knocking each other out," the Brooklyn lyricist recalls in The King of America. “Just would peep his head in and hear what me and Kanye was doing and would just go back mad. Like, go back and just go [pounds fist on table], and just come in and be like, ‘Yo.’”
In a tell-all interview with Complex, the veteran producer opened up about how the arrangement of the record still troubles him. “We knew it was hot, but I wanted to do more with it," Just told the publication.
"I always wanted to make it bigger and better, and make the drums hit harder, and the bass more in your face. I always say to myself, 'I wish I got the opportunity to do that over.'"
As previously mentioned, “Heart of the City” was intended for DMX. Just Blaze also claims that “Girls, Girls, Girls” was meant for Ghostface Killah, whereas “The Ruler's Back” was chalked up with either Loon or Black Rob in mind.
(Photo: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)