Under the kindest interpretation allowable, Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 should probably be received as a sort of cultural reformation project.
The first single leaked from the album, the bellicose "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)," set off a storm of exuberant tweets that proclaimed joy at the sound of an angry Jay-Z inflicting what will doubtfully prove to be the actual destruction of T-Pain, Lil' Wayne and the rest of the gang.
Let's be fair, Jay-Z surely can't spend another decade repeating that he's the best. No further evidence is required to concede that, yes, Sean Carter is the best rapper dead, alive and most likely forthcoming.
Jay-Z's latest release marks a shift in his agenda; no longer rapping to the chorus regarding his preeminence - which was secured years ago - he instead turns against the genre that he continues to prop up.
Just look at The Blueprint 3's track list: "Hate," "D.O.A.," "Off That," "On to the Next One" - the album is essentially dismissive. Given that the greatest of all time is more or less eschewing the state of his entire genre, Jay-Z places the burden on himself to provide a superior alternative, or at least to point towards rap's brighter future. The blueprint ought to be, after all, Jay-Z's schematic for post-Auto-Tune hip-hop.
But what do we receive instead? A handful of trash Timbaland beats in the slowly-becoming-tired futurist production mode which sound like they were created with one hand distractedly on a cheap netbook and another holding a Corona.
The Blueprint 3 does have worthwhile moments - Kanye's production on "Already Home" is a nice throwback to his pre-808s and Heartbreak oeuvre, and Young Jeezy delivers an uncharacteristically standout verse, evoking more enthusiasm and heat than even Jay-Z himself at the album's crankiest.
But the album's overall sound is an amalgam of heavy synths with a Drake cameo - in other words, it is like everything else at the moment. The Blueprint 3 is less a plan for rap's future than an aging man's monument to its crummy present. Think of it as hip-hop's Epcot Center: ill-conceived, chintzy and dated from the moment of its completion.