When Jay-Z released his first "Blueprint" CD on Sept. 11, 2001, the rapper couldn't have known how monumental, and tragic, the day would turn out to be.
This week, Jay-Z is once again releasing an album with the "Blueprint" tag, but this time, the release of CD around the Sept. 11 date is not coincidental, but purposeful.
"The Blueprint 3," billed as the final album of a trilogy, is being paired with a special benefit concert on Sept. 11 at Madison Square Garden. It will benefit the families of police officers and firefighters who lost their lives when the World Trade Center's twin towers collapsed in the terrorist attacks.
Jay-Z feels the album — which features a myriad of guests including Kanye West, Rihanna and Alicia Keys — shows how he's evolved to become one of hip-hop's leaders.
AP: Why do you feel this is the right time to release the third installment of "Blueprint"?
Jay-Z: This album was actually supposed to come out last year, but for some reason it didn't, and whatever happened and however we got to this place, we're here now. So it just made sense for me to grasp the moment and make it a bigger thing because the first one wasn't planned to come out on September 11, right? There was no "September 11." We didn't know that that tragic event would happen that day. So now with that knowledge, we should never forget and we should always move past it and be strong but never forget.
AP: Tell us about the recording process for this CD.
Jay-Z: It was great. In the face of everything that is going on, just me personally I just stick to true emotions and feelings and strength and growing in music, and not following trends or anything like that. So for me it was refreshing and a great feeling to put out an album, a full album of music that people can listen to and gravitate to. It took me a month just to put the sequence together. I'm proud of the album.
AP: Kayne West was an up-and-coming producer on "Blueprint" back in 2001. How was it different to work with him now?
AP: The record features a number of newcomers — Drake, Kid Cudi, Mr. Hudson and J. Cole. What did you learn from them?
Jay-Z: Their excitement for the game. You know when you first come in the music business ... you come with really wide eyes. That's why on every single album I have a new producer or new rapper because I love that new energy. Whatever they do from there is on them, but that new energy and what they had right there is raw and untapped, and pretty much cool.
AP: You announced your retirement in 2003. Since then, have you thought about retiring again?
Jay-Z: I learned from that last one that you should just let it happen. The day that you're not making music you should just not make music. It doesn't have to be an announced retirement. So I would never say that again. Ever.
AP: With your upcoming 9/11 benefit concert, do you think this could become an annual event where different performers could headline each year to raise money?
Jay-Z: That's a great idea. Maybe you can call the "Answer to Call" guys and see if they can put that together. I mean, hopefully. I wouldn't mind that. Anytime you do anything and it's a good thing and if people choose to emulate that then, that's fantastic.