The really likeable thing about what remains an underrated (though, uh, not that underrated) Blueprint 3 was the spectacle of Jay-Z thinking pretty seriously about what it meant to be an enormously successful and pretty definitively middle-aged rapper. He’s the first and only to do it, with apologies to whatever Rakim album came out this year, or even OB4CL2–records that did not begin to take the whole ageing-in-rap dilemma seriously as a subject, though they may have been made by older men.
But Jay’s album-closing Alphaville-sampling “Forever Young” is pretty hard to defend: slot this move along with the rapper’s sudden love for Grizzly Bear and indie rock in the annals of casting desperately around for something that might make him seem a bit more in touch and, well, young. The video treatment, with its hagiographic treatment of skateboarding and children playing sports, doesn’t exactly help–it’s as if this video was a documentary Jay had made on the subject of kids these days, with Mr. Hudson playing the part of the Morgan Freeman-like benevolent narrator. Prom rap is not the look, Shawn. Kids actually want to hang out with you! Maybe just let them. You might learn something.