Jay-Z, photographed performing during the “Roc the Mic Tour” stop at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Bonner Springs, Kansas City on July 20, 2003.

Hov was earning around $100,000 per night on the 33-date sold-out tour, which he co-headlined with 50 Cent. Multiple acts opened for the two rappers, including Missy Elliott, Fabolous, Snoop Dogg, Sean Paul, Busta Rhymes, Beanie Sigel, the Young Gunz, Freeway, Obie Trice and Bone Crusher. Hov also brought along a young LeBron James with him on the tour, as they began preparing for the upcoming “Entertainer’s Basketball Classic” at Rucker Park.

Eight years ago today Jay-Z released his eleventh studio album, The Blueprint 3.  It was the third and final Blueprint album, preceded by 2001′s The Blueprint and 2002′s The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse.

Hov began recording the album in the middle of 2008, and the majority of it was completed by November. Pharrell emailed Jay “So Appalled” on the day of mastering, leading him to hold off the process. Most of the album’s recording sessions took place in Hawaii at Avex Honolulu Studio, but work was also conducted at Hov’s Roc the Mic studio and in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Australia and Miami.

While he had announced his landmark $150 million deal with Live Nation in April 2008, Jay still owed Def Jam Recordings one more album before he could leave for Roc Nation. They would spend nearly six months discussing the terms of his longtime label-partner releasing his final blueprint. When their release offer wasn’t what Jay felt he deserved he held the album back and switched to contract buyout negotiations. He and Doug Morris, the chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, agreed to flip a coin, with the winner getting to choose the buyout sum. Hov lost the toss and had to pay Def Jam $5 million—he had been aiming to pay them $4 million or less. 

We know that hindsight is 20/20, and this would soon ring especially true for Def Jam. When released via Roc Nation with distribution by Atlantic Records, The Blueprint 3 would become one of his most successful projects.The album debuted at number one on the “Billboard 200″ chart, selling 476,000 copies in its first week. It was Jigga’s 11th #1 album, breaking the record he had previously shared with Elvis Presley. Four weeks later it was certified Platinum by the RIAA. It has sold over 3 million records worldwide.

The album produced five singles that achieved chart success, and was his first album to have three “Hot 100″ Top 10 singles. The first single “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” won him the Grammy Award for “Best Rap Solo Performance.” The second single “Run This Town” featured his protégés Kanye West and Rihanna. It peaked at #2 on the “Hot 100″ chart, is certified 2x Platinum, and won the Grammy Awards for “Best Rap Song” and “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.”

It would be “Empire State of Mind,” the album’s third single, that would change Hov’s career. Featuring Alicia Keys, it would soar to the top of the “Hot 100″—Jay’s first #1 single on that chart as a lead artist in his 14-year career—and stayed there for five consecutive weeks. It is certified 5x Platinum, and won the Grammys for “Best Rap Song” and “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.” As well as all the commercial and critical accolades, “ESoM” would be adopted as New York’s new anthem, cementing Hov as “the new Sinatra.”

The Swizz Beatz-featuring “On To The Next One” was the fourth single, and reached  It won the Grammy for the “Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group”—Swizz’s first win. With this award Jay became the first artist to have all four singles from one album win six Grammy Awards in their respective category. The Kanye West-produced “Young Forever” was the album’s fifth single, reaching #10 on the “Hot 100.” The J. Cole-featured “A Star is Born” was the sixth and final single.


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