The Blueprint is the sixth studio album by American rapper Jay-Z, released on September 11, 2001, by Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings. Its release was set a week earlier than initially planned in order to combat bootlegging. Recording sessions for the album took place during 2001 at Manhattan Center Studios and Baseline Studios in New York City. Contrasting the radio-friendly sound of Jay-Z's previous work, The Blueprint features soul-based sampling and production handled primarily by Kanye West, Just Blaze and Bink, as well as Timbaland, Trackmasters and Eminem, who also contributes the album's sole guest verse.
At the time of the album's recording, Jay-Z was awaiting two criminal trials, one for gun possession and another for assault, and had become one of hip hop's most dissed artists, receiving insults from rappers such as Nas, Prodigy, and Jadakiss. The album is also famous for both its producers Kanye West and Just Blaze's breakouts as major producers. Kanye West produced 5 of the 13 tracks on the album, including the songs "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and the controversial "Takeover," which included diss lyrics aimed at rappers Nas and Prodigy, while Just Blaze produced 3 tracks, "Girls, Girls, Girls", "Song Cry", and "U Don't Know", also including the hidden bonus track "Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise)". Upon its release, The Blueprint received universal acclaim, with critics praising Jay-Z's lyricism and the production. It is considered one of Jay-Z's best albums and has also been labeled as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.