Music

Why ‘Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)’ Is My Favorite Jay Z Song And Nothing Will Ever Top It

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“Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)” probably isn’t the first song you think of when someone mentions The Blueprint. Sure, it’s the title track, but it’s also the track separating you from two very dope bonus tracks. Still, on an album filled with heartfelt and introspective moments, the Bink-produced number is Jay at his most vulnerable and relatable.

It’s the change of emotion in his voice every time he utters the song’s refrain, “My momma loves me.” Each time is different, as the song seemingly replaces this Jay Z persona we’d known for five previous albums and reveals Shawn Carter, the son, instead. If Jay Z is cool and detached, Shawn Carter is anything but, taking comfort in the fact that despite all the other changes and challenges in his life, his mother’s love is the one constant in his life.

On September 11, 2001, taking solace in the love of our mothers helped me love Jay Z, the artist, and finally relate to Shawn Carter, the man.

I was 15 and working on a way to make my second period teacher’s morning just a tad more exciting — speech class can be boring if you’re not careful. Before I could even arrange my first class trip to detention, our teacher frantically entered the room, turned on the television normally reserved for videos or announcements, and told us the principal was going to speak soon. There was a steadiness in his voice I wasn’t used to, so I assumed it was kind of a big deal.

At this point, most of you know what my principal said and what images from the news they showed us. The images of those towers are etched in our collective memory. My high school was less than 20 minutes from Washington, D.C., so there was a palpable fear running through the hallways when we got word of an attack at the Pentagon and a thwarted attack on the White House. We all start talked about our parents — most of them federal government workers — and wondering about their safety. Luckily, everyone was able to get in touch with their parental units. Everyone except me.

My mom was on a business trip in Florida, one she offered me a chance to tag along on, but, like a good Star Wars character, I’d had a very bad feeling about the trip. What’s worse, is that she was scheduled to fly back home that very Tuesday afternoon. This was before social media, so news wasn’t as easy to come by, and for a fifteen-year-old in 2001, nor was a cell phone.

Luckily, a friend of mine did have a phone, so I grabbed his and called her. No answer.

On the tenth try, I finally got an answer, but not the one I wanted: “We’re sorry, all lines are busy. Please try again later.”

Screw you, operator lady voice, there is no later, I thought. The towers are down, there’s a hole in the Pentagon and my mom is scheduled to fly on a plane touching down in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, a stone’s throw away from said Pentagon. How was she going to get back home considering that, and what if she just so happened to be on a flight that someone decided should become the air missile for another attack? While the questions scared me, the answers were too scary to fathom.

School didn’t officially end early that day, but it may as well have. My friend Ernest, the same guy whose phone I’d snatched, had his mom come pick us around 1 p.m., and sitting in her car were two copies of The Blueprint. I didn’t expect her to have one for me too, but I thanked her and immediately popped it into the Sony Walkman. That’s when everything changed.

I played as much as I could on the 20 minute ride from school to my house, using Jay as the soundtrack to the day rather than the eerie silence that blasted on every street corner and highway. The majesty of “The Ruler’s Back” got me out of the parking lot, the honesty and fun of “Girls, Girls, Girls” got us in and out of I-95, and the sheer audacity of “U Don’t Know” got me to my driveway.

I only stopped the album to try my mom one more time, even if it only yielded the same result: Silence. So I went back to letting myself get swept up in Jay’s journey, and by the time the title track hit, my emotional levees broke.

The vocal sample croons combined with three simple words, “Momma loved me” pushed me against a wall in my room and tears rolled down my face as I slid to the floor. As long as I could remember, it was always just me and her, so I felt like I had no one else to turn to. The world was upside down, I was afraid, and the one person who’d always been there for me may as well have been on a different planet.

By the time the song was over, the tears had stopped but the impact was permanent. Shawn Carter and I bonded as he provided the catharsis I needed for one of the scariest moments of my teenage years. On my third listen through, I paused the album just long enough to hear the phone ring. Of course it was her on the other line and of course her first question was about my well-being.

She and her coworker were driving a rental car to get home, and she too had been freaking out about not being able to get through to me earlier. She’d been trying to reach me the whole time. I told her I’d see her when she got home and I loved her. She responded the way she always had.

Love you too, Marky.

My momma loves me.

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