The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse is the seventh studio album by American rapper Jay-Z, released on November 12, 2002. The album serves as the sequel to his sixth album The Blueprint. Parts of the album were later reissued as The Blueprint 2.1 in 2003.
This album, like Jay-Z's previous four, debuted at #1 with over 545,000 units shipped in its first week of sales, and has sold 2,117,000 units as of February 2012 in the U.S.
Production for the album began three months after Jay-Z's critically acclaimed and commercially successful sixth studio album The Blueprint and also around the time when the rapper had just turned 32 years old. Production was handled primarily by Just Blaze and Kanye West - both of whom had recently established themselves as both of one of hip-hop's most celebrated producers due to the success of The Blueprint -, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (also known as The Neptunes), and Timbaland, while other producers include No I.D., Darrell "Digga" Branch, Charlemagne, Big Chuck, Dr. Dre, Jimmy Kendrick, Heavy D, and Ron Fennster. The album, unlike The Blueprint which almost devoided guest appearances, features a majority of feature guest appearances, even out-of-genre artists that include Lenny Kravitz and Sean Paul, and guests include West Coast rapper and producer Dr. Dre, Rakim, Beyoncé, Beanie Sigel, Scarface, etc. The album also includes an uncredited verse from Kanye West, who produced many of the album's tracks, on the Timbaland-produced track "The Bounce". Pharrell also provides vocals and hooks of many of his produced tracks, for example "Excuse Me Miss" and "Nigga Please". Though the album has no strict concept, the album contains two discs. The first disc entitled "The Gift" features mainstream, pop-oriented music that three of its singles had achieved commercial success. The second disc entitled "The Curse" contains dark, emotional, and bravado street songs such as the dark-toned retelling of "Meet the Parents", the emotional substance of escaping the dangerous ghetto in "Some How Some Way", the Nas-diss "Blueprint 2", and the bravado "Nigga Please".
The album received mixed to mostly positive reviews from critics. Critics applauded the album for its production -- mostly aimed at Kanye West, Just Blaze, and The Neptunes -- as well as lyricism from Jay-Z and blend of mainstream rap music and dark street rap while critics criticized the large amount of guest artists and pop-oriented sound.