Jon Connor is coming off a strong 2011 campaign that saw him release two hearty projects in the dope digital album Salvation and the second install of his Vinny Chase-inspired mixtape series in Season 2. The Flint, Michigan MC looks to keep the buzzers buzzing as he goes in over Jay-Z cuts on The Blue Album, the first release from his “Best in the World” series, which will pay homage to his influences and MCs that he sees as “Best in the World”.

With The Blue Album, Connor takes fifteen beats from Jay Z’s Blueprint series and attempts to put his personal stamp on them. Usually, the worst thing about listening to a mixtape with previously used beats comes when the MC can’t hang with the original composer. With The Blue Album, Connor doesn’t only hang with Jay-Z, he finds a way to make the tracks his own. Lyrically, Connor is a clever artist that is able to weave words together and astonish without simply relying on punchlines. In this case, it's not a huge issue the amount of times we’ve all heard cuts like “The Ruler’s Back" or “U Don’t Know,” because Connor’s lyrics, energy and microphone presence make every song sound fresh. His interpretations of “Never Change,” “Poppin Tags” and “Song Cry” are some of the tape's best efforts.

The beat selection on The Blue Album is also noteworthy. Connor smartly took tracks from the entire Blueprint catalog instead of trying to re-create only one album, which gives the project diversity. Of course, most of the original tracks are classics, but Connor finds a way to slay “U Don’t Know,” “Hova Mojo”(which re-creates the track “Blueprint 2”) and “Show You How.” Equally impressive is how Connor pays attention to detail, as he not only rhymes over the beat for “Run This Town,” but recreates the track by having Lia Mack sing the hook, instead of throwing on Rhianna's chorus. It’s the attention to detail, with his approach to recreation and lyrics, that allows Connor's The Blue Album to avoid the curse of remaking the work of legends. —Nene Wallace Reed