The past few years have been troubling for fans of New York Hip Hop. When commercial artists weren't busy riding the South's finger snapping, Auto-Tune crooning coat tails, tight pants-wearing hipsters began to slowly take over sections of Brooklyn with their Diplo beats and overly ironic sensibilities. While the rest of the city seemingly sinks further and further into a musically mire, Queensbridge emcee Blaq Poet [click to read] stands strong with his debut LP Tha Blaqprint, after over two screw-faced decades with Screwball, fighting hard in the trenches for Queens recognition and a king's respect.
Lyrically, Poet isn't the most audacious of emcees. His flow and wordplay is fairly simple. But what the Poet lacks in lyrical elegance, he makes in raw, energetic delivery. With his nasal war cry "Huhah!," Blaq Poet rocks the mic with a verbal iron fist. On the hard-body "Don't Give a Fucc," he explodes from the barrel, saying "Blaq Poet attacks, what the fuck you think was going to happen? / I'm from the days when niggas stood on the corner clapping / Drinking 40's in front of the police / Running around, a straight beast on the streets." Even at his more mellow moments on the touching tribute to Screwball member and cousin K.L. "Never Goodbye," Poet makes the listener feel without saying much. Granted, he's not the best wordsmith to grace the game. Some of his lines do miss the mark, such as on "U Phucc'd Up" when he refers to the Pocono Mountains as "the Cokeanos." Yet for the most part, such problems occur on an individual basis and do very little to hurt the overall quality of the album.
In terms of content, Tha Blaqprint is surprisingly deep and insightful. While the album is irrefutably hardcore in sound, Poet infuses the music with a level of honesty that perfectly captures the aura and mentality of Queensbridge. Right from the get-go, Poet hits hard, summing up his state of mind on "I-Gititin" by saying, "Ain't nothing wrong with that kiddie shit, but this what been missing / Premo on the beats and me on the rhyme / That means it's heat on the streets, it's about that time." He talks up all things hardcore: the hood ("Ain't Nuttin' Changed" and "Hood Crazy"), the criminal life ("U Phucc'd Up"), the police ("S.O.S.") and guns ("Let the Guns Blow"). He even carves out some time to get back to his Hip-Hop roots on the Shabeeno (of NYGz [click to read] fame) and Lil Fame-assisted "Rap Addiction." Yet Poet's spectrum extends beyond that. He tackles concept-oriented tracks like "Voices," on which he speaks with 2Pac and Biggie about the sordid state of the game. On "Sichuwayshunz," he shows his empathetic side on the latter of the two, explaining the stories of a thief, a mobster and a homeless person, saying "If you living in the mansion or the fuckin' basement, everybody got they own situation."
Primarily handled by the legendary DJ Premier, Tha Blaqprint's production provides the perfect musical backing. From the jaunty single "Ain't Nuttin' Changed" to the paranoid "S.O.S.," Premo does some of his best work on this album. He even explores different types of sounds with success. On the N.O.R.E.-featured [click to read] "Hate" [click to listen], Premo applies a minimalist acoustic guitar to a sample of Main Source's [click to read] "Looking at the Front Door," while on "Stretch Marks and Cigarette Burns," he utilizes a fuzzed-out bass to make a perfectly sleazy stripper anthem. Joining Premier on the production are Easy Mo Bee [click to read] ("U Phucc'd Up") and Gemcrates ("Sichuwayshunz"), and while neither producer quite matches Premier's level of excellence on this album, their beats prove to be worthy additions to the album's overall sound.
Tha Blaqprint is an extremely well-made and engrossing Hip Hop album. The honesty of Poet's words more than make up for any lyrical blemishes, while DJ Premier's production harkens back to golden years of Hip Hop. Tha Blaqprint is an endearing New York relic lost in an industry that's incapable of grasping its significance.