Columbus, Ohio’s Blueprint has delivered some of the most thought-provoking Hip Hop from the underground throughout the 2000s. As one half of Soul Position, ‘Printmatic’s wisdom has permeated his lyrics, while his wide array of production abilities made solo releases like 1988 major bridges in the gap between Technics and iPods. A lover of concept and message, Blueprint’s sophomore Rhymesayers solo, Adventures in Counter-Culture is one of the best examples to date of a talented emcee looking for a call to action and walls to tear down.
“Mind Body & Soul” is a prime example of the newfound dimensions in Blueprint’s music. With an ’80s Sci Fi film score-sounding synth, ‘Print rhymes particularly slow and carefully, speaking to the stifled dreams of the independent emcee. Hip Hop to Blueprint is a labor of love, but as he chronicles the sincerity of his rhymes and the intensity of the process, it’s apparent that it’s hardly a choice. With Angelica Lee’s smoky singing, the song, despite its subject matter, veers away from Hip Hop. Instead, ‘Print combines an Electronic background, a jazzier chorus with his poetic pontifications to be something all its own. Deeper in the album, “Fly Away” also pulls from an ’80s source. The keyboard drums may hint towards a Breakfast Club library montage, but the words are crying for escape. One of the most unique voices in Rap, one that often sounds like pained proclamations, takes on that of a menial job worker, looking to leave it all behind at any cost.
Adventures in Counter-Culture takes on many characters and sentiments through society’s present melting pot of outcasts. Just as longtime Blueprint tour buddies Atmosphere can speak for punks, B-boys and Suicide Girls, so can Blueprint. From bedroom emcees to dishwashers to Kerouac wannabe’s, this album feels their angst. “Stole Our Yesterday” absorbs the Recession and looks at the lowered expectations and polluted dreams in its wake, wrapped in a storytelling allegory of bank-robbery. Still, for all of its dark subject matter, ‘Print’s production and experimentation make this hardly a dark affair. “So Alive” is inspiring, using the emcee’s contained abilities as a greater vocalist to present a momentum and mounting urgency that feels like an emotional jailbreak. Throughout this album ‘Print channels his wisdom and sincerity that was so potent within Soul Position’s 8 Million Stories and combines it with his versatile production vision and truly breaks out.
Like his partner RJD2, Blueprint has gifts that transcend traditional Hip Hop. His latest work speaks to the widest audience yet, and employs production that’s more Tangerine Dream than T La-Rock. Still, with an audience all ears, moments like “My Culture” are exclusively waving Hip Hop’s flag, as he weaves the deaths of Rap’s prominent figures over the last 15 years with GZA-like wordplay. After a decade of criticizing the mainstream lifestyle, Blueprint made a career benchmark simply by ignoring it. While underground Hip Hop peers such as Cage and Zion I have struggled in their efforts to expand genres, one of Ohio’s best widens his scope with a fiery intensity and a welcomed sound.