On his new LP, Respect The Architect, Columbus emcee Blueprint comes up with one of the best underground contributions to the 2014 discography so far. This is because Blueprint’s artistic purpose on the album is crystal clear, and he executes it perfectly. He crafts a sound world made up of different beats of all types, and then effortlessly inserts himself into it by knowing what he’s talented at and capitalizing on it. He marries a solid lyrical approach to a storytelling ability that stands out in a crowded underground, and it really does force the listener to respect the architect.
If Blueprint wanted to prove his underground credentials and emphasize his old school roots on Respect The Architect, then he was certainly successful, as the sounds chosen for the record prove. The Soul samples on “Perspective,” “True Vision,” and “Oh Word?” are straight out of ‘90s Hip Hop. The background shouts on the track “Respect The Architect” sound like they came from a classic M.O.P hype track, but they’re taken somewhere new when they’re combined with the electronic synths in the background that shoot around like photon blasters. The vocal sample of a line from Common’s 1999 track “Car Horn” drives this home for good on Blueprint’s “Once Again.” But these classic sounds are balanced by innovative ones, such as the swirling, echoing world of the song “Respect The Architect,” or the new funk sound of “Bulletproof Resume.” When these beats are combined together, the entire album feels like it happens in the same artistic world—a unified approach that is unfortunately rarely found in albums today.
Blueprint, instead of being pigeonholed, proudly carries his label as an underground rapper. “Hit the underground like a seismic event,” “The brightest rap star’s not in my constellation,” “You got a platinum plaque, but I say you suck,” and “I’m the foundation for the underground you standing on” are only a few of the examples that show just where Blueprint places himself in the Rap world. Although that narrative might be a little played out, this album stands out lyrically because of the fact that Blueprint appears to so clearly love Rap. This is epitomized in the track “Silver Lining,” an autobiography of sorts that tells of BP’s past problems, such as when his sister passed away. “Found a sampler, put it on layaway / Spent my Christmas break makin’ beats every day…But my love for the music never gon’ fade away” are just a few lines that show this.
Blue also emphasizes every advantage that comes with being an underground rapper, such as by adding topics to his arsenal in forms that he might not have been able to make fit otherwise on smash-hit singles. For instance, an emcee probably couldn’t end many multi-platinum records with an extended sample of a speech from critically acclaimed Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry discussing the artistic process when it gets difficult, as Blueprint does on “The Climb.” They also might not have a hook-free, straight freestyle like “Bulletproof Resume,” or a track with a barebones vocal mix like “True Vision.” And it’d probably be hard to get away with a beat that has no drumbeat, as “Overdosin’” does, a chemistry experiment from Blueprint that shines here. Another advantage of being underground is the ability to put together a roster of collaborations and cameos that work well together as a whole, where everyone’s style compliments the next guy’s, and not just a list that reads like the top of the Billboard “Hot 100” chart. Blueprint’s team includes Count Bass D, Illogic and MidaZ the Beast, who delivers the best guest verse on the album. MidaZ’ ability to know exactly what the beat needs at what time in his rhymes and sentences should make a listener want to check out his other work, like the album AU: Another Universe.
As for his own rapping style, Blueprint holds it down. Blue uses mostly one or two-syllable external rhymes at the end of sentence that serve to support his poetry. He doesn’t allow the rhymes to dominate and determine the story he tells, as some lesser talented emcees might. Of course, there are technically complex lines that make you sit up straight and listen more closely, especially on the opening track “Oh Word?” “I live among fans and naysayers / Macks and fake players / Lovers and player haters / Brothers that trade gators / Cats copycat because they want the same flavor,” is just one example, with its long, three-syllable rhymes. Blueprint’s chosen style focuses on larger, more involved narratives, like his tale of personal tribulations on “Silver Lining,” or the how-to guide “Perspective,” which gives instructions for loving what you have, not what you don’t. He also succeeds by bringing some pretty clever double entendres and puns to the mix. A perfect marriage of delivery, rhymes, and wordplay comes across in gems like, “It seems I got styles bursting outta the seams, bars tight / like Pat Benatar’s jeans” from the track “True Vision.”
Other underground artists might do well to take note and listen to this album. It’s a sign of what you can achieve if you go into the booth knowing exactly what it is you want to do, and then doing it.