Album Review: Blueprint, “Adventures in Counter Culture”

Blueprint's new album, Adventures in Counter Culture

By Tom Roth

Hip-hop fans hear Blueprint and think of Jay Z. The famed album went twice platinum as the radio-favorite track, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” charted at #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in October of 2001. At that time, a little-known Ohio rapper was nursing an early career, promoting his 1999 debut album from Weightless Recordings, Up to Speed. His name? Albert Sheperd, also known by his stage name, Blueprint.

A decade later, Blueprint has established himself as a stable member of the hip-hop community, building an impressive repertoire thanks to collaborations with Minnesota-based indie-fame-machine, Rhymesayers Entertainment. Eighteen albums and EPs provide a solid argument for Blueprint’s case as bona-fide rap legend and his latest release, Adventures in Counterculture, should be ample evidence to sway any unconvinced jurors.

As in any courtroom, everybody is looking for the “truth” and Print is no exception. From Adventures’ lyrics, it’s easy to tell “truth” was the artist’s foremost concern in making the album. More important than the catchy beat on “Fly Away” is what the words mean. While the funky 80’s synth-beat has John Hughes nodding in his grave, the track’s lyrics are a laundry list of reasons to “pack my bags/take flight/spread my wings/take flight”.

“My Culture” takes the same concern, but on a macro scale. Earning an “amen” cry from the listener, Blueprint laments “Iran and North Korea building nuclear bombs/Iraq and Afghanistan caught up in our wars/So when these rappers only rap about a home or a broad/Its cause they don’t know what’s happening at home or abroad”. Truth? It’s hard to argue otherwise in a world where Ke$ha spends 70 weeks on the Hot 100 charts.

Print’s choice of track titles seems to almost poke fun at the hip-hop artists who are better acquainted with the radio-waves. “Go Hard or Go Home” may share the same title as a banger off of E-40’s 2006 album, but you won’t find 40-Water rappin’ about the song-making process: “even in the smallest things he can hear a hit/Isolate the main part where the spirit is/Then magnify it in size until it’s a hit/I put things in places where they shouldn’t fit”. By the same token, “Keep Bouncing” may produce thoughts of Too

Short who wouldn’t in a million years admit to being broke as a joke or “makin’ out with busted-ass ladies”.

Print’s lyrics on Adventures are surgical in their precision. Time and again, he says exactly how he feels, exactly when he means to say it. “What’s Print’s life about? The same thing I rhyme about”. Case closed.