In the six years since his solo debut, Columbus-based artist Blueprint has stayed busy, releasing the second Soul Position album with RJD2, two Greenhouse EPs with Illogic, a few solo EPs, and a collection of instrumental hip hop. The whole time this was happening, though, he was slowly crafting what was to become Adventures in Counter-Culture. Not taking the typical approach to a hip hop album, Blueprint started at the piano every day, and went from there. The result is an album that defies genre. It's hip hop, it's new wave, it's psychedelic, it's R&B… it's different. With the pressure mounting after each year with no sophomore solo album, Blueprint has delivered an album that was worth the wait.
Beginning the album, “Go Hard or Go Home (Printnificence)” gives us a taste of the Blueprint we already know, with sparse instrumentation over a down tempo beat and Print's deliberate flow. Things quickly expand from there, and a world of sounds open up. “Wanna Be Like You” sounds a bit like a new wave anthem, with a pulsing beat and layers of synths and a sung chorus discussing the imitation of others. That's one thing we learn on Adventures – Blueprint can sing. We all knew he could rhyme, but he sings several melodies on this album, and is more than capable of carrying a song this way. Nowhere is this more evident than on “So Alive,” a track that stands out as an early-rock-and-roll-meets-hip-hip hybrid.
The album also features some of Blueprint's most introspective lyrical work. There are still songs that deal with familiar subject matter, such as “My Culture,” which is critical of the state of hip hop. However, songs like “Clouds,” and “The Other Side,” which closes Adventures really let us in to some personal emotion and subject matter, pondering the purpose of life and loss of loved ones. It's certainly heavier than you might deal with on a lot of hip hop albums, but given the maturity and ambition of this album, I can't think of a better way to close it.
While not always perfect, I always appreciate the risks Blueprint takes on this album. If you're going to take this long between solo albums, you might as well make it count. Adventures in Counter-Culture is one of the most ambitious and challenging hip hop records that will be released this year, and for that I am thankful.
|Title:||Blueprint - Adventures in Counter-Culture|