Adventures in Counter-Culture
With a title like "Adventures In Counter-Culture" you sort of open yourself up to a lot of interesting analysis. For example, "What culture is Blueprint referring to, exactly?". While I am guessing that some may think that the culture he is speaking of is actually American-Culture, or Popular-Culture, I am going to go with an even more myopic view and say that I think he his actually referring to the current state of popular Hip-Hop (also known as Hip-POP). You might guess that I myself am not a fan of Hip-POP which is why I don't buy Hip-POP records and don't spend a lot of time writing reviews for them. As I've said before, I buy my music and why would I buy something I'm going to hate? It's not for me and therefore my opinion has little to no value to the intended audience of said product.
Blueprint is not now and has never been Hip-POP. On the contrary, he has been representative of the Hip-HOP that I love. He's also been a notable producer and MC for a while now and has more than earned my respect and appreciation for is work in the genre of Hip-Hop proper (whatever that is...to me it's beats and lyrics done with originality and integrity that doesn't try to promote things that are bad for you). On his latest release, I believe he finds himself at a crossroads. He sort of speaks directly to this in the lyrics of the music itself, boldly proclaiming on "Go Hard Or Go Home" that essentially he makes enough money to be happy and would rather be an artist than a brand facade used to promote the brand without having any artistic merit. Mind you, this is my interpretation of the man's words.
There seems to be this thread continuing on in Hip-Hop these days about the artists trying to make sense of a post-Napster, post-Soulja Boy, post-Record-Store era. I'm hearing more and more of my favorite underground Hip-Hop artists start to expand themselves into other genres of music. Some take complete leaps of faith while others take a more measured approach. I believe this is what Blueprint has done on this album.
For certain, there is a marked 80's pop-influence to a lot of the production (he samples Phil Collins) and several tracks seem more like synth-rock than Hip-Hop. Thankfully (at least to my ears) there are still plenty of "pure" Hip-Hop tracks on the album to keep the fans of Blueprint's older material happy; "Go Hard Or Go Home" and "Rise & Fall" are in-line with my initial album expectations.
The rest of the album though is a lot more experimental and has the feel of someone finding their style. It really only works well in moments like "Fly Away" and "So Alive" and the other, less-Hip-Hop tracks sort of falter a bit in that the production can be a bit uninteresting.
Lyrically though, Blueprint is the man. In fact, I loved nearly every concept on the tracks that I thought were just "OK" (especially on "My Culture" where Blueprint makes an interesting conspiracy theory as the reason for the death of all your favorite rappers). What I didn't always love was (for lack of a better term) the "beats". The style here is sparse and repetitive and while that can work at times, it's really hard to make it work consistently.
As a pure-Hip-Hop record, there are only a few truly outstanding moments. However, as a bridge towards developing a new style, I think there is plenty of promise to be found. It's almost like the artists themselves are really bored with Hip-Hop's present and future and are working hard to reinvent the genre once again. Blueprint is one of those artists pushing the boundaries and I commend him for it. It's just that this growth can not be without a few awkward moments along the way.
3.714 out of 5
|1. Five Years Ago (01:23)|
|2. Go Hard or Go Home (Printnificence) (03:50)||5|
|3. Automatic (03:15)||4|
|4. Keep Bouncing (03:50)||3|
|5. Wanna Be Like You (04:32)||3|
|6. My Culture (04:10)||3|
|7. Mind, Body & Soul (feat. Angelica Lee) (05:04)||4|
|8. So Alive (03:51)||4|
|9. Stole Our Yesterday (04:49)||3|
|10. Radio-Inactive (04:17)||3|
|11. Welcome Home (04:24)||3|
|12. Fly Away (03:47)||4|
|13. The Clouds (03:22)||4|
|14. Rise & Fall (03:53)||5|
|15. The Other Side (04:23)||4|