Words by: Zak Kolesar
Blueprint is a hip-hop artist with nothing left to prove, yet here we are at Used Kids on a Tuesday evening, where Blueprint is promoting the release of his 10th studio album. Yes, Blueprint is almost two decades deep in the world of underground hip-hop, but his hunger is like that of a newbie.
Like his newest album title suggests, the Columbus native’s Two-Headed Monster is a reminder of just how prolific Blueprint is not only as a rapper but also as a beatmaker.
Not that he needs to remind us.
Still, on Tuesday at Used Kids, Blueprint unleashed three tracks that appear on Two-Headed Monster. A Columbus artist such as Blueprint, who transcends the line between local fame and national renown like one is no better than the other, needs no introduction. An artist such as Blueprint also doesn’t need to make his way into a hometown record store, perform a few songs never heard before live, take part in a meet and greet and dish out free pizza to hip-hop fanatics and record collectors alike.
But he did, and maybe that’s the result of not giving into mainstream pressures or his humble Ohio nature peeking through. Or maybe it’s because he feels like he has a chip on his shoulder, something he’s been trying to shake off his whole career. Whatever the reason, Blueprint, performed “Don’t Look Back,” “Two-Headed Monster” and “Like Water” during his mini-performance with DJ Detox, with the smile of a young aspiring musician setting foot on his or her first stage.
And on record, the same energy carried off. Right from Two-Headed Monster’s jump, Blueprint lets listeners knows that he isn’t here to play games, spitting on “Set It Off,” “Get your weight up, double up and place your bets/I’m not a gangster, but my beats bang your head.” Yes, on top of a backdrop of menacing string strokes, the Columbus rapper/producer is 10 albums in and still needs to flex his versatility.
The villainous mood“This ain’t the mainstream, going with the flow is risky/You chase the current, now your flagship act is sinking,
A shift in emotions occurs four songs in when Blueprint’s thoughts become more contemplative. On “A Hero Dies Once,” a Tribe Called Quest vibe permeates through a silky bass line. This song comes loaded with thought-provoking lines. At one point, Blueprint raps, “They say we getting gentrified out the inner city/But can’t nobody make you leave if you own the building/If we prioritize ownership, we could end it/But we’re distracted by racism and can’t see it.” And there’s much more where that came from on this album.
Guest appearances on Two-Headed Monster from Slug (one-half of Atmosphere), underground Brooklyn musician Wordsworth on “Night Writer’s,” Definitie Jux rapper Mr. Lif and underground North Carolina spitter Superstition on “Health and Wealth” respectively showcase Blueprint’s audacious ability and stylistic craftsmanship while scratching records. The dynamic sounds from the aforementioned songs, filled with commanding drum breaks that lend nothing but imagination to his fellow writers-in-rhyme, leads one to wonder why anyone questioned Blueprint’s two-headed hip-hop skills.
The apex of the album , however, comes at the LP’s center and is lyrically-focused. “Masterpiece” is a beautiful array of storytelling, so fluid that you don’t even realize the song doesn’t come with a hook until Blueprint hits the last word. With beautiful swooping strings and gliding keys to guide Blueprint along, he steps out of his shoes and tells the story from the perspective of a mother struggling to find her identity in life. The only repeated lines of the song, Blueprint puts the immaculate story into clear view for the listener when he raps, “All she really wanted was to be a star/He said, ‘Hold on, you already are’/To raise a good child is so very hard/It may seem different but it's all really art.”
Blueprint closed out his Used Kids’ set with the title track, an anthemic celebration that boasts on the hook, “I produce and I rap too,” sampling El-P’s “Tuned Mass Damper.” Blueprint also boasts, “The best producer on the mic as far as I can see.” Oozing with scratches and sample after sample, Blueprint keeps true to his underground style right before the album approaches its final leg. It’s also an almost too perfect song to perform at a record store, making one realize that maybe that’s why Blueprint took to Used Kids to drop a few tracks and chat with fans. A genuine emcee, Blueprint is a true Columbus treasure.