Legendary Columbus MC, Blueprint, Drops Smooth New Album
Ohio churns out rappers like its economy depends on it. From Kid Cudi in Cleveland to Hi-Tek in Cincinnati, the Midwestern rap scene has been consistent in building prolific hip-hop artists (don't forget Bow Wow and Illogic), fostering growth in their hometowns before sending them out with an arsenal of rap skills to battle with.
One of the most legendary emcees to come out of Ohio is Blueprint. With 10 albums under his belt, countless collaborations with fellow big-name rappers, and stints on both Rhymesayers and his own label Weightless Recordings, the hip-hop genius is back with his latest full-length record, Two-Headed Monster.
Blueprint's tenth album, Two-Headed Monster, released just last week on Weightless, is a 13-track collection of Print's signature smooth delivery with several impressive guest features (Slug and Wordsworth hop on one track). The record opens with "Cleansing Process," the jarring 30-second intro urging listeners to seek "something greater" than wealth and fame. "Set It Off" comes next, an in-your-face whirling rap repetition that reintroduces us to the Print we know and love: that nonchalant, steady stream of internal rhymes and quick, clever wordplay.
"Be Like Water" swirls with a ghostly piano rhythm before icy delivery comes in tackling endless water-themed references, a testament to Print's ability to supply transformative treatment to any number of topics. One of the standout tracks on Two-Headed Monster is "A Hero Dies Once," fizzing with faint radio crackles and led by slaps of smashing drum beats as Print slyly suggests, "Instead of changing themselves, they try to change the system," a powerful -- stirring, even -- account of the current socio-political landscape. "Don't Look Back" starts with a jangling piano rhythm, aided by deep percussion and smooth-as-butter songwriting here as Print maps out why we have to stop "living in a pasttime paradise."
On "Night Writers," Blueprint enlists fellow rap icon Slug (one-half of iconic hip-hop group Atmosphere) and Brooklyn wordsmith Wordsworth. Together, the trio spin a woozy, otherworldly track packed with literary wordplay like "turn a couple pages in my psyche." Clocking in at under three minutes, "Masterpiece" boasts some Aesop Rock influence (we're thinking of his 2001 piece "No Regrets" here), narrating the trajectory of a young misunderstood artist as she finds love and family, Print's soft speech delivered atop swells of strings and a sparkling piano line.
"Health Is Wealth" finds North Carolina hip-hop artist Supastition and Boston rapper Mr. Lif sharing verses about self-care over hard-hitting anthemic instrumentation. The title track comes next, "Two-Headed Monster" serving more of the Print we know best with upbeat soul-searching (akin to his 2011 stunner "Radio-Inactive") over bopping beats we can't get enough of. Following the title track is "Pump-Fakin," a ridiculously slick call-out anthem exposing a fraud, quick and smooth over jazzy interludes.
On "Good Guys Get Ignored," Print spins his clever take on "nice guys finish last," rapid spurts of rhythm clanging and clanking behind his matter-of-fact rhymes. "All Shock No Value" features LA freestyler Aceyalone, spitting a hypnotic verse with top-notch confidence before Blueprint's desperate delivery, ending in a sharp flurry of swollen orchestration. Two-Headed Monster ends with Philly MC Has-Lo on "Hoop Dreamin," a minimalist hip-hop track that finishes out the album with slithering rhythms and dreamy elocution.
After 13 tracks, Two-Headed Monster is complete, a collection of solid rap anthems combining the best of 90s hip-hop with today's more modern elements. Blueprint's rap talent has only amplified over the years, a prolific presence on the hip-hop scene serving spellbinding tracks with classic beats and unrivaled wordplay.
Listen to Two-Headed Monster below and read on for an exclusive interview with Print himself about the Columbus scene, the new album, and more.
The Music Mermaid: A hip-hop revolutionary needs no introduction, but can you tell The Music Mermaid a little background about yourself and your work?
Blueprint: My name is Blueprint and I am an MC and producer who hails from Columbus, OH. I've been releasing music independently for a long time, some on my own label Weightless Recordings and some on Minneapolis-based label Rhymesayers Entertainment. I'm also a part of the groups Greenhouse with Illogic and Soul Position with RJD2.
TMM: You’re from Columbus, Ohio -- what was the rap scene like there when you were coming up and how did it influence your music?
Blueprint: When we were coming up, the hip-hop scene in Columbus was very active and very competitive. There were a lot of open mics and battles, not just for MCs, but also for DJs and b-boys too. That made the entire scene raise the level of what they did because you had to keep your blade sharp. That environment influenced me a lot -- eventually that level of competition caused us all to become better artists, which brought attention to what was going on in our city from outside labels.
TMM: The hip-hop scene seems to thrive often on collaboration. What do you like about working with fellow rappers vs. putting out solo work?
Blueprint: The positives of working with other rappers is that it allows me to not have to be so involved in every aspect of it. As a producer, I'm just responsible for the production and the overall sound of the album, not the concepts or the vocals. That takes a lot of pressure off me. Solo work is a lot more pressure because I'm responsible for so much more.
TMM: Can you talk about the production process behind your newest album, Two-Headed Monster?
Blueprint: The production on Two-Headed Monster is mostly sample-based production with a lot of loops and sample chopping going on. I produced the entire album and my goal was to create something that sounded like hip-hop from the 90s but update it a little bit with the content.
TMM: How has your music evolved since dropping your debut solo record, The Weightroom, back in 2003?
Blueprint: The biggest evolution in my art has been the topics that I choose to rhyme about. Back in 2003, I was more about battle rapping and a little more abstract, but now my content is more mature and the topics are things [that are] more easily relatable. Technically, I think I've gotten better at writing too, but my fans would have to confirm that. [Editor's note: Confirmed.]
TMM: You’ve been signed to Rhymesayers and you manage your own label, Weightless Recordings. What are the advantages and disadvantages of hustling on the business side of the industry?
Blueprint: Having an understanding of the business side of things helps make you a better artists because the business side teaches you that being a good artist isn't enough -- you have to be able to promote yourself and be on top of your business or nobody will hear of you. You also have to make things that people actually want to buy or else you'll make no money. The disadvantage of being so involved in the business is that it can be draining -- some days you get so caught up in the business side of things that you don't have the energy to be creative.
TMM: Jazz genius Wynton Marsalis was recently quoted as saying that rap is “more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee,” citing issues with language and content choice in the genre. What’s your take on the importance of hip-hop?
Blueprint: I don't have an issue with what Wynton Marsalis has to say about hip-hop. The vast majority of hip-hop, especially major label hip-hop that's the most popular, is damaging and destructive. I used to defend hip-hop even when it was destructive, but I no longer do that because I realized that it takes more courage to speak out against something popular than to quietly cosign it.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear ASAP?
Blueprint: That's a tough question. Most of the artists I would consider slept-on are probably still more popular than me!
TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment in your career so far?
Blueprint: Probably when I resigned from my job to become a full-time artist.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Blueprint?
Blueprint: We will be starting the Two-Headed Monster tour this week so that's the biggest thing I've got going on right now. Here are the dates:
Thu May 31st – Nelson, OH @ Nelsonville Music Festival
Fri June 1st – Asheville, NC @ The Sly Grog
Sun June 3rd – Raleigh, NC @ Deep South
Mon June 4th – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor
Wed June 6th – Atlanta, GA @ 529
Thu June 7th – Dunedin, FL @ Dunedin Brewery
Fri June 8th – Fort Myers, FL @ Rack Em Billiards
Sat June 9th – Orlando, FL @ The Iron Cow
Sun June 10th – Jacksonville, FL @ Rain Dogs
Tue June 12th – Baton Rouge, LA @ 524 Studios
Wed June 13th – New Orleans, LA @ The Howling Wolf
Thu June 14th - Houston, TX @ The Secret Group
Fri June 15th – Austin, TX @ Flamingo Cantina
Sat June 16th – San Antonio, TX @ Limelight
Sun June 17th - Dallas, TX @ Wits End
Tue June 19th - Sante Fe, NM @ Shadeh Nightclub
Wed June 20th – Flagstaff, AZ @ Flagstaff Brewing Co
Thu June 21st – Las Vegas, NV @ Ninja Karaoke
Sat June 23rd – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Atrium
Sun June 24th – Berkeley, CA @ 924 Gilman
Tue June 26th – Stockton, CA @ Channel Brewing
Wed June 27th – Sacramento, CA @ Blue Lamp
Thu June 28th – Lake Tahoe, CA @ Pick 6
Fri June 29th – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Art Factory
Sat June 30th – Idaho Falls, ID @ The Gem
Sun July 1st - Boise, ID @ Shredder
Mon July 2nd - Portland, OR @ Alberta Street Pub
Tue July 3rd – Bend, OR @ The Capital
Wed July 4th – Hood River, OR @ the Underground Music Station
Thu July 5th – Seattle, WA @ Nectar Lounge
Fri July 6th - Spokane, WA @ The PIN!
Sat July 7th – Nelson, BC @ Bloom Nightclub
Sun July 8th – Calgary, AB @ The Nite Owl (downstairs)
Tue July 10th – Great Falls, MT @ Back Alley Pub
Thu July 12th - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
Fri July 13th – Tulsa, OK @ Fassler Hall
Sat July 14th – Kansas City, MO @ Minibar
Sun July 15th - Lincoln, NE @ Duffy’s Tavern
Mon July 16th – Columbia, MO @ Rose Music Hall
Tue July 17th - Milwaukee, WI @ The Cooperage
Wed July 18th - Traverse City, MI @ Union Street Tavern
Thu July 19th - Ann Arbor, MI @ Elks Pratt Lounge
Fri July 20th – Osh Kosh, WI @ Electric Lounge
Sat July 21st – Minneapolis, MN @ Ice House
Sun July 22nd - Duluth, MN @ Red Herring Lounge
Tue July 24th - Dubuque, IA @ The Lift
Wed July 25th - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
Thu July 26th - Evansville, IN @ PG
Fri July 27th - Dayton, OH @ Hannah’s
Sat July 28th - Columbus, OH @ 2x2 Fest
Mon July 30th - Portland, ME @ Space Gallery
Tue July 31st - Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
Sat Aug 4th - Buffalo, NY @ The Tabernacle
Fri Aug 31st - Cincinnati, OH @ the Overcast Festival
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Featured photo by Skye Rossi