The Rhymesayers label has gained considerable attention over the last year with a slew of effective hip-hop releases. While this can be attributed to well-received releases from Brother Ali and Atmosphere, it is safe to conclude also that this attention is due to the ever-blossoming market for independent hip-hop. As lesser known acts continue to establish themselves as a pertinent force in the genre, rosters like the Rhymesayers Entertainment label have become increasingly significant for their production names, emcees, and hip-hop crews.
One such crew is Soul Position, consisting entirely of Blueprint on vocal duties and RJD2 behind the beats and turntables. Since the duo’s first EP dropped in 2002, heads have all but bum-rushed the Rhymesayers HQ in a seemingly unquenchable quest for more magic. Blueprint is even quick to allude to these inquiries in the album’s noggin-noddin’ intro, as he addresses the interested onlookers and their questions about “where’s the album at?” It is overtly clear, however, that time was well spent on this record both lyrically and musically, as Blueprint explores every corner of his day before the last track of 8,000,000 Stories comes to a close. Producer extraordinaire RJD2 spares nothing in his attempts to highlight Print’s philosophical ramblings on their debut full-length, easing the record into one of the coveted best hip-hop release of 2003 slots.
Separately, Soul Position’s reputation precedes them. For one, Ohio native RJD2 has already fashioned himself an extremely impressive resume. Past achievements include his affiliation with the oft-mentioned Def Jux and 2002’s masterful solo effort for the label, Deadringer. As the party-heavy Your Face or Your Kneecaps mixtape made the rounds, the DJ’s street cred evolved into something further. For the most part, RJ effortlessly moves through countless obscure soul and funk B-side 45s on Kneecaps, tastefully complementing each with his signature rapid cut and scratch techniques. This breakout landed him the Deadringer deal and paved the way to his teaming with Def Jux’s head honcho El-P, in addition to remixing or backing artists such as Aesop Rock and most recently a project with Chicago’s Diverse, among others. Blueprint and RJD2 both hail from the same neighborhood, and their first match-up happened most majestically on Deadringer. The Soul Position album is even more appealing than the Deadringer “Final Frontier” single, as topics and production are pushed beyond what seems to be the visible limits of hip-hop.
Blueprint’s strengths lie in his ability to weave commonplace obstacles into meaningful protest pieces. He articulates universal complaints about the Realm of the Mundane in the aptly titled “Think”. On the surface, this is the finished product of an undeveloped daydream. Print asks his enthusiasts to “Think” their way out of day job dreariness and humdrum misery in general: “We consume gloom, using the six o’clock news as a spoon”. He offers his good intentions here backed with his hopes to “splash some other colors” to make his audience “think”. By far his most effective analogy is where he calls his dreams “children” that he “really can’t afford to abort”. His dreams are an indispensable opiate in “Think”, and he’s alluding also to the available and costly choice to leave them unexplored and therefore unrealized. This epiphany characterizes 8,000,000 Stories and is one of the album’s central themes, also evident in “Fuckajob”, Blueprint’s admission of fear of technological advancements and a grounded loathing of Corporate America.
Adversely, Blueprint is fully aware of his capability and reports on such in “Printmatic”, the first of the LP’s 8,000,000 Stories. He carefully disses near and far on this one, in a most biting critique: “I guess one’s born every minute / And all the cats you roll with are living proof of that schedule / Man, listen—I’m willing to bet your DJ was born one minute ahead of you”. “Printmatic” is his mandatory contribution to the timeless name-check tradition in hip-hop, but is colorful enough for laughs and exemplifies the team’s wizardry. The emcee is prominent enough to not be overshadowed by one of RJD2’s outstanding beats, as the track’s backing is mostly a descending bass line, record cracks, and snippets of brass accompaniment.
Soul Position’s debut LP serves as a sturdy platform for the team’s individual talents while being a credible portrait of their union. The particular successes of both Blueprint and RJD2 conveniently gel so that the result is the album’s most apparent strength: it’s not who they are on their own here, but who they are as Soul Position.