[15 June 2011]
PopMatters Events Editor
Adventures in Counter Culture is focused, to say the least. And it should be—it’s been six years since Blueprint released his classic solo album 1988. It’s not that he hasn’t been busy. The Columbus, Ohio, native is involved with numerous projects, including Soul Position (with RJD2) and Greenhouse Effect (with Illogic), all while making the usual guest spot rounds in the indie hip-hop scene. However, after one listen to his latest Rhymesayers release, it’s clear that Blueprint has been investing a large amount of time into this latest project, and the payoff is worth the wait.
If you’re like me and you have an enormous distaste for today’s mainstream rap scene, you’re going to take much pleasure in Adventures in Counter Culture. If you’re an innocent hip-hop fan in search of more than what you’re finding on the radio and have stumbled upon Print’s latest, you may have found just what you’re looking for. Blueprint makes clear his intentions throughout the album, perhaps best seen on the track “Radio-Inactive” when he spits “What’s Print’s life about? / The same thing I rhyme about / Make good music and give my fans something to smile about / You oughtta try it out / We like to call it honesty / It’s the best policy, the reason why they follow me”.
At the heart of Adventures in Counter Culture is a man who loves hip-hop and has something to say about what passes as acceptable artistry in today’s rap scene. It’s evident from the get-go that this isn’t your typical rap album, but Blueprint has never been the type of artist to constrain himself to the laws of song structure or follow the rules that currently define the pop world. This also isn’t an album driven by choruses, as evidenced on the opening track “Go Hard or Go Home (Printnificence)” where Blueprint unleashes 48 straight bars, capped off by the lines “I’mma tear rap down then rebuild the shit / With total disregard to if the pieces even fit”. At times, Print even cuts out the rap completely and shows of his pipes on tracks like “So Alive” and the beautiful “Welcome Home”.
Meanwhile, the production, composed entirely by Blueprint himself, is miles from anything you’ll find on today’s radio. His use of instrumentation and his ability to capture the mood of each track persists throughout the album. Take “Mind, Body, and Soul”. The beat is absolutely gorgeous, and could very well make you fall in love with hip-hop all over again, or at least take you back to a time when artists were searching for more than just the next big party track. The dark sound of “My Culture” sets an appropriate backdrop for Print as he raps about the painful reality of past violence that plagued the rap industry, as well as the inability for today’s rappers to connect with real world issues. The poignant lines “Iran and North Korea building nuclear bombs / Iraq and Afghanistan caught up in our wars / So when these rappers only talk about a home or a broad / It’s cause they don’t know what’s happening at home or abroad”.
The lack of “single” material on this album will no doubt be a challenge for some. It’s not to say that Adventures in Counter Culture is nothing but filler, far from it. The album ebbs and flows through its 15 tracks, each one playing part in a larger role of capturing Blueprint’s purpose, which is to create a hip-hop album that goes against the grain of today’s formula for success. The album is an admirable proper return for Blueprint, and while it may not live up to his classic 1988, it’s a bold step in a direction that very few have dared to take in recent memory.