Catch: I’ll admit it: sometimes I get caught up in the little things. Maybe it’s a punch line. Sometimes it’ll be the saxophone smooshed beneath thirteen other layers of a beat. Often, I’m so focused on the minutia, that I miss out on the bigger picture. (My micro game is tight; macro…well, I need to get my percentages up.) But every once in a while, a project comes along that as soon as you press play, it blasts out the speakers and smacks you across the fucking face. That’s what Blueprint’s new project, Adventures in Counter Culture, has done…repeatedly… for the last two days now. Pretty sure I’m starting to look like Hasim Rahman after the Holyfield fight.
But, even if I wanted to dwell on the little things (like the sometimes overpowering synth), I can’t. ACC won’t let me. Blueprint has jam packed this jawn with so much message, so much progression, so much fucking passion, that I just can’t get into my critique comfort-zone. And I ain’t alone in feeling like this. Pretty sure Brain is lookin’ like Ferocious Fernando Vargas after Sugar Shane got ahold of him. Can we get a cut man up in this mug???
BrainSlice: Damn. I feel like I just went the rounds in the Octagon with Georges St-Pierre. Before this, I didn’t know a Hip Hop album could LITERALLY kick the shit outta me. Also never thought I would actually THANK someone for handing me a beat-down. Thanks Blueprint. Thanks for bringing to light so many things that frustrate and enrage me about what “Hip Hop” has become. I gotta say “Adventures In Counter Culture” is a BIG fucking deal.
I’ve also gotta say the kids that witnessed Blueprint’s live show at Kilby Court in SLC with me last week didn’t have any idea what he was doing on stage. (Side-Note: Hey lil’ girl, yes you, the one that was screaming for Macklemore while Print was rockin’: Fuck. Off. Take your skanky tramp self back to the trailer-park you came from. We all love Macklemore, but damn bitch, nobody loves your snaggle-tooth, bleach-blond, stanky ass.) Yes, they knew he was performing, but there is so much more to this man and his art than just the performance. We were witnessing “Printnificence”.
I’ve always felt that 1988 was meant to restore what Printmatic thought was missing from the culture and the music. If that is true, then Adventures In Counter Culture was created to systematically nullify Hip Hop (or whatever people may perceive it to be), to tear it apart brick by brick; then subsequently rebuild it using a new schematic. Can you say: “oxymoron?” Silly kids, there is no schematic, only art. For the thousands of “Mr. Brainwash” artists out there, there are just a handful of “Banksys”. Blueprint is one of the latter.
Catch: And for every 1988, and every Unlimited EP, there come certain expectations. I think that’s the funny thing about AICC, it laughs right in the face of those expectations; I had preconceived notions of classic Print coming into this one, but I finished the first listening wondering what the fuck just happened.
Don’t get me wrong, Adventures begins fairly typically. “Go Hard or Go Home” is BluePrint at his lyrical finest – maybe a little more serious than what I was planning on, but not that far off. The thing that this song does best though? Ironically, it serves as fair-warning of just how much Print doesn’t give a shit about your preconceived notions; how much he plans to do what he wants to do, whether you like it or not. And that’s just what he does. Fuck if you or me approves.
Let me make this clear: I don’t think every song is a classic. What I do think, though, is that Adventures in Counter Culture is a fantastic exploration of sound and self. More so the former. The first thing you might notice is the decidedly ‘80s flair. Sounding at times like Daft Punk’s interpretation of the Decade of Excess on the new Tron (“My Culture” – which, by the way, features the most awesome soul-clap, double-time, –take-‘em-to-church chorus I’ve heard in quite some time), or the classic John Hughes coming-of-age soundtrack feel of “Wanna Be Like You”, the Reagan years are ever-present on AICC…sonically, at least. Of course, with lines like: “Tryin’ to make a soft synth sound like a sample / ‘cause everybody wants your progress to seem more gradual,” it all makes sense.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the singing. But that’s all I’m gonna do; I don’t think anything I could possibly say about Print flexing his dulcet tones could even approach the explanation that the man himself provided - which is a very insightful (and refreshingly open) letter to those who feel it necessary to question his artistic expression. That’s really what it’s all about, right? Art. And that’s why it doesn’t matter if you or I don’t like every song. You should, at the least, respect the talent required to create something like Adventures in Counter Culture.
BrainSlice: To quote my favorite/most profound lines from the album would be an exercise in futility. Every word and note is painstakingly poignant. He spits his verses like he’s John Connor leading the resistance against the machines. Every enunciation and alliteration is meant to be heard. Clearly. By every listener. If you don't get it, that's your problem. Printmatic doesn't give a fuck. He knows what it means and how important it is, and he knows that the elect, the ones that are capable of understanding, will feel it.
I don’t normally discuss an album I’m going to review with anyone (other than Benny and Catch) in order to form my own autonomous opinion. After I had seen Blueprint live, listened to the album a few times, and written my thoughts down, I felt like I needed to talk to someone else who had seen the show. Possibly someone who has a little more knowledge of production than I do. Enter K-Murdock: producer, SubSoniq Radio co-host, and friend of AYCE. We talked briefly about Printmatic’s performance at SXSW, and the album. I was in agreement when K said he felt like Blueprint had broken down the structure of Hip Hop and re-created it to fit his own unique vision, leaving a lot of jaws gaping wide-open in the process.
Catch: I guess this means that we’re all on the same page: this is an album that needs to be heard – and appreciated – by anyone who considers themselves a fan of music…any music.
BrainSlice: One thing Blueprint has made clear: He won’t be boxed in or labeled. Don’t even try.
Catch: So whether you’re a 15 year-old tween at a Mack show, or an old-school head steady bitchin’ about the state of the genre,
BrainSlice: Buy the album and shut the fuck up. That is all.