5 April, 2006@12:00 am
The last few years have been quite prolific from instrumentalist RJD2 and producer-on-the-mic Blueprint, as the Ohio bred duo have released a number of different types of projects on different labels. The first joined forces as Soul Position a few years back, releasing the Unlimited EP, and followed-up shortly thereafter with the full-length release, 8 Million Stories. Since then, we’ve seen Blueprint deliver his own solo magnum opus, 1988, while RJ recently teamed up with Aceyalone for the Magnificent City LP. While critics were split down the middle on the recent ACD2 collaboration, teaming RJ back up with Print hopes to silence anyone disappointed by that release.
Blueprint doesn’t have to tap RJ as a producer, as 1988 proved he is fully capable of producing his own records, but Soul Position teams the two up once again, delivering the same excellent results found on their last project together. The album begins with the inspiring “No Gimmicks”, as RJ’s minimalist production builds to a climax, as Print delivers a “Stakes Is High”-like list of what this album isn’t, concluding with “just the best producer and the best emcee”. A bold claim, but Print and RJ almost make you believe it with the scary levels of consistency that run throughout this record (and their respective careers).
“Hand-Me-Downs” continues Print’s pro-hip-hop message, over chopped up horns and RJ’s trademark hard-hitting funk drums, where Print delivers poignant ups and downs of the industry, lamenting “no longer young, gifted, and black / just guns, bitches, and crack”. “The Extra Mile” is the kind of song that makes other rappers jealous, finding Print demonstrating his skill with a non-stop stream of consciousness freestyle over a ridiculous 4-bar soul loop, dug up by RJ. “I’m Free” finds Print showing his lyrical prowess off again, building entire verses on different uses of the word “free”, exploring the various concepts of freedom. “The Cool Thing To Do” finds Blueprint giving his eight-year old niece words of wisdom over a ridiculous RJ discovery, yielding classic results, while “Drugs, Sex, Alcohol, Rock-N-Roll” warns of the harsh realities behind your favorite vices. The 70′s swagger of “Priceless” finds Print clowning his contemporary rap counterparts that parade rented vehicles and fake chains, as RJ’s beat is rich with change-ups and style. The autobiographical “Things Go Better” is perhaps the crown jewel of the record, breaking down the history of Soul Position, as both Blueprint and RJD2 bring some of their best work to the table.
Print isn’t always preaching, as he lightens up a bit for the truthful “Blame It On The Jager”, club-hopping and waking up next to women that “look like Dave Letterman”. The same can be said on “I Need My Minutes”, where Print warns friends not to call his mobile phone and run up his bill. Meanwhile, “Keep It Hot For Daddy” finds Print again in mack mode, looking for the perfect chick. These songs show the more lighthearted side of Print, and while they aren’t RJ’s best beats on the album, they help balance the record out.
Soul Position show remarkable consistency with their third release, safely christening them as the heir apparent to Gang Starr - and this isn’t even their best material. It’s rare that we find a producer and emcee duo that has a track record this consistent, but together or separate, Things Go Better With RJ and Al.
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