Let’s get one thing clear. If you are looking for poppy, keyboard, synthed-out Top 40 bullshit, you might as well stop reading right now. If you are looking for hardcore, street, boom-bap, classic, authentic hip-hop, by all means continue – this is it in it’s purest form. Straight out of Queensbridge comes Blaq Poet. For those who don’t know Poet was once part of Screwball, who released the now classic “Y2K” 9 long years ago, and even before that, held a high-profile battle with KRS-One during the BDP era. Since working with DJ Premier on Y2K, Poet has signed to Preem’s label, Year Round Records, and the anticipation for his official debut has grown since the ink dried. The wait is finally over and one of the best albums of ’09 has arrived. All but two tracks are produced by Primo, which leads you to believe that this is the next coming of Gang Starr.
The Blaqprint starts out with “I-Gittin”. Primo lifts and chops a guitar riff to perfection, which fits Poet’s aggressive flow to a tee. “U Phucced Up” is Easy Mo Bee’s lone contribution to the album, as Poet vividly tells the story of a drug deal gone wrong. The single “Ain’t Nuttin Changed” shows Premier’s versatility, jacking the chorus from Akon’s verse on 50 Cent’s single “I Still Kill”. Poet once again snaps over the classic production, letting the listener know that NY Hip-Hop is here to stay no matter what others may say.
With very few guest appearances, Poet holds his own over Premier beats. One stand out collboration is “Legendary Pt 1”, featuring new comer Nick Javas and Year Round labelmates, The NYGz. Java ultimately outshines the veterans and has us eagerly awaiting “Legendary Pt 2”, as Premier cuts up a perfectly placed 2pac sample for the chorus. Another outstanding guest spot comes from N.O.R.E. over possibly the best Primo track on the album (there are so many, it’s hard to choose). Sampling Main Source from “Looking at the Front Door”, Primo’s snapping snares and perfect chops compliment the emcees like its ’96 all over again.
While he does cover it extensively, Poet branches outside the hip-hop holy trinity of streets, guns and drugs on other parts of the album. On one of the album’s real gems, “Voices”, he spits about hip-hop greats 2pac, Biggie, Rakim, Slick Rick and others asking him what is going on with hip-hop. “I hear voices/and it sounds like Biggie/asking me what up with New York City/why y’all n*ggas ain’t putting up big numbers/African n*gga’s bootlegging every summer/yo, what the fuck/ya’ll better get at them/if y’all n*ggas trying to go gold and platinum”. With lyrics like that, who can claim hip-hop is dead? Meanwhile, “Never Goodbye” serves as a tribute to Screwball member KL, who died suddenly from an asthma attack in 2008, and is a fitting end to a near perfect album.
This critic is probably somewhat biased, because as the hip-hop landscape of the last 10 years has looked pretty bleak, with few shining lights here and there. The Blaqprint and several other recent albums gives a large amount of hope, however. Sure, Poet talks about the same subject matter, sure Premier’s beats are mostly chopped up soul samples, but the same arguments could be made against Gang Starr and nobody’s challenging that fact. Is this the best we will see from Poet, who knows? But it’s a fitting legacy, if so. - DG
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