9 June, 2014@2:50 pm
The album title, Respect the Architect – borrowed from a 1995 Guru Jazzmatazz track – seems a bit forced, but luckily for the longtime fans, and new heads seeking quality over gloss, the title is the only thing that is out of place in this effort. The title and the artist demand consideration, calling to the music Blueprint so clearly loves and understands for a return to form. Another solid construction from one of underground hip-hop’s most unheralded creators. The beats are rooted in golden age, but the production still manages to sound fresh, and the samples are not played out. Blueprint’s flow is clear and concise, if not instantly recognizable, or altogether unique.
When one hears the name Blueprint the first reaction is typically something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, dude who rhymed over RJD2′s beats.” Those heads may be unaware that for the last several years Blueprint, has crafted his own beats, while RJ, for better or worse, ventured into a folk guitar grey area. On Respect the Architect, Blueprint, sticks to the plan by not experimenting too much with the beats on this one. Opting instead to stay rooted in the boom-bap that best serves his flow.
The verses on this album are delivered with vigor and insight. Venturing from braggadocio, to personally revealing, even veering into somewhat self-effacing from track to track. A varied offering with quality punchlines, and resonant themes that make this one of the best pure hip-hop albums of modern times. The few skits and guest appearances serve the pacing of the material well while elevating the work, a feat rare in this day of multiple guests on every track, and forced, uninspired collaborations.
Once the listener gets to ethereal strings at the beginning of title track respect has already been earned (if it wasn’t already there), and legendary status is within sight. Then “Perspective” sails in and we hear several stories that most aware in modern times can relate to. The beat drops out as Al starts sharing pieces of his personal history on, “Silver Lining”, and one of the most powerful intro lines: “So much more than a rapper, They only write rhyme, well I’mma writer, that uses rap to capture the times,” Followed by one of the standout verses of the last decade:
Flippin’ through the channels, landed on Charlie Rose / Interviewing Sting about all the songs he wrote / Charlie asked how a song writer keep his hope / What Sting answered, I never dare forget the quote / He said ‘the music gets dark whenever things get bad / But artist gotta understand, it’s easiest to paint with black / If you feel it comin’ on, you gotta reel it back / Cause people turn to us to hopefully escape from that….’
Congratulations and multiple listens are due Blueprint for sticking to his namesake, and erecting a meaningful, and resonant structure to an album that is worthy of all the accolades that it receives. Are people still interested in listening to hip-hop artists that actually have stories to tell? Does the smartphone generation have the strength to work through it’s collective ADD, and again elevate artists as committed to the craft as Al obviously is? Even if financial windfalls elude Blueprint, hopefully this isn’t a swan song, but rather another level, scaffolding for high-rising on the horizon.
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