The year 1988 is commonly referred to as the beginning of the golden era of Hip Hop. Fat gold chains were the hype, and Yo MTV raps was in full effect, and apparently the young ears of Albert Shepard, commonly known as Blueprint, were wide open. As an MC/Producer, Blueprint has been doing it for awhile, whether concocting beats for Illogic (Got Lyrics?) or rhyming over RJD2 cuts with Soul Position (8 Million Stories), Mr. Print has always been greeted with mixed reviews. This time with his new project 1988 on Rhyme Sayers/Weightless Records, Blueprint is on his own, releasing an LP totally self produced and performed. Paying homage to a seminal year in Hip Hop is no small task, but Blueprints back to the future dolo release succeeds, while maintaining a fresh (pun intended) sound.
The throwback vibe is readily evident, but what makes the LP so good is the diverse subject matter, from B-Boy ideology to police brutality, then back to Prints love for girls of all shapes and sizes on tracks like “Big Girls Need Love Too” and “Where’s Your Girlfriend At?” Building on his affinity for all women, Print spits “…I might not bag a dime piece in my life, but as long as two fives still add up to ten, then I got options every Friday night...” Clearly Print had fun making this LP; it’s almost as if he wanted to show another side of his underground heritage. Print dispels the view that the subterraneous mc can only bring that doom and gloom rap. Its not all fun and games though, Blueprint flexes his lyrical dexterity over the albums hottest beat on the title cut “1988,” scolding MC’s with lines like “…to many independent acts are sounding the same, poppin shit on the net to get a name, give props to each other sit around and complain...” Sounds accurate to me. Print goes on to show his storyteller side with both “Inner City Native Son” and “Tramp”. The latter addressing the all too familiar experience of meeting a scandalous female that takes your heart and papers (Yeah I’m sore), only to leave you wondering what happened. As far as beats, Print brings heat throughout, enlisting DJ Rare Groove to add the cuts and scratches, which further embraces that old-school feel.
The knock against Blueprint from previous releases has been his voice/tone when rhyming. There is no doubt that it is an acquired taste, but Print does his best to switch things up on this release, employing a Chuck Desque sound on “Trouble on My Mind”. He kicks honest lyrics about struggling in the rap game, from label issues, to being broke. Ultimately, listeners come to the conclusion that such struggle, as with most artists, is what inspires the quality music that is created. Print continues his nostalgic sentiments, drawing influence from Black Sheep for “Lo Fi Funk” and from the legendary Doug E. Fresh on the appropriately titled “Fresh”. Filmmaker Spike Lee is even shown love on 1988, as Print jacks some infamous lines from Do the Right Thing for the introduction of “Boombox”. The slowed down movie themed beat, allows Print to reflect on the days when battling meant its time to show and prove. Bottom line, if this track doesn’t take you back, then you never had that box that boomed.
To say that this is a concept album is not completely accurate, 1988 is more of a statement that says, “here are my influences, and this is what has grown from those roots”. Maybe not the deepest lyricist, but Blueprint brings all the fundamentals (can you say Tim Duncan?) necessary to go the solo route, simply beats and rhymes that fit. So far this is the best Hip Hop CD of 05, enjoy the journey back…