"Radio used to be where you'd go to hear new things," says Blueprint, who grew up recording the mixshows that would air every Friday night, wondering what he would hear next. "Now it's where you go to hear the same thing over and over again."
An underground hip-hop hero in the making, the Columbus, Ohio native is best known for Soul Position, a collaboration with producer RJD2 that earned plenty of accolades and precious little airplay. Now Blueprint's mapping out his own career with a solo album that could hardly be more eclectic.
Adventures in Counter-Culture, out next Tuesday on the influential Rhymesayers label, is the first Blueprint album on which he completely goes it alone, producing his own beats, rapping, even singing. As he suggests on "Radio-Inactive," it's part of a strictly DIY process: "Shake hands, make plans, rent vans, make fans, god damn, this is how a little boy became a man."
While "Radio-Inactive" offers up an intense four minutes of straight rhyming, its follow-up single, "So Alive," is a more dance-driven affair, baited with pop hooks, rumbling guitar and melodic vocals as deep as the reverb in which they're immersed.
"The production is an example of me just completely trying to tear down all the things that I knew about rap and production and hip-hop and singing R&B," says Blueprint, "and then rebuilding something that summarized everything I knew about music."
That meant taking "a lot of things that don't actually work together" and figuring out how they might. He cites the album's title track as an example: "It sounds like this crazy evil synthesizer beat, and then it transforms into kind of a house beat with like a church feel to it — that stomping-and-clapping kind of thing."
Church, it turns out, is where he first started playing music. "My mom was a real ill singer in church," he recalls, "and I was playing trombone in the church band from the age of 10."
After a brief foray into R&B, Blueprint learned to program a drum machine, started a group called Greenhouse Effect, and met up with producer RJD2, who's since collaborated with everyone from Pigeon John to the Cars' Ric Ocasek.
"We were the only two guys in Columbus doing instrumental hip-hop, and so some of our mutual friends were like, 'Oh, you should meet RJ, he's doing weird instrumental trip-hop shit, too.'"
That was a decade ago, after which the duo recorded three albums for Rhymesayers. But while Blueprint released some mixtapes and production albums along the way, this is the first time he's truly committing to a solo career. "I just kind of came to the realization that I've been putting out various group records for 10 years now, and I'm just now releasing my sophomore solo album. And I was like, 'Wait a minute, man, you should put out more solo records!'"
These days, Blueprint is particularly excited about dubstep production techniques — "I don't think hip-hop guys are really messing with dubstep here in the States as much as they could be" — and he's also begun experimenting with music video production. So far, he's made one video for a friend, but held off on shooting his own. After all, it's better to practice on other people until you get good at it, right?
"Yeah, that's my plan," he agrees with a laugh. "'Cos I don't wanna fuck up my own videos."