By 1987, hip-hop’s ambassadors in Run-DMC had reached the height of their popularity, raising hell and slinging the music like crack-rock. Run-DMC changed the look of hip-hop, trading shining suits for leather jackets and shell-toes, but they never elevated hip-hop’s lyrical content beyond battle rhymes and party jams. In 1988, a new wave of artists not only advanced the culture but also blew life into the next generation. Big Daddy Kane begot Notorious B.I.G., Rakim begot Nas, De La Soul begot A Tribe Called Quest, Stetsasonic begot the Roots, NWA begot Tupac, Krs-One begot Blackstar, Chuck D begot Immortal Technique, Kool G Rap begot Mobb Deep. For true hip-hoppers, 1988 is almost biblical in its importance.
That was the year hip-hop developed a voice and set a standard that still resonates. Ohio-based emcee Blueprint pays homage on his debut solo album to hip-hop’s golden era. Equally skilled on the mike and as a producer, Blueprint (half of Soul Position) brings a fresh approach to that ol’ 1988 boom bap. On "Lo-Fi Funk" he loops some James Brown-esque cuts over a neck-snapping beat and (mercifully) relegates Aesop Rock to a simple hook. On "Liberated" Blueprint blasts snakes in the underground, spitting "It seems no matter how far you make it/ somebody out to sabotage what you hold sacred/ it doesn’t mean as much to them as it means to you/ they only do it ‘cause it’s the cool thing to do."
It’s always refreshing when an emcee bashes some of the hypocrisy in the underground, but Blueprint is at his lyrical best when barking on females. In order to keep ‘88 live and in effect, Blueprint samples the classics, highlighted by the Juice Crew’s anthem "Symphony" on "Big Girls Need Love Too." Blueprint doesn’t discriminate, blasting wafer-thin chicks and the big-boneded: "Double my body weight, double the fun/ I’m doubling my pleasure like double mint gum…You’re half the calories and half the fat/ But Blueprint still loves you, even if your chest is flat."
Blueprint could have cut-and-pasted his way through 1988, recycling hooks, beats and samples, but he clearly took his time and laid out his vision. Call it a progressive throw back album, fresh for 2005.