Local music: Blueprint

By Columbus Alive
From the October 18, 2012 edition

Whenever musicians release outtakes or B-sides collections, they insist it’s not a throwaway project. Blueprint’s Deleted Scenes is the rare example where that’s actually true. Though it’s built from songs left off last year’s Adventures In Counter-Culture, the veteran Columbus rapper-producer’s new LP, out this week on his own Weightless Recordings, is a legitimate album.

“I had all these songs, and a lot of them, I was seeing that the only reason they didn’t work was because of what I wanted Adventures In Counter-Culture to be, which is like a rollercoaster kind of ride,” Blueprint said. “But there were plenty of songs that by themselves were not a rollercoaster, but were just really good rap songs.”

Adventures was Blueprint’s Kid A, a paradigm shift that exchanged the classicist boom-bap of debut 1988 for wide-ranging genre experimentation. That positions Deleted Scenes as his Amnesiac, the album Radiohead built from the sessions that birthed Kid A. The comparison is reinforced by Blueprint covering “Packt Like,” a Radiohead song from Amnesiac, on Deleted Scenes.

Cut from the same cloth, the albums play like companion pieces, perhaps more than Blueprint realizes. Though there’s plenty of rapping, Deleted Scenes is not a straightforward rap LP by any means. It shows vestiges of the guitar rock (“Bells & Whistles,” “Bartenders”) synth-pop (“Body Movin,” “I Wanna Go”) and neo-soul (“Senseless”) that lent Adventures such a broad palette. Not that his rapping has gone slack; ’Print puts mush-mouthed youngsters like Chief Keef to shame on one minute (“Bartender”) and condemns Keef’s violent lifestyle the next (the eerily prescient “Babies Got Guns”).

Deleted Scenes, to be celebrated with a tour stop Friday at Carabar, is part of an ongoing creative outpouring. Blueprint’s next album for Minneapolis indie rap hub Rhymesayers is finished. He’s working on a Soul Position LP with old friend RJD2. Then there’s his turn as a self-published author.

“It’s not that different from releasing albums,” Blueprint said. “I guess if I hadn’t have done the Weightless thing, I wouldn’t have known.”

As a writer, ’Print is following up this year’s “The Making of Adventures In Counter-Culture” with a compilation of his online essays entitled “Word Is Blog.” More books are coming, including guides to live performance and making it as an independent artist.

“I knew and had been through a lot of stuff, and a lot of it just kind of needed to come out of my head,” Blueprint said. “And I think it was something that I never really felt until I stopped drinking.”

Though he originally turned to alcohol to stave off anxiety on stage, about two years ago Blueprint realized drinking had become a way to kill time, 4-6 hours per night wasted getting wasted. After beating drunk-driving field tests on consecutive weekends, he began to appreciate the bullet he had dodged.

“I would lose my license. I wouldn’t be able to tour, which would cause a financial snowball effect, which would probably just have me getting a regular job,” Blueprint said. “If those things would have went a different way, I wouldn’t have a career.”

That epiphany coincided with another: He had produced three Illogic albums, five Greenhouse records and LPs for Envelope and Zero Star. He had a hand in two Soul Position EPs plus numerous instrumentals and remix collections. Still, after a decade signed to Rhymesayers, he only had one solo LP to his name. He decided to rein in his many projects and focus on his own output.

“I took a step back and said, ‘I’m just going to push myself and see what happens,’” Blueprint recalls.

The result has been a personal renaissance that shows no signs of stopping.

Photo by Tim Johnson