For over a decade, Ohio rapper Blueprint has been steadily releasing material, initially as a member of the Greenhouse Effect, then as a solo artist and one half of the duo, Soul Position. His background and experience are on full display with King No Crown. The album is a throwback of old styles, without feeling dated or monotone.
On many tracks, the production is minimal, allowing Blueprint’s clever wordplay to shine through. While the sound varies throughout the album, they are tied together by a tone of frustration and passion. Black struggle and other systemic issues have been interlaced with hip-hop since the genre’s beginning and some of the frustration may stem from how little has changed. Part of the tone may also have been self-transposed, the old school beats almost have a sad tone when compared to newer songs that still sing of similar pains and challenges.
This doesn’t mean the album lacks originality or variety. Blueprint takes the core ideas and leads them down derivative paths, exploring the themes from a new light or with refreshing directness. Take a quotable from “Black Intellectual” where he raps, “Martin Luther King, Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, we’re stuck with Al Sharpton because they killed off all the rest.”
The entertainment value of his raps don’t come from any oblique analogy or double entendre, it’s a directness that drives home Blueprint’s points. On the production side of things King No Crown takes a similar approach. The initial old school vibes unravel into R&B tracks and samples that honor the rich history of turntablism. After all, there are many ways to convey the same message.
King No Crown delivers quality and intensity, both sonically and thematically. With more than ten albums under his belt, it’s impressive King No Crown feels robust and innovative. The title may be the most apt description of the album. Blueprint has proven he’s a king among rappers. So where’s his crown?