In more ways than one, 2011’s Adventures in Counter-Culture proved to be a pivotal album for Columbus MC/producer and Weightless Recordings founder Blueprint. As his first solo effort in six years, its critical acclaim introduced him to a second audience who was unaware that his discography ran as deep as a decade, beginning with his Soul Position material with RJD2.
Adventures also demonstrated Blueprint stretching out as an artist and producer, yards away from the familiar loops and break beats that fit naturally on his Weightless/Rhymesayers debut and homage to Hip Hop’s golden era, 1988. He’d outgrown sampling and was experimenting with synthesizers and the Roland TR-606, an ’80s drum machine with which he created sounds that weren’t bound to any particular genre.
“I don’t think I would be here if I was doing the same thing I was doing in 2002,” Blueprint explains. “I think you have to evolve because music evolves. You do have to evolve if you want to continue to attract new people and you should evolve anyway. My evolution in music just follows my evolution as a person.”
Blogging kept Blueprint’s voice from being isolated, connecting him to his audience and helping him inject more sincerity into his writing. What started out as his random drunk musings three years ago became something he took seriously once he followed the advice of a more experienced blogger.
“She told me, ‘If you’re serious, you can actually find a way to sustain and build your career by blogging and you’ll get opportunities from blogging and writing that you never had,’ ” Blueprint remembers.
He’s since turned his blog at Printmatic.net, “The Music & Adventures of Blueprint,” into a vehicle for fan engagement and selling merchandise. Writing regularly also gave him confidence to publish his first book, The Making of Adventures in Counter-Culture, as a companion guide for the album that goes more in depth into each track
“Those are things I had to give up and I’m glad I did because I’m seeing the results now, how much output I have and how I’m actually finishing a lot of the things I had talked about for years,” Blueprint says.
“In 2010, I started realizing that I was spreading myself too thin (as a label head/manager) to really be successful as a solo artist,” he continues. “A lot of it just came from the realization that I’d been putting out records for 10 years and I only had one solo record.
“I’ve put out group records and I’ve produced three Illogic records, a Zerostar record, one Envelope record, maybe three or four Greenhouse records. It dawned on me — in my attempts to play the background and not make myself a priority, my solo output had been really low.”
Noticing that he’d written a lot of songs that didn’t fit with the darker social commentary on Adventures in Counter-Culture, Blueprint found they worked well as their own album and released them this month as the follow-up, Deleted Scenes. The clever title came from him watching DVDs and noticing that the unused scenes in the special features are often just as good as what made final cut.
“You always have that feeling — ‘Man that was an awesome scene, why didn’t they put that in there?’ ” Blueprint says, laughing. “I wanted to take that concept from theatre and move it over into music, where instead of having three or four scenes that you wonder why they weren’t there, my ‘deleted scenes’ is an entire album.”
One “deleted scene” is a slick cover of Radiohead’s “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box,” which Rhymesayers intended to include on Print’s previous album.
“By the time the record came out and I started touring, we couldn’t time it right,” Blueprint explains. “We couldn’t figure out how to put it out because it wasn’t on the album.”
Columbus singer Angelica Lee’s effervescent background vocals are heard on tracks “Never Grow Old,” “I Wanna Go” and “American Dream,” while Terry Troutman of Dayton Funk band Zapp makes a cameo appearance on “Leave Me Alone.” Print says he found one of Troutman’s talk box demos on YouTube and emailed the owner of the video to set up a collaboration with the legendary recording artist.
“I had another guy come in and do the talk box and it just didn’t sound as good,” Blueprint says. “I thought, ‘If I have an opportunity to work with one of the pioneers, I should do that because that’s better than having someone try to emulate that style. So we worked it out. I took him the track and he liked it.
“I drove to Dayton, walked into his garage/studios, saw all these Platinum plaques on the wall for Zapp and Roger, and he’s just like, ‘Man, have a seat!’ And then he just got busy on it! I was like, ‘Holy shit! This is amazing!’ ”
BLUEPRINT (with DJ Mista Rare Groove) brings the Deleted Scenes tour to Northside Tavern
Friday for the free Selectas Choice night.