I'll say this once, and only as a preface for the following, and only because it's true, and only to get it out of the way: I'm a Blueprint fanboy.
Blueprint is the only rapper I listen to consistently who improves with every album. I say that every time I write about the dude, but it's the absolute fucking truth.
Print has grown from raps about being a rapper rapping, to raps about a rapper rapping about culture, to raps about a rapper rapping about racism, politics and society, to King No Crown, where he's a rapper rapping about respecting himself enough to be better than all other rappers rapping, and mainly by making better conscious decisions.
King No Crown is the album where I imagine an even minier-Print rapping on my right shoulder. Lil' Print's pointing out where it's easy to do what a young-Print would do, but the better decision is often a better investment in self, and while Print isn't audibly judging me for considering taking the easy road, he's for fucking sure judging me on the inside.
Throughout the entire album three things are noticeably certain:
1.) THE BEATS ARE DISGUSTINGLY DISGUSTING ASS BANGING ASS BANGERS. Seriously, even without the raps, this whole shit knocks. And for a 35 year old white father of three to notice the knockability of these knockers, well, that says something about the knockage.
There is one specific part of one song inparticular where I've audibly cooed and then started the track over just to hit that sweet spot again. The track "Black Intellectual", while knocking from all angles right off the bat, with on point lyrics and that calm hype of a meter, has an almost three minute instrumental ending starting around 2:30 and it's BALLS. I've hit this track so hard in the whip lately that my wife was shocked when all three of my children (ages 7, 5 and 5) simultaneously dropped a face-level double clap at the exact right time, and then kept the heads nodding. As the hypnotization continues, the claps get closer and closer together, and my 7 year old son all the way in the back of the car hits it EVERY DAMN TIME. "Start it over dad!" lil' dude yells. AND THEN I WIPE THE HIP HOP TEAR OUT OF MY HIP HOP EYES AND START "Black Intellectual" OVER AGAIN.
The track "Not Afraid of the Dark" is just the first all instrumental track in what I hope will be a side of Blueprint we'll get to see more and more often. This shit is fucking disgusting. The fact that it's slow and steady doesn't take away from the fact that it's one of the more crisp examples of introspective beatmaking, and I'm feelin' this eerily gorgeous Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician shit going on, AND IT EXCITES ME.
The beats on King No Crown are murder.
2.) PRINT IS STILL SINGING! The songs "Nothing Like This" and "Live For Today" and "As Long As It Takes" are the prime examples of Print continually poking us with the his Adventures In Counter-Culture tip. He killed it back then when he broke his own mold, and here he's dangling the pieces of that broken mold all over this album, and it's fucking awesome.
The confidence Blueprint emits as an emcee and producer are amazing, of course, but the fact that he's sashaying and singing while fluttering his pinkies off his bedazzled microphone? BRO, PRINT SANGIN' LIKE A MUFUCKA, NO BULLSHIT. I might sound like I'm goonin' on him, but I fucking love the Print-singing, hard.
3.) PRINT THE WRITER IS ON PAR WITH PRINT THE RAPPER. For the last decade Print has always sounded tough in that his voice is in your face deep in tone, but on King No Crown, he sort of lets down his rap guard and just talks a bit. The vulnerability he shares with us is almost alarming because at times he doesn't even sound like Blueprint.
But when he starts hitting on these intimately personal topics, like the health of family members or the loss of a friend he still looks up to, you're aware it's rap you're listening to, but it feels more like he's personally reading you poetry he wrote to help heal, cope, deal. Listening to King No Crown is a fucking privilege, and a prime example of why I choose to look for new Print at every opportunity.
King No Crown is just the latest installment in the lifelong pleasure cruise of watching one of my favorite rappers make classic album after classic album, and if you'd care to join me on the veranda for a suntea, I'll be leading the group in pantsless hip hop yoga. Namaste.