Few voices in rap nail normality as astutely as Ohio’s Blueprint does, and his new EP “Falling Down” reiterates why his approach remains essential in 2024. Amongst the glamor and glitz, this brand of ‘alternative hip-hop’ has wavered outside of dependable workhorses like Oddisee and Skyzoo. Growing up twenty years ago, we were spoilt by albums from rappers like Akrobatik, Phonte, J-Live and Murs regularly, and I’d throw Blueprint into that bracket too. The 2000s were glorious for underground Hip-Hop, and a new Blueprint release is always highly anticipated by the RapReviews.com staff, considering the pedigree of his Soul Position output, and solo projects like “1988” (2005) and “Respect the Architect” (2014) scoring highly.

A meagre five songs are offered, ranging from the bleary-eyed reality of paying bills to the bleak reality of married life falling apart when it feels too late to rebuild. There’s a lot packed into this eighteen-minute EP, and it starts off wonderfully with “Fix Your Own Plate”, championing a DIY mentality, given how hard it can be to find trustworthy people in the music industry.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more relatable verse than Blueprint’s on the title track “Falling Down”, as he reflects on his career so far, and how he has to stay motivated despite things not always going to plan. With the beat plodding along like the endless slog of life as a middle-aged father, the video captures the metaphor nicely on how it knocks an artist down, whether it be financially, mentally or even physically:

“I’ve been lower than low, my last dollar spoken for
Stuck on the outside, trying to find an open door
Years back, I was thinkin’ I’m supposed to blow
Now I’m thinking this aint how life’s supposed to go
Was in the fast lane, now things moving slow
From young and bold to can’t believe I’m growin’ old

This current chapter can’t be how my story’s told
From sleep to comatose, as deep as overdose
Used to have a big squad, now I’m all alone
They all gone now they can’t hit me for a loan
Used to have a couple dime pieces on my phone
They moved on when I couldn’t bring the bacon home
Sometimes it feels like the devil done stole my soul
Sometimes it feels like the darkness done stole my glow
Huh, but it ain’t over though…
I’m down but not out, until I see the curtain close”

Usually when a rapper is bragging about their bills, it’s because they are rich. In this case, Blueprint takes the listener through the pain of actual bills, citing the only thing worse than them is bad credit from not paying them. Now, for some, this may be too real. Do people want to listen to someone giving financial advice through the medium of rap? Jay-Z got noshed into next week for dropping some advice you’d read in any best-selling book (ironically some of these are found on the shelf of Blueprint’s apartment in the “Tough Times Don’t Last” video), and this approach always seems to cut through quicker to the general public when it’s coming from a billionaire. I’m the opposite, I find that shit hits harder when it’s coming from someone else in the trenches, trying to survive, rather than a generational talent that’s not struggled financially for thirty years. My lifestyle is certainly closer to Blueprint’s than Jay-Z’s, so a song like “Bad Boy Bill” connected. I only compare to Jay as it’s the most notable example of this type of song about money, but also because every time I search for Blueprint’s music I end up sifting through Jay’s “Blueprint” trilogy first. They are intrinsically linked, and in this case, Jay-Z has had the career successes Blueprint hasn’t, yet Blueprint is the one still crafting Hip-Hop records for the guy on the street.

Aside from the instrumental song “Tough Times Don’t Last”, which sees Blueprint acting and directing the video, my favorite track is “It’s Over”. It’s a tale of a man knowing he’s being cheated on, and accepting that he’s been a weak partner. To hear such vulnerability that affects most men during their lives, it’s a song that sticks out as something special. With its sad instrumental, repeated cries of “it’s over”, and verses delivered with severe sincerity, you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy:

“I called you last night and instantly regretted it
You said I was to blame for our capsized relation-ship
I wish you would have said it then
I wish you would have talked to me, instead of him
They say a woman branches out before she ever leaves
By the time you find out, she’s in the breeze
I thought our love was evergreen
Now with envy, I’m ever green
Wondered why you chose him instead of me
Even my own mom’s in disbelief
I used to see you seven days a week
Now all I see seven stages of grief (it’s over)
And everyone can see it but me
Lying to myself, living a reality that ain’t fair
I keep pretending that I can’t hear
But you said it loud and clear, it’s over…”

Four songs and one instrumental mean that while I highly recommend this EP, I can’t quite put it on the same level as “1988”, which is rightfully a 10/10. This is further proof of why the culture needs an artist like Blueprint. The concepts, the connection he can muster from the listener, the production (all self-produced, no less) – it’s all so genuine. His choice of hard drums and conversational rhyming retain an uncomplicated quality about them that keeps his style unique amongst a crowd of wordplay-driven lyricists and flashier gangsta stereotypes. Blueprint may feel like he’s “Falling Down”, but he’s never fallen off. What an absolute treat.

Blueprint :: Falling Down
9Overall Score