Locals: Blueprint wrestles with the light and the dark on the excellent King No Crown

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Blueprint packs his new full-length, King No Crown, with numerous references to light and dark and night and day — competing concepts that mirror the dual existence he lived while crafting the album’s 15 tracks.

“I started writing the record in 2011 right as Adventures in Counter-Culture was coming out, and I felt like at the best point in my career the worst shit was happening in my family life,” said the rapper, born Al Shepard, who will headline an album release show at Brothers Drake Meadery on Saturday, May 2. “My brother was sick. My father was sick. [Friend and fellow rapper] Eyedea passed away. I think the music truly reflects what I was going through at the time.”

While recording album tracks, Blueprint, with assistance from his mother, served as his brother’s caretaker, and it wasn’t unusual for him to move directly from the upstairs bedroom to the basement studio, a jarring experience that resulted in “Live for Today,” among the rawest, most personal songs in the rapper’s consistently revealing catalog.

Here, atop a soul-kissed backdrop, Blueprint delves into everything from his brother’s health struggles, which eventually cost him his life (“My big brother caught a stroke ’bout a year ago/ He was only ’bout 45 years old”), to his rocky relationship with his father, which remained a source of frustration right up to the elder’s death.

“We always had a weird relationship, so his passing left more questions than answers,” Blueprint said. “By the time he passed away I was the only person in my immediate family who still reached out to talk to him. I was the last one, so I felt I was at least square with him. I’m at peace with it now. I did all I could do.”

Throughout, Blueprint also wrestles with more amorphous concepts like legacy and his still-evolving definition of success, and tracks like “Persevere” and “As Long As It Takes” find the MC allowing himself a brief moment to acknowledge just how far he’s come since he released his solo debut, The Weightroom, in 2003.

“You have to take a step outside yourself and say, ‘How many more years do I have to do this to prove to myself I’m successful?’ I mean, this is year 13, and I’m still out here,” he said, an attitude that mirrors the chorus of “As Long As It Takes”: “Build it to last/ No turning back.” “The whole concept of longevity is something I never talked about prior to this record, and I think that’s because I never really thought I had it. I was like, ‘Man, any day now this is going to come crashing down.’

“When we first started we never thought we’d become basically specialists in our field, but the longer you do something the less people that started with you are around. People get regular jobs or the market phases them out, and the next thing you know you’re one of the only ones still here and it’s like, ‘I made it.’”

Photo by Meghan Ralston

Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar

9 p.m. Saturday, May 2

26 E. Fifth Ave., Short North

brothersdrake.com

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