This week marked the return of the printmatic, otherwise known as the emcee Blueprint, with his full-length release Two-Headed Monster (Weightless). He returns with his first album in 3 years, which follows up 2015’s King No Crown, and this time around things are different. What we have here seems like less self-braggadocio and more self-discovery with a bit more social commentary than anyone would have expected. But I guess that’s to be expected since Blueprint is far and above the reaches of uninteresting mumble rap, as he’s always opted to utilize clever similes and metaphors.
He opens Two-Headed Monster with his intro “Cleansing Process,” a call to a younger generation of artists which vehemently directs them to pay homage to those who came before and paved the way for them. All that, and then: Boom! ‘Print had never been one to shy away from creating larger than life beats in his songwriting, constructing them with a slew of sounds, samples, and incorporating them with his own musicality to create sonic sculptures. He takes a different approach with “Set It Off,” brimming with strings, horns, and percussion placing his signature off-kilter production to work here, which takes its lead lyrically from the intro. His lyrical content tackles current airwave fascination of the less-than-talented, not placing blame in any direction but still showing confusion with real artists benched “because the industry switched.” His own outlook here is the same that many others view. So many times, a Blueprint beat is easily spotted, not unlike “A Hero Dies Once” where a bassline repeats itself over a succulently hypnotic beat. But it’s ‘Print’s lyricism that’s always enticing, and while his view is never on an extreme socio-political tip, he delves into it more so than on his earlier work, here with a call to arms for a change as individuals in order to affect community change. ‘Print is able to get his point across without preaching to the choir, and it continues on the piano-driven “Don’t Look Back.” Move forward, without looking back. Period. The logic is obvious, and usually ignored, but that’s what makes it great.
He’s not averse to including others on Two-Headed Monster, turning it into a hydra of sorts allowing artists like Slug and Wordsworth to help him lay it down on the head nodding “Night Writers”; kicking it with Supastition and Mr. Lif on “Health Is Wealth” showing a maturity as the emcees actually rap about staying healthy; Aceyalone joins in on “All Shock, No Value” where both rappers bring their A-game and a lot of heat on this forceful track; and Has-Lo stands beside ‘Print on the single “Hoop Dreamin’,” and here is where I find solace against repetitive guitar lines and Blueprint’s flow. It’s strictly fire.
We can go on about the emcee’s prowess on the mic, and continually applaud his production efforts on Two-Headed Monster but why bother? All you need to know is Blueprint has once again outdone himself. Just when I think he’s released his best work to date, he stuns with new material. That’s never an easy thing to do.
Ezza Rose is a band. It’s also the name of the lead singer, originally from the small town of Julian, CA. before migrating on up to Portland to form the band, which released its first album back in 2014. The new 7-song release, No Means No, differs from the earlier folk sounds the band made back then, following the lead of the sophomore release of When The Water’s Hot, opting for something with a harder edge. The band is classified as psychedelic dream pop and initially, it gave me pause. Not because of any disdain for the subgenre, but I didn’t think it fit within the confines of the band’s sound after listening to the title track of No Means No. It’s a blistering, no-nonsense driving force of nature, with punk surf leaning and an ocean deep meaning. But the standout differs a bit from the rest, which was my mistake.
The music the band creates is unassuming, as “Circles” spins cautiously around tempting guitars that sputter and spew a gorgeous melody on top of the hypnotic rhythm. Yes, hitting the repeat button is sure to follow. Again and again. Rose’ voice is addictive, glorified in echoey space but enchanting. And then you have “Baby Come Down” which sounds retrofied yet contemporary at the same time, as one can imagine larger than life hairdos, suits & ties, as the band plays to star-crossed lovers dancing directly in front of them as a mirror ball hangs & spins from the rafters. But the audience gasps as she sings “baby come down/the sex was fine without it/baby come down/the music won’t play without you.” But the band shifts gears again, and what better way to do it than with “Hands Of Gold,” which shimmies, propelled by the rhythm section and has such a great pop sensibility. Rose’ “do-do’s” and “la-la’s” fit in well whenever they arise. What’s great about No Means No is you truly don’t know what you’re going to find within the confines of this grouping of songs. The band goes one way, and winds down another. But I find there’s less psych and more pop here, and that’s fine by me. I just know one thing, Ezza Rose has a new fan in this listener.