Monday, September 12, 2011
Ten Years Ago
Ten years ago something happened that altered things irrevocably. It was an opening salvo in what had previously been a cold war. It was something that delineated the timeline into "pre" and "post" periods. It changed the way we thought and how we acted. There was a definable before and after.
Ten years ago someone popped up on our radar who hadn't been there before, but should have been. He was a man who became a monster and grew to symbolize a larger looming threat. He grew to be hated and people called for his head.
Ten years ago, everything changed.
Jay-Z's The Blueprint completely altered the Hip-Hop landscape. Not only did he openly declare war on long time rival Nas, but that album also heralded the arrival of Kanye West into the Hip-Hop consciousness.
The Blueprint sounded like nothing else out at the time. It's soul sample soundscape, provided predominately by West and Just Blaze, was as revolutionary as A Tribe Called Quest's use of Jazz; it provided a warmth and connected Hip-Hop to previous forms of Black music. It build upon those bygone records and introduced them to a new generation.
Before The Blueprint sampling had been dumbed down. Thanks to Diddy sampling wasn't viewed as an art, but rather the act of a lazy producer. But West, Blaze and Bink showed how chopping, flipping and speeding up samples could make a known song sound new, yet familiar.
The Blueprint also showcased Jay-Z at his most focused to that point. Jay-Z was saying that not only was he the rightful heir to Biggie's throne, but that he was going to take it regardless of what anyone thought. He was fierce, fearless, funny and honestly at the top of his game.
Additionally Jay-Z gained respect as an artist. The Blueprint wasn't just a collection of songs, it was a bonafide album. There was a cohesive feel to the whole affair.
As a result of The Blueprint you saw an increased lyrical tenacity in Nas and the rise in popularity of samples, particularly the sped up variety. Coincidently 2001 also marks The Neptunes' peak. The Blueprint is also Kanye West's coming out party and the beginning of his dominance as an artist.
The Blueprint was released on the same day as Fabolous' Ghetto Fabolous and Ben Folds' Rockin' the Suburbs. Ten years later, of those three albums it's the only one that still packs cultural impact and the only one that still gets spins around Fish & Spaghetti Corporate Headquarters.
I guess we never forgot.