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Largely responsible for making Columbus, OH, a viable medium for hip-hop, Blueprint may have a cartoonish-sounding voice, but his lyrics are definitely not one-dimensional, varying from complex narratives to rhyme-battling punch lines to office humor. His productions are equally as dense and versatile, which makes sense given that his career as an MC developed side by side with his ambitions as a producer. Blueprint (born Albert Shepard) first discovered hip-hop in elementary school through his cousin who was an aspiring DJ. In high school, he used to freestyle only for fun, but his interest took on a new form when he went off to college at Wittenberg University. From participating in many open mics, MC battles, and talent shows, he met lyricists Inkwel and Manifest, who would all later form the Greenhouse Effect. The turning point for him occurred when he attended the Columbus Hip-Hop Expo in 1996. The contact he made with Columbus hip-hop crews, like MHz and Brothers Grimm, yielded a stronger determination to become a real hip-hop artist and a newfound commitment to learn how to produce. Within a year, he had saved up his money from DJing at local clubs and parties to buy his first sampler and musical workstation. After obtaining his degree in computer science, he and his Greenhouse cohorts founded Weightless Recordings around 1999 to release their first record, the Up to Speed EP. Through Greenhouse Effect and producing for Weightless MC Illogic, Blueprint considerably raised his profile among independent rap circles, constructing beats for strong underground contenders like Vast Aire, Murs, and Aesop Rock. His own turn in the spotlight shuffle came with his first two full-lengths, The Weightroom and Chamber Music, released in 2003 and 2004, respectively. The former featured several collaborators throughout the album while the latter entered into DJ Shadow territory with its left-field hip-hop instrumentals. Thus, both LPs served more as showcases for his highly original production -- a liking to murky textures and minor keys with frequent use of dark piano and string chords. He did not have a proper solo record until 2005's 1988, an ode to the classic year in hip-hop and that year's influential artists. Despite Blueprint's relative success on his own, the press and music critics gave him the most exposure from his collaborative group with MHz alum Rjd2 called Soul Position, which they formed back in 2001. Under the Minneapolis-based label Rhymesayers, the two have released the albums 8 Million Stories (2003) and Things Go Better with RJ and Al (2006). ~ Cyril Cordor

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Birth Name:

Albert Shepard

Years Active:

'90s, '00s