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Soul Position - 8,000,000 Stories

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Artist: Soul Position

Album: 8,000,000 Stories

Label: Rhymesayers

Review date: Oct. 27, 2003

RJD2 is to DJ Shadow as Blueprint is to _______.

If anything, 8,000,000 Stories, the long awaited collaboration between super producer RJD2 and up-and-coming emcee Blueprint, will help complete this analogy, the first model having been established after 2002’s masterpiece, Deadringer, that catapulted RJD2 into DJ Shadow territory, and since, some have even claimed he has taken the throne. Regardless, he’s bathed in the success, and has proved he’s not just another instrumental wonder boy, backing up artists like Mos Def, Aceyalone, Murs, Diverse, Souls of Mischief, Aesop Rock, and Massive Attack all with great ease and malleability. Replace him with, say, Fat Jon and 8,000,000 Stories doesn’t become half the expectation juggernaut it’s amassed since its conception, which is saying a lot. With an impeccable track record and expectations to always come through with the hotness, all eyes are on Blueprint, to not only deliver, but compliment the brilliance of his producing counterpart.

For Blueprint, the past few years have seen him working outside the lines, managing his label Weightless Records and nurturing the growth of his poetic prodigy in Illogic, but only furthering his solo career through guest spots, unofficial releases, and tour legs which have left a heavy heap of hyped – but not entirely convinced – fans. That’s why 8,000,000 Stories, a collaboration that was announced over a year ago, has been brewing as one of 2003’s most anticipated releases. Blueprint has a lot to prove, or at least accomplish here, and I’ll come out right now and say that he succeeds.

It’s a relief, especially after the somewhat disappointing Unlimited EP which showcased Blueprint as a smart, punchline driven emcee and RJD2 as a producer that hadn’t fully connected with his partner. But 8,000,000 Stories provides ample room for the duo to connect and shine, and showcase Blueprint in his brilliant role as narrator. The album’s lead single “Jerry Springer Episode” is a humorously crafted track documenting the unraveling of the trashy day-time talk show while at the same time providing insight into his vocal inflections.

On a similar note of wit and exuberance, ’Print delivers the most memorable trilogy since Buck 65’s riveting baseball narrations on Vertex. Entitled “Candyland 1, 2 & 3,” the three tracks are interspersed throughout the album, each targeting specific childhood memories and alphabetically listing the wonderful joys of times past. The rhythmic, albeit rhymeless strings successfully rejuvenates everything from GI Joes and He-Man, to Cross Colors and extra credit, eventually leading to the climactic conclusion that becomes any kid’s fantasy, filled to the brim with Now and Laters, Big League Chew, Boston Baked Beans, Gummy Bears, Jaw Breakers, and Pop Rocks. It’s a simple concept executed to perfection, and fails to ever lose its subtle novelty.

But amidst lighthearted tracks like these, Blueprint digs deep to reveal prolific moments that may finally prove his lyrical versatility. Tackling the often clichéd topic of lost love, “Right Place Wrong Time” has him sincerely speaking of untimely departure and emotional angst. RJD2’s backing is exceptionally noteworthy here as his eerie guitar riff and signature drum programming appropriately cultivate the track via its melancholic ambience. Even better is “No Excuse for Lovin”, a flawlessly executed narrative that does more than just tell a story; it delves into the characters as well, helping give the track depth rather than typical linear progression. The production is nothing short of stellar, perhaps the pinnacle of 8,000,000 Stories as RJD2 delivers a sinfully beautiful track that could have easily found a spot on Deadringer. His work here is commendable, supplying the always refreshing mix of soul, funk, and hip hop flare that has earned him a spot on most everyone’s list of today’s most talented producers.

As impressive as 8,000,000 Stories can be at times, the album often runs into predictable filler that only tarnishes the overall experience. The banal formulas of “Inhale” or “Fuckajob”, for example, are ones that should have been avoided, and if so, would have provided a more consistent premise for the collaboration. This is perhaps the only major fault of 8,000,000 Stories, which most should be able to look past.

And while some may have noticed that the introductory analogy remains incomplete, it only shows that 8,000,000 Stories was not as telling as many people anticipated.

By Brian Ho

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