In Blueprint and Edan’s 1988, the B side won every time; the Bomb Squad’s baroque bluster crumbled under crusty, lowest-fi breaks; and Run’s house was abandoned in favor of JVC Force, Just Ice, and the Wild Pitch roster. It was a year when Yo! MTV Raps made an othership connection to any alienated, hermetic, brainy type with a cable box. Naturally, the mix-show archivist from Columbus, Ohio, and the white wax junkie from Baltimore respectively have a skewed take on the year their living rooms were touched by a Kangol.
Blueprint’s grimy 1988 is all dusty, ear-cracking subway breaks and static licks. “Big Girls Need Love Too” even cops the same Billy Joel sample Marley Marl used on Kool G. Rap’s “Road to the Riches,” but ups the primal factor by cock teasing the chord progression, turning Billy’s big-shot riff into a relentless onslaught of maddening eighth notes—it’s Cypress Hill’s “duke-duke-duke” trick on a bedroom producer scale, a joke tailor-made for crate diggers and obsessives (although the Digital Underground sample at the end is kind of anachronistic). Blueprint is the antidote to 12 months of Kanye overexposure. His gritty beats pour sand in West’s glossy modernist Vaseline, and his rhymes have the anti-anti-intellectual attitude of a loudmouth braggart you’d be proud to have on your quiz bowl team. Complete with a stay-in-school message and the liberal flaunting of his hip-hop IQ as his magic stick or Bow Wow-sized gun of choice (“I hope to God that you’re a scholar/’cause before I test your rhymes, I’ma test your knowledge”), 1998 should be called The College Graduate.
The beats on Beauty and the Beat are dirtier, uglier, and have none of Blueprint’s sophisticated ear for syncopation, all of which makes Edan sound more like something Peanut Butter Wolf dug up for his latest obscurist comp. Even Edan’s gimmickry (perfectly old-school, actually) has an odd internal logic, like name-checking rock bands, but inside out and reverse (“Butterflies made of Iron ride the horizon/giving Creedence to the Revival of Poseidon”). Edan’s fanatical devotion verges on the unhealthy—one of his mix tapes features roughly two dozen songs that sample “Funky Drummer”—especially when he flips a couple chords from the Dells, but forces himself to start with purist second-guessing: “Prince Paul already used this loop/but I’ma keep it moving and put you up on the scoop.” Raw he gives it to you . . . all trivia.