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Blueprint – Iron & Niacin

In the liner notes of Iron & Niacin, Columbus hip-hop artist Blueprint notes that it isn't an “album.” Originally released in 2005 as part of a series of CDs available only at tour dates, Iron & Niacin includes outtakes and rarities from Blueprint’s archives. Album or not, it provides a solid overview of his style and career to that point - including tracks with frequent collaborators and side projects - making it a great entry point to Blueprint's music. Another gift I received from my brother, the Iron & Niacin CD opened my eyes to Blueprint’s talent and provided a glimpse into Columbus’ hip-hop scene.

Iron & Niacin

Weightless Recordings

Iron & Niacin cover

After having success with a couple of cassette releases, Blueprint (aka Printmatic, born Albert Shepard in Columbus) formed the independent Weightless Recordings label. Since then, he’s become one of the savviest business-minded artists in Columbus, writing numerous books, a blog, hosting a podcast with Illogic, and even directing a movie, in addition to merch and a prolific output of music as a solo artist and with collaborators as a performer and producer.

Blueprint photo

The first release of Iron & Niacin came on the heels of Blueprint’s acclaimed Rhymesayers album 1988 and even includes an ad for that album. It was the second of his tour-only series of CDs, following 2004's The Vitamins & Minerals EP, and the title continued the analogy of the releases being supplements to his albums. Lyrically, Blueprint conveys a distinct midwestern humility and blue-collar ethos while tackling complex, sometimes seemingly contradictory, subjects. You'll recognize Columbus locations and references throughout. He touches on his struggles and themes of social justice and mental health.

Back cover of Iron & Niacin

"There are two sides to every coin, and it's the same in hip-hop," Blueprint told the Dallas Observer in 2006. "For every positive message, it's inherent that there's something negative. And you sometimes contradict yourself. It's not like you're lying. I look at my life as a positive dude who's grown up. I don't want to cast the depiction like I'm this perfect, positive guy who never fucks up. I want to be a regular guy who sometimes comments on what's wrong that he sees."

Blueprint photo

Production credits on Iron & Niacin include fellow Columbus artists like RJD2 (who Blueprint teamed up with in Soul Position) and the late DJ Przm. There are features with Illogic, Flip the Early Riser and Manifest. Iron & Niacin includes Blueprint’s reworkings of classic Juice Crew tracks “Goin’ Off” (Biz Markie) and “No Half Smokin,” (Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’”) which Rhymesayers released as a limited promotional single included with initial sales of 1988.

Label of Print Is Goin' Off

Blueprint re-issued Iron & Niacin as a more widely available release with new cover art in the fall of 2006 before embarking on a tour with DJ Rare Groove. Although Iron & Niacin would be the last of his “supplement” releases, Blueprint would only become more prolific as his progression to books, blogs and podcasts still lay on the horizon. Weightless Recordings continues today and Blueprint remains as active as ever. Forbes called him “one of the most industrious artists in independent hip hop.” The latest episode of his excellent Super Duty Tough Work podcast with Illogic is called Remaining A Fan As You Get Older. They talk about tactics for continuing to discover "new" old music and the benefits of vinyl collecting - things I hope to inspire with this blog as well.

Cover of Iron & Niacin re-issue

Producer – Blueprint

Producer – Blueprint

Featuring – Manifest Producer – Blueprint

Producer – Blueprint

Featuring, Producer – Ill Poetic

Blueprint press pic

Featuring – Illogic Producer – DJ Przm

Producer – Blueprint

Featuring – Aesop Rock Producer – Blueprint

Featuring – Flip, Manifest Producer – Blueprint

Producer – Blueprint

Iron & Niacin CD

Producer – RJD2

Producer – Blueprint

Producer – Blueprint

Producer – Blueprint

Producer – Blueprint

22 Soap

Featuring – Slug Producer – ANT

Producer – Jest One

Producer – Blueprint

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