SOUL POSITION Hiphop’s dopest duo?
Soul Position

Fri Oct 17

Nocturnal

Maybe it's premature to make such a grandiose claim, but what the hell? Judging by their stellar new album 8 Million Stories (Rhymesayers/Fat Beats), Soul Position have the potential to become one of hiphop's dopest duos, in the league of Eric B. & Rakim, Gang Starr, EPMD, and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth. With the handiwork of producer/DJ R. J. Krohn (AKA RJD2) and rapper Al Shepard (AKA Blueprint), Stories is destined to become a classic of high-IQ, ornately funky hiphop.

They met in 1999 in the hiphop boondocks of Columbus, Ohio. RJ rolled with the Megahertz posse while Blueprint rapped and produced for his group the Greenhouse Effect and ran the Weightless label. Since Columbus' scene is small, it didn't take long for their paths to cross.

"I like working with RJ because he's a teenage heartthrob and he's got the 13- to 17-year-old demographic locked down," cracks Blueprint. "Nobody comes out to shows and buys merchandise like 13-year-old girls."

Teen fandom aside, both artists earned respect for their own work before hooking up together. RJ dropped one of hiphop's most accomplished debuts, Deadringer, for underground behemoth Def Jux. (Blueprint shines on one cut, album highlight "Final Frontier.") Deadringer has drawn countless comparisons to DJ Shadow's emotionally resonant, expansively cinematic style, and the charges hold water. 'Print issued his first full-length, The Weightroom, to much praise, and he's appeared on Aesop Rock's Daylight EP and Eyedea & Abilities' First Born. (He also nearly beat Sage Francis in 2000's Scribble Jam MC competition.)

On 8 Million Stories, RJ and 'Print find that crucial synergy and chemistry that elevate both their games to new heights. RJ's production mines the rhythms, timbres, and melodies of the best '60s and '70s funk, rock, and jazz. It's not innovative, but it is exceptionally well crafted and deeply pleasurable to hear on headphones (especially "Share This" and "Right Place, Wrong Time"). Blueprint possesses an enthusiastic, boyish voice, so he wisely avoids thuggish braggadocio. Instead, 'Print compensates with intelligent rhymes, wit, and storytelling verve, all of which coalesce on "The Jerry Springer Episode" (about a nightmarish girlfriend) and "Fuckajob" (about corporate malfeasance).

"Everything I write is inspired by things that happened in my life," Blueprint says. "The only exception is when I'm trying to be funny, because then I get to exaggerate some. Most jokes aren't true, but they're funny anyways."