Blueprint, Count Bass D, DJ Rare Groove, Tuscon

Deep South the Bar, Raleigh

Sunday, May 4, 2014

“It’s like a house party in here!” Blueprint exclaimed last night at Raleigh’s Deep South the Bar before launching into a cut from his latest CD, Respect the Architect. The evening did have a cozy house-party vibe, thanks to an enthusiastic but small crowd that arrived for a surprising Sunday night show featuring underground rap vets Blueprint and Count Bass D, plus possible up-and-comer Tuscon.

Blueprint clearly was the star of the evening: He delivered a sharp, well-paced set of rhymes that spanned several years of his sadly underpublicized career. Recent tracks such as the topical, gospel-flavored “Perspective” showed that the Ohio-based rapper hasn’t lost a step during his 15-plus years behind the mic. He dipped back into the past with joints like “Final Frontier,” which appeared in 2002 on RJD2’s Deadringer and “Hand-Me-Downs,” perhaps the best known track from Soul Position, Blueprint’s off-and-on collabo with RJD2. He even got a nice call-and-response on the latter’s chorus: “Look what we handed down/Don’t it make you proud/Look what we handed down/Come on say it loud.”

Mixing styles and subject matter, Blueprint casually commanded the space. When he rapped “I do this for myself, man, I’m a musician,” it was easy to believe. When he followed that with “Fuck hip-hop, I’m easy listening,” it was easy to agree—the man is easy to listen to.

DJ Rare Groove launched the show with an hour set that demonstrated he’s got deep crates and an ear attuned to transitions. It took only a few minutes for him to grab the club’s attention, getting heads bobbing and hands waving. One person even had to jump onstage to show some love with a dap and “Awww yeah.”

Tuscon followed: Part of the 1100 Hunters fam the dude can lickety spit enough to make Krayzie Bone or Twista seem tongue-tied. He’s not a one-trick rapper, either. Slowing down, he still commanded attention. His lyrical skills outpaced the production arrangements in his set, but he’s got an upcoming release that suddenly has me interested.

Count Bass D took the bill’s middle. He’s got a smooth flow and a rich tone, though his short set proved underwhelming. Though likable and entertaining, he pulled double-duty by keying in his own backing tracks, repeatedly moving from front and center to behind the computer and then back again. Just as his set would build momentum, he darted back to his screen.

Maybe local rap fans were home watching The Shield take out Evolution on the latest WWE pay-per-view, or maybe they were just recovering from the weekend. Whatever the excuse, it’s their loss; it was a jamming house party.