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It may come as no surprise, but hip-hop was the most popular genre of music in 2017, by an impressive margin. It was reported earlier in th...

Was Bink! the true architect of The Blueprint sound?

On September 11, 2001, Jay-Z released the second classic of his career, The Blueprint. The album was transformative for Kanye West and Just Blaze, the former picking up 5 production credits, and the latter 4. Both used this album as a springboard to hip-hop immortality. Just Blaze expanded on the sped-up soul samples by taking the instrumentation, playing it live, and propelling it into the stratosphere ("Welcome To New York City", "Hovi Baby", "As One", "Lollipop", "Pump It Up" and so on). Kanye stuck true to The Blueprint sound and helped vault Freeway, Twista and Common onto the charts, and his first 2 records, largely regarded as classics, relied heavily on the trail that was blazed by the creators of The Blueprint. Both artists are now considered all-time greats.

So who, you may ask, is Bink!? He's a producer who started out working with Lost Boyz, and came up in the same environment as Timbaland, The Neptunes, Nottz, and Teddy Riley. He produced "1-900-Hustler" (the record that broke rapper Freeway) and "You, Me, Him and Her" (the record that broke Amil) for Jay's collaborative Dynasty record in 2000.

He also said this on the Rap Radar Podcast in 2017:
I have a lot of sons out here but no-one's calling me Daddy
Bink is speaking about Just Blaze, and the next 5 minutes of the podcast touches on the phenomenon of biting a sound, copying a style, and getting a couple of lucky breaks (Bink specifically mentions "Just Blaze and the Blazettes", a line from Hov's 2002 track "Hovi Baby"). Bink mentions, in regard to what kind of sound Blaze in fact "bit", the tracks "The Ruler's Back", the opening track on The Blueprint, and "1-900-Hustler", released in 2000. The latter flips "Ain't Gonna Happen" by Ten Wheel Drive, speeding it up and sliding it into a nice loop. The horns are loud and bombastic, reminiscent of the Just Blaze signature sound that has dominated real hip-hop since 2001.

Let's backtrack though, because Just Blaze produced "I Really Like It" for Harlem World in 1999, which borrowed heavily from the 1983 New Edition track "Popcorn Love". Bink was sampling 2 years prior to that, courtesy of his work with Lost Boyz. On "Beasts From the East" he sampled a classic Bob James song, "One Loving Night", from 1977. In 1999 Bink was sampling heavily on his contributions to A+'s album Hampstead High, as well as his work with Kurupt (notably "Trylogy").

It's not as though Just Blaze just suddenly began sampling in 1999, though. Like a sound engineer (Young Guru comes to mind), he studied the way phones and electronic devices worked, taking them apart and putting them back together, gathering an understanding of the way sound is made and maintained. He used this knowledge to create custom ringtones in an era where no apps or stores existed to make or buy them yourself. A primitive form of sampling. Blaze also told me via Twitter he'd been making beats since the late 1980s, and his first use of sampling was definitely prior to his earliest credited beats in 1999.

So what of the third architect of The Blueprint, Kanye West? He's the one who has achieved the most and scaled the highest heights since 2001. One much-publicised story from that lightning few weeks was the vibrant competition between Kanye and Just Blaze. Here is how Jay-Z tells it:
I had two rooms in Baseline. It was a big room... That I'd record in. Then it would be a small room that Just would be in doing beats. What happened was, Just would peep his head in and hear what me and Kanye was doing and would just go back mad... It was like a heavyweight slugfest. For three days they were just knocking each other out.
This was a coming of age for Kanye West, who was really struggling to break into the market during this period. One of the most candid re-tellings of Kanye's influence and standing at this time was by rapper Hot Karl, who published his book Kanye West Owes Me $300 in 2016. In the chapter dealing with Kanye, he describes the Chicago producer as a cut-price Just Blaze, the beat-maker you go to when you can't afford Just, and he relays stories of Ye playing his music for a room full of hip-hop heavyweights and getting laughed at.

But Kanye sold sample-based beats as far back as 1996, utilising soul and disco samples, notably "City to City" by Grav, which lifted the bass line from "Cyclops" by Eddie Henderson. And while Bink! doesn't seem to acknowledge Just Blaze's work prior to 1999, he's complimentary of Kanye and never accuses him of copying or biting. During that same Rap Radar Podcast in which he confronts rumours that Just Blaze copied his style, he's incredibly complimentary to Kanye, saying, after he had heard early Ye track "Wow":
He's the epitomy of believing in yourself, cause if he had let people around him dictate his worth he'd still just be doing beats... There was a big hole in the game, and he filled that hole... He created a lane for himself, you have to respect somebody who creates a lane for themselves. That's why I respect Kanye. 
Is it a popular misconception, then, that Just Blaze was the reason that soul-samples became the "blueprint" for commercial success for hip-hop tracks during the early-2000s? Based on an objective timeline, Bink! was getting heavy spins from top-tier acts with sample-based beats a full 2 years prior to Just Blaze, and Kanye was sampling in 1996, 3 years prior to Just Blaze's breakthrough in 1999. But Just Blaze confirmed he was sampling well before his first production credit in 1999. When they came together for 2001's The Blueprint they were undoubtedly the top 3 sample-based producers in the world, and Just Blaze was likely already in most people's top 5. Kanye would soon join him. All three are still sampling heavily, and still sit atop the sample-based tree (Bink's work on the new Rick Ross album is confirmation he never fell off).

When you consider how influential that 2001 album has become, how many millions of dollars has since been earned and how many platinum plaques can be directly attributed to the trail that the album blazed, Bink! needs to be recognised alongside Kanye and Just Blaze as a pioneer, and someone who altered the direction of hip-hop in a few short years.

But was Bink! the true architect of The Blueprint? Based on all the facts available to us, all three producers contributed equally to that incredible body of work, and all three deserve the accolades for the sound that dominated hip-hop during the 2000s.

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