Last time I checked you weren’t a full time MC.
I knew I was going on a tour. It was either going to be the Def Jux tour which was like a month or this one. At first this one wasn’t a reality because it was too long and I had to go to work. But I knew that I was going to go on tour this year so for me to go I would have to be financially stable and if I get to that point where this tour is something I can make money [from] at least I can feel good about leaving my job. Prior to this year it really wasn’t an option with my family. I was a computer programmer so I was doing fine, but things started to clear up. I saved for five or six months and all my goals for savings I had gone past that so I was like cool I can stay out a little longer, so let me see what’s going on. I got an offer to do the Def Jux tour first and I had four weeks of vacation so I was going to do that and go back to work. One thing happens to this and next thing you know Blueprint is not on the Def Jux tour. I was really disappointed because I wanted me an RJ to go out, but at the same time I wanted to do the Atmosphere tour. I felt in terms of the acts and what I’m doing it would fit well with the tour. Plus it was longer and I’ve played more with Atmosphere than I have with Def Jux, so I was more familiar with these cats with the exception of RJ and Aesop. When I got scratched off the Def Jux tour it was like this is your option and I could have still done only a month and went back to work, but it was now or never.
What’s something on this tour that you saw that you didn’t expect?
One thing I saw was that a lot of people knew me by name and were more familiar with my stuff than I thought. When we started going west coast I didn’t think that anybody would know who I was, but I got out there and kids were coming up to me like I’m so glad you came out, we never thought we’d get to see you live since you don’t do a lot of shows, especially on the west coast. What’s blowing me away is actually being out and people being into it. Every time you go out, every time you sign something, every hand you shake reinforces the reasons why you chose to do it. The thing with me was I didn’t do it for the money, I was making more money doing what I was doing. I’m doing it to get my name out there, to get the experience, to meet the fans and create more awareness about me so I’ll be in a position to live off of this and this time next year I can go out and have a huge demand and play.
So what have you learned so far being on the tour?
I’ve learned that privacy is very underrated. Even an hour or two should be cherished. Sound is kinda shitty most places you go, so don’t sweat that and being prepared is huge. Play as much as you can because then you will be prepared for all the scenarios you’re going to see. There is always something different every night so once you get out there and start playing, you start learning things. Now I’m learning things just by being on this tour and not being the focal point. I have a nice set of time, but its not my tour so I’m learning and observing and picking up things that I want to do when I go out from merchandise, to the presentation of the set, the flow of the set, to just being able to do seven days and have a voice.
Let’s talk about beats. I heard you got started in ’97. Now that isn’t really long as far as production goes, so when did you get to the point where you felt confident enough to put your beats out there to be compared with everyone else?
I don’t know if I even felt that way until after I put out the first two records. When we put out the Greenhouse album and the Illogic record I still didn’t really feel that way cuz it was shit that I had done. We were in a crew and we were just recording and I guess I always had this feeling like don’t ever do a show if you don’t have anything to sell. That was the only reason I put out the first two records, so I wouldn’t have to do a show without some tapes or something to sell. So I did those and the feedback I got from those were cool. I was never really looking at it on a national level, even up until recently. I always looked at is as if I can be as least as dope as the kids who inspired me locally and have the respect that they had when I was coming up in the scene then that was cool in terms of beats. A lot of kids in Columbus are just like me they do beats and rhymes. Cats like Copywrite was doing beats and rhyming, Camu, Intellect, Brothers Grimm same thing. When I was coming into the scene they were coming up so I was like if I can hold down both aspects as well as them I’m content. But then people started hearing about our records I guess through the internet and doing shows. People started picking up and I started getting more feedback. Now I kinda feel like I have some things that can maybe compete with a lot of music be it commercial or the dopest underground shit. I don’t want to have one style or dominate one market. I’d rather have a mainstream cat say I’m gonna take that one beat from Blueprint that shit is hot, opposed to them listening to the tape and being like man everything on here sounds like some dirty underground shit. So that’s what I’m going for.
As a producer what else separates you from the pack as far as your specific sound?
I would say style or just variation. A lot of kids they just have dope loops. Some of them will just get a record and loop it up kick snare and that’s it. I can do that style. A lot of kids have a slow 75-85 bpm thing they do and I’m like that’s cool I can do that too. A lot of kids can’t do a beat that a girl will actually like, I can do that. With the Illogic shit that’s been my main thing. When I do those records it’s to prove how versatile I can be and constantly change it up from Unforeseen to Got Lyrics?. The presentation of the beats, the speed of the beats, we changed it up completely and that’s what I want to do. Kids are chopping up all their sounds now, I can do that too. From the slowest to the fastest to the brightest to the darkest sound what I think will set me apart is that I won’t have a signature sound. That’s kinda my goal because I think once you get into that you kinda become predictable unless your one of the elite guys like the Bombsquad who had the signature sound that was so dope it doesn’t matter. The Primos or the Pete Rock’s, those cats can do it. I don’t think that would benefit me a lot at this point to have a very signature sound outside of an album basis. Per album I’ll have an album sound and that’s because it’s conscious effort, but the beats on the one album won’t sound like another. That’s my goal.
I interviewed RJD2 a few months back and he said when he first started doing beats that he totally disregarded the fundamentals and tried to break all the rules, but then he realized that he needed to know the rules before you start breaking them. Did you go into it with the idea in mind that you wanted to be so different or did you learn the basics?
I learned the basics first because there was no one around. I was in Springfield Ohio which was like a population of 40,000 and the school I went to only had 2,000 students, so no one else was doing beats, no one rhymed. I had my crew and that’s when it started, but we were all from Columbus and went there and started growing. But I just started out basic. I said I’m just going to sit here with this sampler for a month, I’m not going let anybody hear anything I’m just going to learn the basics. I’m gonna read this manual front to back. I’m really a guy who will sit there and not make a beat until I finish the manual or if I get a new piece of equipment I’m gonna know it. Even if I don’t use everything in there at least I’m familiar with the terminology and the potential of the workstation. A lot of kids try to be different, but I didn’t want to try to be different I wanted to be effective. The beats that inspired me the most are the ones that are very simple, but really moving. Some kids will say I’ve got this 8 bell arrangement, its really complex, got these crazy sounds coming in from the left and to the right and it sounds like chaos and to them that’s dope. But it has no melody and that’s the problem I see with a lot of kids doing beats. The fundamentals of doing beats are melody and arrangement. You can have a 1 bar, 2 bar or 4 bar arrangement and that’s why kids don’t understand the appeal of a Pete Rock or Primo is they master melody to the point where its not just a guy doing a beat, its somebody who knows how to get your ear the same way a Beatles song will. It’s got a groove, it’s almost like a chorus and your groove is what hooks people in and if you don’t have that or if its whack and you don’t have an ear for the fundamentals then you shouldn’t take it any further in doing beats unless you just want to be an instrumental artist. To this day I still do that. I’ll have times where I’ll want to throw a bunch of shit in there, but I try to judge it per beat and sometimes the beat doesn’t need anything. Sometimes you can have one or two instruments in there and it works. I don’t like to cloud it up with a bunch of shit sometimes.
Would you feel comfortable doing a solo album with just your beats and you rhyming over them?
Yea, at first I wouldn’t. See I was never going to do a solo record until I met RJ. In 2000 I bumped into RJ, we had did a show together and he was like I’m really feeling you let’s try to do some shit together like a song or two. Then we did a song or two and that’s when I started doing solo stuff again, but I still couldn’t write to my beats at that point because I was just so used to doing my beats and letting everyone else rhyme to them and I was in a crew so I never had to write anymore than one verse. Even then I still didn’t write to my beat, I’d write to someone else’s beat then rhyme over my beat. It was weird I never did it. To this day its still kinda weird writing to my beats, but now I can do it more because I’ve done the Soul Position record and after the Soul Position record comes out I’m either going to do an EP or full length of songs that I produced and rhymed on.
Why did you choose to only rhyme on the Soul Position record rather than co-produce?
I’ve been in crews my entire career prior to Soul Position, so I was used to writing a rhyme, doing the beat, recording and engineering the entire session, sequencing the song, mixing it down, taking it to get mastered, coordinating the artwork, booking the shows and for the first time I didn’t have to do anything but write my rhymes, rap and go home. I did it for the first few songs with RJ and I was like this is the greatest shit on earth how come I never tried this before I should have done this years ago. That’s when I realized why I’ve never done a solo record because when I do shit with Weightless I handle my entire spectrum and it’s a lot of work where as with me an RJ it’s so much easier. Granted I’m a producer so I have a hell of a lot more say in the way songs are laid out, sequenced and the arrangement of songs than probably any other rapper that works with RJ. We both know this shit and we’ll sit down and build ideas and work through things together. But it’s so much easier to write when I don’t have to worry about other things. I think I’m going to start doing it a lot more now to stay inspired.
Do you feel you will ever have to leave to blow or do you want to stay and say I’m representing this area and make it blow up?
At certain points I think everybody goes through that especially in the Midwest where you’re like New York is the mecca or the LA underground scene is the shit because both of them had points where they were doing incredible things from like the whole Project Blowed movement out west to the Fondle Em era with the Juggaknots on forward and you’re like man I need to be there. But I was so inspired locally in Ohio and Columbus specifically that I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel like I can go to any of these other places and be another rapper, but I’d rather be the king of a small mountain than just another climber on a bigger one. Then seeing what kids like Atmosphere have done or other groups who have done it locally so strong it just bubbled over everywhere else. That inspired me to say I don’t need to leave. I think if anything my scene would be hurt if I left. Like if I decided to leave there would be something there that won’t happen, whether it would be kids saying if Print can do it then I can. There are kids who know of me and RJ and are like hey these guys are doing it and I’m from Ohio too and I am inspired by them and I want to pick his brain and see what he’s doing. I think the mistake kids make is they say Print you’re doing something different because your getting known everywhere so what’s your thing. I’m like I’m not doing anything different from what you’re doing, I’m just active. I’m just trying to do a lot of the same things your doing. I’m trying to meet people, being sociable, taking advantage of any opportunities. Things I’ve done that I didn’t think would be as large as they were have turned out to be real fruitful. At the time we formed Soul Position RJ didn’t have a record out and I wasn’t known as a solo artist. RJ wasn’t even signed to Def Jux at the time, he had just did the Mhz second single on Fondle Em when me an him got up. I wasn’t on Rhymesayers, we were both kinda just coming up and you look at that and he’s taking huge steps. He put out a record with Def Jux and he’s got his own thing going. At the time me and Aesop Rock did the song Alchemy we were both still coming up. He had just put a record out on Def Jux and I had known him since ’99 and we were like yea let’s do something together and his record ends up selling a shitload of copies and now everywhere I go everybody knows “Alchemy” and that contributes to people knowing me. At the time I did that freestyle session you mentioned it was like hey I’m here to record and everyone was like you want to go to the radio station. Cool. We go up there and end up doing arguably one of the most sought after freestyle sessions right now. I don’t know too many other freestyle sessions that kids just have everywhere and are using it as a standard for freestyles because everyone there was on that day and killing it. So I’m just trying to be active and it’s turned out to be fruitful and I think a lot of kids if they keep that same ethic they will eventually break through and get somewhere.
Being that you’re a dope freestyler where do you place that skills importance when looking at the overall ability of an emcee?
First and foremost you have to have the fundamentals nice voice, delivery, cadence things that make an emcee exciting to listen to on tape because the bottom line is that people are buying the records. That’s what they are going to walk away from the show with. You can do the illest freestyle that would blow somebody’s mind and no one’s taping it. The people at the show will leave saying he can freestyle, but there is still people who will walk away with your record and if your record isn’t up to that level they are going to be disappointed. So I look at it as freestyling is icing on the cake, but if you’re good at it, it adds an additional dimension that you can use in your stage show or to create anticipation about you. Some people are hearing me just from that Orphanage freestyle session like who is this guy, so it’s good there, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. But if you’re gonna freestyle be good at it or don’t do it at all because some people do it and they suck and their stature just starts dwindling. Like [people will say] I liked him until he started freestyling. I really like doing college radio shows too. Every radio show I’ve done I get excited about those because I know its going to be recorded, so it adds a different dimension for me as opposed to doing a show and freestyling isn’t the same. I think a lot of people will probably hear a lot of the freestyles from me on the radio before they do at a show. On radio it’s almost like recording to me. I take it that seriously, whereas sometimes your like I just want to freestyle 8 bars and be done. I don’t want to ramble on all night, there are four other guys on stage I’m just going to pass this mic off and that’s how I feel a lot of times at shows.
On the Weightless website you have a million records set to drop from a lot of mini crews and variations between your main artists on the label. What kind of difference can fans expect to see between something like Greenhouse Effect, The Minor League, and say the Iskabibbles?
I’d compare The Iskabibbles to any Wu Tang record where you got like 5-7 guys who are going to interact and do stuff together on a song by song basis. It’s got some concepts, but its not a concept heavy album. It’s more a album to do so we could have things to perform as a crew together. That was the whole goal. If we’re ever all in the same city and we all want to go rock together we got a slew of songs we can do to get everyone involved. The Greenhouse record concept wise is very heavy. We did like one or two songs where we talk shit, but the rest of it is concept heavy. The Soul Position album is real concept heavy so that and the Greenhouse stuff are kinda parallel. The Minor League is more of something we did just to talk shit and scream on the mic in a real aggressive, funny way. There are some concepts that are on that record, but the way we are approaching the mic is real aggressive and angry. Sometimes me and my crew will do records where the object isn’t necessarily to come with the craziest metaphor or punchline, it’s a style. We are into like delivery, cadences, voice, inflection so sometimes we do songs that aren’t about anything, but they are fun as hell to perform and it builds your skills and your ability as an emcee. So the Minor League is along that line. It started out with me and Manifest and we added this kid named Flip. We got pretty much an album done, but I’m just not home to finish it. I do so many records that when they start coming out its going to be like a floodgate. The Greenhouse record has been done since 2000. I did an instrumental record and I got one song left that I want to do with Mr. Dibbs and that’s been done since Summer 2001. The Iskabibbles is 90% done. I finished it a couple times and then I got picky as a producer and I changed a few things. It’s been done for a year and a half now.
Are you worried that some of these are going to sound dated when they drop?
Yea, but then I’m starting to see that with most artists anything that comes out is dated. The Soul Position full length was finished November 2001 and now it’s going to be 2003 when it comes out. We turned it in December 2001 and we’re chillin. The EP we did probably two months before it came out with some stuff that didn’t make the album. It was more like an exercise because I did 3 of the 4 songs on the EP in like two days. RJ sent me the beats and I’m like cool I’ll use these three, wrote the songs that weekend, recorded them the next week, mixed it the week after that, it got mastered and came out. But the album is a lot more thought out and it flows front to back, so I feel a lot better about that. But at the same time the EP is being well received so I know people are really going to dig the album. I’m just trying to stay active and be like 2 Pac or something and have a 100 records. I’m afraid that if I chill out I’ll lose something. While I’m in this mode where I feel good about what I’m doing on the mic I’m just going to keep recording and building my skills. Sometimes me and my crew we’ll get together and do four songs in a day and as long as I keep coming up with beats we’ll keep doing songs. We camp out whole weekends doing as much as we can all the time and that’s why we have so much stuff built up, but the only the only thing that’s been hurting us is our distribution. So a lot of records we’re like let’s not put that out until the Soul Position shit comes out. When the Soul Position comes out anything that Blueprint is on will get picked up, where as now some of these distributors are acting funny towards us.
So any distributor that carried Soul Position will carry Weightless Records now.
Right, so we’re like we could rush that shit but let’s hold our cards tight. It’s hard for a lot of people. Its hard for people in my crew to understand sometimes, but the ones who get it are like yea this is going to work. Plus I’m out here now putting in work so that Weightless as a whole this time next year will be taking up to the next step. I want to eventually get to where Def Jux, Rhymesayers, Stonesthrow are at. But I can’t do that if I just rush my shit out. I can’t do it if I don’t take my time and work the distribution and get it to radio and retail like I should.
What’s up with the Celestial Clockwork album (Illogic’s new solo LP with Blueprint on the beats)?
I gotta finish it when I get back. We recorded 90% of it, but the way we do albums we record it to a basic beat and then we go back and rearrange the beats to fit the songs and change the sequencing and things so it flows a little better. He and I have to go back and do that last step and then we’re going to do maybe two more songs. I’m gonna finish that and then someone else may put it out we’re not sure yet.
What else do you have coming out?
We’re doing a compilation called The Weightroom where I’m doing all the beats with everyone on Weightless. There are a lot more people on Weightless that have even been on some of our records that I want to help come up. That’s going to be next. If we’re going to wait to put out the full length projects then we might as well put something to set up those projects also and see if we can get new distributors that way. When I get back I’ll be doing it full time whereas before I was working like 60 hours a week. I’d get in 8pm every night sit on my couch for an hour or two, then I try to do a beat or write a rhyme or mix down a song or contact a artist to do some artwork because I was doing everything the website, press, etc., but now I got some people to help me. Manifest from Greenhouse Effect stepped up big on the business side so he’s helping out a great deal and I got another guy named Juan who helps for our show booking and that took a lot of pressure off of me and with me not working we are going to be a lot more visible in the next year or two. Now I just bump into people who are like I know you’re dope but I can’t find your record.