What does it take to be a dope MC? If you use one of Columbus’ illest lyricists, Illogic, as an example, it takes writing most of your rhymes at work, sharpening your battle skills with your exercise group, and immersing yourself in hiphop until you simply crave silence. Follow along on this interview I recently conducted with Illogic to understand the man behind the mic as he sheds light on his long overdue sophomore release, Celestial Clockwork, the upcoming Got Lyrics? EP, and the highly anticipated supergroup, The Orphanage, which consists of himself, Aesop Rock, Blueprint, Eyedea, and Atmosphere. Intrigued yet? Enjoy
Jbutters: You have a lot of projects lined up, I sometimes wonder how emcees work on so many projects at once, you always have those heads with the phantom projects that never drop but..
Illogic: Well, all the projects I’ve been working on are gonna drop sometime soon. My Got Lyrics? EP is going to drop in September, I got a single that I’m working on for Rhymesayers, that should be coming out in August, and Celestial Clockwork should be out next summer. Everything is coming out; it’s just the process that takes time.
I got a list of stuff you got coming out, your second album Celestial Clockwork, like you mentioned, the Orphanage project, the Iskabibbles LP…
Yea that will be out probably be out in July. That’s done. We’re just waiting on the artwork and then get it mass-produced.
With all the attention Weightless is beginning to receive there is a lot of hype and momentum building, within that what are your goals in hiphop and how do these projects fit into those goals?
I just want people to feel what I feel through my music. With everything that’s happening right now everything is looking on the up and up. People are accepting our music for how we present it and its not gonna do anything but get better from here. In my opinion, there is no comparison between Unforeseen Shadows and the future solo projects I have working out. Unforeseen was my first album and (look at) the attention that got. I’m proud of it, but in comparison as far as the work and the feeling I put into Celestial Clockwork and Got Lyrics? I hope people like those as much and hopefully like it more because I do. As far as hiphop, I just want people to know me. Ha ha
I just want people to know my name and say Illogic is my favorite rapper. I want to touch people. I’m not the battle all the time cat, I like to give you some stories and talk about some stuff. That’s what my next album is basically, it’s a more conceptual album than Unforeseen was.
That pretty much leads into my next question, some people have a lot of different goals for the second album. Some say it’s hard to outdo the first album. Is that what you were looking to do or were you only trying to build upon the first album?
I’m just building upon it. The first album was just a collection of stuff I wanted people to hear. If people feel where I’m coming from then I can focus on doing a whole album how I want to. I didn’t do Unforeseen as an album. We just did songs, did some more songs and were like ok let’s put it out now. With Celestial I had the whole album written before I even started recording it. I had plans for each song. As much attention as the first one had, with heads calling it classic and so on, I wanted to top myself. I may not, but in my opinion I have because I’ve made a conceptual album. Every song on Celestial has a place on the album and is apart of a story. I basically built upon where I was, in certain songs I may have taken that feeling and explained it more or made it more intense. I expanded on feelings I had in the span of time between the first album and this one.
Is Blueprint still doing all the production?
Yea Blueprint is doing all the beats except a couple extra bonus cuts I might include from some other producers.
I heard you received a few beats not too long ago from some top underground producers, will any of those be on there?
They probably won’t be on the album because most of it is done and I have the beats already picked out. I just have to record four more songs. I’m doing some stuff with Blockhead, Ant (Atmosphere), and some producers here in Columbus as well. So I’m doing stuff with a lot of other people, I’m just not working on any albums with anyone else right now, just compilations.
Do you think if you mixed some other producers with Blueprint that you would have still been able to achieve a full conceptual album?
Nah the whole album has a feeling and Blueprint knew the mood I was going for because I talked to him about the concept beforehand. When we first went into it I told him what I wanted to do and this is the type of production I wanted and he made music accordingly. Everything fits because having the same producer and the same machine allows for the beats to have the same feeling and the same mood. It’s just different extremes of that mood. I don’t think it would have had that cohesive nature if it had been more than one producer. Its like with Aceyalone’s album, Book of Human Language, without Mumbles doing all the production the album probably wouldn’t have came off as conceptual as it did.
There has been a lot of talk about your upcoming album, but I’d have to say it’s been more talk on the supergroup of sorts, The Orphanage, that you’ve formed with Atmosphere, Blueprint, Eyedea, and Aesop Rock. Is the idea behind the name that your styles have no home?
Basically that’s what it is. The way we came up with it was we were all in New York at Rocksteady last year and Slug was naming some group names that he wanted to use. He said the Orphanage and we were like why don’t we use that. That was even before we decided to do an album, it was just like that’s who we are. We’re a big group of cats who all do music together and we’re all friends.
There are a lot of styles within the group, how do you feel the styles will complement each other?
The type of thing we went for we were just on some MC shit. We weren’t trying to be the next great supergroup. We were just trying to have fun. Everyone has done stuff together before just never everybody on one song. The stuff that we have done sounds good, we didn’t know how it was gonna turn out either. So far what we got right now are some stories and songs with only a few of us on it. It’s turned out rather well, probably better than what we thought it was going to. We just got together and said lets do songs and see what happens.
Where has the bulk of the recording taken place?
We did all the recording in Minneapolis.
I don’t know if you’re online much or frequent different message boards, but the hype machine has started. A lot of word of mouth promotion online has been known to set unrealistic expectations for albums yet to be released.
I think that’s what its going to be. I think a lot of people may be disappointed, not really expecting what were putting out. We didn’t sit down to make a big concept album. Just because all of us separately do things of that nature people are expecting us to get together and make this super dope album. We just tried to make an album.
Some heads have practically certified the album a classic without hearing one song.
They maybe disappointed. They might be like this isn’t what I wanted. I hope people like it though.
Do you think that word of mouth could negatively affect how it will be received?
I think the word of mouth will help it more than hurt it. Either way it goes people will buy it and like it or hate it. The album’s gonna be released off Rhymesayers in the future.
I mentioned the infamous word “Classic” and I feel it’s completely over used these days. What are your thoughts on the over usage of the word in hiphop?
I don’t think you can call anything classic until you can put it on 5 or 10 years from now and still get hyped when you listen to it. You can’s say that an album that came out yesterday is classic today because it cant be a classic without longevity. I don’t feel I have a classic album yet, but if cats are still listening to Unforeseen in 2020 then it will be a classic album. Right now it’s a good album, but not a classic. I don’t use that term very often.
I read Got Lyrics? is supposed to be a battle oriented compilation EP. What artists are on it and why did you choose to put it out before the second album?
Got Lyrics? was originally a project I was doing with a kid here named True Skills, but he was slacking. It was supposed to be out last year, I had everything written but we just couldn’t get together to record. I wanted to do a complete battle album. That was the plan, but it was pretty much dead. Blueprint was like you got the songs written you might as well put it out and not waste your writing. So I went down to Cincinnati and in 2 days we did 8 songs. The only other featured artists are Aesop and Vast (Cannibal Ox). I might put an Orphanage song on there, but that’s still up in the air. I was gonna have a lot of MCs from Columbus on it but that fell through so it didn’t happen like I wanted it to. It will mainly be me; it has about 4 or 5 battle songs.
So is this even an EP or your second album only it’s not your second album?
It’s an EP really, there are about 8 songs on the whole thing. Some people will say it’s an album and some will say it’s an EP, but it’s the second album before the second album.
I read you’re also in a group called RCA.
Yea that’s dead. The kid I was in the group just disappeared for 3 months and no one knew where he was. We had the album basically done with only 3 or 4 songs left to do and we wouldn’t see him for months at a time so we just scrapped the idea.
Where did he go?
He was here, but not into hiphop. He had moved way out into the boonies and didn’t have a car or everyone’s numbers because other heads were moving. A cat started using their verses for other stuff and by the time he came back around it was pretty much dismantled already. There will be a couple songs from it on some compilations Weightless will be putting out, but as far as an album its dead.
Are there any other crews or groups your in?
Well, I’m in a crew called Spitball here in Columbus. It consists of about 20 MCs. There is one kid named Prism who does production, cats just come by his crib and drop a verse here and there. He takes them and compiles songs and releases them a few months later. Its all battle stuff, cats will lay down verses and not even know who is coming on after them. We all hang out and do shows together. It’s fun, that’s like my exercise group. They keep me on my toes with my battle stuff.
Speaking of battles I heard about your beef with the crew 3rdeye a few months back. Now that both parties put out material dissing each other where do you all stand, is the beef squashed?
As far as squashing it with them we haven’t, but we have as far as not really talking shit about them and just letting it die because we won. There really is no reason to say anything else so it’s dead to me. They put out another CD talking shit. Then I did a solo song at an expo they were at dissing them and calling them out onstage and none of them said anything. Its dead but it was fun while it lasted.
In an interview with 4th-district.com you said it took 8 months to write and record Unforeseen Shadows. Before you even started Celestial Clockwork did you go into it expecting to spend at least twice as much time?
Yea because I wanted to spend time with it. I wanted it to be better than the first. Unforeseen had all this hype and I wanted it to be a good follow-up album. I didn’t want the first album to be good and be like other MCs where the next album is garbage. I wanted to put thought into each song I did and pick the beats carefully. I had plans on taking much more time and it has been around 2 years and I still have a couple songs to record.
What guests are present on the second album, any Orphanage heads?
I have a song with Slug, a song with Vast and Aesop, and one with Greenhouse Effect.
Do you feel like by collaborating with heads outside your immediate crew that the album might not have the same personal feel as the first one?
I think it will because the cats that are on it were on the same type of mind state. For instance the song I did with Slug is a father and son song. The song I did with Aesop and Vast is called “Time Capsule”, where we are talking about putting a time capsule in the ground and what we would want people to remember us by. So the ideas I used with other people are the ideas we both have in common so they all tie in with everything I’m doing on the album that’s solo. I think it added to it more than it took away from it, because it gave another perspective on those songs.
I’ve mentioned a lot of projects you have or are still working on. During the time where the most recording took place did you ever feel close to burnout?
During that time I was at the point where I didn’t want to do anything involving hiphop sometimes. There were some nights I’d want to sit in silence. There would be road trips we would take for shows and there would be 4 or 5 hour trips where we would ride back in silence just because we where overwhelmed with hiphop. After Rocksteady I didn’t listen to hiphop for a week because I was just immersed in hiphop the week I was in NY.
The Internet has played a big role in your popularity, do you think there are some new ways the Internet will be able to level the playing field between underground and mainstream?
I hate the Internet. Its cool for selling albums, but not as far as cats talking a lot of shit. I really don’t go on the net much. I might check our site, a few others, and my email but I don’t post on boards or really get involved. However it’s a good tool for advertising and getting to a wider audience without having huge distribution. You can sell your stuff to someone overseas and just mail them a copy. It’s a lot easier and makes things more accessible so that’s the positive about it. As far as a lot of the Internet heads most of them wouldn’t be into hiphop without the net and that kinda irks me. Its cool that you can get involved in other hiphop scenes and not really be there but when cats take it too far it gets on my nerves.
You touched on some personal issues as well as some battle oriented material on the first album but you say the second album is one complete focus. What type of story were you aiming for before you started recording?
Basically it’s a story about me. Its a lot of the stuff I’ve experienced in life, lessons I’ve learned from it, and things that have formed me into the person I am now. Out of the 14 songs there are 4 or 5 stories. I think I have 1 that’s kind of a battle song on there but its real abstract. The story line was just me, it goes from my birth to my death and talks about everything in between. I cant wait for it to come out because its really frustrating me. Half of it has been done for almost a year and the other half has been sitting on my notebook for about 6 months. Its just waiting to get it done, get it out there so everyone can hear it and leave me alone about what’s coming out next.
Do you ever worry about having too many projects in a row and somewhat over saturate the market?
Not right now because I’m not that big. If I was big and I was on everything all the time I would be. Right now I’m trying to get known and that’s the reason I’m doing all these projects. I’m trying to get to a place where I can do an album every year and a half and not really have to do a compilation here and there just to stay in people’s heads so they’ll remember me. I’m doing a lot of stuff now because I’m enjoying it and I just want cats to hear my name and voice and say that his verse is ill.
Is getting to a point where hiphop brings in most of your money an ultimate goal?
I’d love to be in a studio and be working or be sitting at the kitchen table writing a rhyme and be working. Id love to get to that point but until I get there I have to have a job and if I don’t get there so be it. I’m working to a point where I can live like Slug or EL-P and not have to work. Instead be able to go on tour and sell albums and that is where the money comes from. I would love to do that I can’t wait.
Do people at work know you’re an artist and if so how do they respond to you needing days off for shows?
My job is cool about it. I take my notebook to work with me all the time and write at my desk. Most of Celestial Clockwork I wrote at work.
Ha Ha, you wrote it at work?!
I’d write a song like every other day. It could take a week or so to write a song depending on what it was so I write it at work because that’s where I spend most of my time. So on lunch break I’m writing or in between my work. People would always ask me to read what I was writing to them. I would and sometimes they would be like what the hell are you talking about?
They weren’t like get back to work?
Nah, because my supervisors are like we know you are not gonna be working here forever. My supervisors buy my CDs and cats I work with come to shows sometime. Everyone knows I’m serious and that I’m only working there because I need income. If I need a day off here and there I get it.
I kinda relate I don’t do much writing at work but I’m on the Internet all day printing information and interviews.
See I wish I had the Internet at work, I would probably be on the Internet a lot more too.
You mentioned on “What it Takes”, the ingredients to be an MC, what do you think it will take for you to be successful in hiphop personally and ultimately whichever level of success you are aiming for commercially?
As far as being successful period I want to have hiphop generate my income. I don’t want to have to conform to be a success in hiphop. To me being successful is staying true to myself and my music, doing what I feel as an artist instead of doing what everyone wants. A lot of people do what sells instead of what they feel. I want people to feel my music because its what I feel, and if they feel me then they will feel my music and vice versa. As long as I have that one person say he touched me with that song I’ll feel I’m a success. As far as monetary gain I’d love to be rich and ride around in limos, have a big crib, diamonds, and a garage full of classic cars but I want to do it doing the stuff I love and not have to sellout. If I can do Celestial Clockwork and blow up enough for me to have money for diamonds I’ll have diamonds.
It won’t be selling out because I like that stuff. I’m a flashy kind of person, I’ll have a nice ride because that’s the type of person I am. As far as my music I just want to touch people.
Touch em and be rich after touching them haha
Be rich while I’m touching them
What other goals do you have outside of hiphop? Are you going back to school?
I’m trying to get back in school in the summer to be a journalist and write for magazines and write books. I’m working on a book of poetry right now and a clothing line as well so if I don’t make it in hiphop I’m gonna have other avenues. I can write books or ghostwrite for people haha. If Missy can ghostwrite for someone why can’t I?
Haha she always be writing those songs where its always about some dude touching her. I’m like come on yo stop that.
Haha, I just got other avenues so I’m not putting all my eggs in hiphop. Hiphop is just something I love to do and I’m glad I’m good at it. I’m working on my other stuff too and hiphop will be funding a lot of that.
What type of clothing are you putting out?
Right now I just got T-shirts that I’m designing but it will get bigger than that. For now it will probably just be a T-shirt line, like long sleeve T-shirts and hoodies.
You can sell them at shows
Or in record stores with the CDs that’s the plan. With work though I don’t have a lot of time to work on that stuff. I write a lot poetry, so I’m working on my poetry book so I can put that together.
You’ll probably be writing that at work too
I write everything at work I don’t write at home much I write at work because that’s where I’m at and when I’m open because everything is happening.
I read you said you go to shows to observe MCs, wack or otherwise, out of your observations what have you learned, added or subtracted from your stage show?
Usually I learn more from good performers than bad ones. With most of the bad performers I already know not to do it. They really haven’t done anything new that’s horrible. Usually it’s the same horrible stuff. I learn when I see good shows like when I seen Atmosphere perform for the first time, they have a great stage show. There are a couple of cats I’ve seen that nobody knows like this kid BahDaddy Shabazz. He is from NY but lives in Dayton and he is probably the illest performer I’ve seen in my life. He is a solo artist, all he has is his producer, and for the hour and a half we watched him perform his energy level didn’t change. From watching him it was like I gotta do some shit. Good performers are the ones that make me say I wanna add or subtract this from my stage show, as far as being an artist sometimes you want to be able to take that performance energy into the music that you record.
Shout out to Columbus, Ohio, Spitball, Orphanage, Cannibal Ox, Atoms Fam, and everybody that I know in the whole world. I’ve had fun talking Peace, Love, and Blessing to everyone.
For more information on Illogic and Weightless Recordings log onto weightless.net