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by Matt Conaway
20 January, 2003@12:00 am
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Matt Conaway

HHS: Over the past year, we have seen you undergo a very interesting transition, from being known primarily as a producer to wearing both hats (producing and emceeing).  Was this your goal from the start, to juggle both aspects?

Blueprint:  I don’t know if it was necessarily a goal of mine to juggle them, but I definitely take pride in both aspects, as I want to be considered one of the best at rhyming as well as producing.  There are a lot of people who are good at one, or the other, but very few who can do both well.  And I want to be one of those guys when it’s all said and done.  I don’t want to limit my career to just being an emcee, or to just being a producer if I feel I have the talent and product to be seen as a leader in both categories, so I do try to make moves that will allow me to be more visible in both areas.

HHS: This transition seemed to correlate with your collaboration on RJD2′s Dead Ringer LP and punctuated with The Soul Position EP, would you say that this was the springboard to let people identify with you as not only a producer, but the complete package?

Blueprint:  Definitely!! The Soul Position project helped me move toward being seen as a solo emcee more than anything else in my career.  Prior to that I was content with being a part of Greenhouse and doing group songs, which wasn’t really a problem because I could always express myself inside of the group context without any issues, but writing songs by yourself and performing by yourself opens you up to a completely different vision.  When me and RJ hooked up it was the first time in my career that I could focus on just writing and recording, as opposed to recording, engineering, mixing, AND producing–which is a lot for anyone to do.

HHS: Columbus is really a hotbed right now, how did the whole Soul Position collaboration come about?

Blueprint:  Me and Rj met in jail.  He was in for grand theft auto and I was in for disorderly conduct.  Just kidding!  But for real, me and RJ are both from Columbus, Ohio and we were coming up in the local scene at the same time.  He was a part of the MHz with Copywrite, Jakki, Camu, and Cage and I had my crew Weightless, which was Greenhouse Effect & Illogic.  The MHz had released a couple of singles on Fondle ‘em in 1997 and 1998 and we had released the Illogic LP and the Greenhouse EP in 1999, so we were starting to do shows and cross paths more.  A friend of mine named True Skills would always mention RJ’s name and tell me he was nice, but I hadn’t met him to that point, because I was living in Cincinnati at the time.  One time when I was home I went over RJs house and I finally met him.  After that we re-released our records and the MHz performed at our release party, which I think was the first time RJ was actually around when we performed.  He and I talked after that at the Columbus Expo and he told me that he like my style and the emotion I had when I rhymed.  After that we made a plan to collaborate.  He had a single deal for an overseas label that fell thru, but we recorded three songs and all of them came out extremely well, so we just made a commitment to keep
recording and see how it came out.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a name so we stole the name from a night in Columbus that RJ and True Skills used to spin 45s at called Soul Position.  The rest is history.

HHS: You and Rj both bring the heat behind the boards, but Rj handles the beats for Soul Position.  Did the EP and LP just evolve into “I’m rhyming, you do the beats” or was it agreed upon beforehand?  How does the creative process unfold between you two?

Blueprint:  I think RJ and I share the same vision about what we want our contribution to hip-hop to be, and I think him doing all the beats and me doing all the rhymes was one of those things that just made sense to both of us.  I don’t think either one of us are fans of albums that come out nowadays that have 5 or 6 different producers doing beats.  Instead of a unique sounding album, all you get is the signature sound from each producer, which doesn’t necessarily fit into the theme of the album and is pretty wack to me.  As a producer, I feel like I have more of a chance to create something unique when I do the whole album as opposed to one or two beats, so as an emcee I want my producer to have the same opportunity.  Everyone knows that RJ is dope behind the boards, but when he gets the opportunity to produce an entire project he’ll really prove his versatility.

In terms of the creative process for the album, it was put together one concept at a time.  Sometimes I would have an idea or a few lines written about something, and then me and RJ would sit around and go thru beats he was working on to try to find music that matched the mood of what I was talking about so I could finish the song.  Sometimes it worked the other way around where a piece of music he was working on would inspire a concept.  We worked on the album for about a year off and on.  There were some songs that I did that took me months to write, and others that I took a day to write, it just depended on how inspired I was at the time and the depth of the concept.  The thing about the Soul Position album is that all of the rhymes were written to fit the beats.  It wasn’t one of those collaborations where the emcee shows up with a bunch of generic battle verses that can go to anything – each of the rhymes on the Soul Position album fits that beat and probably wouldn’t work for any other songs.

HHS: The Soul Position EP was just a teaser and we hear that the best material was reserved for the LP.  What can we expect from the LP, any guest appearances and when is it slated to drop?

Blueprint:  In my opinion, the Soul Position album is ten times better than the EP.  The EP was just something to let people know that Soul Position is here and introduce ourselves, whereas the LP is VERY serious and very conceptual.  It’s not a bunch of battle rhymes either. Actually, I think there’s only one battle-type song on there.  Everything else on there has a lot more depth to it, which is a complete departure from the EP, but I think it’s what people need to hear right now and I think it’ll be well received. The only guest appearances on the album are Greenhouse Effect on one song, and Copywrite and Jakki on another song.  I felt it was pretty important to
keep the guest appearances to a minimum.

In terms of a release date it’s slated for a spring release, but I’m not sure because there may be some moves made that increases the albums’ distribution situation for the better and could push the date back a little. I hate seeing release dates getting pushed back just like everyone else, but if it happens it’ll definitely be a powermove.  I can’t comment on it too much right now, because nothing is definite and for all I know the album may still come out this spring.

HHS: Beyond having relatable subject matter that the average 9-5er can relate too, your rhyming style has really evolved; it seems as if your looser, having more fun and have really tweaked your flow and your pronunciation of words.  Would you agree?

Blueprint:  Definitely.  For me, style is a big part emceeing, and honestly I don’t think a lot of people have style on the mic right now.  There’s a lot of robots in the game right now.  A bunch of stiff rhymers who sound like they’re reading their rhymes off cue cards with no emotion or flavor.  They spend months writing rhymes that have an extreme amount of content but they don’t spend any time working on how they say their rhymes.  So what you end up with is a bunch of clowns who sound like amateurs on the mic when they’ve been rhyming forever and that’s kinda sad.  The weird thing is that I know that the way I rhyme isn’t like most people are doing it right now, so I know there are going to be some people that don’t know how to respond to it.  But that’s cool with me because it’s a sacrifice you make when you sound distinctive.  I want to have one of those signature voices in hip-hop.

HHS: There is a very dope track on The Weightroom entitled “Time Management.”  Considering that holding down both arenas (rhyming and producing) is becoming more of a rare breed in hip-hop, how do you balance your time between both?  Which is more time consuming for you?

Blueprint:  It used to be extremely difficult, because before I was working 50-60 hours a week and then coming home and trying to decide whether to spend the only three hours of my night writing or doing beats.  I would go thru spells where I would only do one thing at a time, like write for 6 months straight and not do a single beat.  Then I’d turn around and do beats for 6 months and not write a single rhyme.  Now, it’s a lot easier to balance them out since I’m doing this full-time.  I have so much more time to write and do beats now.  In terms of time, doing beats takes up more time to me because it’s so easy to get caught up in the groove and lose track of time.  There are times when I’ll sit over the same beat I’m working on for two hours just listening to it and not making any significant changes to it, just trying to make sure it’s worth saving or if I should throw it away.

HHS: Which arena do you get the most satisfaction from?  If you could only handle one, beats or rhymes, which would it be and why?

Blueprint: Right now rhyming, because of the performance aspect.  Recording a dope song isn’t as fun if that song isn’t good to perform, ya know?  Being able to go on stage as an emcee and hold your hand up and ask people to be quiet or scream at the top of their lungs is what emceeing is all about to me.  You can get on stage and hear silence or hear yelling. Or you can get disrespected by the crowd if you don’t have what it takes.  It’s the instant feedback that I like.  Plus, emcees get more girls than producers do, that’s for damn sure!  Hell, when you only do beats you don’t even get to do shows, which is tough because you lose that avenue to gain fans and make money.

However, long term, I’m sure that production will be the thing I do.  You cant tour forever, and most emcees cant stay motivated long enough to sustain a real career.  But with beats there are always places to go.  Just the fact that instrumental hip-hop is doing so well right now is something that should inspire all beatmakers.  I’ve been into it for the longest and even do instrumental music sometimes, but there seems to be such a demand for it right now.  Guys like DJ Shadow and DJ Krush kicked down a lot of doors for people.  You don’t have to be satisfied with a 4-bar loop anymore.  You can go anywhere in terms of tempo–from 60 bpm to 120 bpm.  Hell, in 5 years I’ll probably leave rhyming alone and only be doing instrumental music.

HHS: On a track from Illogic’s Got Lyrics, you reference that some well-known emcees were interested in your production, but rather then paying, they wanted you to slide them beats for free, for the recognition.  Did this happen allot?  If so, care to name drop?

Blueprint:  There are so many people that do beats that came up to me and gave me props for saying that line that it really inspired me.  That scenario is damn near an everyday occurrence for most producers.  All my friends who do beats go thru it.  When you start to get a name, people start requesting your work which is cool, but a lot of them feel like you shouldn’t get anything for your work and it’s fucked up.  You wish you had a way to weed out the people who aren’t serious from those that are but you don’t and you end up running around making beat tapes for people that really aren’t serious and it pisses you off! It’s annoyed me to the point that I would rather do beats for my fam for free than make beat tapes that never turn into anything.  I really done even care about getting paid to do beats from people that I like, and I’ve got a crew that’s big enough to snatch up all the hot beats anyways, so fuck it.  But I cant name any names of people who do that type of thing, that wouldn’t be cool!

HHS: Your production style really eschews the light, fluffy sound that is so prevalent now.  Would you saw “raw” is an accurate depiction of your sound?

Blueprint:  Hell yeah.  When I first started doing “the weightroom” it had a slightly different song selection, and there were a couple of songs on it that felt cleaner.  But then I started looking at what I felt was missing from hip-hop and it seemed like it was raw, gritty stuff.  I’ve done clean
records too, but I abandoned that for “The Weightroom.”  My goal was to make the most rugged, dirty, gritty, record possible and I feel like I have.  I think when everyone sits down with it and gives it a good listen they’ll agree that I’ve achieved that.  In the end, I think that’ll be what sets my record apart from everyone else’s this year.  I’ve done jazzy, bright, musical stuff before but you’re not going to hear any of that on ‘the weightroom.’

HHS: Your upcoming project, The Weightroom, is not a solo-LP, but would you say it’s your own rendition of Soul Survivor or In Control?  Were those projects an influence on Weightroom?

Blueprint:  Those two records were a big influence on me.  I grew up on Marley Marl and Pete Rock.  So when Pete Rock came back with “Soul Survivor” and changed his style up, but was still as dope as he was before it really inspired me.  Not that I want to steal their styles but I think in terms of execution I want to achieve the same things they did.  I’ve wanted to do a production compilation for the longest time, and this was my opportunity to do it.  I just hope people feel it.

HHS: In addition to Vast Aire (Cannibal Ox) and Eyedea most of your Weightless family (Illogic, Greenhouse Effect, and Iskabibbles) and past collaborators; Aesop Rock and Slug appear on The Weightroom.  What was touring with Slug, Murs, Brother Ali (God Loves Ugly Tour) like?  What experience and lessons did you take from it?

Blueprint:  Touring with those guys was a beautiful experience.  It was long, but it was definitely worth it.  I cant even begin to express how the exposure has helped me.  Slug, Murs, Brother Ali, and Dibbs are cool cats, so going on the road with them is not really stressful at all.  I learned how important it is to put a visual image with the music you do, so people can understand you more.  Not necessarily to market the music, but more for the stage.  Listening to records is one part of it, but when you can go out and move a crowd and make them have a good time you’ve given them something that they won’t forget, and that’s really powerful.  It also taught me that you can still build a strong and loyal fanbase thru touring, which is the oldest way to do it.  This is just the beginning of my touring career, and I feel like if I could go out for three months straight without ever being on the road for more than a weekend, then I can do anything.  It makes me laugh when people complain about going on the road for a month now.  A month seems like nothing to me now.

HHS: I checked out the stop in Baltimore and it looked like the tour really helped you in terms of name recognition. Would you agree?

Blueprint: Definitely.  There were so many people out there who had heard my name, or a verse or two, or some of my beats but had never seen me live or owned any of my records.  There were a lot of people who knew everything about me but never thought I’d tour, because up to that point I hadn’t really been on the road, so they got a chance to finally see me.  It was extremely important that I got out on the road when I did, especially because the Soul Position EP had just came out and had a lot of buzz.

HHS: After The Weightroom and Soul Position LP’s, what else can we expect from you in 2003?  Any other projects on tap?  Will there be an Orphanage (Blueprint, Slug, Illogic, Eyedea, and Aesop Rock) LP?

Blueprint:  My goal is to put out three albums on Weightless this year, but if we do two strong releases I’ll be happy with that.  There should be an EP or LP released from another crew I’m in from Columbus called The Minor League.  We haven’t put out anything yet, so we’re trying to just put out something to establish the sound we’re going for.  It’ll be more of a street record.  I’m not sure when it’s coming out, but it could be late spring to early summer.  The new Illogic record “celestial clockwork” will be out late summer around scribble time.  I do all the beats on that.  Me and Illogic have talked about doing a short project where we both rhyme, so we may start on that this year.  Some other collaborations I’ve done should start showing up this year too.  I did a beat on Cryptic One’s from the Atoms family’s solo record that should come out this year.  I did a beat on Vast’s solo record that should come out this year.  Me and Aesop Rock are gonna do more music together.  There will probably be a single for “The Final Frontier” as well as a remix on Def Jux soon in February or March. I’m also working on a record with a crew called Drown, which is Plead the Ph5th and CJ the Cynic.  I’ll be producing the whole thing and I think they’ll really surprise a lot of people.  Outside of that I just want to focus on running weightless and establishing a release schedule and catalog that people believe in.  We’ve put out good
records in the past but our catalog is pretty small and we’ve never put out more than one record per year.  But this year we’ve got a little momentum on our side, so I just want to keep it going.  There’s a lot of new talent in my crew that I want to introduce like Bahdaddy Shabazz and Drown (Plead the Ph5th & CJ the Cynic).

I have no idea whether an Orphanage project will come out this year.  It’s hard to call when you have five people who are at the level each of us is at and they each have their own careers to look at.  You want the record to come out, but you want it to get the push and support it deserves, and that’s the only question right now.  I’m down for whatever, and I’d like it to come out badly, but it’s more about everyone feeling the timing is right. I figured the time was right to at least reintroduce the Orphanage back to the public, which is why I put one of the songs we did together on “the weightroom.”  It’s not even the best song we did but it’s still dope and needs to be heard.

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