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by Toshi Kondo
19 November, 2003@12:00 am
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Take all that I-had-to-push-powder-before-becoming-an-MC gibberish that these generic mixtape superstars spit with a grain of salt.  Columbus, Ohio native Blueprint, full-time MC/producer/CEO, chose to get a degree in Computer Science and program computers for five years while building his indie label, Weightless Recordings, co-owned with college buddy Manifest.  Touring last year with Atmosphere for the nationwide God Loves Ugly tour and recently releasing Soul Position’s (RJD2 and Blueprint) 8 Million Stories [Rhymesayers] and Greenhouse Effect’s (Blueprint, Manifest, and former member Inkwel) Life Sentences [Weightless] have momentarily halted his days in a cubicle.  On the eve of embarking on the Midwest swing of a tour to support the Soul Position LP, Blueprint took time out to talk with HipHopSite.  Given that he didn’t feel the need to drop everything right away to pursue this rap ish, his perspective is different and interesting.

HipHopSite: Obviously you’ve made a lot of progress since Weightless started in ’98.  Are you happy with where you are as a label and an artist?

Blueprint: Yes and no.  I’m happy because I didn’t have lofty goals.  I think we set realistic goals.  First and foremost was to be able to have a vehicle to put out our own music and we didn’t have to kick in money.  [The records] kind of paid for itself.  Outside of 300 dollars that we put in ’99, that’s it.

HHS: Didn’t you have to pay for studio time?

BP: No, we had our own equipment since ’97.  It’s been a success in setting [Weightless] up for other opportunities like with me putting out records on Rhymesayers (Soul Position Unlimited EP [2002] and 8 Million Stories), things like that.  The “no” part of my answer is that we’re still two releases, one distributor away from being up a level in terms of recognition.  The level of some of these other indies around here, a Def Jux, a Stones Throw.  Those labels are bigger than one artist.  They’re like movements now.

HHS: So are you signed to Rhymesayers?  Cause I noticed Soul Position is through them.

BP: No, I’m not officially signed.  I’m like a free agent, or like a contractor if you will.  I’ve been knowing [the people with Rhymesayers] for quite a while.  I can put out a record with anyone I want.  I’m signed to them for anything I put out through them.  They own the rights [to the music].

HHS: All the stuff for Weightless, that’s all yours right?  The masters, etc.  You only rely on someone else for distribution.  But the marketing and promotion, everything else is self-contained right?

BP: Exactly.  And also some people have distribution deals with bigger distributors like Caroline [Distribution].  We don’t have that.  We just sell our records to 20 or 30 smaller distributors.  We’re working on trying to get a bigger distribution deal signed.

HHS: I know everything’s not based on Soundscan figures, but what kind of numbers have your Weightless releases, GreenHouse Effect, Illogic, etc., been posting?  Where are some areas you’ve been moving units that have surprised you?

BP: I really wouldn’t know.  I think you have be registered with Soundscan.  We haven’t even had a bar code on any of our releases until 2002.  The Illogic Got Lyrics? [2001] was the first record we had with a bar code.  The GreenHouse Effect [Life Sentences] is gonna be bar coded.

HHS: Are you worried that dropping Life Sentences and 8 Million Stories so close will cause them to eat into each other’s sales?

BP: Not specifically.  I think most people who know about me through Soul Position have learned about me in the last year and a half.  I think the only situation you have is Soul Position is opening doors for Greenhouse at this point.  I see it as completely different audiences.  [Soul Position] is just opening up doors for everything in Weightless to come out ’cause [8 Million Stories] is distributed by BMG.

HHS: In terms of message and purpose, what are the differences between, Soul Position, Greenhouse Effect, and your solo work?

BP: The only difference I would say now is that the Soul Position stuff is a lot more personal than most of the stuff I’ve done prior to that.  I’d say that’s probably the biggest difference outside of production being done by RJ[D2].  Everything for the Soul Position record I wrote to the beat.  Whereas Greenhouse, we would come up with concepts first.  Try to find beats that match.  My solo work is a different, ’cause writing to your own beats is a little more difficult.  I have to know the concept.  I’ll end up going through four or five beats.

HHS: Tracks like “Look Of Pain” and “No Excuse For Lovin” are so vivid and detailed.  Were these written from personal experience?

BP: Well specifically, “No Excuse For Lovin”, that’s a true story about a girl I used to go out with.  I’m not the dude [who hit her].  I was chilling with her one day and I’m like, “Yo, what happened with that dude you used to kick it with…. And she just explained it to me like in that song.  It almost made me cry.  And from that point, I was like I have to tell someone this story.  And “Look Of Pain” was kind of a combination.  Like the specific stories are more drawn from experiences.  It’s not like it happened like that.  But it’s more just talking about general situations while growing up that leads you to a point where you feel like the dreams you had growing up, you’re not going to make it there.

HHS: “Just Think” off 8 Million Stories derives its hook from The Roots’ “Proceed”.  Also, “Fuckajob” derives its hook from Krs-One’s “Outta Here”.  I hear a lot of hooks built off other MCs rhymes.  Do you think that takes away from the overall creativity of the music?

BP: I think if you can do it in a way to where what you’re talking about makes sense and you’re not just stealing it for its catchiness, I think it will work.  I think anything can work if it’s done right.  I would hope at the end of the day, people would be like, “Where is that from?”  And they’ll be like, “Oh, that’s The Roots, or KRS-ONE.”  I see more of it as paying homage.  Cause KRS-One is talking about rap careers ending, ["Fuckajob"] is work careers ending.  So it wasn’t just like I’m going to take his hook, but I’m drawing a parallel there.  I hope people can at least catch the parallel.

HHS: You have a hidden track at the end of the 8 Million Stories LP.  How does that work in terms of artist compensation, publishing, etc.?

BP: Shit I don’t know.  Everyone I’ve done music with to this point, is because they’re my people.  I’m not a dude who does beats for people because they call me and want to pay me $500 or $1000 for a beat.  I don’t even really respond to people like that.  Only people I do music with is cats I know and came up with like Copywrite, Jakki, RJD2.  We’re all from Columbus, so we were going to do music together anyway.  I’ll get on a RJ records, and I don’t expect shit.  So I really don’t trip off shit like that.  And I don’t think they do either.  When you get to a point where money drives you, everything you do is gonna suck.  First and foremost, I didn’t get into rap because I wanted to make money.  I was a computer programmer.  I got a degree in computer science.  I was arguably, easily going to make more money doing that as my career.  Put it this way, for the next six, eight months to year, I’m not worried about rent.  That’s bigger than “Okay, well, I’m on your record, when am I getting paid for that?”

HHS: But don’t you feel like that opens you up to being taken advantage of because people may be like, “Oh, Blueprint, he’s dope.  You can get him on your record without paying him.”

BP: Oh yeah.  But to me I think it’s a lot harder for somebody to just up and be cool with me, than to get me on a song.  So really anybody, if I’m on their record, I am cool with them.  And I don’t have a problem with them using my name to exploit it or for their advantage.  People have given me a gift, allowed me to go out and do things.  I got to go out and tour with Atmosphere ["God Loves Ugly" tour].  They were touring five years before I even got on stage and toured with them.  I was given the gift to go out and get in front of a crowd and make an impression on them and make some of those fans my fans.  Everybody benefits from everybody in one way or another.  Once you extend that friendship to somebody, you give them that gift.

HHS: You speak in previous interviews about having a full-time job as a Computer Programmer until recently.  How has your degree helped you with music, being as degrees seem to be worthless in the music industry?

BP: I’m not going to say that my degree specifically in computer science has helped me, but what I gained in professionalism, what I gained in organization, project planning, none of those things I would have gained without working as a computer programmer or a project leader for five years.  I never would have gained those skills.  There’s a different standard of professionalism that exists in the music industry as a whole that I’m nowhere near happy with.  But overall it’s just like an occupational hazard now.  And the only way I can get around it is to be as prepared as possible.

HHS: Is Inkwel no longer with the group and doing other hip-hop related stuff?  Or is he completely out like Mase?  Do you feel this shows a person lacks love for hip-hop when they do this?

BP: He’s doing gospel rap now.  I think for spiritual reasons.  He’s about to put out his first album real soon.  I feel like anything involving the most high or spirituality are far more important than anything involving rap, an expression or art form that in general is 99% negative.  I feel like how it’s portrayed to the masses, how its participants act is real negative.  So if a person chooses to make a change in their life that gets rid of that part of their life or no longer associates them with that, I don’t knock that.  I think spirituality is number one.  If anything it broke my heart that I would never hear his voice or the people who had heard his voice wouldn’t be able to hear it again.

HHS: Speaking on when you said 99% of rap is negative right now.  What are you referring to?

BP: I mean everything about the hip-hop art form.  Even if you take the music aside and you just turn on MTV or BET and look at how things are presented visually, 99.9% of it is not positive.  If you could say how many positive songs came out?  I’d be like, “Oh shit, ‘I Can’ by Nas.”  It’s the most refreshing positive song I’ve heard in years.  And I’m not saying cats have to be on some happy-go-lucky.  Because it’s not that I believe Nas is the most positive rapper out there cause he did “I Can.” He’s not.  But I think at least he took the time out to cover that angle.  You buy an album from Nas, you get the whole picture.  You get a more diverse depiction of humanity than you do if you buy a record by nine out of ten of the other rappers out there.  I think sometimes at the end of the day, you have to really think about life as a whole outside of personal little things you may do on the weekend and what you’re really saying and how powerful your voice is.

HHS: If a younger person, say a little brother or cousin, told you they want to be in the music game like you, what would you tell them?  Taking into account all the bullshit and hardships one encounters?

BP: I would tell them not to rap.  Leave rap alone.  Find something else to do first that is constructive and do this on the side.  You’ll appreciate it more.  Go to college and get a degree.  All this “I want to become a rapper one day” shit is wack.  You’re either going to become one or you’re not.  I don’t necessarily feel like I woke and I was like “I’m going to become a rapper.”  My life just changed to where it was the point of no return.  I realize just how fortunate I am to be doing this every day.  It’s not like I gotta make ends meet, this is all or nothing.  I could quit today and go back [to work] and make $50,000 to $60,000 a year.  I’m not worried about that.  Whereas a lot of the other people, they didn’t go to college, they got kids now.

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