Being a Minnesota native and saying that there is a soft spot in my heart for Rhymesayers Entertainment is an understatement. I’d been fortunate enough to be immersed in their artists first hand in 2000 when I first discovered independent Hip-Hop. When I learned that I was going to be able to interview Columbus, Ohio native Blueprint, I squealed like a little girl after her first kiss.
I caught up with Blueprint while he was on the road in the middle of The Family Tour with fellow Rhymesayers artists; Atmosphere, Grieves, Budo, and DJ Abilities. Somewhere in the hills of North Carolina with Atmosphere, Grieves and the boys joking in the background, Blueprint and myself chatted over the industry, rap life, and his new album, Adventures In Counter Culture. A few dropped calls turned this interview into a long running “Can you hear me now?” joke.
You’ve always been musical from church choir to bands in high school. What was it that triggered in you to start doing hip-hop and rapping?
I discovered turn tables and college radio. I started doing that and had a friend that worked at the station that was a DJ. He was the only guy who was really into turntables at that point. He showed me the ropes and the fundamentals of DJing, making mixes and stuff like that. I got into records and making beats. That got me into DJing and DJing got me into doing more music. I just got old stuff and jazz records and started making beats.
What was your first rap like?
My first rap? Oh it was terrible, I’m sure it was.
You play a multitude of instruments, what is your favorite to play?
I really like the synth. I like to modify sounds, you know? I would say piano would be first.
How does one go from being a computer programmer to being on tour with Atmosphere?
It’s a leap of faith. You kinda hope that everything works out. I was putting out records at that point and I wanted to do it in a different way cause I wasn’t really happy. Once I was able to tour I took off a month of vacation time in 2002. I told my boss that if I liked it I wouldn’t be coming back to work and they were cool with it. I could’ve gone back if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to. That was nine years ago.
How soon after you started touring with Atmosphere did you start your own label?
Well, I was putting out my own records before. That’s how I met those guys. I own an independent hip-hop label called, Weightless Recordings and basically put out good, soulful hip-hop. I started that maybe 2 or 3 years before I met any of those guys. Eventually we started working together and touring together so here I am.
How did you end up collaborating with RJD2 on the Soul Position album?
Well, he’s from Columbus, so we had met through friends before. We started helping each other out and then started working on a few pieces together.
You’re a bit of a Renaissance man. You’ve got producer, emcee, artist and label owner all under your belt. Which is your favorite role?
I’m thinking producer might be. It’s something you can do on your own in your house. Because it doesn’t involved anyone else that is kind of more enjoyable. You can sit for hours and hours and do it. Once you get into being an emcee and being on stage anything that involves anything you have to bring someone else along. With labels it’s sometimes a great job when you’re touring and really helping people. But sometimes you can become a babysitter, it’s a lot of responsibility. With running a label you’re always interacting with somebody. It’s nice to have something you can do on your own and doesn’t involve a lot of people. So being a producer would be my choice.
You quit drinking cold turkey, how has that impacted your way of touring and daily tour life?
I made the album and when I turned in the album that is when I stopped drinking. So that song, “Keep Bouncing” that was made while I was still drinking. As I was finishing the album I had thought about quitting. So I’ve been sober for about 11 months now. The 15th of May is my one year anniversary.
It’s changed a lot. I’ve had to relearn things. Not being socially caught up in the anxiety way, it’s a good feeling. The first couple of months were difficult just getting used to them. Sometimes when people wanna buy you a drink they don’t understand it’s not about the alcohol, it’s about the gesture. People think I shut them down or am being mean because I won’t accept a drink. Some get it, some people don’t. Some people don’t even believe me. A lot of people have been real understanding. It’s seen a real positive experience, kids come up to me every night and tell me their stories. I never thought that is what it would be. Kids walk up to me and we talk about struggles. I’ve never had anyone against my decision, they see me improve my state and my stage show. They are all real supportive and are like, “You know we hope you never drink again.” I’ll still go out and drink water or soda, find a pool table or something and just kick it.
So what were you drinking in your video for ‘Keep Bouncing’?
That was real alcohol. It was a six hour shoot, we drank everything. We didn’t fake anything at all. A lot of people are like, “Yeah thats is real good acting.” And I’m like “Man that wasn’t acting at all, that was real.”
The song, “Radio-Inactive” was written after your visit to Columbus, Ohio radio station, Power 107.5 studios correct?
That was the main thing that started it, it was the one thing that pushed me. I pretty much wrote it in one night. I knew going in I didn’t fit their format. It upset me a lot because you go there and they don’t play your song. It was one of the first songs that I wrote for the album. At time I wasn’t 100% sure that the song would be on the album. I knew probably a year in. About 2006 I started the album and around 2007 I started letting people hear demos.
Is it true that you write your album on your “sidekick, no paper, no notebook.”?
I really like to sit and write, so all the words and lyrics I just sit and write them on my sidekick.
How do you view the fan/artist relationship?
It’s very important. There is always negative stuff with fans. They maybe weirder out by my change of direction. People who are real fans know that I have to evolve. I’m gaining more people now. I think that is important for them to understand the change in my music. I want them to be inspired, to hear my story. If you work hard at something you can have that opportunity.
Do you think there is a preconceived notion of rap/hip-hop music these days?
“Underground” hip hop is the counter point to mainstream hip-hop. Today it’s unexpected. Today people expect what is on the radio and there are people who detest what is on the radio. We have to understand that there is always going to be that and there is always going to be underground. They are always feeding off each other. Without a good villain you can’t have a good hero, in any kind of movie. Music is no different.