I had a chance at last year’s Paid Dues Festival to chat with Blueprint, a solo emcee from Columbus, Ohio, and the man who teams with RJD2 to form Soul Position. (So I’m posting it only eight months later!)
Blueprint’s last solo record, 1988, was released on Rhymesayers in 2005. He says he’ll be shopping around his next release, titled Adventures in Counter Culture (at least that was the name of it in August). In the meantime, he’s offering a free mix called The Best of Blueprint, a collection of singles he’s put out through the years solo and with Soul Position.
Blueprint | Lo-Fi Funk
Q: Any guests on the new record?
A: “None. Zero. I’m going for self, man.”
Q: What about production?
A: “I’m doing everything. Every single note. There’s no samples on it, so I wrote the whole album musically. Then I’m going back and adding live musicians to replay the melodies. I sample them out, chop them up and put ’em back in and make it sound more hip-hop. There’s no samples. It’s all original music. It’s got way stronger songwriting than what I’ve usually done. That’s my goal. To be the best songwriter.”
Q: Are you going to work with RJ again?
A: “The way we do albums is Soul Position, RJ solo, Blueprint solo. So it’s my turn. So as soon as I get mine out the way we’ll come back. … By time I finish my record, I’ll start writing the next Soul Position.”
Q: RJ took a lot of heat for his new record (The Third Hand). What are your thoughts?
A: “I think RJ is an amazing artist because he’s got balls a lot of artists don’t have. A lot of artists are afraid. They put out the same record every time. I think that’s what’s wrong with underground hip-hop and music in general. All of us, all of us – I’m not picking on anybody – are content with making an underground rap record. And that’s good enough. At some point we need to understand that underground records only appeal to underground rap fans.
“I feel like RJ was one of the first dudes in the genre who was like, you know what, obviously, my catalog shows that I know more than that. And he did something that was so far outside the box, that some people who were looking for an underground rap record might not fuck with it. But I think what he gained, the perception or being viewed as an artist, is worth more than doing another cliché rap record, or underground instrumental record in his case.
“Nobody wants to do another Endtroducing. Endtroducing’s been done. He could never go back to it. He could never do it. Shadow can’t. RJ can’t. … Underground hip-hop, it’s on the backs of the artists who want to push it forward. There’s always someone who does a record that sounds just like the last record.
Q: It’s like a safe zone.
A: “Right, it’s fucking safe. I see it now and I’m not gonna be safe anymore. My next record is going to be unsafe. It’s gonna be really out there. Not because I want to be different but because I am an eclectic person. It’s about time me and all of our peers embrace our eclecticism – is that a word? – we embrace that shit and say … instead of feeling ashamed to like Talking Heads … why are we not making music that encompasses our influences as opposed to rejecting it … for the sake of underground hip-hop, which is like, ‘Keep it grimy, keep it real.’ Man, fuck that. Write a great song. And everything else will take care of itself.”
Q: Would you like to collaborate with some of these guys (on Paid Dues tour)?
A: “The Legends. Grouch, he’s one of my favorites. Hearing the Legends every night I got a bigger appreciation for their catalog and how they rhyme and how dope they are.”
Q: Indie hip-hop always seems to be on the fringe of some of those major festivals. How cool is it to have your own traveling tour, just hip-hop?
A: “It’s cool, but you have pluses and minuses. … The good thing about a hip-hop group at Lollapalooza is there’s Arcade Fire and Panic at the Disco fans who are open-minded. They may not know underground hip-hop is Blueprint or Brother Ali. But if they hear us in that setting they get it.
“The difference with this, the negative, there’ s not people who like another genre. Let’s get all the Legends, all Rhymesayers fans in one building. We reinforce what we already have. We’re not gaining new ground. I think it’s a plus, but that’s the biggest negative.
“My last two tours have not been with hip-hop groups. I toured with Islands. I met new fans by just touring with them.”
Q: Do you listen to a lot of indie rock?
A: “I’d say the last indie-rock record I bought and liked was Peter Bjorn and John. It’s a much better album than I thought it would be. I thought it would just be the single. But the album sounds almost better than single. It’s got a lot more edge to it.”