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During this time, a minor independent label has been consistently releasing quality records. Owned by Blueprint, Weightless Records has a roster consisting of Illogic, Blueprint, Envelope, and DJ Dare Groove. His compilation, 'The Weightroom' kept them under the radar but earned them a following. Fans and the press began to take not of Blueprint's unique production. Not only did he produce an entire compilation, but he produced whole albums for Illogic. While Blueprint's production talents earned him accolades, he had to satisfy his need to rock the microphone. His energetic delivery and signature vocal tone separated him from the typical backpacker hip-hop. Through the years, Blueprint's connections kept him deeply rooted in the culture.
While many emcees start out as members of a group, Blueprint is a member of a myriad of different groups. Rjd2 and Blueprint teamed up as Soul Position and released '8 Million Stories' LP on Rhymesayers Records. The Iskabibbles include Blueprint, Manifest, and Aesop Rock. The groups are actually parts of a bigger group. Aesop Rock, Eyedea, Blueprint, Slug, & Illogic formed The Orphanage.
Blueprint's roots run deepest in his home, Ohio. Blueprint and Manifest (a close friend from college) teamed up to form Greenhouse Effect. Originally, Greenhouse Effect also included Inkwel. These days, the group consists of Blueprint and Manifest. Entirely produced by Blueprint, 'Life Sentences' LP by Greenhouse Effect featured Vast Aire, Illogic, Bahdaddy Shabazz, and Plead the Ph5th. His production talents were displayed on his instrumental LP, 'Chamber Music'.
Blueprint ventured on as a solo artist. While fans embraced Blueprint's production on Illogic's LPs, and other Weightless albums, a real solo album was needed in order for Blueprint to be a whole artist. Weightless Records teamed up with Rhymesayers to release Blueprint's '1988' LP. A homage to a revered era in hip-hop, '1988' has all of the elements of the albums released during the late 1980's. Without an abundant amount of guests or various producers, Blueprint's '1988' LP was an honest statement on contemporary hip-hop. Blueprint did more than just prove that he could produce a quality album (like the albums released in 1988). His '1988' LP made people compare the average, weak LPs of today with the classic solid albums of hip-hop's golden era.
Life is like a circle and you end up where you start. Everyone goes back home eventually. After proving his capabilities as a solo artist, Blueprint went back to his Ohio roots. Manifest and him teamed up again and recorded 'Columbus Or Bust' by Greenhouse Effect. Released on Weightless Records and Raptivism Records, 'Columbus Or Bust' continues the formation of the signature Weightless sound. The humorous, 'E-Thugs' is a much needed song about the people who act tough behind the anonymity of the Internet. Murs contributes a solid performance on 'They Listen To This'. 'Still Shook' is Greenhouse Effect's own version of Mobb Deep's classic 'Shook Ones Pt. 2'. Fess and Blue may not be from the ghetto, but they maintain their own hardcore style. 'Find Me At The Bar' proves why a neighborhood bar is more fun than a wild night club.
Blueprint has come full circle as an artist. Not only did he grow as an artist but his record label has become very successful and widely respected. The culture of hip-hop can only evolve with this type of growth within. As Blueprint brings the heat with Greenhouse Effect, he is following the blueprint for success and respect within the hip-hop culture.
T.JONES: 'What goes on?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Whut up?'
FESS: 'Hey, man!'
T.JONES: 'As a group, Greenhouse Effect consists of Manifest and Blueprint. You guys just released your album, 'Columbus Or Bust'. Tell us about the LP.'
BLUEPRINT: 'It's been a long time coming. It's a new style. I'm happy with it. It's the first album and it feels like a brand new group.'
T.JONES: 'How did you two meet?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Actually, this dude grew up around the corner from me, but I didn't know him at the time. We went to separate high schools, but we met at college. Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.'
T.JONES: 'Do you have a favorite song on the 'Columbus Or Bust' LP?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I don't think so, man. I don't know. It's like picking your favorite kid.'
FESS: 'Right, right. I like them all.'
T.JONES: 'Murs appears on 'They Listen To This'. How did you hook that collaboration up? What was it like to work with Murs?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I met Murs on tour. It was the 'God Loves Ugly' Tour with Atmosphere. It was the first tour I ever went on. We all toured. Me and Murs were like roommates. We toured together. We did like 70 shows in two and a half months. We were around each other every day. We always tried to put something together after that.'
T.JONES: 'Was the collaboration with Murs recorded while together, in the studio, or was it mailed in?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Nah, it was done in the studio. He came to my place. He was here.'
T.JONES: 'What song on 'Columbus Or Bust' took the longest to do, from conception to completion?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I would say the one with Yakki on it, 'You Must Learn'. That may have been the longest. You know, when you are actually talking about something and you don't want to regurgitate what everybody else is saying?'
T.JONES: 'On 'Columbus Or Bust', you did your own version of 'Shook Ones Pt. 2' by Mobb Deep. Out of all of the Mobb Deep songs, why did you choose this one?'
BLUEPRINT: 'It started out as a show routine. We thought, 'Hey, man wouldn't it be funny?'. You know, when you see a live show, rappers will go out and rhyme to somebody else's beat. That's pretty common in rap shows. I started doing routines where I would take that to the next step. We would re-write that verse, or one part of that, when I used it. This was so it wouldn't just be me, rapping my rhyme over their beat. I wanted to make a real tribute to it, but rearrange the verses on it. We came up with the idea to do 'Shook Ones'. It came up at a show and it sounded good. We had to record it over that same beat just to learn it. Then, we kind of liked how it came out. We were like, 'Shit!' You know?'
T.JONES: 'How do you think Mobb Deep would feel about your version of 'Shook Ones'?'
BLUEPRINT: 'They would probably think that it was either real weird or they would feel complemented. Maybe, they would feel that we were stalkers or that we were complementing them. (Laughs).'
T.JONES: 'When creating a song, do you have the lyrics pre-written or a set theme? Or, do you hear the music first and then, write to the beat?'
FESS: 'Now, I try to write to the beat. Sometimes, I come up with it, but in this business and group, I write to the beat. I just find it easier and I could be more apart of the song.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Yeah, I try to write to the beat. I come up with concepts ahead of time. There would be a lot of times where I would see something, think about it, and say to myself, 'I wanna write a song about that'. I would make a little note to myself. It takes it until you hear a track that puts you in that mood before you actually write the song.'
T.JONES: 'Blueprint, you are a renowned producer, but you have also rhymed over beats produced by other producers. Do you have a different approach to writing over someone else's production?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Yeah. If it is a solo song, yes. It's completely different. A lot of the solo stuff I do, I try to think of a hook first. I'll try to be really focused with my writing and really conceptual. It's not like a battle rapper style. A lot of stuff I do for myself is really specific and conceptual. On the other hand, some of the Greenhouse stuff is just us having fun and emceeing. I don't get an opportunity to do a lot of that.'
T.JONES: 'Blueprint, were you an emcee or producer first?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I was an emcee first. We'd rhyme. The town has less people than Ohio State University. We were rhyming at the time, but we didn't have anybody to do beats. No one knew how to do beats. No one wanted to be behind. The kids with samplers inspired me to do beats. Once I was inspired, the next day, I put a sampler on layaway at a pawn shop. I never thought that I would ever be as good as I am at it.'
T.JONES: 'Who are some of your major influences for production?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Premier, Pete Rock, D.I.T.C. I like Dre. I like the production for Outkast. Earthtone.'
T.JONES: 'Who are some of your major influences?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I grew up on EPMD, Krs-One. After that era, Nas.'
T.JONES: 'What do you think of albums by Nas?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Lyrically, I think he really stepped up. I always had issues on beats. I just like what he does visually.'
T.JONES: 'Do you do pre-production often?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I do everything. Sometimes, I use songs that were recorded two years ago. I would go back and re-visit them. I would make the beats better. My process is different. Some people would go in, drop a beat, lay the vocals, and be done. That's just the beginning stage for me.'
T.JONES: 'If you could remix any classic hip-hop song, which one?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I don't know if I would. A lot of those songs are so perfect, I wouldn't want to f*ck them up.'
T.JONES: 'What about remaking a different one besides 'Shook Ones' by Mobb Deep?'
BLUEPRINT: 'If I did, it would be a silly version. It would be serious. Maybe, I would do something like 'Cheque The Rime'.'
T.JONES: 'Who are some producers you would like to rhyme over their production in the future?'
FESS: 'J Dilla.'
BLUEPRINT: 'The producers I am motivated the most by are Jay Dee, El-P. I'm crazy about what Edan did on his last record. I like J-Zone.'
T.JONES: 'How did you start Weightless Records?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I started the label in 1998 or 1999 with me and this guy from College. We started out, and eventually did some shows. We didn't have any music. I started dubbing up tapes. I didn't have a name. I would be dubbing tapes all week at my house. We eventually got distribution. At the time, it wasn't that hard. It was just what I was doing after work. I was calling people, writing people, contacting writers, sending them our tapes, and going to shows. It wasn't necessarily a label really'
T.JONES: 'That Soul Position collaboration with RJD2 was dope. How is RJD2's production style different from yours?'
BLUEPRINT: 'In the past, I would say that he is a little more elaborate. Mine is more effective. There wouldn't be a lot of breaks and really musical sections. You have a song like 'Share This' on the '8 Million Stories' album. That song is, as an instrumental, is amazing. It's so challenging to come up with something to complement it. Sometimes, to me, I would try to concentrate on making the beat effective. I would try to come up with a 2-bar / 4-bar arrangement that is really compelling to listen to for 2 or 3 minutes. Then, I would roll with that. I think that's probably the only real difference.'
T.JONES: 'What music have you guys been listening to lately?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Today, old soul records. I'm trying to have a barbeque on Saturday and I want to be on some grown man sh*t.'
FESS: 'I'm listening to a lot of stuff coming out of Detroit. I like Slum Village and their camp. That's basically it. All of that type of stuff.'
T.JONES: 'Who are some artists you would like to rhyme with in the future?'
FESS: 'I never really thought about it. I really don't have an answer for that. I don't really look at music like that, you know? I don't feel like I have to climb on a track with this person or that person. I have no answer. There's nobody in particular, but I would like to work with people who I'm feeling. Of course, I like Jay-Z, J Dilla, Juelz, for his reasons. I have a range.'
T.JONES: 'Blueprint, who are some emcees you would like to produce?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I would like to produce for any rapper who can rhyme well but put out an album that kind of sucked. You know, people who historically have had bad beats. You know, Nas, Ras Kass, and Canibus. They are great but their ear for beats sucks. Those would be my first three. I would like to produce an album for each of those dudes who never lived up to their potential.'
T.JONES: 'This Greenhouse Effect album was released on Weightless and Raptivism. How and why did you get involved with Raptivism?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I think we just needed to try a different experience. You put records out yourself for a while, but we have something brand new. We haven't put that many records out in the past. The opportunity to have a bigger distribution was the primary thing.'
T.JONES: 'Where were you doing the September 11th terrorist attack? How did you deal with it? How do you think it has affected hip-hop?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I think I was on my way to work. I got to work and this lady said, 'Planes crashed into The World Trade Center!' We didn't believe it until we started watching the news. As far as it affecting hip-hop, I don't think political rappers can talk the sh*t that they used to talk. A lot of people had to scrap their album covers, like Paris and The Coup. Paris had 'Sonic Jihad' or some sh*t. Rappers naming themselves after terrorists is not good. People aren't really feeling that sh*t.'
FESS: 'I was at work as well. I was watching it on television.'
T.JONES: 'What kind of work were you doing?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I worked as a computer programmer for a supermarket chain. I worked on the Unix database. I have a degree in Computer Science. I did database programming. I was doing that until I went on tour with Atmosphere.'
FESS: 'At the time, I worked for a telecommunications company.'
T.JONES: "What is your favorite part of your live show?"
BLUEPRINT: 'Trying out new ideas, or rearranging songs so they don't sound exactly like the record.'
FESS: 'Connecting with the crowd, talking and joking with them. If they see you having a good time they are more likely to feel the same.'
T.JONES: 'How has your live show evolved?'
BLUEPRINT: "Now it's more interactive. We used to just get up there and rap really hard, but now I'm more into crowd interaction and making sure they're involved in the show and having fun."
FESS: "First off, actually practicing for weeks instead of just jumping on stage. Interchangeable sets to keep things fresh. Coming up with fly routines with the DJ. Before we just rapped without a plan and let the DJ go on what we call 'scratch excursions'.'
T.JONES: 'How have you changed as an emcee?'
BLUEPRINT: "I'm pretty much the same. I think I've just figured out how to get more personal music out of myself. It's not just battle rap and what not."
FESS: "How I write to a song? I think about how a particular song might go over in a live setting and adjust it accordingly. Also, the confidence level has increased dramatically.'
T.JONES: 'What pisses you off?'
BLUEPRINT: "Inconsiderate people."
FESS: "Women who front on buying me drinks.'
T.JONES: 'What do you like to do to relax?'
FESS: 'We'll since I don't work, I don't have a whole lot of stress so I'm basically relaxed all the time. But when I'm breaking from music, TV and Movies come in handy.'
BLUEPRINT: "Absolutely nothing. I'm all for doing things that take no brainpower whatsoever, like video games or watching dumb TV shows like Maury Povich."
T.JONES: 'Blueprint, you put out a solo album, '1988'. How different is recording an album as a solo artist?'
BLUEPRINT: "It takes a little more to find the direction in a group because you have to make sure the other person is able to write about the same things you are. When you're solo, you can write about anything you want without compromise, even if the other person can't relate."
T.JONES: 'Tell us about 'The Weightroom' LP.'
BLUEPRINT: 'I rhyme and produce. I wanted to do a record like Pete Rock's 'Soul Survivor', where I'm in control. Usually, as a producer, you work with an artist and they tell you what they are writing about.'
T.JONES: 'That last hidden track on 'The Weightroom' uses a sample from The Godfather. Did you get into any trouble about sampling?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Nah, I'm still under the radar. 9 times out of 10, I disregard ethics when it comes to sampling. This is in terms of fear of people coming at me. Sample it now and worry about it later. Maybe later, I won't.'
T.JONES: 'How did you hook up with Eyedea?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I met Eyedea in 1999 or 2000. Back then, we were doing shows. Rhymesayers were coming up. That was the tour. I met those guys through Illogic. Those guys are dope. Eyedea and I always talk about doing records. Whenever they came up to Ohio, we end up playing with them?'
T.JONES: 'Blueprint, you are in a myriad of different groups.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Yeah, these groups have been around for a while. Within my circle of people, we always have a bunch of different groups. As an artist, it helps you approach things differently whenever you collaborate with different people.'
T.JONES: 'What is the meaning behind the name Greenhouse Effect?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Back at the time we chose it, we just pulled it out of a hat. We had 10 other names and just thought it was cool. It is more than just the environment. There's so much you can get out of it. I don't think we really thought about that sh*t.'
T.JONES: 'Although your emcee names may seem obvious, are there personal or deeper meanings?'
FESS: 'Basically, I heard the name in a Political Science class, in college. I decided to take it. There's nothing to deep.'
BLUEPRINT: 'I chose Blueprint because I wanted something that stood for the style that I think I do, which is being really good at the items that the art form is built on. Granted, I am not going to say that I do progressive music but I think that I will always be grounded in the foundation. I used to have this wack name like, Universal. One of my first shows, I needed a name before I rapped. I wanted a name where the word or words would represent a basic approach to hip-hop. I didn't want something that was too far out there, that people could not understand. But, I did want it to be a little challenging'
T.JONES: 'Krs-One's album didn't influence the name Blueprint?'
BLUEPRINT: 'No, actually, no. I listen to that album a lot too. The day I chose it, I heard the Mad Skillz album, 'From Where?'. He said the word 'Blueprint' on that. I had it on this mix-tape and I just loved the song. I was driving my car. As soon as they said it, I thought it was a dope name. I knew that it was going to be my name.'
T.JONES: 'Were there any problems or opportunities with Jay-Z coming out with the 'Blueprint' albums?'
BLUEPRINT: 'There hasn't been either. The people who are checking for me now knew I was going by that name before. Of course, some people who love Jay-Z and may get confused. I may have gotten some new fans.'
T.JONES: 'Years ago, you were named in Urb Magazine's 'Top 100 List'. Did that change your career?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I don't know. There are some people who are definitely checking for that magazine. Maybe, some people were on the fence or didn't want to take a chance on me. Now, they are. It definitely helped but it's hard to imagine exactly how.'
T.JONES: 'In one phrase or sentence, describe growing up in Ohio.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Not that different from anywhere else, just a lot less going on. There's just more space. People are a little more polite.'
T.JONES: 'What are the 3 best things about living in Columbus, Ohio?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Buck eyes, football program."
FESS: 'The cost of living.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Yeah, the cost of living is the #1 right there.'
FESS: 'The cost of living is cheap. People are nice.'
T.JONES: 'What are the worst things about living in Columbus, Ohio?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Yeah, Winter. No one takes you seriously. Well, a lot of people don't take you seriously when you tell them you live in Ohio. There's a lot of talent here, but on a national level, there are certain places where you come from that people give you a better ear. If you say that you are from The Bronx, people love it. If you tell someone you are from L.A., people are like, 'Word!?''
T.JONES: 'Lone Catalysts are from Ohio too. You know them?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I know J. Sands and J. Rawls. We never worked together. Those cats are cool. Before J. Rawls was in hip-hop, I met him when I was in college. We went to different colleges. RJ Digby too. He used to go by the name of Home Skillet. I'd love to work with all of them.'
T.JONES: 'What was the last incident of racism you guys experienced?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I think it was when I was in Boston, on tour. Someone called my tour manager a 'n*gger'. He was driving our bus. He was driving our bus, picking me up from somewhere. He pulled in front of somebody and turned. They yelled out, 'N*gger!''
FESS: 'Probably, a couple of years back, trying to catch a cab in New York. It's funny, because Aesop Rock was standing there a few feet from us. The cab stopped at us first and the guy said, 'No. We don't go there.' Then, the cab pulled up for Aesop. We were going to Aesop's house. He hops right in.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Yeah, Aesop first said, 'Hey, they are going the same place I'm going! Why can't you take them?''
T.JONES: 'Word association. I am going to say the name, and you say the first word that pops into your head. So, if I said 'Public Enemy', you may say, 'Revolution' or 'Fight The Power'. If I said, 'The Beatles', you may say, 'Revolver' or 'Yoko Ono'. Okay?'
T.JONES: 'Public Enemy.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Number One.'
FESS: 'Yes, white!'
T.JONES: 'Slum Village.'
T.JONES: 'Del The Funky Homosapian.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Nose ring.'
T.JONES: 'C Rayz Walz.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Out there.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Hard To Earn.'
T.JONES: 'De La Soul.'
BLUEPRINT: 'Plug One.'
T.JONES: 'Curtis Mayfield.'
T.JONES: 'Gil-Scott Heron.'
T.JONES: 'George Bush.'
T.JONES: 'How has the Internet affected earnings for Weightless?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I don't think it hurt. It kind of made new ways to earn. We just opened up an on-line store on our website. We didn't think anyone would buy our sh*t through there because everyone goes to other sites. Kids are spending money and buying stuff. We probably could have been making money for the last 3 or 4 years if we did it earlier.'
T.JONES: 'The song 'E-Thugs' is a humorous but honest track about people acting tough behind the anonymity of the Internet. What inspired this song? How did the Internet react to the song 'E-Thugs'?'
BLUEPRINT: 'So far, it's good. We sat down and thought about the concept. It's funny when you see dudes out there on the net, trying to intimidate people and acting hard. One day, we were laughing about that and decided to write a song about those dudes.'
T.JONES: 'What was the biggest mistake you have made in your career?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I don't know if I can say. There are some verdicts still out on some things. (laughs!)'
T.JONES: 'What are some misconceptions people have of you?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Some people think that I am mean because I rap hard. When they meet me, I'm a nice dude. It f*cks them up.'
FESS: 'I don't know. I don't think people have any misconceptions of me.'
T.JONES: 'What advice would you give to someone taking the independent hip-hop route?'
BLUEPRINT: 'Put out quality product or don't do it at all.'
T.JONES: 'Favorite sampler or drum machine?
T.JONES: 'What is hip-hop lacking these days?
FESS: 'Fun factor. I don't mean a party vibe but a good time.'
BLUEPRINT: 'I think the variation is kind of gone. Some people are just biting Jay-Z or DMX on the radio. There's so much copycatting, and the labels are doing that. People who do their own thing inspire a whole bunch of cats to do their own thing. It's weird that people get away with it. It's like fast food.'
T.JONES: 'What collaboration are you most proud of?'
BLUEPRINT: 'I would say The Orphanage, but it never came out. We did like 11 songs in 3 days but it never came out.'
T.JONES: 'What can we expect from Weightless, Blueprint, and Greenhouse Effect in the future?'
BLUEPRINT: 'More music, less bullsh*t. We got this Greenhouse Effect versus Radiohead EP. We are going to put it out in November.'
T.JONES: 'Final words?'
FESS: 'Buy the record!'
BLUEPRINT: 'Buy the album. Visit www.weightless.net.'
Todd E. Jones
Interview by Todd E. Jones
'E-Thugs' by GREENHOUSE EFFECT
'They Listen To This' by GREENHOUSE EFFECT (f/ MURS)
REAL AUDIO Snippits:
"ICU" by Vast Aire, Plead the Ph5th, & Blueprint
"The Proper Education" by Greenhouse Effect. Cuts by RJD2