ILLOGIC INTERVIEWED BY MATT GREENFIELD
MG: How did you get your start rapping?
IL: I started writing short stories as a child in elementary school. I was always in love with words. I used to have to read the dictionary and learn a word a week. I started to watch Rap City and Yo! MTV Raps and then it was over.
MG: When did you start linking up with the likes of Aesop Rock and Slug?
IL: I met Slug, Eyedea and all of the Rhymesayers through Dose One of Anticon. We both went to the University of Cincinnati and he knew all of those guys. At that time people would trade tapes and it was the early days of the underground hip hop boom of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. At that time Rhymesayers was the crew Headshots and they were the first crew that I ever knew that was touring. We met when Atmosphere was in Cinci for a show in ‘98. Actually Weightless and Rhymesayers started the same year. We were all of like minds and whenever they came to Columbus we would open for them and the rest is history.
With Aesop Rock, again Dose One hipped me to his music around ‘98 but we didn’t actually meet until 2000 when Weightless did the Unforseenshadows and Up To Speed re-issues on CD. They were only available on tape before that. Atoms Family and Aesop Rock came down from New York and opened for us. Atoms Family at that time consisted of Vast, Vordul (Cannibal Ox pre-Cold Vein), Cryptic One, Alaska, Wind N Breeze and Kazim. This was also Aesop Rock right before Float came out. Aesop and Wind N Breeze actually did my backups on the song “Verbage” at the release party. It was a memorable show that is still considered a staple in Columbus Hip Hop History.
MG: At what point did you know that you could have a viable career making independent hip hop?
IL: Honestly I’ve never had a viable career with hip hop (laughs) but after we released Unforeseenshadows and the people started responding we knew we had something. Once we dropped Got Lyrics? I really started touring. Eyedea (RIP) actually took me on my first tour. We (Weightless) were the first crews out of Columbus that actually started touring regularly. To this day the fans have allowed me to continue to make music and make an impact on their lives and I am greatly appreciative of them for that.
MG: Columbus, Ohio was once a creative hub for hip hop. There was Blueprint, yourself, The Spitball crew with DJ PRZM, MHz crew with the likes of RJD2, Copywrite and the late Camu Tao plus more emcees than I could even count. At the same time Cincinnati had Scribble Jam, Lone Catalysts and even Dose One at some point. Where did all that creative energy come from and what was its collective pinnacle?
IL: Honestly, I have no clue (laughs). Ohio has always been a hotbed of musical talent from the great funk bands of the 60’s and 70’s to the talented rock bands and jazz musicians that we have produced. I think we are just in a place where we draw from everywhere and make our own interpretations of the world that people are drawn to. I think this goes for the Midwest in general.
MG: What would you say separates an Ohio emcee from those of other regions?
IL: I think it’s our perspective. It’s that same way with artist from all regions. Our perspectives come from our surroundings. I think that all regions have their time in musical influence. The East Coast had their time and the West had their time. The West Coast time was secretly ours because they stole the funk sound of our 70’s groups. I don’t think that we have a specific style or time because we pull from everywhere so our time has always been.
MG: Have you noticed a decline in the popularity of underground hip hop? If so, when did it start and how has it affected you personally?
IL: I don’t think that there has been a decline at all. I think the lines have been more blurred as to what underground hip hop is and what it is not. I think now “underground” is more of a style as opposed to a genre, because in all honesty Drake is or was an underground artist. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are underground artists along with countless others, but in the same vein so am I. Underground used to mean that you didn’t make as much money as a major label artist. It used to mean that you did not have the notoriety or the reach. Now the class system of underground and above ground artist has been turned on its ear. Much of that is due to the internet. Now I would describe underground as going outside of the box or coming with something from left field that no one else is doing.
MG: These days, rappers usually take one of two routes. Either they have a label doing promotion or an agent booking their tours. On the flip side, some have taken a road that is do-it-yourself for ethical reasons or out of sheer necessity. Which path would you suggest that independent artists use?
IL: I would say do what is best for you and the furthering of your career.
MG: Your lyrics are often deeply personal, poetic, and honest. Those factors can strike a cord in the listener. What is the best thing a fan has either said or done for you?
IL: Fans have done a lot from tattoos to paintings. Just knowing that I have touched people’s lives in some way is enough. When a fan tells me that I have helped them in some way or got them through a difficult situation in their lives that is the ultimate reward.
MG: What other mediums besides hip hop would you like to explore?
IL: I have a few books in the works right now. I would also love to get into producing because I do have a musical background and a good ear for samples. I really would like to have my hands in everything that I possibly can. You might even see me DJ sometime in the future, I don’t know, I don’t like to limit myself at all.
MG: You have been rather prolific when it comes to releases in the last few years. Do you have a favorite one?
IL: I love all of my music. All of it has it’s time. It depends on the day. My fans favorite is Celestial Clockwork though.
MG: What does the future hold for Illogic? Do you have any surprises up your sleeve?
IL: Lots of music, a few books as I mentioned and I would love to hit the road heavy this year. Other than that, just taking care of my family and loving life.
RUST BELT HAMMER CAN BE FOUND @RUSTBELTHAMMER OR ON FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/rustbelthammer