“Leader of many men, King with No Crown”
Over 15 years ago I had the pleasure of being part of the foundation of a movement that came to be called Weightless Recordings. At that time I had no idea of how powerful what we started would become, but I knew that I had complete faith in our leader and in where he would take us. Al Shepard a.k.a Blueprint was the leader by default because he was the producer and he had the equipment so he controled the music and we were ok with that. The thing is it was never something that he wanted. He was always cool playing the back and letting others shine and take the lead, but I knew it was destined for him to become what he has become. Al always had the vision and the drive to be successful himself but, his focus was always our success as a collective. We didn’t always see what he saw in the tea leaves, but we trusted that where ever he would lead us would be awesome; and we were right. The thing about Print is that he never needed the credit. He never needed the light it was just drawn to him and out of all of us he was the only one willing to sacrifce all for the art and stratigically use that sacrifice for success.
On his new album “King No Crown” due out May 28th, Blueprint explores the ideals of his existince from many persectives, but all of the perspectives have something to teach. Lyrically, musically and structurally I think this record is a beautiful and edifying piece of art. I know that I am bias, but I belive that this Blueprints best offering yet.
Please enjoy the “five spot” with Blueprint..
Why the title “King No Crown”?
The title “King No Crown” is about the feeling of being really well respected and successful at what you do, but still being relatively unknown to the masses. It’s about the way you carry yourself and how your career unfolds and how you can still push through and be a king in your work and artistry, but never really see a “crown” so to speak.
As an artist you continue to evolve and create a new sound for yourself in a musical climate that is heavily based on formula and trends. Where do you draw inspiration from to keep your music and sound fresh from album to album?
My goal as an artist, first and foremost, is to never get bored with doing music and have fun at all times. But for that to happen, I can’t be doing the same record over and over. I have to challenge myself in different and more ambitious ways every time out because if I don’t then I’ll get bored with it and not want to do it anymore. I’ve always believed that rappers fall off once they lose inspiration for what they’re doing, so I keep myself inspired by moving around freely from style to style, hoping to do them well and hopefully master them one day. I also switch up the gear I use to make beats every few years. Some guys will get to a machine they dig like the MPC-2000 and just stay there for ten years. I will use it for 3-4 years and move to a different machine that makes me think and create differently.
In the content of songs like “black intellectual”, “kill me first” and “hand me downs” among others you touch on some things from the perspective of an black man. Do you think that black artists have a responsibility to the black community to provide something edifying in the process of providing entertainment?
I believe every Black artist that is in the public eye has a responsibility to their community. Unfortunately, most of them don’t want to acknowledge that they do because if they acknowledged it they would have to hold themselves to a higher standard. Black people have no real media ownership in the United States–even the platforms we think are Black-owned like The Root or BET are white owned–so we have no true Black voice in the media. That said, it is no surprise that most of the depictions of Black people in the media is unflattering and reflects the views of the minority in our community. I feel that I have to use the small platform I have to make sure I’m not reinforcing stereotypes that are damaging to my people. I read a story today about a 13-year old Black child in Memphis who has eleven thousand instagram followers because he posts pictures of himself holding guns and smoking weed. When a reporter asked him why he did it, his response was, “that’s how Cheef Keef got famous, isn’t it?” We have to understand as Black men that the media is the most powerful tool in shaping what people think about us out here. I just try to play my part and be unashamed of being an intelligent Black man because there needs to be more of it and I know that the youth are watching.
There is a great remake of J Dillas “nothing like this” on king no crown. What is one specific way that Dilla has influenced your approach to making music?
Dilla’s biggest influence on me was his ability to move from style to style. He had a phases he would go through as a producer like mellow keys, then synths, then soul samples, then back to synths that showed he he was a real student of the game. He was always evolving and that’s what I try to do as well.
I know that as a producer you are always checking out new gear, but i also know that when producers find gear that they really like they tend to stick with it. What was your most used piece of gear on the king no crown record?
The pieces of gear I used the most on making King No Crown were was my Microkorg, the Korg Triton, and Reason 2.5. I’ve since sold both of those synths and started using Ableton instead of Reason, so I expect my next couple of projects to sound completely different.
You can Pre-Order “King No Crown” HERE and don’t miss Blueprint on tour ths spring…
Fri. May 1st – Fairborn, OH @ One Eyed Jacks |http://on.fb.me/1N4u8lp
Sat. May 2nd – Columbus, OH @ Brothers Drake |http://on.fb.me/1xetwWC
Thur. May 21st – Evansville, IN @ PG |http://on.fb.me/1xetA8x
Fri. May 22nd – Harrisburg, PA @ Appalachian Brewing Co | http://on.fb.me/1HwouVk
Sat. May 23rd – Washington, DC – Heaven & Hell |http://on.fb.me/1Iq1rN4
Sun. May 24th – Raleigh, NC @ The Pour House |http://on.fb.me/1N4v0qd
Mon. May 25th – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor |http://on.fb.me/1FT8QVD
Wed. May 27th – Nashville, TN @ The Stone Fox |http://on.fb.me/1bqhNun
Thur. May 28th – Knoxville, TN @ Long Branch |http://on.fb.me/1Cm4Lb6
Fri. May 29th – Boone, NC @ The Local |http://on.fb.me/1Hz8e9A
Sat. May 30th – Asheville, NC @ Timo’s House |http://on.fb.me/1BoSOg2
Sun. May 31st – Columbia, SC @ Back Alley |http://on.fb.me/1HwsJjO
Mon. June 1st – Atlanta, GA @ 529 |http://on.fb.me/1y11j0r
Wed. June 3rd – Gainesville, FL @ The Backyard |http://on.fb.me/1Bgj7Gc
Thur. June 4th – Orlando, FL @ The Social |http://on.fb.me/1ENf2gb
Fri. June 5th – Jacksonville, FL @ Rain Dogs |http://on.fb.me/1bqinrV
Sat. June 6th – Fort Myers Beach, FL @ Nervous Nellie’s | http://on.fb.me/1BKHzP1
Sun. June 7th – Dunedin, FL @ The Dunedin Brewery (FREE SHOW) | http://on.fb.me/1FzPxSw
Fri. June 12th – Austin, TX @ Flamingo Cantina |http://on.fb.me/1bqisMh
Sat. June 13th – San Antonio, TX @ Fitzgerald’s |http://on.fb.me/1BoT2Uw
Sun. June 14th – Fort Worth, TX @ Lola’s |http://on.fb.me/1BoT3Yp
Wed June 17th – Albuquerque, NM @ Burt’s Tiki Lounge | http://on.fb.me/1C7w3Rf
Thur. June 18th – Santa Fe, NM @ The Underground at Evangelo’s | http://on.fb.me/1HzafCF
Fri. June 19th – Colorado Springs, CO @ Flux Capacitor | http://on.fb.me/19hqZ2z
Sat. June 20th – Denver, CO @ Moe’s |http://on.fb.me/1bqiDqQ
Sun. June 21st – Grand Junction, CO @ Mesa Theater |http://on.fb.me/1xev2YB