Performance Poetry can be a lot like Stand-Up Comedy: Great for an evening out, not what you really want to hear in your CD player. In the mainstream, it’s worked. Kanye’s appearance on "Def Poetry" was priceless promotion for his album. One of the only memorable elements of Nastradamus, may’ve been the intro and outro from Jessica Care Moore.
But the underground isn’t so lucky. Acts like Anticon and Scienz of Life have struggled to grow acceptance for almost a decade. Critics and fans alike hold a red flag that accuses many efforts as “pretentious” off the bat. One person that seems to have found that difficult balance between MC and poet is Illogic.
Ohio’s own golden child is releasing his third (and most exciting) studio album. Illogic and AllHipHop decided to chop it up – on poetry, the difficulties in making an emotional album, and we even got on dude’s case for not pressing the vinyl. Without albums like Celestial Clockwork, and artists like Illogic, groups like The Last Poets would never see their foundation applied in Grassroots Hip-Hop. Now, imagine that!
AllHipHop: In your mind, how is Celestial Clockwork a progression from your other two albums?
Illogic: I think it’s a lot more personal, and it really shows my growth as an artist. To do an album that’s as consistent as Celestial [Clockwork] is, in comparison to my other albums, it’s a lot of personal experiences on there. A lot of real personal, introspective stories of things that really happened in my life. It’s a good release for me and it’s really good to see that people are enjoying it and taking it for what it is and not expecting some grandeous thing.
AllHipHop: When I listened to the album the first time, there was a sense of urgency in it. Like, ‘Now or Never’, is that the case in your overall attitude?
Illogic: Not really a sense of urgency. Originally, Celestial Clockwork was supposed to be the follow-up to Unforseen Shadows. But we did Got Lyrics? And some other things happened in the meantime. It was more, we really took our time with it to get it right. We made sure all the production matched the concepts. We really wanted to take our time and not rush it. I wanted it to have as much power as it could possibly have. It was one of things where we had to let it age a little bit and wait a little time to drop it to the world, and now’s the right time.
AllHipHop: “Hate in a Puddle” was the joint that really made a big impression for you. It’s just so potent. How did that gem come about?
Illogic: At the time, I was in college. I was dealing with a lot of things – trying to learn who I was as a person, trying to find myself. In doing that, I went to Cincinnati for school, which is where my biological father lived – who I had no relationship with whatsoever. I didn’t really meet him til’ I was thirteen years old. So I went there to build a relationship with him, which didn’t happen. That kinda got me really down. Plus, I had a girlfriend at the time that was acting crazy. I was at a loss. I needed some kind of therapy – and writing is my therapy. One day on the walk home from Dose One’s [of Anticon] house, it was raining. I stopped and I saw my reflection in a puddle. I saw at on the balcony of my dorm room in the rain and wrote the song. It was one of those things that I needed to do to get out of a rut that I was stuck in.
AllHipHop: Out of curiosity, why don’t you press your albums on vinyl?
Illogic: Well, Got Lyrics? Was pressed on vinyl. It sold out. I think we maybe only pressed up two thousand copies. And we sold out. One, being that we’re a self-funded label, vinyl is extremely expensive. Celestial Clockwork is gonna be on vinyl though. We really want to get everything on vinyl. That’s an area we need to touch.
AllHipHop: How do you find balance between Hip-Hop and spoken word?
Illogic: Personally, I don’t try to find a balance. Because I think they’re one and the same. The difference is the beat aspect of it, of course. But the words is really the power of anything. You can tell an MC is really dope as an MC when they take his beats away and his words are still powerful. That’s how I always have looked at Hip-Hop and viewed myself as an artist.
AllHipHop: What does Ohio offer to Hip-Hop. What’s an Ohio B-Boy like?
Illogic: I think the benefits is that we’re in the middle of New York and the West Coast. We have all of that convergence on us. The drive in us to become more than what we see on television, or [hear] from anywhere. I think it’s given people like us in Columbus a drive to become more what they think we are. I think a good example of that is RJD2, Blueprint, and I coming from Columbus. We just have a nice view of the entire spectrum of Hip-Hop. It gives a good balance to build on. It’s encouraged here, to be yourself and not sound like this dude or that dude.
AllHipHop: The album’s out. What’s next? Where do you go from here?
Illogic: Well, right now we’re trying to get some different tours and things together. Nothing’s solidified. I’ll be doing a week with the Eyedea & Abilities Tour down the East Coast. That’s gonna be the second week of May. Everything else is being still worked out. I’ll be all over the country in the next six months.
AllHipHop: How hard is it to be fulltime?
Illogic: It is hard. Every tour is a dice roll. You hope people show up. You hope your money’s right. You hope you’re not just going out here for the heck of it. The pay-off weighs a lot more than the sacrifice itself. Because when you’re out there and you’re on stage and whether it’s ten fans or a thousand fans, they’re there to see you. That’s the pay-off. It’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into it, but it pays off in the end. I’m hoping and I’m praying that I’m not doing this for nothing. The response from the last two albums and the anticipation on this one has let me know that that’s [not the case].