Cincinnati’s own Ill Poetic, artist, emcee, producer, and more, is set to return to the Tri-State area this Saturday night at Northside Yacht Club to formally introduce fans - new and old - to an album 10 years in the making. An Idiot’s Guide to Anarchy is a complex, hyperkinetic look inside the restless, attentive mind of one of the most prolific (and we don’t just mean musically) local artists. While he now calls California home, his Cincinnati roots run deep and make their presence known throughout an album that while ostensibly can be classified as Hip-Hop manages to elude easy description. Dense, but ultimately accessible, there’s a wall of information to absorb as soon as you hit play.
Trying to describe this album as simply “hip-hop” would not just be a tremendous disservice to the vitality and genre agnosticism on display, but also a gross oversimplification of a truly unique creation. Mixing jazz, funk, modern and classic Hip-Hop, house and dance, and performance art into a cohesive whole is no small task to undertake. To have the end result sound so effortless, though, is something else entirely.
For those looking for an easy way to reconcile this album with whatever your preconceived notion of what a Hip-Hop album should be, good luck. It evokes 70’s soul just as much as it does Das Racist. And frankly, I can’t imagine it working any other way.
In celebration of the album’s release, and in anticipation of this weekend’s release show, I caught up with Ill Poetic to see what’s been happening in his world since the last time we talked - Ubahn Fest. As you’ll read below, quite a bit. Thanks to Ill Poetic for taking the time to answer my questions.
Now, turn on (and turn up) the album and read along…
Catch us up on things. New album, An Idiot’s Guide to Anarchy, new shows… all of which has been a long time in the making. Between your last visit to Cincinnati and now, what’s been happening? What helped you realize this album was ready?
My last visit to Cincinnati would've been the Ubahn Fest event back in October 2016. It's definitely been a busy year since. Most of this year has revolved around getting my album ("An Idiot's Guide to Anarchy") prepped for release. This is our first release of this magnitude as an indie label and we've been in deep prep mode for it since back in January. Between wrapping the mixes, mastering, vinyl pressing, visuals, show booking, and hiring a publicist for the first time, just releasing this album has been a year-long venture, let alone creating it. I've known this record was ready a while ago, but part of creating this album involves creating the platform and financial investments that will allow it to be presented in a way we felt it deserved to be presented. The business half isn't as sexy as the artist half, but at the end of the day, every part of the process is art. I have to be as passionate about building budget spreadsheets as I was about writing the first round of lyrics that sparked it all 10 years ago.
Some other cool music shit from the past year: My band & I host a regular event in San Diego called SEANCE, where we've been inviting musicians, percussionists, DJs, emcees & producers from different genres and jam sessions (latin, reggae, hip-hop, funk, soul, electronic, house, trap) to all create live on the spot and see where the night takes us. That has been my other pet project this year beyond this album release.
A few other fresh things: I sound-designed a great short film, "Poster Grrl" for my partners at Fringe Life which premiered in Columbus, OH this past August and will see a release in 2018 with the help of our platform Definition Music (our first entry into film). Lastly, I'm back in school as a full-time student in San Diego studying music theory, technology & culture. I'm beyond excited to finally learn and apply theory to my future musical endeavors.
While the music certainly reflects your influences, how has the current political and social climate played into things for you, especially as this album was started so long ago?
Honestly, I never saw this album as anything remotely political. I don't typically get into political conversations with my art. I definitely get into socially active conversations on and off record though. With that said, I wrote everything on this album before our current 'political' climate; I actually started writing this in the George W Bush era. Listening to this album, specifically the first half, reminds me that shit's been pretty crazy and will keep feeling crazier and crazier as life goes on. The theme of the album is essentially how to ignore the bullshit, fight when you need to fight and find peace when you need to find peace. Those lessons never really go out of style. Granted, I made some adjustments to certain lines that I felt dated some verses as time went on, but having the hindsight of 10 years actually built my confidence for this record immensely. Knowing that most of this album was roughly created and written a decade ago not only held ground 10 years later but actually became even more relevant was selfishly rewarding and selflessly depressing.
After spending time in the Midwest then heading to the West Coast, how do you think you’ve been influenced by your relocation? And how do you keep in touch with your roots?
I love living in California. Beyond the weather, I love the constant psychology, momentum and creativity I'm surrounded around. I'm constantly surrounded by small business owners and successful artists across various fields who've created generations of culture unlike anything I've ever seen. This all exists in Ohio too, but there's an energy I couldn't find in Ohio that I found here. I've been extremely humbled and deeply curious since moving out here. I think I've become a much stronger artist since moving out here, which was a huge goal for me. My palette of influence expanded wider than I could've imagined, and though I'm beyond elated with "An Idiot's Guide to Anarchy", the shit I've been making out here is on another planet and I'm excited to explore the curiosity that created it even further.
I only get to visit Ohio to see family or rock shows. Because I don't live there anymore, I really value the moments I come. They're highlights to my year. But if I stayed longer than 1-2 weeks, I'd get antsy and depressed. As far as the local Ohio scenes, I stay up on new artists and musical directions via social media and friends that keep me up on developments. I'm still deeply interested, especially in the Cincinnati scene, and speak about it often out here. My heart is always in Cincinnati and I'll always consider myself a Cincinnati artist til the end.
Can you talk a little bit about the creation of AIGTA? 10 years is a long time to work on something, so what kept you coming back? As hyperkinetic as it is, how did you keep a throughline for the album going? What made you want to finish it?
I started this album while still living in Cincinnati. I'd seen some success with my last full-length album, "The World is Ours" back in 2007 and started producing a follow-up to the album. But as I was making beats that I thought 'should' be my next album, I was also making weird beats at odd tempos that made no sense to me. I kept drawing back to those beats. They were like an obstacle course for me, like 'how could I make it all work'? At a similar time, I was coming up with really strange ideas, like 'Bleach" and "8:44" and I didn't know how the pieces fit, but I felt they could. I had some friends help me early on in developing my voice to reach these ideas. I started working more and more with unique musicians and vocalists to really twist the idea into something solely original.
I had a mission: I wanted my own artist room. I was tired of going into the J Dilla room and seeing it stacked with other producers who had the Dilla influence. Or the Flying Lotus room. I wanted to develop a process to create such a unique record that no one could ever mirror. I wanted my own room; a place I could set my shit down and spray paint my name on the walls with no roommates. As years went on, I took on other projects and released EPs that acted as college courses for me to finish this album. During that time this record became my little baby; my egg on a spoon that I couldn't let drop. Even as this album release has had its own set of obstacles for me, I never want to drop the egg off the spoon. It means so much to me. It never occurred to me to not finish it.
You have a release show/party happening at Northside Yacht Club this Saturday. Tell us a little bit about what fans can expect, and maybe why someone who isn’t familiar with Ill Poetic should come check it out.
I love coming back to Cincinnati to perform. Each show has been extremely special for me. My guy Rome (Far-I-Rome Productions) has been booking my homecoming shows since I left back in 2008. Each year is a bit different as more time goes by, but generations of friends, family, fans and artists all come out and I just keep seeing this wider age range come out for the experience. There's a piece of my live performance that is rooted in the nostalgia of the era of Cinci I came up in: Top Cats, Scribble Jam, True Blue and other early/mid 2000's cornerstones. But I'm also deep into progressive futurist shit, so in addition to that nostalgic vibe and rocking older songs, I'm deeply focused the new shit we're on; how do we fuck people's heads up and give folks a transcendent experience, whether from my songs or from where we travel on stage. Like the SEANCE event I mentioned above, we're interested in floating through hip-hop, house, funk, soul, trap, electronic, latin, jazz and more.
Anything else you want to add or mention?
I believe in this album more than anything I've ever been involved with. If you're reading this, don't buy this album just to support me (though that would help immensely). Buy it because it's a great piece of art. Save for one song, I produced, emceed, wrote, arranged, and designed the entire art layout for this project. Every centimeter of this record is me at my absolute best. Our label, a team of 5, took the necessary years to educate ourselves, build a platform and self-invest in something we all deeply believe in. No outside investment or label deals. Just us.
I can't control who connects to my work, but I damn sure made a project that can't be fronted on for sheer quality. I will push the shit out of this album until I have nothing left in me, I believe in it so deeply. I want this vinyl buried with me, that's how seriously I feel about this record and about my team. With that said, you can listen & buy this record on digital or vinyl platforms HERE. The album is also available on all your favorite streaming platforms. As we wrap 2017 and move into 2018, you'll see other components to this project come into play as well. This is a long-game project and we have no intent on stopping any time soon.
Remember, you can catch Ill Poetic THIS Saturday night at Northside Yacht Club in celebration of the release of his first full-length album in 10 years, An Idiot’s Guide to Anarchy.