or a limited time only, we’re offering those who order Illogic’s new LP, Celestial Clockwork, his companion booklet, “How to Make Your Own Indie Hip-Hop Album”, free of charge. This portable pamphlet fits conveniently in any vinyl bag or backpack and should be considered an essential quick reference, step-by-step guide to creating your own underground hip-hop “statement”. Using the new, long-awaited album as an outline, Illogic gives you simple tips and pointers (even ODB could understand) to help you nimbly walk the precarious line between underground credibility and genuine creativity without ever surprising or disappointing a fickle fan base. Feel free to listen along with Illogic while he teaches.
First off, remember: you are an MC, and an MC is only as good as his/her productions, so make sure you hire an up-and-coming producer, ideally someone close to you who has been voraciously consuming the best of his/her contemporaries like RJD2, El-P and Prefuse 73. Luckily for me, I’ve hooked up with good friend and MC/Producer Blueprint who, as you may remember, has had the pleasure of working with fellow-Columbus native RJD2 with their successful Soul Position project.
2) “The Only Constant” feat. Blueprint
On the lead-off track, break out the manifesto immediately to illustrate how you, too, feel that “rappers nowadays are on the same ol’ stuff”, then proceed to inform the listener how you intend to rectify that problem. My advice is, let them know you are either “dope” or “ill” and how this relates to your own originality. As you can see here, my friend Blueprint and I have gone with “Everything changes as we stray from the predictable/ Towards our own destiny, built upon original… concepts to listen to/ Two ill individuals… born to score!” As you can see, I’ve added emphasis to, what I like to call, “hot rhymes”… that is, dichotomous words that you can rhyme in order to denounce a foe, even as you trumpet your own worth. These are essential when it comes to differentiating yourself from the mainstream, but beware… those who use “hot rhymes” excessively may be deemed hypocrites. Remember, by following this outline, you’ve sacrificed any true originality; however, the key is getting in and out of the headphones without tipping off your typical mainstream-despising hip-hop fan.
3) “Birthright” and “1000 Whispers”
Now remember, you’re not just some whiny player-hater, right? So you’re gonna have to hit ‘em now with the best of your gift of gab, and in the underground, this means No Battle Rhymes! Instead, break out those old poetry notebooks from high school. It doesn’t matter how cryptic or maudlin, you want to weave rhymes that are only vaguely conceptual into a “hip-hop poem”, if you will. Now on “Birthright”, Blueprint’s offered me a neat guitar lick-driven head-nodder of a beat, ala RJD2, to spit over. Essentially, I’m talking about how I was born to MC, but you shouldn’t be able to tell from these lyrics, “Like nuns trapped in purgatory, walking in circles of piety/ Raising ladles of lamb’s blood to their lips, and allowing its thickness to purify this land of derelicts.” Or how about these ditties from “1000 Whispers”: “You strain cash while I take the root of evil, make tea/ Patiently holding hands with anxiousness” or “If a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ve painted a thousand pictures. If a scream is worth a thousand dreams, I’ve dreamed a thousand whispers”. Just make sure you sound fresh and intellectual—the song will seem to hold together as more than the sum of its parts.
4) “Time Capsule” featuring Aesop Rock & Vast Aire
Time to break out your black book of MC contacts and reel in some hot-shit guest rappers. There is a common misconception going around about guest appearances, that you have to get them all in the same studio. Wrong! Nowadays all you have to do is come up with a good beat and fire up that PC and send a couple emails. As you can see, I’ve solicited the services of two of Def Jux’s top talents here. No need to coordinate any kind of “cohesion” to any “theme”… rappers like Aesop and Vast have got enough talent in their leftover rhyme books to entertain for a good five minutes. Don’t suffocate your guest talents with, gosh, song concepts or group interplay… let them lay down 2 minutes each of verse, tack on your shit and voila!
And if you’re having trouble finding MCs, here’s my email list:
Get the fuck out of here!
5) “Celestial Clockwork”
Remember to make your title track one of the highlights. Make sure it sounds typical of the rest of the album and posit it as a good introduction to your skill.
6) “Hollow Shell (Cash Clutch)”
Shit, even intelligent MCs can indulge in a little album inflation. Throw a filler track on around here.
7) “Lesson In Love”, “First Trimester”
By now, your listeners are sick of hearing your poetry slam audition, so now it’s time to lighten it up (a little) with story time!
For “Lesson In Love”, I’ve offered up a typical rendition of the you-think-you-can-cheat-on-me story. Unfortunately, I could only come up with one, 2-minute sex romp, but thankfully my boy Blueprint has blessed me with his finest Prefuse 73 impression, complete with glitchy synths. He really is improving, isn’t he?
On “First Trimester”, I think I really shine as a storyteller. I mean, I even rap from the perspective of a pregnant teenager. How many times have you heard an MC say something like “I love him, but I’m not ready to spring a life into this world/ Only 17 myself, still a little girl”. I dare you to pen a better song about unwanted pregnancy and juvenile alienation.
8) “I Wish He Would Make Me”
Okay, you’ve had your fill of me by now. It might be a good idea to take this time to thank your dedicated listeners for battling it out with you. You’ve said what you have to say over the course of 12 tracks and now isn’t the time to preach to people.
Alright, I made a bit of a mistake here. Instead of a letter of appreciation, I’ve decided to close with a letter of salvation. It’s about my personal search for faith.
But I have faith that by taking these easy steps in creating your albums, you will be able to successfully wallow in obscurity, contributing to the culture that you love to despise so dearly.
HIP HOP FOREVER!!!!
* [The writer would like to acknowledge that he doesn’t HATE this album or independent hip-hop. His cynical tone comes from a paranoid fear of a potential formulation of the music. He believes Illogic is a talented MC and he wishes him the best of luck in his career.]
Reviewed by: Gabe Gloden
Reviewed on: 2004-04-12