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Print on Film

I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s better to be great at being myself than to be average at trying to be something that I’m not… This, is Al “Blueprint” Shepard boiled down his essence; and it’s what we get with the release of the rapper-producer turned filmmaker’s documentary King No Crown. For the [...]
614now Staff

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I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s better to be great at being myself than to be average at trying to be something that I’m not…

This, is Al “Blueprint” Shepard boiled down his essence; and it’s what we get with the release of the rapper-producer turned filmmaker’s documentary King No Crown.

For the man who’s been repping Columbus for nearly two decades—from his early days in the influential Rhymesayers roster and later riding shotgun for the breaking of fellow hometown hero, RJD2—’Print has always been true to himself.

A trait that, at times, places him in the margins of hip-hop classification—never one to trend-hop, yet always evolving, he’s a legend in some circles and the background of others. He counts Aesop Rock and Brother Ali as friends and collaborators yet isn’t necessarily on his own city’s big picture radar.

This month, his first film project graces the Wexner Center screen; a personal snapshot of the recording of his self-titled album that eventually evolves into a documentary of Columbus hip-hop history.

Shepard may still have his crown, but as the city’s artistic scene, he’s one of our crown jewels.

We sat down to chop it up with ’Print about what it’s like to add a new skill to his set.

Columbus has always been a low-key film town, but with a new push to bring more of the city to the big screen. Is there a fun coincidence in that you have always been repping the city and now you get to put your version of it on film?

Film is a really technical field, so I don’t take it lightly. My goal early on was to not release anything that I felt couldn’t stand up with my peers in this city. I didn’t want to get over on just being Blueprint; I wanted to make something dope, so that maybe when people think about Columbus film I’m one of the people they eventually think of. What’s wild is that I always had that same goal for hip-hop: I just wanted to be one of those guys who reps Columbus with style and grace, so people can have pride in this city. Now, that energy just transfers over to the film-side of things.

I love watching someone look through those old scrapbooks of Scribble Jam and other gig posters. Do you feel like this document doubles as you opening your personal scrapbook? So much of Columbus hip-hop history at this point is tied to you in some way or another.

At the beginning of the process, I thought it was just a film about a year of my life. But by the time I finished it, I definitely see it as a piece of Columbus hip-hop history. To this point, we’ve never had anybody in our scene really make anything full-length about any of us guys from that era. There was a screening for the Groove Shack movie, but the guy who made it and the film have kind of disappeared without ever being formally released—which is a shame. This film may be one of the first things that somebody sees about me. And even though it just covers one year of my life, it will mostly likely inspire people to go back and revisit some of our scenes’ history.  I want to continue to do my part to document it as much as I can.

Along those lines, do you feel like a lot of people in Columbus still don’t know how heavy that classic period of Columbus hip-hop was? I still feel like there are 10 times more people that know you or RJ, than people that know you’re local.

Nationally, I think people know about that era of Columbus, but sometimes I don’t know how much people from here truly know how special that period was, and how impactful it was locally and nationally. Columbus hip-hop artists were basically feeding their talent into two of the biggest independent hip-hop labels of that time—Def Jux and Rhymesayers—and the whole world was watching. When I look at how people are feeling about Soul Position now, I feel like people are really starting to finally get it. Sometimes you have to stick around long enough and be relevant long enough to make people see it. So the longer we’re successful and the more longevity we have, the more people will start to understand the era we came from and how special the time we came up in really was.

One of the things I observe about you is a confident duality of humility and hard work. You’re always appreciative of people giving you dap, and not afraid to say, “yeah, I’m dope.” With giving it this title, what feelings did that give you, as far as putting it out there and expressing that? You might be the most beloved rapper I’ve heard of that isn’t a “household name,” as you say in the film.

Thanks. Giving the film that title, to me, was a way of formalizing what you’re describing. King No Crown just embraces the fact that you can be successful and respected but not a household name—and that you don’t have to be a bitter artist about it. This is my 15th year being a full-time artist where my job and primary source of income is music. Every year I love it more and more, but I never take it for granted because I view it as something the people gave me. And because their support is what allows me to do what I love every day, I am always genuinely appreciative of the love and support they show me in public. It reminds me of how blessed I’ve been and reminds me to keep pushing harder.

I think this film also does a good job of displaying your evolution as an artist. (In addition to becoming a filmmaker in and of itself.) What did the film inspire in your writing and producing?

Since finishing the film, the way I look at production and writing has expanded a lot. I find myself thinking a lot more about the visual side of music much more than I ever did. It makes me think about how to combine these things to make something more powerful every time out. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to use all these things together, but it’s definitely at the front of my mind.

One final fun one: What bar from what song on the album do you think best associates with the film King No Crown?

“If you love what you do, then it ain’t really a grind.” — “Persevere”

To see Blueprint’s King No Crown November 1 at the Wexner Center of the Arts, visit wexarts.org.

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Music

Local rocker Angela Perley shines on solo debut

Mike Thomas

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Folk, alt-country, or indie rock—however you choose to categorize her sound, Angela Perley remains a pillar of the Columbus music community—and highly in-demand as a national touring act, to boot.

(614) caught up with Perley to discuss her new album, life on the road, and what it takes to make it as a musician in the Capital City.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

(614): YOUR NEW RELEASE, 4:30, IS YOUR FIRST AS A SOLO ACT. WHAT LED TO THIS CHANGE?

AP: Since 2009 until last year, I had the Howlin’ Moons. It’s always been myself, Chris Connor on lead guitar, and then we had bassist Billy Zehnal in the band up until last year. We’ve had a rotating extended family of drummers. Billy’s not in the band anymore, and we were also on Vital Companies, which is a studio/label in Columbus that did our previous albums.

https://open.spotify.com/album/04pKByd2ygDHXdvl1TcdWP?si=6njCmRpfR5GRWe5kLNghVw

So this one—it’s a solo one, it’s my first independent release. There’s no label involved, I own the masters to the songs. It’s hard to keep a band together, so Chris, who’s been in the band since the beginning, and I, we’re kind of the only members, and we have an extended family of really great and talented people who have other projects they’re in. It just works a lot better with what I want to do.

YOU USED KICKSTARTER TO HELP FUND THE ALBUM. WHAT WAS THE CROWDFUNDING EXPERIENCE LIKE?

Before, with Vital, they had a studio and video production, and they took care of all of our recording in-house. We didn’t realize how expensive everything was. We had paid for studio time [for 4:30] through show money, but to look at all of the other expenses of making a record happen and trying to get it out there, it’s pretty intense! There have been a lot of independent artists that we know that will do Kickstarters, and I’ve never done anything like it before, so I was really nervous doing it. But it was a success, and I actually just finished sending out all of the preorder vinyl that people ordered.

YOUR SOUND IS OFTEN DESCRIBED AS ANYTHING FROM AMERICANA, TO ALT-COUNTRY, TO PSYCHEDELIC ROCK. WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITHIN THOSE TRADITIONS IN 2019?

You kind of have to make your own path, because although there is a resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll, everything’s been done before. It has those roots, but we’re not breaking the mold or anything. You just have to be true to yourself and to the music, and just go from there. Everyone’s voice is important as an artist, so that’s important to remember.

YOU’RE ON THE ROAD TOURING QUITE A BIT. DO YOU STILL KEEP TRACK OF WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE COLUMBUS MUSIC SCENE?

Columbus is definitely growing, and moving toward doing things independently. I’ve seen a lot of bands touring, which is good. It’s an affordable place to tour out of, and there’s a community here for sure. Whenever I have a chance, we go out to the shows. We love The Cordial Sins, and we’re having them as our special guests for our album release. The High Definitions, Souther—there are just so many good bands.

When I go to other cities and I realize that there’s not really much of a scene going on, it is kind of cool to see that in Columbus, people are very aware and supportive of musicians. Even the businesses around here, everyone’s trying to work with musicians in some way. There are so many gigs, be it at breweries, at restaurants, or little festivals that pop up. There’s work for musicians here. And some other cities, there’s really not.

IN THE PAST, YOU’VE PLAYED SOMETHING LIKE 150 SHOWS A YEAR. ARE YOU KEEPING UP THE SAME PACE THESE DAYS?

I’m glad that we played that many shows at that time. We were playing anywhere and everywhere, and a lot of that was pressure financially. If that’s the way you’re making a living, you’ve got to take every gig. We’ve spread out the shows since, especially since we have been doing it for this long. We’re kind of gearing more towards quality shows. I will say, playing that many shows—I needed that. We needed the experience, and just the repetition. Every venue is different, every environment, every crowd. You cut your teeth and it makes you stronger.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO LOCAL ARTISTS HOPING TO MAKE A CAREER IN MUSIC?

It’s tough, because for each person it’s so different. Getting out there and working hard, playing as many shows as possible—that's all really great experience. But also focus on the music itself. If you’re going to make a music video or a recording, take your time—don’t half-ass it. Wait until you know what you’re doing. Although, you kind of have to learn from your mistakes, too.

Catch Angela Perley with special guests The Cordial Sins on September 6 at Skully’s Music-Diner for the release show of her new album, titled 4:30.

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(614) Sessions

614 Sessions: Doc Robinson

Mike Thomas

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4QdxpbrZgg&feature=youtu.be

Doc Robinson, the collaboration of Columbus music stalwarts Jon Elliott and Nick D’Andrea, joined us for this session in the 614 offices to share their unique brand of "Backyard BBQ Breakup music."

While here, the duo played stripped-down acoustic versions of their songs "Wilderness" and "Wild Beauty."

To hear more from Doc Robinson, follow them on your streaming platform of choice, or visit https://www.docrobinsonofficial.com/

Be sure to catch the group at Woodlands Tavern on Saturday, September 21, when they'll be joined by Hebdo, Parker Louis, Honey and Blue and many more for their Family Jamboree.

Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/artist/5O0efDEpkqEmWbXD2zpkjz

Apple Music:
https://music.apple.com/us/artist/doc-robinson/1116027164
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Producer: Mike Thomas
Videographers: Adam Fakult, Mitch Hooper, Mike Thomas
Audio Mixing/Mastering: Jared Huntley
Video Editing: Mike Thomas
Contact: [email protected]
Website: 614now.com

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(614) Sessions

(614) Sessions: The Turbos

Mike Thomas

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ThYK1D0000

The Turbos’ high-octane heroics have earned the group a fierce following in the Columbus rock scene and beyond. Combining shredding guitar virtuosity with soaring, anthemic vocals, co-frontmen Alex D. and Lucas Esterline lead the group in a sound that combines the best of the old and the new. Rounded out by the multi-talented Cameron Reck on bass and mononymous local music veteran Jahrie behind the kit, the Turbos are leading the charge for a new generation of rockers.

For the first of what we hope will be many in a new music series we're calling The (614) Sessions, The Turbos joined us in our offices for a stripped-down acoustic set. Despite leaving the electrics at home, the power of their performance was still enough to garner multiple noise complaints (sorry, neighbors).

For show dates and more, be sure to follow The Turbos on Facebook. Big thanks to the group for sharing their music as our first-ever guests in this new endeavor!

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Producer: Mike Thomas
Videographers: Mike Thomas, Adam Fakult, Mitch Hooper
Audio Mixing/Mastering: Jared Huntley Video
Editing: Mitch Hooper
Contact: [email protected]

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