Music is obviously a form of personal expression, but most of the time the artist in question chooses to hold much of himself back in the music that he shares with the people. Sure, most musicians put themselves into the albums that they release, but few really let the audience in on what makes them tick. Even fewer share their imperfections. Their weaknesses. Their deep-seated pain.
Jawhar “Illogic” Glass lays his soul bare on Celestial Clockwork, his third studio album released 15 years ago. It’s an hour-long exploration of his psyche and the issues that he struggled with on a daily basis while he recorded the album. It often takes the form of musical therapy, as he seeks healing through the sharing of his pain. Albert “Blueprint” Shepard is his partner in the endeavor, producing the project in its entirety, literally and figuratively pressing all the right musical buttons to help make Celestial Clockwork an unforgettable experience.
Illogic and Blueprint’s friendship goes back more than 20 years, as the two got to know each other in the competitive underground scene of Columbus, Ohio. They came together as members of the Iskabibbles crew, eventually morphing into Greenhouse Effect, along with other members of the Columbus scene. Blueprint eventually created Weightless Recordings to releases his crew’s music, occasionally pairing with like-minded labels like Rhymesayers. Blueprint produced Illogic’s first three albums, including Unforeseen Shadows (1999) and Got Lyrics? (2002). The two have worked together as a well-oiled machine, both complementing each other’s strengths.
Celestial Clockwork is Illogic’s third and most beloved album. It sits amongst the upper echelon of underground and independent hip-hop albums released in the ’00s, holding its own with the best in the genre. It’s as good of a mix of complex and potent lyricism coupled with creative production that’s been released in the past 20 years.
By the time Celestial was released, Blueprint was established as a two-headed monster of the underground scene, an accomplished emcee and producer. Celestial is one of his best bodies of work. The beats are alternatively mellow, spacey, bizarre, and soulful, coming together to create an intricate soundscape perfectly suited for Illogic’s performance.
Illogic is a highly skilled and fearless emcee, able to traverse the rockiest of lyrical territories. On Unforeseen Shadows, he recorded “Hate in a Puddle,” where he addressed his own issues with clinical depression. On Celestial, he gets even deeper and more personal. On “Lessons In Love,” he chronicles in great detail his discovery that his girlfriend is cheating on him, but adds flashes of humor to almost lighten the mood.
At other points, the subject matter veers into grim territory where few emcees have dared to traipse. “First Trimester” is an account of him and his then girlfriend struggling to deal with an unplanned pregnancy, narrated by the spirit of the aborted baby. On “Stand,” Illogic engages in a contentious verbal confrontation with his absent father, with underground superhero Slug of Atmosphere assuming the role of the deadbeat dad. Illogic further grapples with depression and thoughts of suicide on “Live to Die,” consequently framing life in from a negative perspective and death in a positive light. Meanwhile, on the deeply spiritual “I Wish He Would Make Me,” Illogic struggles with living righteously, appealing to a higher power to force him to choose the correct path.
But Celestial isn’t solely an exercise in pathos and pain. Songs like “Birthright” and “Time Capsule,” featuring Aesop Rock and Vast Aire (of Atoms Family and Cannibal Ox fame), are excellent exhibitions in lyrical dominance. Illogic lambasts artists who sell their souls for record sales and fame on “Hollow Shell. (Cash Clutch)” The album opening “The Only Constant” is Illogic’s dedication to the importance of change, as Blueprint comes from behind the boards to provide the song’s hook.
Then the album’s peak is “1,000 Whispers,” a five-minute-plus lyrical explosion. Illogic recites free-form lyrical thoughts in an exercise in verbal dexterity. Backed by a sample of the keyboard breakdown from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” it’s Illogic’s most popular song and arguably the best entry across his discography.
I had the good fortune of sitting down with Illogic and Blueprint recently, and they spoke at length about the creation of Celestial Clockwork, from both the lyrical and production standpoint. They explored their decision to initially keep the album “to themselves,” the process of putting the album together, and Illogic’s fearlessness to be vulnerable in front of his audience. They also break down each track on the album and discuss its impact on their respective careers.
Jesse Ducker: When did you first think about putting together Celestial Clockwork?
Illogic: I had started writing the songs during the same time, maybe right after Unforeseen was done. A lot of people don’t know that Celestial Clockwork was actually supposed to be my second album. Got Lyrics? ended up being something that got thrown into the mix from some dealings with the label that we were working with at the time. I had the title of the album and I knew what I wanted the concept for the record to be. The album was as dark as it is, in part because I was going through a lot of things and needed that release.
JD: What was the production/lyricist dynamic during the recording process?
Blueprint: Well, with that record, I mean, to me, it was almost like a continuous thing. When we finished Got Lyrics? I don’t recall us ever really stopping recording. The guys from Columbus would probably drive to Cincinnati once a month and Illogic and I were down there, and so we would record stuff for everybody’s album then. It’s kind of like how you would imagine the Wu-Tang Clan would record ODB’s album and GZA’s album and then the Wu-Tang album.
JD: It seems like you were tailoring the type of beats you were creating based on the concepts Illogic was giving you.
Blueprint: A lot of times, I wouldn’t even know the concept until he showed up.
Illogic: I didn’t write to a lot of the beats for this one. I wrote a lot back then, so I would come to Print’s house with rhymes and say, “I want to do this song for the record.” And he’d hear the concept for the song and he’d either play me some beats, or he’d craft something that was then in line with the mood of what I was talking about.
Blueprint: I was doing all kinds of beats. No one else in the crew would rhyme over some of the stuff that was in Celestial. And it didn’t necessarily fit me, either. If I had something that fit it, we would mess with that. But if I didn’t, then I would kind of disappear for a while, come back up with something and let him check it out.
JD: Illogic, can you explain the process of going from more break-your-neck stuff to very thoughtful material from one album to the next?
Illogic: Well, we actually did Got Lyrics? in, like, a weekend? Like, three or four days?
Blueprint: At the time, I was the producer, but I was also running the label. And so I was crafting a sound, but I was also trying to create a vision for where I thought Illogic could go in the balance of his catalog. So after we did Unforeseen, we knew, like we had been playing shows with that record, and he had been touring. And so we were like, you know what? For the next step that you should put out, maybe Celestial Clockwork shouldn’t be the next thing. It should be the third thing. The second thing you should put out should be something where you get [lyrical], because you have no boom-bap stuff in your catalog. We know we got Celestial waiting in the wings, let’s just flip the order and do this thing.
And, like he was saying, we had a label that was interested in an Illogic record, and we didn’t want to give them Celestial. And so we’re like, “nah.” We’ll cook up this thing real quick. And we cooked it up, and by the time we were done, we were just like, “Yo, forget that deal. This is ours.”
JD: What made you decide that you wanted to keep Celestial for yourselves at Weightless?
Illogic: ‘Cause it was special, man. We knew when that record was done that it was something special. We knew before anybody outside of the crew heard it that it was gonna be something to be reckoned with, especially in the climate that we were in. There was nothing really like it out there. I mean, there were a lot of thoughtful rhymes. As far as the sound, as far as how I was rhyming, as far as the way the beats were crafted, there was nothing that was like that. The closest thing that I always put up to Celestial was [Aceyalone’s] Book of Human Language. There was nobody really doing what we were doing at the time, and we knew it was going to be something great.
I think Rhymesayers wanted Celestial. There were a few different labels that wanted Celestial. We knew what we had, and we knew this was a record that would put Weightless in a different category, as well, as a label. So we made the choice to keep it, because we knew what we had in our hands.
JD: So what was the concept beyond Celestial Clockwork?
Illogic: Celestial Clockwork is about human beings dealing with time. A lot of the songs on the album deal with time and how we use the time that we have, how time passes, how time can be wasted and not appreciated. At the time, I was in a really dark place in my life. I was going through depression in college, dealing with a lot of personal issues as far as my biological father. There were a lot of things that were happening to me. You know, girl problems, all kinds of things like that.
I was kind of talking to myself in the record, how to maneuver time and at times I wanted to end my time. And so a lot of it is just based on how time is used, and how time relates to us as human beings.
JD: How had your creative chemistry evolved as you worked on your third album together?
Blueprint: On my end, I don’t remember it being much different, other than the subject matter. The subject matter, to me, that’s the palette. So my job as a producer is to make the best backdrop for whatever the rhymer is talking about. I look at my job as complementing Illogic. So the process changes only depending upon what he wants to talk about on that record.
Our collaborative process, how we communicate, our chemistry? That never really changes. He and I have always had great chemistry. We could talk about something, he could tell me about a concept, and within a day or two, I could have something that I think fits it perfectly. It's just a matter of Illogic communicating to me what he's looking for, and I know how to take that and add music that not only articulates that, but also kind of opens him up to the people that would want to hear that presented in the way that I think it needs to be presented.
Illogic: There’s no difference as far as how we worked on the record. The only difference was the mood of the record itself, and the mood of the music itself. But as far as me and him, together, it was no different working on Unforeseen, Celestial, Got Lyrics?, or any of the Greenhouse stuff.
JD: So, Illogic, you do really talk about some pretty personal, serious stuff on Celestial. Was it tough for you put yourself out there like that?
Illogic: Honestly? From when we made the decision to put “Hate in the Puddle” on Unforeseen Shadows, there was no limit to what [I could say]. I was unafraid of putting myself out there and what my subject matter would be. And I think that was one of the things that drew people to me is that I was in front of everybody naked, figuratively.
I was never the type of person to hide behind anything that I was feeling. I always made a conscious effort to give people a full glimpse of who I was and what I was feeling at the time. I think one of the things that draws people to artists is that when you have a story to tell and you really tell your story, unabridged, unbashful, unafraid of what people will think, then that’s what makes people love you.
JD: So do you guys have time to do a track-by-track breakdown of the album?
Blueprint: I’ve got plenty of time.
Illogic: Yeah, I’ve got time.
JD: Okay, starting off with “The Only Constant”
Blueprint: We knew it was going to be the first track on the record. I feel like we knew that immediately, just because of the way it started, the feeling of it. It was dark, but it still had this edginess to it.
Illogic: And just the idea of the song talking about change. Going from something like Got Lyrics? to Celestial Clockwork was a huge flip. They’re definitely on opposite ends of the spectrum, as far as their sound. So I think about change and talking about how things are different with us as artists and with hip-hop at the time, I think it was just the perfect way to start the album off.
Illogic: One of my favorite songs on the record. That song is just more of me flexing as an emcee, basically just saying it was my time. And it was like pulling the sword from the stone for me. We knew we had something and we knew that it was going to be our time to shine. We knew it was going to be something special.
Blueprint: There’s a competitive edge to that record, too, because of what was going on behind the scenes in Columbus. It was a very competitive place, and after Unforeseen had come out, we went from unknowns, kind of off the grid, to those guys. There were some people that didn’t like that. We were still battling at the time of writing this record, so that edge, it’s in the song. As a producer, that song for me is one that perfectly illustrates how far I can take things now that I got the MPC.
JD: Next is “1,000 Whispers,” which is my favorite track on the album.
Blueprint: For the production, that sample flip was actually inspired by Przm. Because Przm had flipped that same sample for one of his records he put out in Columbus. Spitball Records, I think.
Illogic: Yeah, I was on the song.
Blueprint: You were? Right. So Illogic did a feature for Przm’s record where he had used a small part of that Who sample. And we all thought that shit was crazy, but in my mind I was like, ‘Yo, you can take that shit super far,’ but using the style that we have, which is like the slow, dark, poetic shit. I just wanted to take something familiar and take it somewhere further with him rhyming over it, because people weren't really rhyming over those kinds of samples in the underground at that time.
Illogic: And the crazy thing about “1,000 Whispers” is the Who sample, that’s not even what I recorded it to. There was a different beat that I recorded it to, actually. It was like this crazy flute. And, actually, the rhyme, when I recorded it initially, I rode that flute more. When Print changed it, though, like when I heard the new beat, I was like, “Oh, we’ve gotta keep this shit.”
This was definitely a step up from where we were. So this goes back to what Print was talking about, as far as me trusting him. There’s a lot of times that I would go to Print’s crib and it was just a loop. No matter what I was recording on, it might just be a loop. I’d drop my bars and then I’d go home. And like he said, a couple days later, it might not even sound anything like what I recorded it to. But as a producer, I trusted him so much that it was like I know he’s gonna make me sound the absolute best I possibly can. So “1,000 Whispers” is definitely one of those classic moments on the record.
JD: Blueprint, didn’t you end up rhyming over a version of that Who sample for Blueprint Who?
Blueprint: Yep. Same sample.
Illogic: And I was on that song too.
Blueprint: So, it started with Przm, using a small loop of it for a song that featured Illogic, to me taking damn near the whole thing and doing “1,000 Whispers.” Then, when I did the Blueprint Who? record, I had to get Illogic back on it, ‘cause it was like, “Hey, this is your shit.”
JD: So, Illogic, you’re the commonality between all three of them.
JD: Which one of the three do you like the most?
Illogic: “1,000 Whispers” is definitely my favorite out of the three.
Blueprint: Mine too.
Illogic: But they’re all fucking dope in their own right.
JD: Did you write the whole thing out as one continuous verse? Or did you piece it together from other stuff?
Illogic: When I was in college, I had a creative writing class. And one of the exercises we would do at the beginning of class to get our juices flowing is to write for 30 to 45 minutes without really thinking about what we’re writing, but just kind of getting our thoughts out.
That was actually one of those exercises that I did on my own, at my house. I used to do that a lot in college. I wrote all of that without even really going back and making sure things were fitting where they were supposed to fit. I wrote it in about a 30 to 45-minute span. Then I went back and restructured areas of it to make it fit. Because once I finished it and re-read it, I’m like, ‘oh, that’s some really dope stuff in here.’ I didn’t go about writing it considering what it would become. I went about writing it just as an exercise to write something else, and it just happened to turn into what it turned into.
JD: Then it’s “Time Capsule” with Aesop Rock and Vast Aire.
Blueprint: That song was being talked about when we first started going to New York. ‘Cause Atoms Family and Weightless were all cool. When we first did the release party for Unforeseen Shadows, they came to Columbus and rocked with Aesop Rock and all the Atoms Family kids and that’s when we all met the first time. They came out and rocked with us. And this was in the year 2000. So we ended up going to New York a couple times, and Illogic was working on stuff with Aesop, and I think the conversation started way back in 2000 about y’all three doing music together. That wasn’t the first song y’all did.
Illogic: We did a few songs that never saw the light of day, just when we were writing on the spot and doing verses here and there. But we had talked about doing a lot of music together back then. Around that same time that this was formed is when I did “One Brick” with Aesop, and I did “An Ocean” with Blockhead. All of these songs where formulated around the same time.
Blueprint: “Alchemy” was the same thing.
Illogic: We’d go to New York and be there for a week, two weeks, just doing music. We wouldn’t go for a vacation. We’d be there seriously recording, going house to house, different people’s studios, and recording songs. We did a lot of stuff together back then.
JD: Next is the title track.
Illogic: This was my abstract synopsis on where I thought hip-hop was at the time, and my place in it. Honestly, I think that song is probably included among a lot of people’s sleeper songs. When we first did the album, when I had all the demos, and I was staying with my cousin and smoking weed pretty heavily back then, and that also was part of it. We’d literally listen to that song, maybe five, six times, back to back. Tape version, not mastered, straight off the board. And that was just one of those vibe joints. But that was more the concept behind the writing on that one.
Blueprint: That’s one of those beats that makes people think that I smoke weed, even though I don’t.
Illogic: This whole album, everybody probably thought we were getting smoked out together, creating this shit.
Blueprint: I don’t smoke weed. None of this was influenced by weed. This was just the vision. When I’m doing a record like Got Lyrics?, it’s some straightforward, choppy, boom-bap shit, but I’ll be hearing samples. Like this vocal sample for “Celestial Clockwork,” I heard it and I was just like, ‘Man, this is some weird shit. What would happen if I chopped the singing up.’ And that’s how the beat came about.
But if it wasn’t for Illogic having a record where that fit, it might not have seen the light of day. So it’s a combination of his direction plus me zeroing on these samples that kind of fit that. It’s some bugged out shit, but it’s really dope. One of my favorite beats on the record.
JD: “Hollow Shell (Cash Clutch)”
Blueprint: That’s another one that makes people think I get high.
Illogic: That’s probably the weirdest beat on the record, but it’s so dope. It was more of a story about how emcees make money and really try to fill the void of what’s empty inside of them. It was another commentary on industry rappers and how the industry tries to shape us and lure us with money, and how we get caught up in it.
Blueprint: That sample, if I remember correctly, is some bugged out shit, but it’s the shit that wasn’t even supposed to be a musical part. I feel like it was just some group or somebody warming up, or some shit that was just supposed to be like dissonant sounds. But when I slowed it way down, it just sounded crazy. I’m like, “This is incredible, you know?”
JD: You guys have never compromised your music for the money and fame. Has it been difficult to maintain that attitude and always make music on your own terms?
Illogic: Not for me. We don’t do this necessarily for fortune and fame. It’s a residual. We do music and we do it because we love it, and the money happens to come with it. I don’t think that we go in, like, “I’m gonna make this hit so I can go platinum.” We go in like, “I’m gonna make a dope record that my fans are gonna like, and hopefully they’ll pay me some money for it.”
Hopefully that’ll happen, but that’s not the purpose of the music. The music that we make, we make it to express ourselves. A lot of times, my music helps me, personally, through situations. It’s like therapy for me. I know it’s a job, but it’s not something that I’m looking to get rich off, necessarily. But if it comes, it comes. I’m not going to turn down no money.
Blueprint: Our approach to making music has really not changed. Even through success, ’cause this is an escape. I used to program computers, and I was unhappy, but I still came home and made beats every night, and we still got up and recorded. This was before it was my job, so nothing really changes now.
I feel like I’m just blessed to be in a position to be able to do this full time. I think I was lucky in that my fan base found me early enough so I never felt the pressure. I was able to see examples of other independent artists not compromising, and staying true to their vision. And seeing them do that, it just kind of helped me stay on my shit, and not worry about changing as much as like being better every year.
JD: The next song is “Lesson In Love.”
Illogic: “Lesson In Love” is a true story. That shit really happened. I think Print probably remembers when I told him the actual story about it happening. That was literally, step by step, how the story unfolded. Literally step by step. Rejection hurts. That’s really how it went. And it was one of those situations that, you know, not purposely, but kind of fit with the “First Trimester.” So it happened to create a narrative throughout those two songs. It was just one of those things that happened that was so bugged out that I had to write about it. It was such a crazy story that I had to put it down on paper. People to this day really don’t believe that all of that really happened.
JD: How did you feel after you recorded it?
Illogic: It was good to get it out. Actually at the time, when I told Print the story, we were laughing about it. Even though the situation was kind of fucked up, it wasn’t something I was upset about, necessarily. It was just such a bugged out thing that happened that I thought it would be a really dope story for people to hear. Something that would be entertaining. The fact that it was true was a bonus.
Blueprint: And I think it adds some balance to have it at the end of the record, you know? Like a lot of stuff leading up to that is really dark, like we talked about, and then that one kind of perks up and it isn’t dark. It’s kind of this humorous bright moment where the beat is kind of bright, as well. And I think it’s good, and it’s right there, ’cause it changes the feeling going into the last half of the record.
JD: So how did you react when he first told you the story?
Blueprint: I thought it was hilarious. I was just like, “Yo, you gotta make this a song.” I was like, “I can’t believe you were actually on the balcony peaking through the curtains on some stalker shit. You gotta make a song outta this now.” ’Cause I remember the girl that it’s about used to come with him and spend the weekend at my house while I was at school. So I remembered this chick. So it wasn’t like she was a stranger to me, either. I was like, “Oh, snap! Old girl did you like that?”
JD: “First Trimester.”
Illogic: The story didn’t actually happen in that way, but the base concept of the story actually happened. And it was with this same girl, ironically. A lot of the things that I wrote, especially for this record, were things that because of where I was in my life, because of where I was emotionally and mentally, dealing with depression, a lot of times writing about things helped me cope with the things and not let them overwhelm my psyche. “First Trimester” definitely was one of those songs that I had to get out, because this was before I actually had children, and I really wanted a child. When this situation happened, I was completely and utterly devastated. So I had to get that out of me, so it wouldn’t consume me.
It’s just one of those things where, you know how you feel better when you talk to somebody about something? And for me, it was always my paper that I would talk to more than anyone. Just writing the song was cathartic before even recording it. Recording it definitely helped more, but just writing it and being able to get those thoughts and feelings and emotions out on paper. It was definitely big on getting me out of the funk that that situation had got me in, in the first place.
Blueprint: I was just trying to kind of complement the topic. I’m pretty confident he probably came to me with the rhyme, and at that point, it was like, okay, how do you, musically, give him the right backdrop that fits the mood of this. That beat almost reminds me a little bit of like forties era shit, a little bit. But I think it fits what he’s talking about perfectly.
JD: So, chronologically “First Trimester” happened before “Lesson In Love?”
Illogic: Yep. I ended up staying with the girl, and then she wilded out on me.
JD: “Live To Die.”
Illogic: I was basically struggling with suicidal thoughts. At the time, I felt that my life was pretty hectic and really heavy. What I did, ironically, was take life and turn it on its head, and put life in a negative light and put death in a positive light in the song.
There were a lot of times during the making of this album that I would record some stuff and Print would look at me like, “You need to talk about something? Just hit me up. If you need something, just let me know.” ’Cause a lot of my shit at that time had those really, really dark moments because of a lot of the personal things that I was going through.
Honestly, without having this outlet, without having Print there to be someone that gave me the platform to get myself out and to put my words to music, it’s no telling where I would be mentally, emotionally, or even physically right now. So this was definitely one of those experiences that helped me really climb out of a lot of my depression at that time.
JD: Next is “Stand,” which features Slug.
Illogic: I grew up without my biological father. He was actually incarcerated throughout my whole youth, up until I was 13 years old. At that time, I hadn’t had a real relationship with him, and one of the reasons that I went to the University of Cincinnati in the first place was because he and his family actually live in Cincinnati. So I moved there and went there in order to start to build a relationship with him, and that didn’t work out. Because he wasn’t returning my calls, we didn’t really build that bond, and I kind of needed to have that conversation with him, but he wasn’t there. So I used Slug as my interim father at the time, ‘cause I needed somebody to get those thoughts and those feelings out to.
JD: How’d you approach Slug about doing the song?
Illogic: I think Atmosphere were in town. We actually wrote that song together in Print’s basement, if I recall correctly. Atmosphere was in town doing a show in Cincinnati and Slug came through to Print’s house. But he came over and we wrote it right then and there and recorded it, as well, that night. And that one actually was recorded to a different beat than what ended up on the record.
Blueprint: It went through a couple different transformations. We started with the Ensoniq EPS. I was on the MPC fully by the time we got to that version of it. But I think that decision was based on the vibe going into that. We wanted something that kind of balanced it a little bit, ’cause as you get to the last three songs, it starts to get out of this dark place and lift. And that beat is the first part of that ride that the album starts to take at the end.
JD: “My World”
Illogic: At that time, my world was crazy. And I really felt, in my heart, that I was going to come out of where I was, and I had already been on the rise, in the process of writing all of these songs. A lot of this at the time that we finished the record, I was already in a much better place after finishing the record. But at the time of writing these songs, my world was hectic. My world was really dark. So that’s what that was birthed out of.
Blueprint: I remember him coming to me with the rhymes. Because there's a lot of tracks on this record that had proper choruses, but this one didn’t. And this is one where it's like his rhyme dictated how the music was made. These are probably my favorite rhymes on the record, so I had to find something that really accentuates them. And then find the vocal sample that fits it as well.
JD: “I Wish He Would Make Me.”
Illogic: I grew up as a Christian. I feel I’m a Christian. In Christianity, as far as asking for forgiveness and building a relationship with God, it’s always a choice. We always have as far as if we want to do it, if we don’t want to do it, and how far we want to take it. And at the time, I just wanted to be okay. So the whole concept of choice was not exciting to me anymore. I wanted to almost be forced to move in a positive direction, be forced to move forwards and into light and out of darkness. I almost wanted to be coerced into that, ’cause I didn’t feel like I was strong enough, at the time, to make the choice to do it on my own.
It was more of, I want to do well. I want to survive. I want to be out here. And I don’t want to be drowning anymore, and I just need you to make me be okay. Give me all the tools that I need. Don’t make me have to go search and find these things and make all these choices to do what’s right.
Blueprint: This might have been one where we used two different beats. We might’ve had remixing, as well, down in the final version. ‘Cause I know when I listened to it, I’m like, I know this definitely wasn’t what we had originally, but I think this is one where once I got the MPC, we did the demos of this record. I probably had 18 to 20 seconds of sampling time, and then by the time I started sequencing it, when I got to remake this beat, we had like a minute and a half, two minutes, which is like a huge difference back then. It started off as a loop. But when I got to finally go back and re-sample and do it the way I wanted to do it, it sounded like a straight up composition. I got to use the parts I wanted and make it something that I thought really fit the song.
JD: So what does this album mean to you 15 years later?
Illogic: It’s a very personal and emotional record, just as the writer of all of the lyrics and knowing what I was going through and where I was at the time. But also to see how much it has impacted many people’s lives. To this day, that is the record that fans talk about when it comes to all of my albums. To this day, I cannot do a show without doing “1,000 Whispers.” If I do a show and I don’t perform “1,000 Whispers,” people are legit mad at me afterwards. ‘Cause I’ve tried it, and without success. It’s an underground classic. It’s in the pantheon of what underground was at the time when we were coming up.
JD: What do you think it is about “1,000 Whispers” that really hooks them in as much as it does?
Illogic: Honestly, man, I have no clue. I really have no clue. I think it’s the combination of the vibe and the beat and just how I’m just spazzing on it. Because we never thought that a song where I’m rhyming for five minutes straight, no hook, you know, no nothing, would be the hit. Like, who in their right minds would listen to Celestial Clockwork without knowing anything and say, “That’s gonna be the song everybody’s gonna love.” We had no clue. ‘Cause the concepts in the song are kind of all over the place. There’s not a lot of connecting thoughts. It’s a very scatterbrained song, and I wrote it that way purposefully. I used it that way purposefully, but I honestly have no clue as why people connect with that song so much.
Blueprint: We had no idea that it would be the one. Sometimes we have songs in our catalog that epitomize everything about why people like us in the first place. That song encapsulates everything that makes Illogic special to people. The beat is about 75 BPM at the most. It’s really dark. And he sounds great, but it’s the pinnacle of poetry. You know how you hear poets at the open mic, and they say cool shit but they sound corny? That song is the opposite. It’s like if the guys who called themselves poets could sound cool over beats, that would be as good as they could ever sound.
JD: Where do you guys see this album fall within your entire discography?
Blueprint: I think it’s a classic, personally.
Illogic: It’s definitely a classic.
Blueprint: I know that people really like it and it’s a classic because when people talk to me about it, they don’t even talk about me producing it. And they don’t talk shit. They’re just like, “This album’s great.” There’s no conversation about who did the beats. And I watch that, and I’m like, okay, so it’s not like people are saying it because it’s me. Most of the people, I think, listening to it now, I don’t even think they truly, truly connect me with that record outside of my vocal appearances, not as a producer on it, which is what I wanted to do. That’s what I set out to do is make a record that complemented him. So as far as my catalog, I can say I consider it a classic.
Illogic: For me, it’s the top of the heap in my catalog. Celestial, Capture the Sun, and probably Unforeseen Shadows are my three favorite records in my entire catalog. But that’s the one that all of my fans definitely flock to the most. So I can’t deny it. And I’m probably going to listen to it after this interview, ’cause now you got me thinking about it.