Music goes beyond a hobby and becomes a way of life when you listen to hundreds of records just to find that elusive mix that strikes a perfect chord in you. I came upon Blake Allee’s My Best Friends Are Machines mixtape on DatPiff almost a year ago and it’s been cycling through my hip-hop playlist ever since! Now Blake is preparing to release his newest project Televisionn on February 27th and I knew I had to get the inside scoop.
Hailing all the way from Indianapolis, Indiana, Allee’s sound combines creative, post-apocalyptic commentary with amazing production skills. It’s easy to say that I’ve never heard an artist quite like him. With tracks titles such as “Purple iPod”, “Sunset Goggles”, “Wine and Dine a Dinosaur”, and “Wal-Mart Greeter”, you know you are in for some really unique material right up front. Indeed, one of Blake’s greatest strengths as an artist is being able to bring intelligent topics and wordplay into his art without taking his music too seriously.
Another striking trait is Blake’s ability to blend entertainment with social observation – you will clearly hear this in tracks such as “Mila” and “My Best Friends Are Machines”. The former describes a slightly bizarre romance scenario between human beings and technology and the latter details how new relationships are evolving based on the changing world around us. Other tracks such as “Zombies” and “Sunset Goggles” take on heavier topics such as the state of hip-hop and mankind’s natural laissez faire attitude in regards to eminent self-destruction.
Blake’s laid-back flow and distinct prose-style delivery are very solid and directive – in fact, his skit “Rain” showcases his style’s similarities with that of modern poetry. Another distinctive characteristic of his writing is attention to detail – you definitely won’t find any filler bars here! Each line is carefully crafted to tell a part of a story or direct the listener’s attention to a special insight or way of thinking. Fans who appreciate the lyricism of hip-hop will have plenty of quotes to choose from here!
Without further ado, I bring you TricycleOffense.com’s exclusive interview with Blake Allee:
Justin Umstead: So Blake, you are both a vocalist and producer. Which side of the business is more fulfilling for you? Do you enjoy production more or writing and performing vocals?
Blake Allee: It’s tough to choose so I’m going to take the easy way out and say both. Production is great because a good beat can relate to anyone; I feel like production can evolve much more than words. I can make a sound you have never heard, but I can only rearrange the same words you have already heard in a different order. Vocals – though – are how you gain true fans. People quote my lines and tweet my lyrics and that’s what makes people’s hearts and brains explode . Fans who I have never met feel like they know me just by the odd shit that I talk about.
JU: Do you do all of your own mixing and mastering as well? What rewards or challenges do you face on the production front?
BA: Yep! I produce, record, mix, master, and also do the artwork – everything that results in the finished product. The biggest reward for me is giving someone a completely original creation. This music would not exist without me. Nobody else had a hand in it – so whether my listeners like it or hate it – there is only one person that’s responsible. The biggest challenge is that it takes a lot of time. Any mainstream artist you hear has outside production, mixers, and engineers who focus exclusively on mastering. It’s tough to compete with the best of the best in every category AND still hold down a job. But I like it! Very few can say they have done everything and it feels more real to me.
JU: Do you have a philosophy that governs what you like to talk about on a track? What are some of the rewards or challenges you face on the vocal front?
BA: My main focus is to push the boundaries of music. If I turned my lyrics into a book of poetry I want those high class intellectuals to respect it. At the same time, even if a rapper doesn’t like my style, I want them to have to admit my rhyme schemes are very complex. But I guess at the end of the day, I’m just saying whatever is on my mind.
JU: Tell me a little about how you were introduced into the hip-hop scene. Did you start rapping or producing first? How long has your career been?
BA: I recorded my first rap in 5th grade – I’m not sure where it is but it’s still around somewhere. Hip-hop has always been a dream of mine! I started making beats in high school, but they were amateur at first – so instead I just rapped over video game beats. I was introduced into the hip-hop scene as a producer. I wanted to produce for other artists so when I started performing at shows people would already know who I was and that I could produce. Everybody needs a good beat but not everyone can make them – anybody and their mom can rap! At this point I would say I’m equally known as a rapper and a producer.
JU: My Best Friends Are Machines is largely a solo effort. Have you ever teamed up to do a group project?
BA: I’ve produced for many people and I’ve also been featured as a rapper on quite a few songs too. As far as a group project, the blog http://www.bringingdowntheband.com had a series called Beats and Breakfast. Basically, we would bring breakfast to Lonegevity’s place (who runs the site) and hang out while we wrote and worked on music. They released the songs as a compilation called #beatsandbreakfast Season 1. I think I’m on eight of the ten tracks.
JU: Can you give us an idea of what the rap scene is like in Indianapolis? What are some of the challenges you face? How is your local support system (are other artists supportive or are they more independent or indifferent)?
BA: Man, Indianapolis is such an odd scene . Literally nobody has ever broken this city. The radio will not play our top hip-hop artists (except for the ones with connections or money), the venues will not book a lot of hip-hop shows, and the same group of people seem to get all of the opportunities time and time again. Our main challenge is that people see us as “local” rappers. Your average person wants to go see the next big star and we don’t get a lot of opportunities to benefit from that. Even the bigger hip-hop blogs such as 2dopeboyz or Nahright refuse to post up anyone from here. There are a few people here, though, that are incredibly dope – I think it’s actually one of the most artistically advanced scenes around! Despite that, many of us support each other– and that’s pretty awesome.
JU: Could you tell us a little about Televisionn? Did you do all of the production for it? Do you have any interesting features? What sort of tracks can we expect?
BA: Televisionn! Yes, once again I did everything for this one. Features are an area I’m still debating, but as of right now Grey Granite, Pope Adrian Bless, and at least one more feature will be on there. The project itself is essentially done. I tweak, edit, and re-edit so much that I can’t honestly admit that I’m done yet. I’m so proud of this project! What to expect? Man, I can truly say this is one of the most forward-thinking projects I have ever heard in any genre – and I listen to music allllll day long. Not just “Oh, this is good” but more like “If you listen to this in your headphones in a dark room all alone, you may just rethink your life.” At the very least, the production is very different from most hip-hop and the story line and flow will convince you that I put serious thought into it. I hope people will let their guard down and open up their minds. If they do that, then they will get it.
JU: What is your primary goal with your music? Would you be more interested in building your own label or getting signed? Where would you like to take your music?
BA: The goal is to reach as many people as possible – I honestly don’t care about the money. It would be nice, though, to make enough money to live in a small studio apartment and support myself without a typical job – even if that meant eating ramen noodles for every meal. Saying “changing peoples’ lives” sounds so dramatic – so I will say “changing their perspective on what hip-hop – or music itself – can be”. At the same time having fun and meeting interesting people are definitely important to me. The only reason I would want to get signed is because being on a label puts you in a position where blogs, magazines, and other promoters will give you shine. It’s hard competing for attention with millions of rappers out there. On the other side of the coin, I hate the idea of people paying for my music! I always want my songs to be free and easily accessible to anyone interested in listening.
JU: You say you want to change music, how so? Which direction do you see hip-hop headed and how would you like to stem that?
BA: The self-contained artist – music as art. I do not want to be in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame….I want to be played on the speakers of the Louvre. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to make a mixtape/album that feels like a story, or even make all his own beats, but I believe if the right people hear Televisionn then music’s creative boundaries will be shattered. Honestly, think about how manufactured music seems! This guy maintains the image, this guy does the beat, this girl makes the artwork, this team tells you what songs to pick, and for safe measure you better throw in a ghost writer. That’s music? FFuuuucckkkkk that! I’ll make exactly what I want to make and I won’t have a million hands in it telling me whether it’s going to sell or be popular or not. I hope the future of music is people making music for the love of music and not for the money. I doubt that will happen though – money rules the world.
JU: Are there any other points you would like to add (new projects, new videos, exciting news, etc.)?
BA: Thanks for taking the time to listen to my music! Televisionn comes out February 27th!!
So there you have it folks! Make sure you catch the premiere of Blake’s new mixtape Televisionn and check out his latest news here: @BlakeAllee