'Everything you want to do has a cost of entry'
Evan Dale // September 16, 2023
Back on Buchanan Street. It feels like a fever dream, and not just because it’s 97 degrees out with a similar number representing the humidity on this August day in Middle Tennessee. It’s because the deja vu hits hard when meeting yet another revered lyricist on this historic block to have a conversation on foundations built, and what’s being stacked on top of it. Nashville is a hotbed. Fuck it if anyone reading can’t make sense of that fact at this point. The artistry - abundant in its roots triangulating lyricism, jazz, and bass-thumping Southern hip-hop - is as authentic as the Mississippi mud that breaches the banks of Memphis or the low clouds that suspend meloncholia above Atlanta. At a fry shop called Bag Lady, just North of Downtown, making time for us between teaching and lifting, the BlackSon - a local rapper with a booming voice, a dominant personality, and an even more attention grabbing grip on sociological intersections and poetry - speaks with us on his journey, his craft, his community, and how it’s all coming into confluence around him.
THE BLACKSON: I think it’s done. When we left Miami, I said “I’m not leaving until it’s done.”
RNGLDR: How long were you in Miami?
THE BLACKSON: Four days.
RNGLDR: Were you recording down there?
THE BLACKSON: Yeah, we touched some stuff up, post-production, skits, videos. That sorta thing.
RNGLDR: How long is the short film you’re working on?
THE BLACKSON: Ten minutes. It’s really scored by a whole other project, separate from Do Something Important. It’s very limited dialogue, it’s real trippy, and it’s ten music videos, but it’s really one narrative about taking some time for yourself. That’s the name of it: “Take Some Time for Yourself.” We’re gonna release it onto YouTube one minute at a time, reminiscent of how Tierra Whack did Whack World, but it’s my own story.
RNGLDR: That’s exciting.
THE BLACKSON: Yes! We’re entering it in a film festival too - the International Black Film Festival - it’s gonna be fun. I wanna make it a moment! It’s my first time dropping anything longer than like six songs.
RNGLDR: Yeah, ten is sizable for sure.
THE BLACKSON: And that’s just the short film - that’s just Take Some Time For Yourself. Then there’s Do Something Important which is a real classic mixtape kinda project.
RNGLDR: So combined, you’re talking 20-ish tracks? That’s a ton of music to be working on.
THE BLACKSON: Exactly, but we’re almost there. It’s a sentence, and I’m finishing that sentence right now. That’s how I want to tell the story. Everything is connected. There’s a whole lotta continuity going on. My first part of the sentence was BlackSon Rising way back when. Then it was Fresh Air. And now with Do Something Important, we’re getting to the meat of it, and the songs sound like it.
RNGLDR: We’re excited to hear it.
THE BLACKSON: I can’t wait for y’all to hear it. It’s definitely my best work. That’s what we hoping it turn into. Cooler and better every step of the way.
RNGLDR: That’s the journey. Evolution.
THE BLACKSON: That’s that DSI talk right there. One of my homies - homegirls I should say - told me that I have that superpower to know what to do next, so I wrote that on my mirror. “It’s a blessing to know what to do next.” We’ve been working on this since before we even came out to Denver, you know what I’m saying? Just chipping away at it.
RNGLDR: Good things take a long time.
THE BLACKSON: You’re so writerly man - like as a poet - so I can’t wait for you to hear it and see what you pick up on.
RNGLDR: The emphasis on lyricism and the amount of effort that goes into poeticism in your music is so obvious, and we’ve always recognized and appreciated that.
THE BLACKSON: Yeah, that’s the whole thing. We want to capitalize on the fact that I come from poetry. Even when we were writing the project, I put on the mood board, “this is an ode to hip-hop.” That boom-bap, those samples and how they make people feel, we had to capture that, while also identifying the sound that we do down here in Nashville very well, with that jazz infusion.
RNGLDR: You always gotta grow from the roots.
THE BLACKSON: Exactly. But it’s also gotta Slap. It’s gotta knock at the same time. We need that.
RNGLDR: It can’t all be jazz and poetry. Something’s gotta hit. Something’s gotta shake the trunk. Subwoofers rattling.
THE BLACKSON: Rattling! You hear me?
RNGLDR: We were skipping tracks in the car earlier, because something about being sown here - down South - we just need that bass.
THE BLACKSON: Need some thump! I’ve even experimented a little bit with like AfroBeat and that feel-good aesthetic. It’s little bit of everything that really makes something work - that’s what that whole initiative was about. I just wanna do what feels right, and it’s working out. Even looking at the data, I’m tracking more than I ever have - more than we ever have - my shit is just growing.
RNGLDR: It’s organic. I think that, deep down, people really do give a fuck about what people really gave a fuck to make. You have to tap into the right space for that to actually work, and that shit takes a long time, but once you’re there, you’re there.
THE BLACKSON: That’s so deep. You can hear it.
RNGLDR: And you can hear when they don’t give a fuck too.
THE BLACKSON: I’ve been cutting up merch - I was doing all the shirts myself before the exhibit and shit - and one night, I was like, “I’m figuring this out tonight.” I stayed up. It was like 8:30 at night, and then all of the sudden it was 8:30 the next morning and I still hadn’t made a single shirt. I was breaking. I called my mom. I sounded manic. Did I bite off more than I could chew? I was trying so hard. And she said, “I’m on the way.”
By the time she got there, I’m in tears - literally crying. But she said,
“I understand where you are right now. I respect it. But I need you to understand that this is happening because you care. Everything you want to do has a cost of entry. This is just that cost of entry. You chose to take the whole bite tonight, so you’re here, but you were going to get here anyway. It takes this.”
RNGLDR: That’s some mom intellect.
THE BLACKSON: Exactly. And now I understand it. Every time I’m trying to do more, some of these steps are all about that cost of entry. Just showing up sometimes turns into totally footing the bill or whatever. But there’s always a cost of entry for anywhere you’re trying to get. It put the battery in my pack for the end of the run.
RNGLDR: But now you can see the light at the end of the tunnel?
THE BLACKSON: Man, I have not enjoyed the holidays since I’ve started this whole process. This year, I’m enjoying the holidays. I’m gonna be done with it. I’m gonna get my girl some nice shit for Christmas. And I’m literally not that type of person - but this year, it’s just shit to celebrate.
RNGLDR: You’ve gotta take care of yourself to be the best version of yourself sometimes.
THE BLACKSON: You become the seed. I’m trying to bury myself under information - understanding. I’ve got a line: I’m well-studied for the times where I’m misunderstood. I’ve spent the time, I’m creating the art - you feel me? Creating creation. I’m a little nervous though.
RNGLDR: You should be. That’s good. It can help you focus in and get motivated if you know how to use it.
THE BLACKSON: Transmute it. And, honestly, a lot of this iteration of my career is that, where it’s like I would write poems, so I would write raps because it was a fun exercise. But lately, it’s more and less therapeutic at the same time, where I would be going for these profound thoughts with each poem and each bar. And nowadays it’s more just applying the things I’ve learned overtime to create something that speaks.
RNGLDR: Cohesive art - like what you’re working on between the short film, the tape, the branding, and the show - is something truly difficult to create, but especially important these days. To be able to tap into multiple mediums with one story is an an incredible amount of work, but if you can speak to someone through sound, visuals, touch, and emotion all at once, people understand it. And it’s hard to make people understand things - or at least pay attention long enough ti understand things - these days. You have to tackle multiple things at once in order for a story to make sense to everyone.
RNGLDR: Still teaching?
THE BLACKSON: Yeah.
RNGLDR: Love it?
THE BLACKSON: Yeah. Well, love it is an interesting word because it’s a whole new generation because I’m at the end of the Millennials, and this is Gen-Z. I get how our teachers were probably feeling where there’s an inevitable disconnect. Where Millennials were coming off of tradition and needed to see more, Gen-Z is like fuck it - if you can’t prove it and you don’t have a following, then what are you doing? They’re moving in every way based on metrics. So yeah, I love it when it’s just me and the black sons because we can just talk. I’m teaching in the same neighborhood I grew up so I know exactly what they’re going through.
RNGLDR: That’s a beautiful circle in and of itself.
THE BLACKSON: The other day I got into it with one of my favorite students. He was having a down day and snapped on everybody. And I’m everybody’s last line of defense when it comes to dealing with a young black boy. He kept saying, “you don’t feel me.” And it came down to me having to walk him to the house where I grew up. “I grew up right here.”
THE BLACKSON: I have a little tag line: “Is this your community?” I ask that so they make sure they know that they can rely on us. We can nurture you here. We can protect you here. We were all lout there hoping five or ten minutes later because that was a simple download.
It’s a double-edged Catch 22 situation because I live them, I love doing it, I love the hooping ten minutes later. But I’m really seeing this real life story play out, where I gotta hurry my ass up, so I can get back to the center, to the school, to the office building where they are - and reinvest, you know what I’m saying. I gotta complete my mission of personal development because they’re waiting.
When we were thinking about naming and shit, Proof of Concept was one of the names we came up with because I’m trying to be a proof of concept for them, but they need significant reengagement with resources and role models.
RNGLDR: And what do you mean by more reengagement?
THE BLACKSON: Where I was ten and eleven getting accesses to resources because I was in the gifted program and when I was fifteen I started doing spoken word and poetry and getting more access to more resources, I have students now in that age range that can’t read… So I’m working on initiatives that address deeper structural concerns. There is actionable stuff that can change things down the line, and we need to be doing that.
THE BLACKSON: Exactly. That’s my day-to-day. That’s the part that I always try to remember, that I asked for a lot to do. This is an answered prayer. That’s the answer for the kids. And that comes with responsibility like a mother fucker. And I’m trying to take my art that seriously too.
RNGLDR: There are probably a certain amount of listeners, like me, that heard Mangelica Mink and then worked their way backwards. Your collaborative EP with Sebastian Kamae, fiftypercentgratuity came shortly before Mangelica Mink. Listening back, how do you think you evolved from that project to the next?
BLVCK SVM: I’ve just been working hard to improve every aspect of my artistry. Not even just the music stuff, but the business side. My attention to detail is up, my sound is more polished, my flows are more diverse, my references are more refined, lyrically, I’m more poised, and I’m working on all this stuff either directly in some regards or indirectly in some regards. Consuming more, breathing more, eating more - all the things that matter to me and my artistry, I’m just intentionally focusing on those things. From FPG to Mangelica Mink, it felt like I took a big leap forward in terms of all those things. And I wanted to reflect that in a sort of upscale feel. Which is why I started with Tarragonbutter, and then into Hyogo, and so on.
RNGLDR: And what about how you see yourself evolving moving forward?
BLVCK SVM: Moving forward, I’m not trying to reinvent myself as an artist. I think I’m in a good spot, But there are always improvements to be made, there are always ways to develop a better ear for production, or a different ear for production, or setting up rhyme schemes in way that I have’t before, developing flow patterns that I haven’t used before - or that I’ve only used sparsely in the past. All this stuff just makes me a better artist, but it also gives the next project a different texture. Doing all of those things, and knowing that I’m doing all of those things well, gives me the confidence that I feel like makes my music sound better, because it’s inherently in whatever I’m writing or recording.
I don’t know if other people really notice that song-to-song or year-to-year, but I feel more confident in my artistry than I ever did before, and it feels like when I’m writing, that there’s a different feel to it. When I’m listening to it back, there’s a different energy to my music. With this upcoming project - it’s written - I think it reflects more how I’m even closer to where I’m trying to get. How this project sounds is gonna reflect all that.
RNGLDR: With that next project, and without asking too many specifics, what are you trying to convey with it?
BLVCK SVM: One idea is cohesion in a way like I’ve never done it before. Intentional cohesion. I’ve written all these songs in a window of time that’s not like six months or three months, but all within a month I would say. One producer - Pilot Kid who produced Hyogo. I’m really into the projects that The Alchemist makes, where there’s one rapper and one producer. Fetti by Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, and Alchemist is in my top five albums of all time. You can tell that they had a neural link with each other when they were making that project, and that’s what I was trying to accomplish with this one - what we were trying to accomplish with this one. I know it’s recency bias - like the songs are very new to me - but I’ve listened to all of them, and I don’t even know which one is the craziest one. The whole line-up is a killer. I’m having trouble picking favorites, and I know I’m gonna have trouble sequencing because my tendency is to put what I feel like are there best songs up front, and the ones I don’t like as much at the back. Now, I’m anxious that I’m gonna put some songs in the back that won’t get as much love as they should, because they’re all killers.
RNGLDR: That’s a good problem to have.
BLVCK SVM: It’s a nice form of stress - like, ‘this song is too hard to be in the back.’ I’m more excited about all of this than anything I’ve done besides maybe Hyogo.
RNGLDR: I’ve got a homie that’s convinced that the third track on any project is always the hardest.
BLVCK SVM: That’s really interesting because there’s definitely a strategy behind track three. There’s intention behind that one. I’m gonna have to go through my favorite projects and see how that lines up.
RNGLDR: Well, we’re stoked to hear the project then - especially track number three. Do you have a rough idea of when it could come out?
BLVCK SVM: Hopefully the whole thing by September or October. Just trying to dot all my I’s, cross all my T’s, and make sure that the rollout is tight. The mixes, the cover art - all of the non-writing stuff, that’s what I’m focused on now. Sample clearances - making sure I’m doing everything by the book.