Jahson Rutkowski aka Blame One has donned many simultaneous hats throughout the span of his extensive and storied music career. Emcee, graffiti writer, B-boy, author and father, the North county rapper has not only been blatantly defying and challenging the norm since first picking up the pad and pen but, has earned the well deserved status as an elder statesmen and local icon in the local San Diego Hip-Hop scene . Over the course of his illustrious twenty-plus year career as an emcee, he’s released six solo albums, several EP’s as well as been part of various groups and collectives over the years and has epitomized the tenants of perseverance and longevity in the rap game. Step Off! Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with the North County veteran emcee and discuss the not only the origins of his early life and then budding music career, but also delve into where he’s at presently music wise, his thoughts on the direction and current state of the art form as well as what the future holds for Blame One.
Step Off! Magazine: Thank you for taking to the time to sit down and talk with us. For our readers out there who may not be familiar with your and work please introduce yourself to our readers and let ’em know who you are and what you do. Who is Blame One?
Blame One: Blame One, a long time emcee since I was around eight years old, I started professionally around 96′ up until now and got quite a bit of catalog for sure.
Step Off! Magazine: Tell us about your upbringing, how did you get into the Hip-Hop scene? You’ve been emceeing and working in the industry since 96′ but you’ve been a fan and participant in the culture for 30+ years now; tell us about your musical influences growing up that inspired you to get into music and actually pursue it as a career.
Blame One: When I first started out I was living in Baltimore Maryland, Edegwood Maryland to be exact; growing up I had moved to this specific area of the city called Kingston Court in Edgewood. Everybody in my neighborhood were B-boys and I would see it on a regular basis just as a kid being seven years old seeing all these B-boy cats, and I was like ‘Yo, I wanna do that!’. So I started coming out and B-boying with them before I even knew the artist’s names and things like that, and I would ask people in my neighborhood to record me tapes and tell me the artists; it was almost like a test, they would really make you work for it! So eventually I got into artists like Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three, you know the the old school obvious ones like U.T.F.O.. I’ve said this before, but when I was in Maryland I was actually walking around and I found on the ground the self-titled Run-DMC cassette tape. I took that back home and when I heard ‘Sucker MC’s’ for me that was it, I was like ‘I’m gonna rap from now on’. And when I started writing rhymes, a childhood friend of mine named Mike who lived a couple doors down I said the rap for him and when I said it he was like ‘Yo your mom helped you write that!’ and was like ‘naw man!’ (laughs). But, just the fact that he thought she helped me with it let me know that I had something and sparked my interest.
Step Off! Magazine: Ok, so you’re living out there in Baltimore, what prompted you and your family to move out here to California on the West Coast? Also being the 80’s, there’s a world of difference between the East Coast and the West Coast culturally so when you did move was there a culture shock when you first initially arrived?
Blame One: Oh big time, huge, huge culture shock! We moved out here because I have three sisters and a brother and they’re from another father; and my sisters and brother are all like twenty years older than I. So they actually migrated out here to California first; one sister first, then the next sister and so on and so forth. My brother actually lives in Ohio, but all of my sisters came out here so my Mother followed suit because she heard how nice it was etc. etc.. So when we got out here first place I moved to was Oceanside, and back then Oceanside was a rough place to live, like a really rough place to live. So I was living in the mid-valley which is right coinciding with the deep valley and there was just a lot of gangster type stuff. I wasn’t use to any of that, because on the East Coast there’s no such thing as Bloods and Crips and all that kind of stuff, and coming into my neighborhood that I was living in I got approached with all this different kind of stuff especially being a Hip-Hop Head; so I just adapted to whoever was listening to Rap. So that cats that I connected with that were listening to Rap happened to be like gangster cats. so for me, hanging out with certain people kind of pushed me into a circle that I didn’t know I was even a part of you know. So walking with certain people I would get sweated like, ‘Oh I saw you hanging out with so-and-so’ or whatever so it was a major, major shock. So that was a culture shock and then also like the lifestyle in general, such as skateboarder kids, surfers, all of that was new to me as well. I lived nowhere near an ocean in Baltimore, I lived close to a harbor, the Baltimore Harbor there’s just no comparison. So even the way I dressed, everything was completely different. Kids would make fun of my accent, the way I dressed, I used to think I was Run-DMC so I’d wear no shoestrings in my shoes (laughs) so everybody would be like, ‘who’s this kid?’. So yea it was a huge culture shock, definitely.
Step Off! Magazine: Around what time was this? Like what year?
Blame One: I first moved out here in 85′ to Oceanside, and then in 86′ we moved to Vista. So in 86′ is when I kind of started to adapt because 85′ was like a trial run, we ended up going back to the East Coast and then we came back in 86′ and I moved to Vista.
Step Off! Magazine: So paint a picture, when you do move out here what are cats listening to out here on the West Coast in 86′?
Blame One: Well, of course me already being a little Hip-Hop Head I’m looking for other people that are listening to Rap, but most people didn’t. I actually found that out pretty quickly, especially when I started skateboarding. This place we’re at actually use to be a skate shop called ‘Avalon Bay’ when I first moved out here. So everybody would come down here, professional skateboarders like Danny Way. When I was in the seventh grade Danny Way was like one of the biggest skateboarders in the world, he was in eighth grade when I was in seventh at school my school right here. So everybody use to skate the cavalry chapel, this church spot and that was like the local hub. But the thing is everybody use to make fun of me for listening to Rap, so all the skater kids would be saying, like a lot of times it would be very racial stuff said and ignorant things said and I would have to basically fight my way into being who I already was. But, I did find a group of people that I adapted to and that adapted to me that listened and had the same interests. However, the culture was very different at that time because especially on the West Coast it (Hip-Hop) was just kind of coming into being accepted whereas on the East Baltimore was close enough to New York where it was already a huge thing. Whereas out here, I’m sure in L.A. it was definitely different but out here I would go to the Oceanside Swap meet and they would have mixtapes of all the L.A. DJs like Dre would have mixtapes, one of the older SD DJs, DJ Jam I use to buy his mixtapes down there to and I would talk to him. It’s a trip, that cat’s been around for a long time! So basically at the end of the day it was a huge culture shock because a lot of people just weren’t really listening to Rap at the time and not only were they not listening to it but, they were sort of pushing it away. So it was a tough climate to adapt to for sure.
Step Off! Magazine: It’s kind of funny how now Hip-Hop is such a big part of the skate culture now thirty years later and how in a sense the tables have kind of turned actually.
Blame One: Right, exactly! It was sort of like mid-90’s I would start to have people like, ‘oh yo did you see this skate video with so-and-so grinding to this?’ and I’d be like ‘these were the same cats I was telling you about!’.
Step Off! Magazine: So going into that, Hip-Hop has kind of been regulated to a niche audience in the region. North County and San Diego as a whole has a relatively small but very dedicated Hip-Hop community compared to other regions in California such as L.A. or the Bay Area would you agree? And if so why do you think that is and how has that impacted your experience here in San Diego in regards to the Hip-Hop scene?
Blame One: Yea I definitely agree, it’s weird I’ve kind of explained this to people in different ways but it’s almost in the same way as like say for instance if you meet a gang member out here they might do something really stupid just to prove that they’re down from where they’re because we’re not as established as other places you know? And I think that the Hip-Hop community was the same way that our graffiti writers, our emcees, our DJs; once we had our little group of people that we were down with it was like ‘you we’re gonna go super hard because a lot of people don’t accept us even in San Diego when we’re reppin’ San Diego’ you know what I mean? So, we were kind of neglected even from being part of San Diego, so when we first came into it, it was like ‘we’re going hard to let everybody know we’re serious about it’. some of the earliest cats that I met from the major metropolitan area would be like Orko, I use to be in a group called Mystery’s Extinction. By the time I was twenty-one we go perform everywhere else, because we were able to. We’d even go to places like Che Cafe, some of the SDSU campuses, UCSD would have spots that we could rock. I use to bump into Orko all the time, and that’s one cat that I linked up with early on. We never collaborated or anything but we always have mutual respect for one another and ran in the same circles.
Step Off! Magazine: I’m glad you brought up Mystery’s Extinction, start from the beginning. Tell us who was in the group and how that came to be. Tell us about your experiences being a part of Mystery’s Extinction early on in your career and the San Diego Hip Hop Scene during the early 90’s.
Blame One: (Laughs) Well originally there was like seven of us that formed a group called Soul Food and my my friend Deja Voo, who was one of the emcees in the group and later a producer, he was like, ‘hey my cousin God’s Gift knows these producers in Oxnard’. So he’s like ‘we’re going to go hang out with this cat named Kan Kick and record some stuff at his pad’. We were all mad young and still teenagers so we all caravanned up to Kan Kick’s as Soul Food and when we got there we all were throwing rhymes together and Kan Kick was like a very straight forward dude. Kan Kick was like, ‘No, uh uh, you and you; you guys are the only ones I want to rap’. So it was me and my boy Deja, and everybody else kind of got excluded. So we ended up recording like three songs with Kan Kick that day and when we got back home I was like ‘yo let’s just form a group then me and you’. So I came up with the name Mystery’s Extinction, for a couple years Mystery’s Extinction was basically me, Deja and Kan Kick, because we recorded everything with Kan Kick. We probably recorded like fifteen songs with Kan Kick but we hadn’t put anything out yet and later on one of our close homies Sandy Lion and this cat DJ Crow ended up joining the group while Deja took over most of the production that he had learned from Kan Kick on the EPS. So Kan Kick taught Deja how to use the EPS and he eventually got his own. Later down the line Mystery’s Extinction was basically me, Deja Voo, Sandy Lion and DJ Crow and that’s when we put out our first cassette tape. We have a couple Kan Kick tracks on that tape, but, we had like an album’s worth of Kan Kick stuff before that so that’s where it formed.
Step Off Magazine: Where does the name Mystery’s Extinction’ come from and what is the significance behind it?
Blame One: The name basically came from me, for me it was a biblical reference. The evil was referred to as ‘The Mystery Babylon’ in The Revelations, here are beautiful things that are mysterious but mystery in the way that they reference it are the things that are hidden from us that keep us blind to reality so I was I was referring to the ‘extinction’ of that ‘mystery’. That’s essentially where the name originated from.
Step Off! Magazine: I think I remember seeing a video that was uploaded to Vimeo a couple years back that was a music video for a Mystery’s Extinction track.
Blame One: Yea, Oh No did that track actually, we recorded that at Madlib’s place. God’s Gift was associated with The Lootpack, Madlib and Kan Kick; so every time we recorded with the Oxnard guys we formed a really close relationship with Kan Kick. But, we went to Madlib’s house to record one time and Oh No kind of took over the session and he told me recently in the past few years that the first beat that he had ever made was the beat for that video (laughs) so it’s kind of a trip.
Step Off! Magazine: That’s crazy! So Madlib also ran in that same circle and knew all of those guys.
Blame One: Yea, those guys are closely connected because Kan Kick was originally part of The Lootpack too and God’s Gift is on The Lootpack album on a couple different songs like posse type cuts on The Lootpack album. So it was like a weird connection how it all came about because it’s obviously before the internet days and he just happened to know them, we drove up there and it was fun time for sure to be an artist without a doubt.
Step Off! Magazine: You were also a really big graffiti writer back in the day, tell us as about your experience as Graff writer in the early 90’s. I think one time on Twitter you said you got your head split by rival with a spray can. Are there any other interesting stories you have about your experiences writing. Do you still do Graffiti at all?
Blame One: Yea I still paint! I actually painted with Odessa Kane at Writerz Block not too long ago. I try to paint at least twice a year, I don’t paint that much anymore but I still paint at least twice a year and I would love to paint more than that. It’s just that, if you want me to keep it real back in the days I use to rack my paint now I pay for it (laughs) its expensive! But, Graffiti is a huge part of my life I have a endless amount of stories that revolve around graffiti because I was a dedicated graffiti writer not only just in piecing, but in bombing and everything. I actually got arrested nine times for writing graffiti, which is insane! But, at the time when I was writing graffiti hard it was considered one of those slap on the wrist type crimes, they didn’t even really understand it. When I first started writing graffiti they put me into a gang file because the didn’t know the difference graffiti writers and gang members, which is hilarious if you think about it now. They just thought we were like gang bangers basically, they really honestly did not know the difference! So, there was this detective back in the day named Detective Sheets and actually if you Google Vista COPS, like the T.V. show COPS one of the very first episodes he’s on the show and one of my friend’s moms is on the episode (laughs) and Sheet’s is the detective on there. So back in the day right across the street from here there use to be like this basket ball court that was New York style, it was all fenced in and if you could ball everyone would go there to ball hard. So there was this billboard that was above the court and there was a clown on the billboard so one night I climbed up the billboard and I did “Detective Sheets is a clown” on there (laughs), and he came after me right off the bat! So that’s kind of a funny story because he showed up at my house the next day talking to my Mom saying “where’s Jahson at?”.
Step Off! Magazine: Wow! So you did all that and got arrested nine times? And this is before they started cracking down, because now I believe anything more than a second offense the courts throw the book at you.
Blame One: Oh you would get a felony charge now, but back back then it took me that many times before I actually ended up finally going to Juvenile Hall for like forty days; but like now if you got caught like twice for graffiti they’d (smacks hands) you’re done you know what I mean!
Sep Off! Magazine: So you try to paint at least twice a year, is this in yards now when you do get a chance?
Blame One: Well, in the last two years I painted trains twice which obviously was not legal but it’s normally chill places I’m tying to get arrested for sure. Somewhere out in the sticks in the boondocks that nobody’s gonna care about. So yea I painted trains twice, and then I painted one yard that that was not legal and then I painted the Writerz Blok but it’s not like back in the days where I would basically deface anything and now I look at it as like, I still respect Bombing if it’s done in a way that’s artistically done but I’m not just gonna bomb somebody’s building or whatever, back in the day I didn’t care but now I’m like ‘no if I was paying rent I probably wouldn’t want you bombing’ know what I mean (laughs). So yea my outlook on it has changed a little bit or sure.
Step Off! Magazine: What is your take on the graffiti scene right now?
Blame One: To be honest with you I really don’t know much about, because I’ll run into different writers and they’ll be like ‘oh so-and-so from this crew and this crew’ and just like ‘I don’t know dude, I have no idea’. The one thing I will say is that when i was kid it was bombed! Like, everywhere you turned around it was bombed! And now it;s obviously from those years exactly that I’m talking that they came down hard. Once the police finally figured out, ‘ok, this is its own kind of sub-culture’ they were like ‘we’re going to crack down and we’re going to make a certain amount of tags a felony or if you do this certain amount of damage. And that put a lot of people in jail, and they wrapped up a lot of people and when they did it kind of cleared out the way people use to go about it because it was kind of like a wild, wild west before then and now it’s definitely a little bit more tame; but, I know that the graffiti scene is still strong and there’s some great writers that I follow from this area. The cats are just super talented! The resources that they have now compared to what we had when we were kids is just night and day. even the paint that I get to use now for myself I’m like, ‘this is miracle paint!’. I was using Krylon, Rust-Oleum, even like little tester model paints and stuff, so definitely a whole different ball game now.
Step Off! Magazine: On top of being an emcee and a graffiti writer your are also a published writer, which passion came first? Have you always been a gifted writer & the emceeing just came naturally?
Blame One: Yea, I’ve done a couple little pieces and whatnot but I’m really trying to work on a book right now. I keep adding additions to it, and then I’m very critical on myself so I’ve beed editing it a ton; after it’s finished I wan to have somebody edit it for me professionally but I’m going to edit it multiple times before I even hand it to someone else, But, basically I just want to tell my story in full and just give people that kind of insight into my life that they normally wouldn’t have.
Step Off! Magazine: Yea I wanted to lead into that, so is this basically going to be ‘A Autobiography of Blame One’ if you will?
Blame One: Exactly, that’s exactly what it would be.
Step Off Magazine: Do you have an idea or a set time table on when that might be finished or is it just kind of like when it’s done it’s done?
Blame One: It’s kind of when it’s done it’s done but, I’m setting a goal to definitely get it finished next year because I’ve already been working on it for a long time and I keep going back and forth with it. It’s sort of the same thing with music, once I fully commit to saying like, ‘hey I’m going to finish this by this time’ then I know I just gotta do it. So definitely by 2018 I want to have it done.
Step Off! Magazine: So for writing has that always been a passion of yours? I notice that a lot of emcees seem to be just great writers in general as well has this been an on-going thing for you?
Blame One: I wouldn’t say it’s been a passion of mine, what really led into is I’ve always had a passion for reading especially when I was younger. From the time I was like eight-teen to twenty-two I was reading tons of books, but, then in the past couple years I’ve gotten supper back into reading heavily and I saw the way it changed my writing just as an emcee. So from there I was really like, ‘man I would really love to take my hand to this and give it a shot’, obviously I’m not an experienced author but, that’s not going to stop me from trying it.
Step Off! Magazine: You are an avid reader as well, what are some books and other enlightening literature that you would recommend to our readers?
Blame One: Recently I just read two different books from Ta-Nehisi Coates. He has one called Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood and another called Between the World and Me and that one is amazing. Between the World and Me to me is a book everyone should read. It’s short, it’s to the point, it’s basically like him writing it to his son; but the message in there is so crucial especially in regards to race relations. Those that may not have had experiences with other races and cultures or are not really familiar with having a diverse group of friends I suggest anybody read that book. To me, that would be the main book that I recommend people read right now. It applies in this time immensely, and he’s definitely a cat where if you’re a Hip-Hop Head you’ll be able to relate easily to because he has little references in his books that you’ll be able to pick out.
Step Off! Magazine: There seems to be a disconnect between rap music & the world of current events taking place in the world. In today’s he current climate in the country, with so much exposure and emphasis on police brutality and racism, the blatant corruption and just utter contempt for the poor and communities of color from the White House, You think more people would producing more angry, call-to-action. You’d expect to hear the next Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, X-Clan, Brand Nubian, Ice Cube or Dead Prez right about now like we saw in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but many artists aren’t addressing the issues with the aggression that is clearly being typed on social media but not properly placed in music. Why do you think that is?
Step Off! Magazine: I think a lot of it has to do with cats just wanting to follow the current trends and make music that they think they’re going to make money off of, which right now obviously that’s not the case. So a lot of cats are trying to follow this sort of Trap trend or drug-hustle/coke/money type trend, I think it’s going to pass because it has no option but to pass. I’ve even seen some of these cats, I can’t recall the specific name but I remember I was watching a video and one of these newer trap cats got asked a serious question and it was about Ferguson. And he kind of just didn’t answer the question at all. I think eventually there’s going to cats that step up to the plate; and I’m sure there are . cats that are making that music it’s just a matter of these corporations that step in which prevent that or they want to dumb down the music. At the end of the day, as independent as music is right now once a artist starts to take off and start to gain a fan base; say it’s like a Lil’ Yatchy or somebody like that once they take off the corporations are like, ‘ok this guy can make us money because his name and face is popular at the moment’ and they’re not about to get into social or political issues or issues that involve race relations because they’re scared. So at the end of the day all it’s going to take is one group coming back in the same way like say for instance after Public Enemy had long been on the low Dead Prez came into play or even Immortal Technique or someone like that. But, it’s definitely going to come into play and as far as my crew, I don’t know if Exile would even want me to say this but we, meaning my entire crew, Johaz, Fashawn, Chuzee, Blu, Aloe Blacc, myself the whole crew we did a posse cut that’s along those lines, it’s like like some ‘We’re All In The Same Gang’ type steez addressing those issues which I can’t wait for the whole world to hear that one! It’s pretty ill, I’m hyped on it!
Step Off! Magazine: Now on the flip side of that same coin, we actually interviewed a artist named Jasiri X who was doing a speaking engagement for the Annual Social Justice in Education Conference at San Diego City College last spring and he cited big name ‘mainstream’ artists such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Killer Mike etc. as evidence of this growing tend of more conscious cerebral music from prominent artists. Do you see this as a growing trend as well? Or do you think that is also subject to waxing and waning in regards to popularity?
Blame One: I all of those guys you just named are definitely genuine artists, and there’s no doubt that all of those guys take a stance on those issues, I guess the thing is there’s a difference between just dabbling and making that your sole purpose. For example, if you look at an artist like Immortal Technique you know that’s his sole purpose or groups like Public Enemy of Dead Prez that’s their sole purpose. I thin the ratio of artists that are making that their sole purpose compared to those that are just taking a stance on it, which I would fall into that category, I’ve taken a stance on those issues but I haven’t dedicated my sole career to that purpose. I believe that there needs to be more artists that are fully gun-ho and really just giving people the knowledge because a lot of these kids they believe the same things that all the rest of us believe they just haven’t been guided in the right direction and had the proper resources to actually understand what’s fully going on.
Step Off! Magazine: Hip-Hop is one of the most powerful and significant musical genres as well as social movements of the past few decades. Tell us your thoughts about Hip-Hop’s power to educate as well fuel and inspire change in society.
Blame One: I think it’s huge, if it wasn’t for Hip-Hop I wouldn’t have researched tons of things. If it wasn’t for artists like, one my favorite eras in Hip-Hop was like around 88′ when it was very much a Black Power driven movement. So if you look at groups like X-Clan, Poor Riotous Teachers, Public Enemy or KRS-One; KRS-One has song called ‘Why Is That?’, and on ‘Why Is That?’ he’s basically questioning a lot of the things that at the time I had already been taught. So it made me go and do further research those things and the way he was saying them. For instance, he’s talking about the Bible in there and talking about certain figures in the Bible being of African descent. So it pushed me to look deeper into these things, I didn’t know that Kush in the Bible was actually Ethiopia. So it made me go, ‘ok, so when they’re saying Kush in the Bible it’s actually Ethiopia, why didn’t they say that? Why didn’t they just say Ethiopia instead of just saying the ancient name for Ethiopia?’. You know what I mean? Because they update these new testaments so that it’s easier to understand, but why wouldn’t they do that? So little things like that made me go back and research, I got into reading The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, which is some of the ancient manuscripts that are left out as well as Kebra Nagast. So when I got a hold of these things it just changed the way that I looked at the world in general because I was like, ‘ok I’ve been told this one thing and it’s starting to seem like an illusion to me’. So once I actually came into contact with what I guess what you refer to as knowledge of self, who I am as well, how I relate to this world and how I see the world around me in what I see as reality it changed my whole perspective on everything. Like everything, literally to this day and that was in my early twenties. So yea Hip-Hop has a huge effect on educating people because if you’re putting one little thing out there that makes somebody go, ‘hmm wait a minute, I don’t know anything about this let me go research it’, which is what I did then you’re affecting someones whole entire life dramatically. So yea it plays a huge role on it and the more that we make those resources available then the more we’re empowering other people to do the same thing.
Step Off! Magazine: On that note, let’s get into more about your personal opinions and tastes in the current Hip-Hop scene right now. There’s a debate within certain circles in Hip-Hop about what people have dubbed “Mumble Rap”. Some people say that it’s not even Hip-Hop, it’s not rapping while some others argue that these artists are just expressing themselves and taking the genre in a different direction like artists have in the past. What’s your take on the whole “Mumble Rap” phenomena?
Blame One: I’m definitely a little bit on the fence with it because I don’t like to dismiss anything that’s in the Hip-Hop culture, because I consider it all part of the culture whether we like it or not because it’s descended from what we already started period. Now do I like the direction that it’s gone in? No not at all but, at the same I’m not going to be the grumpy old man to be like ‘oh these kids are just not saying anything and blah blah blah’. I think a lot of it is just kids finding themselves, when I was a kid I would listen to Kid-N-Play. If you put M.C. Hammer on the radio I liked it at the time along with the all the other stuff. I think the biggest distinction is that I had stuff for instance like a Kid-N-Play, like a M.C. Hammer and at the same time I’m listening to BDP (Boogie Down Productions) and N.W.A. as well. So really I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with it its just that we’re lacking the big picture of diversity and options that kids are really not being fed, they’re only being fed a one-sided coin right now whereas if they had more options there’d be more variety. Their options right now like you said are like Kendrick (Lamar), J.Cole; yea all of those are great artists and I’m sure most of those kids probably like those dudes but, they’re not really getting a big, broad spectrum because the majority of the artists are coming out in that lane where they’re not saying too much unfortunately. So that’s just one of those things where for me it goes back to what I was saying before, as far as cats are going to do what they think is popular,what’s going to sell, and now that we’re in the age of instant gratification through social media its a YouTube effect when it comes to artists. Because, you could make a little video and the next day it could be at a million views if kids like it and right now kids happen to like what’s in that realm. There just has to be more diversity and some way some kid’s going to have to make a huge impact, which I would say a Joey Bada$$ has for sure and those same kids like a Joey Bada$$ there just has to be more artists like that. But, other than that I’m not going to diss those kids, they’re just trying to find themselves and I’m sure as they get older hopefully they’ll do some research back realize, ‘ok there’s actually some crazy ill rap out there that I didn’t know about’.
Step Off! Magazine: Rap music and Hip-Hop culture, in general, is more mainstream now that it has ever been in the genre’s existence. You hear the music in commercials and films, there are television programs dedicated to it like Empire, The Get Down, The Breaks, Marvel’s Luke Cage features music and artist regularly within the show. Where do you see the future of the music going? Do you think the genre in a better place than it was several years ago?
Blame One: Its crazy because like you you were saying commercially it runs the world! Hip-Hop commercially runs the world! There’s no other music that can compete with HipHop in general, as far as commercial success. They use it for every product on the planet now, it’s insane really. When I was a kid I remember the first time I ever saw commercial like that on MTV. Back in the day they use to have these things called Swatch Watch when I was a kid and the Fat Boys had a commercial for Swatch Watch and when I saw it come on the T.V. it was the first time I had ever seen Rap on T.V. like on a commercial or advertisement. I when I saw it I knew right then and there I was like, ‘man it’s going to change, thing’s are going to change’ because I couldn’t believe that they had hired them to do a commercial and now you don’t even really think about it. It could be a bar of soap, cereal, McDonalds its everywhere. So I think as far as financially, being in positions to make money off of things we’re sort of in a better position but, then at the same time not really because of the way that the market has changed with everything going to streaming. There’s really only two ways to be successful as a Hip-Hop artist, meaning as a emcee, DJ, producer etc. And that is one, to become a figure that people recognize and then other corporations will pick you up like a Lil’ Yatchy or somebody like that. Or two, just touring your ass off! There’s really no in-between you really have to be like one or the other. There use to be common ground, because when iTunes was popular I was making really good money off of iTunes at one point in time. But, now that it’s switched to streaming I make pennies. So basically to make an album you’re not really going to make money off of the album now you’re going to make money off the merchandise and off of touring and doing shows. The other aspect is also if you press vinyl like we do it’s kind of like a niche market so you can make money off of that, if you can sell the records. But its tough, say for like a kid that’s just coming up and wants to put out this album and press vinyl but he doesn’t have the fanbase you’ll just sit with a bunch of vinyl at your house which is sad. Also unless he has a booking agent he can’t really your and he’s not going to make any money off of streaming so you have to really, really be like ready to go in right now if you’re going to be successful in music is really what it all basically boils down to.
Step Off! Magazine: You’ve said in the past that you will always remain a fan first. After 30+ years of writing rhymes and making music and seeing the art form grow and go through so many changes what artists get you excited? Who are your top artists in the game right? Who are the artists that push you to step up your game when you hear their music?
Blame One: I’ll go around the board, because I like the new cats like Joey Bada$$, I love Joey Bada$$. I love Kendrick. But, I love artists like Planet Asia. To me Planet Asia is like the epitome of an emcee, he doesn’t even necessarily even have to have a message or even be telling a story, just the way that he flows sort of like Sean P. I put him in the same category, their bars have so much force and strength in them that it doesn’t even really matter what they’re saying it’s that powerful. If you got enough power in what your saying meaning your delivery and your style and the way that your spitting to sill be that powerful to me that’s inspiring. I like that because I still try to incorporate messages in my music, but, I want to first and foremost just catch you with the way that I’m doing it. So I love Planet Asia, of course Sean P the new album just dropped. I love Joey Bada$$, I love Kendrick, there’s really so many people I could go on and on for days, We’re still waiting for Jay Electronica (laughs) but I love Jay Elec. But it really goes on for days and days because I play all of my Hip-Hop, even old, old emcees like I still listen to cats like Spoonie Gee and Treacherous Three, people overlook those cats but their finesse and the way that they delivered their rhymes was so smooth and I still keep that in me to this day. I’m hoping some young cats will go back and out those in there (laughs) look up ‘Love Rap’ by Spoonie Gee and the Treacherous Three, classic! It gets no better! It’s around the board really, I love tons of emcees.
Step Off! Magazine: Bringing up Sean Price, August 8th was the second anniversary of his passing and the release of his posthumous album ‘Imperius Rex’. You actually got to work with Sean Price prior to his passing. What was it like working with P, can you tell our readers what the experience was like?
Blame One: It was incredible man! He was actually a pretty humble dude once you met him. He actually ended up the day we that recorded he was actually performing at Paid Dues and he got me and some friends into Paid Dues. We got to see everybody rock and at the end of the night I took him from San Bernardino and drove him back here to Vista to my spot and we recorded that joint here. Then at the the end of the night I drove him all the way back to San Bernardino, it was a long day and then when I got back I had to go to work at six in the morning the next day so I literally dropped him off drove back and got to work right on time so I didn’t sleep for two days! But, it was totally worth it and P is a solid dude. Actually after hat Heltah Skeltah came out to San Diego and P brought me up and I got to rock ‘disturb’ on stage with those cats. It was dope! I wish I had footage of that man but I wasn’t thinking about that back then. But, P is a really good dude. What I admire about him the most is this, to me P along with Doom was one of the very, very few people that was able to re-invent themselves. When I was a kid I listened KMD and I also listened to Heltah Skeltah, and those guys had like a solid ten years where they were nobody in the game, they were gone other than you going back to listen to old Heltah Skeltah or old KMD. And then for him to come back as Sean Price and just the way that his style had developed into this whole other realm, and the same with Doom. His style had developed. These cats are only a couple years older than me, so I looked at them and really admired that about them that they were able to transition and reinvent themselves; very few people can accomplish that very few. So that is what I admired the most about those cats because I don’t really know anybody who’s been able to do that personally and I definitely haven’t been able to do it on their realm (laughs) t’s very impressive so salute to Sean P for doing that.
Step Off! Magazine: You recently formed a group called Big Block Silvers with San Diego production duo, Harry Apollo and Jon J, to create a new ruff, rugged and raw Hip Hop group, tell us a about the group, how it was formed, the significance behind the name, and the overall mission for the group.
Blame One: So basically the cat Harry Apollo, his name’s Jason I’m just going to refer to him as that. The combo of that name I’ll just break it down because you’ll probably never interview him, his Dad’s name was Harry and his son’s name is Apollo so he calls himself Harry Apollo. But, I had know Jason for a long time; he was actually supposed to be on my ‘Chemically Imbalanced’ album back in 2003. I had one of his joints on there and I was so unprofessional back then that I filled up the CD, eighty minutes of music and his song didn’t fit onto the CD. So in the first pressings of it, it had his song labeled on the CD but his song wasn’t on there. To make a long story short he’s just been taking a long time refining his craft and whatnot, he owns a surfboard company called ‘Chemistry Surfboards’ in Oceanside he use to be a professional surfer but he’s been hardcore Hip-Hop Head. I’ve never surfed in my life so we’re kind of from two different worlds but what brings us together is Hip-Hop. We had recorded like four or five songs together at his studio and our families are close, so one day we were over there for Halloween at his house; and my kids are hanging out with his kids and he’s like, ‘hey come in the studio for a minute, I got something I want to show you’. So Jon J, he’s this cat that plays all kinds of instruments; I had met him a couple times at Jason’s house but I really didn’t know anything about him, but he plays base, he plays keys, you name it basically he plays it. So when he (Jason) brought me in he was like, ‘you remember that song we recorded?’ and he plays the song and it’s like a completely different song because he had brought in Jon J to play these live instruments over what he had already laid the skeleton for and it sounded like something completely different. I was blown away, then he played me a second one and at that point I was just like, ‘we gotta just put out a little group effort’. It’s crazy and it’s unique and I really, really liked it, I thought the live instrumentation of it was really awesome and still sounds like a sample most of it. Basically that was it, after that we met up and the name ‘Big Block Silvers’ comes from this. We all came to the table one night and we all brought names that we thought should be the group and I brought that name. We all use to write graffiti all three of us so tool the line Skeme says in ‘Style Wars’ “In big block silver letters all you see is crime in the cit”. So I was like, ‘yo what about the Big Block Silvers’? I liked it because it almost sounded like a soul group, ‘The Big Block Silvers’. But, that name having the relevance of graffiti and whatnot to all three of us we agreed that was it. Thankfully I got to send that music to Skeme and he actually really liked it and to me that’s when I knew this is it right here. So that’s basically how it really all came about.
Do you guys have plans of doing any touring or performing songs from the album locally?
Blame One: Well, one of our members is kind of a little iffy about performing (laughs) I’ve been trying to make it happen but, we’ll see. We’ve had multiple offers to perform and I want to do it but I want to it in the way that we recorded it; meaning like Jon would at least play base and Harry Apollo on the MPC and me rhyming. So far we just haven’t seemed to come on a agreement on how that’s going to manifest but, we’ll see.
Step Off! Magazine: Who would you say are your top five emcees of all time?
Blame One: I mean, I’ll name them and guarantee it’ll probably change tomorrow afternoon (laughs). I’d say, definitely probably off the top Rakim, KRS-One, because to me in 86′ and 87, Rakim and KRS changed the whole climate of Hip-Hop. Before that, it was definitely more party rocker steez and aside from like Melle Mel dropping his consciousness, the way that they were flipping the bars and bringing in multi-syllable rhymes was just unheard of at that time. I remember hearing ‘Paid In Full’ and ‘Criminal Minded’ and both of those albums had me saying ‘these guys are the best in the world’ so I have to keep them in there because they changed the game. For me, the last descendant of that and re-invention of that was Nas, so Nas one hundred percent. Nas was kind of like the student who arguably might have surpassed the teachers. I would also have to say Big Daddy Kane, because for me Kane was the first person that would just spit ferociously with the fast rhymes, nobody was doing that before him and then who did the same thing but on a more G level was Kool G Rap so those would probably be my top five.
Step Off! Magazine: Who are five local emcees or artists you would get behind and if people don’t know about them they need to check out?
Blame One: Definitely Veks, Veks is proudly my top dude and the reason I say Veks is my top guy is because I met the kid when he was sixteen years old, he was already making beats on the MPC, already writing rhymes and now he’s like twenty-two, twenty-three something like that and he’s developed a lot. I’ve seen the way he’s progressed, his beats are crazy, his rhymes are dope; so if you’ve slept of Veks make sure you check him out. 18 Sense and Ric Scales I’d also go with, because 18 Sense is just really nice with what he does production wise, he has a variation styles and he’s worked with a few different cats now and put out several different projects. Ric Scales is on the list because Ric is one of those dudes that is just nasty, not only can he make a good song but he can also freestyle off the top, he’s really one of those dudes that is just well rounded as an emcee. I’m going to have to include at least one older North County head in here which would be Sojourn, if you don’t know about him definitely make sure to check him out because Sojourn is definitely one of those cats. He makes beats really nice MPC wise, he can freestyle, he can make a really great coherent song that you can listen to; very talented I’ve known Sojourn since the early to mid 90’s the dude is really nice. John Givez, Givezs is an Oceanside cat that has mass appeal, he’s one of those cats that’s just everything we’ve hoped for in a emcee, but, he’s also commercially viable. He can sing, he can rap, he can do like a straight hardcore emcee type joint and he can do like a love song that would make somebody’s girl be like, ‘I want to listen to this guy’. So all around he’s just super talented so those would be my top five to be on the lookout.
Step Off! Magazine: What would you say is your favorite album or project that you’ve ever worked on in your career?
Blame One: I always switch between a few, my favorite projects to date right now are ‘Days Chasing Days’ and ‘Priest, Thief & Wizard’, ‘Walk In the Sun’ and ‘The Big Bock Slivers’ project but that’s just an EP so I feel like we still have more to prove with that. My most known project is definitely ‘Days Chasing Days’, and would probably be like if you asked most people they would say that’s the one that they know about. But, if I had to pick one I’d probably go with ‘Priest, Thief & Wizard’ and the reason I say that is because I feel like after decades of making music I felt like I had finally found my own sound. Priest, Thief & Wizard was like the beginning of me saying, ‘ok this is actually who I want to be as an artist’. Message wise, content and the whole overall sound of the project that album would be my own personal favorite.
Step Off! Magazine: Are you currently working on any new music? Tell us what you can about any upcoming projects you have lined up for the future?
Blame One: Yea definitely! We’re working on some more Big Block Silvers stuff, I’m finishing up a new EP with J57 so me and him are real close to being doing with that so hopefully we’ll be done with that within the next couple months. I’ve also been doing a lot of features for cats that I’m down with, Dag Savage, Blu & Exile, just a lot of feature stuff really.
Step Off! Magazine: You’re 42, how does feel to be able to still do what love, especially when many Hip-Hop artists see their fan base dwindling or playing end up retiring around this age?
Blame One: Ever since I proudly put out a album every year I’ll be like, ‘Yo I’m done, I’m retired’ (laughs) and I’ve said it so many times; but actually after I put out ‘Days Chasing Days’ that was the first time I had ever said that publicly and HipHopDX wrote an article saying Blame retired or whatever and it was the biggest mistake I had made because like I said I say that all the time. But, to be my age and still be able to make music that people actually are purchasing and supporting is incredible. To be at this age and even to be able to actually to still continue to make music that people are interested in is a blessing; and I don’t take that for granted because most people my age there’s just no way they would have a fan base right now especially if they’re just coming into their talent. Which I know cats that have gotten talented over the years and are at that level of where they deserve to have a fan base but, it’s hard to work for it when you’re a older cat because there’s just a age barrier between cats. There shouldn’t be because music shouldn’t really have a age barrier in my opinion, if you got skills you skills, if you don’t then you don’t but everything is kind of superficial in a way now. If you go on somebody’s Instagram if you just like the way somebody looks you might get more interested into checking out their music. So I think that’s the tough part to deal with, but I’m grateful that I have people that still listen to my music and I’m thankful for everyone that does for sure.
Step Off! Magazine: How do you balance out being a artists and a performer while also making sure you uphold your responsibilities as father and a family man as well?
Blame One: It’s tough, especially because I’ve always fluctuated between working nine to five’s and then balancing music and then sometimes I don’t have a nine to five and I’m just doing music; but I’ve always been a full time father. So my main responsibility is always my kids and making sure they’re always taken care of, they have food, clothing, shelter, everything that they need; and balancing that out with music is really hard because my kids come first. I’ve turned down a lot of things, like I’ll give you an example I got a text from Exile today saying my son and I should do a song at the Observatory for the Blu & Exile show. And my response was ‘I’ll consider it but, it’s their first week back at school so I’m not sure’. So I get stuff like this all the time, where my priorities are always going to be making sure that they stay on top of their school studies and making sure that I’m helping them succeed. So it’s rough, a lot of times I have to turn things down that would help me and actually help my family financially in order to make sure I’m able to spend time with my kids and make sure they’re on the right path. So that’s the tough part for sure, it’s a difficult balancing act and it doesn’t get easy you just have to find a way to juggle it al. Which if that means staying up until three or four in the morning to do something that I know needs to get taken care of musically then that’s what I got to do.
Step Off! Magazine: How much longer would you like to remain active in the music business? That is if there even is a time table?
Blame One: Honestly I don’t even know, that’s something that I never look at as a time table. Anybody’s career in music can be gone tomorrow. Period. Anybody. So for me to have even lasted for this long even as underground as I am, I still have people that really love my music. So even that small fan base has been really strong for me, it’s been a small fan base but a strong fan base. I don’t take that for granted but at the same time I know tomorrow everybody could lose interest in what I’m doing and move on to the next person and that’s just part of music. For me, I’m going to do what I have to do to survive no matter what. If i have to go throw boxes around at a warehouse that’s what I go to do, but music will always be something I’ll probably do whether I’m getting paid from it or not. Even if I’ve come to the point where I’m just making music for my friends and passing out a CD to those guys I’ll guarantee I’ll probably always be making music one way or the other. It’s been there for me, it’s been therapeutic in ways that I can’t even describe so it’ll always be a part of me.
Step Off! Magazine: What advice do you have for young artists, musicians and performers who want to get into the music industry and entertainment business, especially those that want to send a positive, uplifting message?
Blame One: I would just say, as far as what has worked for me let it be natural. You don’t have to go chasing after whoever’s hot, don’t worry about any of that. The way that I came up, I worked with the people that were my friends which happened to be Exile and Kan Kick but, they were no one in the eyes of the public when I worked with them they were just kids like me and we were all trying to find ourselves. So find yourself with like minded people that you feel are creatively your equals and once you’ve found those people then you work on trying to carve out your lane and carve out your niche. The more natural it is the more easily the public is going to vibe off of it and just feel it because it’s natural. You need to have a natural ability to work with the people that you’re collaborating with and let others see that ability in you in order for it to actually manifest itself properly, on my opinion at least. Yea, there are shortcuts that work for people but if you want it to be a natural thing thats actually going to help you progress in music and be here as a mainstay for as long as you want then let it be natural because otherwise usually it’s going to come and it’s going to go. I’ve seen it for decades, so to me that’s the key. Work with the people that you are down with and you guys develop together; don’t necessarily chase the person that’s already developed and hope they can put you on.
Step Off! Magazine: Where can people find you and follow you online to hear your music and get all the latests updates for shows, promotions and other events?
Blame One: To me my favorite place is Instagram because I can do my little raps that I do on there with me and my son and stuff like that. But, if you want to hear any of music Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, most of my stuff is on there. To keep in contact with me personally go on my Instagram @BlameOne; Twitter @BlameOne, I usually just go on there and just rant about random stuff (laughs). But, yea anybody wanting checking it out I would definitely love to hear from you.
Step Off! Magazine: Any losing comments? Anything else you want to let our readers know or just some closing words of wisdom?
Blame One: I would just say generally speaking, the Hip-Hop scene is always ever changing and there’s always going to be different key players and key leaders in the movement and when those roles its ok. You have to be accepting of it and you have to be supportive of those that are taking Hip-Hop to the forefront. Like in San Diego right now, you have the Battle Bot, go support the Battle Bot if you can get out there. Real J. Wallace has his spot in Barrio Logan. There’s countless resources, you just have to get out there, get in touch with people; know what’s going on in your scene and you have an endless amount of people to connect with, build with. The beautiful part about being in San Diego is that nobody’s untouchable in San Diego and nobody’s unreachable. There’s people that have been in the scene for years and there’s people that are blowing up in the scene now and again everybody is reachable. So just get out there and talk to people, and that;s really how it all manifests. Hip-Hop is all about community from day one and it still is now, that’s it really be apart of it!
Step Off! Magazine: Blame One, its been a pleasure! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and talk to us today!
Blame One: Absolutely bro, one hundred percent!