Interview by Scott Preston
ill – not meeting an accepted standard; not normal or sound
poetic (po•et•ic) – written in verse; having or expressing the qualities of poetry (as though aesthetic or emotional impact)
Ill Poetic – a hip-hop artist who started in a group named after the very word he defies
Soul – it’s not the first word that comes to mind for many people when they hear the word “rapper.” In the case of the artist born Tim Gmeiner, it’s the only word that fits.
Originally from Dayton, Ohio and now residing in his adopted hometown of Cincinnati, Ill Poetic got his start as one-half of the group Definition with his partner in rhyme Young Zone (a.k.a. Zone Ill). Toiling hard in the Midwest’s underground ranks, Ill Poetic is coming into his own as both on the mic and the boards with a growth and maturity that rivals that of hip-hop legends and the heartfelt soul of Stax and Motown classics past.
Building upon his previous solo LPs (his underground classic debut Illumination and its critically-acclaimed follow-up The World is Ours), Ill Poetic looks to break out in a big way in 2008 … But he’s not ego-tripping; he is simply confident.
“The only thing I can bring to the table is my sound and perspective. It used to get to me that my s— didn’t sound like the usual s—, just because sometimes it’s tiring to get this outcast label put on your music, or you. But as soon as I really embraced the differences, I got really comfortable in who I was and where my sound could travel,” he says. “I kinda recognized that when you can hit someone in the soul with music or words, all the other shit is obsolete, and since we all go through similar shit, I just tried to personalize it, but make it relatable to the ‘average person.’”
And the first person he looks at when it comes to creating such music is himself.
“I never really thought of my music as thoughtful,” he says. “I think what I produce or write is usually an extension of me. I usually just try and let my personality bleed into a song, because that’s what instantly separates it from anyone else’s music.”
Ill Poetic’s drive to create such music has earned him production credits for several artists such as Wordsworth (of EMC and Lyricist Lounge fame) and Blueprint (of underground indie favorites Soul Position). His talents have not gone unnoticed by his peers, either – a fact evident in the favorable writeups and reviews he’s received in publications such as Vibe and XLR8R and Web sites such AllHipHop.com and the esteemed OkayPlayer.com.
Cincy Groove: I understand your going to be moving away from Cincinnati soon. Where are you headed?
Ill Poetic: Really all over the place. I’m going up to New York in November for about a month, then I’ll be going to Columbus, OH for about 6 months. I’ll be there to help with a cd release gig there and rap up some projects I have with some Columbus artists. Then it will be back to New York for a little while, then to Chicago where I’ll end up staying.
Cincy Groove: I know your a busy man, but what projects are you working on right now?
Ill Poetic: There is an artist in Columbus, OH I’m working with, Ill Logic. I produced his upcoming record. We are also releasing a free digital download EP coming out Oct 23 to help set up for his full length record release in the spring. I’m then going to New York with all my current projects and some rough snippets of my songs to try and connect with people there and see how it goes.
As for my own projects, I am working on what you could call a concept record. I’m a big fan of movies in general, but especially of what I like to call mind-fuck movies. Movies like General Sunshine, Fight Club movies that have their own twists. I’ve never heard of somebody making a record that leaves you with that same kind of feeling. I’m primarily broke, so I have to come up with creative ways to promote myself that don’t cost that much money. Instead of paying a publicist $5,000 for 3 months, I’d rather try to make up some shit thats creative enough to spread on its own.
Cincy Groove: Who are some of the first hip hop artists that you can remember hearing growing up?
Ill Poetic: I remember getting a mixed tape from a friend in class in like 2nd or 3rd grade. It had LL Cool J “I’m Bad”, Public Enemy “Don’t Believe the Hype”, and some other songs that I can’t remember the names of right now. But those were the first two that I remember hearing. The first record that I heard that really blew me away was Ice Cube’s record Predator. My friend and I were in the corner of my room listening to it while my mom was in the living room. I remember saying this guy is cussing a lot, thinking how cool it was. That started the poisoning of my mind (laughing).
Cincy Groove: What was the first concert you went to that had a real effect on you wanting to make music?
Ill Poetic: I would say the first concert that had an effect on me would have been Method Man and Red Man. It was a big deal because I was still in high school and my friend and I went up to Columbus to see them. I could say it was a life changing experience, it was a phenomenal show. Just the day before I had performed for the first time at a high school talent show and then I go see that concert. I was saying to myself, I’m going to be doing that someday.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel the internet has affected the music industry?
Ill Poetic: Anything like the internet is going to have pros and cons, its unavoidable. For me its a huge pro. A friend of mine who is also a rapper said in an interview that its great to be an artist because you can do anything you want. You don’t have to conform to anything. But at the same tie it makes it that much harder to make a living off of music. Buts its great for promotion. Overall I think its a good thing, because if you know how to pimp it right it can be the greatest thing in the world.
Cincy Groove: I have noticed that you have done a couple mashed up records, Joe Budden / Portishead and Outkast / Nine Inch Nails. Do you plan on doing some more of them?
Ill Poetic: I am going to do another, but not for a while. I can’t sell them because they are two other artists work that I put together, so I give them away for free as digital downloads. I try to use them as promotional things before something big comes out. One of the reasons I do these kind of projects is so that people don’t forget who I am in between my own projects. Its god to keep throwing curve balls so they will never know what to expect from you. The Budden / Portishead thing really took off. Rolling Stones’ website picked up on it and that helped out a whole lot. Joe Budden gave a shout out for it in an interview which also helped out. I was blown away because I did this project in one day just to keep my connections open. Not only did I do that but I gained a while school of new connects in the process.
Upcoming Ill Poetic tour dates:
For complete show details visit www.myspace.com/illpoetic
Sep 25 2008 Midpoint Music Festival (w/ Queencity Soulrock) Cincinnati, Ohio
Oct 2 2008 Tuscon, Arizona
Oct 3 2008 Club Red Tempe, Arizona
Oct 23 2008 ILLOGIC EP RELEASE PARTY /atmosphere afterparty @ bourbon st. cafe