A Talk with Blank Thought
Blank Thought is a Rhode Island-based hip hop producer who began working on music over the pandemic, with 2022 being his busiest year yet. He released three albums across 2022: Composition, Movies at Midnight, and Repetition. In January 2023, he released his latest project, Winter Break.
Before discussing his new album, Blank Thought described his style as an artist. “For me, I feel like I’m a very adaptable producer and my goal as an artist is to complement the rappers that I work with. I would say that my favourite sound to tap into is definitely the more atmospheric stuff. I have a lot of fun layering textures and creating a picture with my beats.”
Winter Break is the latest album from Thought, following his latest EP, Seasonal Affective Disorder. The album was released in segments across December before a full release this January. He spoke on the project:
“With stuff like Winter Break and Seasonal Affective Disorder, I like to give myself challenges sometimes. With those, I was kinda bored and very inspired so I decided I was going to make a tape in the next twenty-four hours. I think it helps get me out of my own head and also helps me grow as an artist. Winter Break is unique because I built the beats around acapellas over two days – which I’ve been doing a lot recently – and I’m really happy with the output.”
He spoke more on his favourite aspects of Winter Break: “I love all the tracks on there, but I was really happy how ‘a titan in my own right’ and ‘my mind plays tricks on me’ turned out. Whose and Wesley are both dudes I’ve been working with but both those tracks seemed like such a vibe. ‘A titan in my own right’ is actually crazy because it’s three separate verses with the same bpm I sliced up a bit and fit together. It sounds so natural, it’s kinda crazy.”
Before the final release of Winter Break, the album was released in separate EPs across December 2022, with post holiday blues and new year’s resolution being among them. Blank Thought said: “Originally, I planned for them to be the EPs separately, but when I listened back, I realised that I would love to curate these together and come up with a concept and theme for it.”
Before Winter Break, Blank Thought dropped the album Repetition. Similar to Winter Break, Repetition was released in segments, with the A and B sides put out weeks apart. He spoke more on the album:
“Repetition was actually a bit of a concept album, with Side A being kinda cheerful with the surname ‘Routine’ (that good feeling when you start a routine) and Side B being ‘Dissociation’ (the out of body feeling that you get after being trapped in a cycle for so long) … It affected my production style a lot, especially on Side B. I wanted to make the sound as dark and unsettling as I could while keeping the beats very atmospheric.”
He discussed what inspired him going into Repetition: “With stuff like Composition and Repetition, it kinda mirrors my struggles mentally in my life during that time period. I have some pretty bad anxiety and depression, so the different waves of that really reflect in the music I make. Honestly, some of it isn’t intended, and just ends up that way so I run with it.”
From Composition to Repetition to Seasonal Affective Disorder, many of Thought’s projects have the imagery of clocks and time on the covers. Regarding the meaning of the imagery, he said: “It’s just my struggle with the idea of time and the finality of it … It just always finds a way to manifest in my music and I also think it makes for some pretty incredible album covers, especially with someone like Lunzer or Czarheel to take that vision to completion.”
Outside of his solo work, Blank Thought released the collaborative album Movies at Midnight with rapper Zim, as well as the Seasonal Affective Disorder EP with rapper Jonny Farias. Thought spoke about the process behind Movies at Midnight:
“Me and Zim have always just kinda clicked creatively. I found him through an ‘Exhibit C’ freestyle. We did a track that was supposed to drop on Composition called ‘Downtime’, but I lost the file, and the rest is history … I’ll let this leak out a bit – right now, him and I are in the process of making another album which I will be executive producing, which gives me a bit more freedom to tap other producers.”
In regard to Seasonal Affective Disorder with Jonny Farias, he said: “Jonny is another one of those dope artists who’s really just easy to work with. I did ‘groundhog’ with him on the original twenty-four hour beat tape, and I just realised that I think he would sound great on my other beats. I told him what I wanted to do, he was down with it, and it ended up being really great. We’re both really busy but there is absolutely something in the works when we clear our schedules a bit.”
For 2023, Blank Thought already has more collaborations in the works. “Coming really soon is some stuff with iForgot and Jin, which I’m really excited for. In the long term, I got a long list of EPs and a couple projects, and I’ve got a bomb of a project in the works with Mashoni Beats which I think is gonna really change things … I just wanna collaborate with some of my favourite rappers like Mourning Run or Patty Honcho and try and make this a reality for me to do as a profession.”
Even though Winter Break only came out last week, Blank Thought already has a new project set for release this month. Into the Garden, a collaborative EP with iForgot, will release Friday 13th January.