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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Another Talk with Blank Thought: collaboration, evolution, and beyond being a producer

Almost a year on from our first conversation, hip hop producer Blank Thought remains one of the most prolific names in the genre. Having dropped over a dozen projects between January and December, and with additional credits on countless more albums, the beatmaker’s fingerprints are all over the rap underground.

Most artists need a rest after a record or two, but Thought’s work ethic would never allow that. Constantly on the lookout for more rappers to collaborate with and fresh sounds to explore, the producer scarcely goes a month without a new release. “I’m just the kind of person who likes to keep working,” he said. “So even if I’m tired and want a week or two off, I just keep finding myself getting right back into the swing of things … If I were to try and take an average, I would say a whole album from me probably takes two or three months, from inception to release.”

Part of what keeps the process engaging for Thought are the variety of tasks involved. Whether he is adapting his style to fit an MC or curating the best guests to fit his latest record, every LP is a new adventure for the beatmaker. “When I start most albums, it doesn’t come from necessarily an idea; it more comes from me being like, ‘Okay, I want to work with these people,’ and I kind of want to see where that takes me. So it’s almost a puzzle every time.”

Although a prolific output has become part of his brand, the producer refuses to rush his creative process. From as swift as a single day to as long as a year, the makings of each record fluctuate heavily. He said: “This album I’m currently sitting on, waiting to get a little bit finished, probably has been in the works since January or February of [2022]. For me, as I said, another important thing is keeping the process natural. Letting things come to natural end so when it’s done, you kind of feel that it’s done.”

The longer Thought has been a part of the underground scene, the more apparent his impact has become. Once a solitary beatmaker with a close circle of collaborators, the producer has become an inescapable force, producing alongside Mashoni, engineering for Rome Mallory, and working as an executive producer for Memoirs by Zim. He spoke on his ever-evolving role:

“Mashoni and I made on death’s door earlier this year, and then I just executive produced his EP with Zim … I was just a really big fan of his music, and the sound that he brought to the table. I was like, ‘Yo, let’s get a project together,’ and that opened my eyes to different ways that I could make music. I always felt that I needed to be the one to do it, but that’s not always the case. That’s what brought on Memoirs, which was a six to seven month process between me and Zim, distilling his project.”

Having spent years playing Madden, building his own team of elite NFL players, the role of executive producer has come naturally to Thought. Picking talents from all over the underground and uniting them under one project has quickly become a new passion for the producer. “I love making something into something better as a unit or a whole, and I think that’s really cool for executive production … Me and Zim are [already] working on something else … The first tape that we drop next year, which will be executive produced by me, is going to truly shake some people up. There are some pretty crazy names on there that we are really happy to have worked with.”

Branching out to collaborate with other producers as well as rappers, Thought’s catalogue has become a playground of different ideas, with new names credited on every project, adding colour and style to his atmospheric brand. “Parth is a good friend of mine … He will send me beats and he will be like, ‘Make some music with them,’ and man, I have had the time of my life with those beats.”

Through the year, his role in the underground has shifted significantly, but the beatmaker is not finished evolving yet. With aspirations to reinvent the Blank Thought name, using it as a platform to shed light on underappreciated artists, his 2024 could end up looking far different. He said: “I want to differentiate myself from Blank Thought … I want it to be an umbrella to encapsulate what I want to do creatively … I want to have it eventually where other people could drop music under the profile.”

Aside from his mainline projects, Thought has also started dropping beat tapes between releases, such as galaxy’s edge and storm cellar. He spoke on how the tapes came about: “Funny enough, I mentioned Parth earlier – [galaxy’s edge] came because he was like, ‘Yo, I need something to listen to at work,’ and I was like, ‘You know what, I need something to listen to when I’m doing work.’ … I was really happy with how that turned out, so you will probably get more stuff like that.”

Going beyond his beat tapes, the producer has dozens of projects lined up for the new year. With eight EPs planned out as well as four albums, fans can expect scores of fresh collaborations in 2024. He said: “A big one coming next year, Ghost in the Machine, that’s going to be my next solo album. That one is really loaded – I’m really, really excited about that one. A lot of unfamiliar faces and a lot of familiar faces.”

A full record with Jonny Farias; EPs with Thought Provokah, Wesley Rocco, Nicky Donnie and more; and a boundless number of beats on other artists’ albums. Despite his plan to distance himself from the Blank Thought moniker, his output is unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Having grown more confident as the year has gone on, the producer is ready to enter 2024 a risktaker.

“Don’t be afraid to take chances and miss. I think that’s something I’ve been afraid of for a while. I don’t think it is as big as a fear for me anymore because, sometimes, it’s going to happen … I’m less worried about failing and more worried about doing what I think is the smartest thing at the time and letting the chips fall where they may.”

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