Anybody can talk about building his own lane rather than trying to ride in somebody else’s; actually doing it requires more time and hard work than most artists are willing to endure. Ill Poetic has been making the effort and logging the hours, and it shows, even if the payoff is only artistic so far.
The Cincinnati transplant has been on his grind in Columbus since 2008, but he hasn’t had a record to show for his time in this city’s hip-hop scene until now. Last month he released Synthesesia: The Yellow Movement, the first in a series of EPs intended to introduce a revamped sound all his own.
“I’m never going to make a Dilla beat better than Dilla. I’m never going to make a Hi-Tek beat better than Hi-Tek,” Gmeiner said. “I would hear new kids coming up in Cincinnati, like man, you dudes are eating me alive. I’m going to have to go all the way back to the drawing board and go as far left of center as I can and dedicate myself to this idea to a level that I feel no one would ever dedicate themselves to an idea.”
That idea was to rebuild funk from the ground up, mingling players from the genre-defining Ohio Funk scene of the 1970s with modern jazz and hip-hop musicians. Lots of care and collaboration went into Synthesesia, named after Gmeiner’s condition that causes him to see colors in music. (Frank Ocean has it too.)
The result is a record that subtly detonates genre boundaries, reinterpreting smooth and tumultuous ’70s sounds through the prism of modern-day hip-hop. It’s a fever dream marked by 9/11 news samples, logorrheic talk box scat and walls of bass and synth. Gmeiner doesn’t even rap until track 3.
Blue and red records are in the pipeline. In the meantime, Gmeiner will celebrate The Yellow Movement with a show Saturday at The Troubadour, a low-key East Side lounge that feels appropriate for where his music is going.
“Someone like Blueprint already has his lane. Fly Union has a lane,” Gmeiner said. “I’ve got to build my own.”