Catching up with the rapper and Pipeline co-creator

Roughly nine months ago, after being laid off from his previous day job, Sam Rothstein finally decided to give music a full-time go. The decision has somewhat surprisingly led to the most dormant creative stretch in the rapper's career — at least in terms of his own music — with his solo output relegated to a couple of single releases in 2018.

Instead, much of his creative energy has been directed to brainstorming, curating and running new shows, including Pipeline, a hip-hop event Rothstein conceived and launched alongside his DJ, Raiden Labs, which is designed to link rappers in different cities. Pipelines have already been held in Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton, among other locales, with artists from Columbus performing in each city alongside hometown acts as a way to introduce fans and musicians from nearby scenes. The latest edition, which takes place at Wild Goose Creative on Friday, Jan. 11, connects Columbus and Kent, Ohio, and Rothstein has plans to expand into cities like Louisville and Detroit in the coming months.

“The execution of it took over a lot of the creative part of my brain,” said Rothstein of his semi-hiatus during an early January interview in Olde Towne East.

The rapper noted he also spent most of his “promotional capital,” as he termed it, in service of these shows, saying, “There are only so many things I can promote at once before people are sick of me and want me to shut the hell up.”

Though Rothstein kept a lower profile with his own music, he did continue performing, writing and recording, completing a new album, Rubicon, which he hopes to release in March. The album largely took shape during a month-long creative outburst that followed a drug-fueled trip the musician undertook during a May 2018 tour stop in Virginia Beach.

“Just to be perfectly candid, we took some acid before we went onstage for our last gig … and then the rest of the night we spent on the beach just losing our minds, basically,” Rothstein said. “It was at a time we hadn't slept in almost two days. … I think it just shook everything up. When we drove the 12 hours back after not sleeping for three days, for the most part, I thought we'd fall down, but we stayed up six more hours and talked about what our album was going to be.”

While 2019 is setting up to be something of a public re-introduction for Sam Rothstein the artist, the rapper said he still struggles with his place in the scene, and how he can best serve the hip-hop culture at large.

“I do miss rapping, and when I see other artists coming out with projects, I want to do that; I have that egotistical side that wants to get back in there and compete,” he said. “But I'm also about to be 30, which isn't old, but it makes you think, ‘Am I serving the culture the best way I could by just rapping? … Is that doing enough for the culture that gave me everything I have now?' And I don't think I've come down on one side or the other yet.”