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Rhode Island firm buys office building on Palm Beach’s Banker’s Row


A Rhode Island-based real estate investment company just paid $9.2 million for an office building on Palm Beach’s Banker’s Row, according to the firm that brokered the deal. The buyer, a subsidiary of Procaccianti Properties, paid about $795 per square ...


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Media & Entertainment #ChartToppers Media & Entertainment #ChartToppers Jan 4, 2018 @ 09:00 AM How Underground Rap Legend Blueprint Expanded Into Real Estate, Podcasting And The Film World performance.mark = performance.mark || function(s) {}; performance.mark('content_title_end'); Passion of the Weiss , Contributor We're here to cover the intersection of rap, business, and Benjamins. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Post written by Zilla Rocca Wu-Tang is his Beatles.">Zilla Rocca is a rapper, producer and writer living in South PhiladelphiaWu-Tang is his Beatles. Al Shephard (Blueprint) Independent rapper and entrepreneur Blueprint Blueprint has been one of the most industrious artists in independent hip hop for over two decadesHe has been signed to Rhymesayers—a label built off sweat equity, relentless touring, face time with fans, and consistent Billboard rewardsHe has released closed to fifty projects on his own label, Weightless Recordings, since 1999Blueprint is also a perpetual craftsman, dedicating years of his life to master skills well beyond the reach of normal touring rappers with devoted fansSince 2005, he has ventured into real estate, blogging, podcasting, music theory, cinematography, social media promotion, releasing books, and now shooting and screening his first film King No CrownGearing up for the DVD release of the film after touring the movie for his fans in music venues and theaters, Blueprint took time after his screening in Philadelphia to discuss the indie film hustle, the reach of his podcast, Super Duty Tough Work, and the value of ownership, both in real estate and with your own art Zilla Rocca: What have you noticed about doing the podcast and now touring with the film? Have you seen a new lane either for revenue or interest by doing things outside the norm for you? Blueprint: Yeah, totallyI’ve definitely seen a new lane open upI mean, it's one that I saw maybe three or four years agoIt's all about positioningAnd doing the podcast has allowed me to see like, 'OhAll you're really going to do is find your lane and that it’s there for you, you just have to do the work.' So it kind of changed me just thinking it was thereNow I feel like that lane is there—doing the podcast and seeing how interested people are every week and hearing us speak about that Zilla: So what do you think about the actual discussion and dialogue nature of the podcast and then the Q&A after each film screening? Do you feel it's similar? Do you feel it’s totally different? When I listen to the podcast I want to jump in a conversation with you guysWhereas being in the room after your screening, I’m literally given that opportunity to converse with you directly Blueprint: YeahI think it's an extension of itI think just saying it's an extension where we choose the topics every week—many of them do come from our listeners, but being in a room is like the completion of that scene because now you're having an interactive conversationNow it’s not just, 'Okay man I wish I could ask them this or I wish I could tell them about this one thing I'm thinking.' Now, it's totally interactive and that's the really dope part about it because it feels similar to the podcast But it's more interactiveAnd that’s the part, that’s what actually excites me the most about it too. Zilla: What do you think about how the film has been received by longtime fans, or fans who only know of you through the podcast, or through their significant other’s fandom? Blueprint: It's dopeI mean the podcast has opened up a lot of peopleIt's turned some people who have been casual fans into real fansPeople who were always fans, it kind of reminded them of why they like this in the first placeAnd that's really powerfulAnd you know it gives you a chance to have a conversation with people without the conversation being about commerceThat's what I think a lot of artists are missingYou know when you look at how we interact with our fanbase on social media, nine times out of ten it's, “Hey I have this, would you buy this? You don’t have this, buy this now!” You know we were always thinking of creative ways that we're not bombarding them and wearing out that good willBut we risk it every day that we go out there telling people to buy buy buyPeople become more and more numb to itAnd I started looking at it kind of the opposite way by providing service to people if you're actually helping people People will actually support you more naturally because you’re just having conversationsAnd if you're bringing value to the table then people are actually going to gravitate towards that as opposed to strictly looking at people like, “Oh, well they're just customers.” That’s a real dangerous way to look at our fanbase and think that it's just a one-way conversationThis whole thing has allowed a dope two way conversation to happen where it's not just me saying, “Buy my music.” I think people are seeing the value in being able to talk to an artist who's had experiences that I've had Zilla: Were there other documentaries specifically or certain filmmakers that you modeled this film after? The same way when you make a beat, or a rhyme, or an album, you might think, “I want to make some dirty throwback RZA shit” or “I want to do this rhyme like Kool G Rap.” Did that happen with the film? Blueprint: The films that really inspired me are older documentariesI started studying documentaries technically maybe 2011, 2012You know, just really reading it heavilyI have at least four or five books I read specifically just on documentary filmmakingSo one of the books is one of my favorite books I found it at a used store and it’s out of print and it basically walks through thisIt was written in maybe like the late '70s early '80sIt teaches you how these things are put together and it breaks down scene by sceneAnd I used that for years just to walk through how to technically build a scene Those filmmakers like Werner Herzog and guys like that who’ve been doing it for a really long time, they actually came about before this new era of documentariesThe Michael Moore guys, they’re making documentaries but their documentaries are totally based around themselves, more focused around them as a personalityI wanted to take a step back from it and not be so, “Hey, this is me going through this journeyCome with me!” I don't want to break the wall like they doSo I was inspired by a lot of those really old documentaries Zilla: And what do you think about doing this for your first time compared to rhyming every night? Every night, the film stays the sameWhen you're performing and you're doing 10 shows in a row, you can mess with the cadence when you’re spitting, or you could put a different instrumental on to keep the performance interestingIs that something that comes up where you're just watching the movie every night satisfied with it, or are you like, “Oh I wish I could just play around with it and add this, or take this out?” Blueprint: I don't have a problem with that right nowEvery time I watch it I revisit how I could improve upon it if I were to do it againSo as people are watching it, I'm kind of studying it tooI'm still studying it and I think I’ll always study even if I don't see major changes to itSo I'm not tired of thatBut at the same time, the Q&A session [after the screening] gives me that feeling of, “Oh, this is different every time I do it.” I’m never asked the same question every nightAnd there are some nights where like the majority of questions are about the filmThere are other nights when no one asked anything about the film and they just asked me about art to be more productive My Minneapolis [screening] was almost like a TED talk because it was like people asking questions specifically about how to be more disciplined in their artTo teach them my methods, how are my rules, how am I getting so much done, productivity, creativityI don't think there was a single question asked about the film in my Minneapolis Q&A but it was 30 almost 45 minutes longIt was amazingBut then last night [in Philly] there where a lot of the questions about the filmIt changes depending on the city and that part to me is really fresh. Zilla: How do you keep track of all the hats you wear? Because you said last night you have albums on deck for 2018Do you map it out like, “Okay for the next three months, I'm going to be a film guy, then I'm going to be the editor, then I'm going to be the performer?” Because you've been doing it this way for, like you said, 13 or 14 years now Blueprint: Yeah I do have to be really well thought out in terms of planningI try to plan out whatever my releases may be at least a year or two in advanceSo like everything that came out in 2015 was stuff I was working on in 2013And anything that came out 2016 was what I was working on in 2014I’m always trying to be two years aheadBut I have to block out certain times to work on certain things because otherwise I'll just juggle 20 different things and nothing gets done rightAnd I had a period like that last year where maybe the first eight months of the year I was juggling like seven different projectsI think I had gotten over-confident from finishing so much in the previous years that I was like, “I can just juggle all of these and finish all of them.” I found out that didn't happenAnd by the end of the year I was like, 'You know what? Forget thisI'm just going to start getting back to finishing one project at a time.' And since I got back to doing that in the beginning of this year, everything's been back on again and I've been getting more done because now I'll sit down for three or four months straightI'll multitask once I get a project to like 75 to 90 percent done. Zilla: Where do you think your actual work ethic comes from? You and Atmosphere, I mean you guys put out so much music when you really step back and look at it allYou still do shows and you still are finding new avenues with books and videos and podcastsYou guys have outworked most of the dudes you came up with in the early 2000s indie rap eraAnd so where do you think that comes from? Blueprint: I think I've always had itIt started before rap when I was 15 and I wanted it to workI remember wanting to get a job at 15 just so I could buy school clothes and I could eventually buy a car at 16When I was 16, I had my own a carI was always super responsibleAnd so my mom didn't have a problem letting me do thatI wasn't out smoking and drinking as a teenager at all, I was helping out with things going on with the family so she always trusted meI was 16, working 30-40 hours a week at McDonald's and I was playing varsity basketballI'd cut my hours back to like 10-15 a week while I was playing varsity basketballI think I just always kind of wanted itI think early on I made the connection between what you put into something and what you get out of it When I was in eighth grade I tried to play basketball in and I wasn't good enough to sit on the benchI was sitting behind the bench, like I was in the first row of the bleachersI was sitting back thereBy the time I got into 9th grade I was starting varsity and I was better than all those other guys [because of a] really intense want to be the fucking best and putting in work Switching gears to art, I think I've always had a real serious work ethic because at an early age I understood how important it was to put it time and the effect of putting in the timeAs you get involved in hip hop you become surrounded by people who are relying on talentAnd so guys like me just stand out even more because I'm talented but I put in the work that these other guys who are similarly talented don't want to put inAnd so that really ends up separating usLike you said, we all start at the same time but some of these guys, they hit a point where they're like, “Oh shit, I can just cruise!” Why would I want to cruise if I’ve seen what I can do and what I can learn? That tells me that I have to stay motivatedI have to take on more and more ambitious things. Zilla: As far as ambitious things go, guys like Mach Hommy are charging $170 or a thousand dollars for an albumAnd then I read this other thing where you can buy stocks in Eminem's back catalogThere are interesting ways to think about how people want to get money from music itselfHave you thought about revenue streams outside the box as well? Blueprint: I look at a lot of thingsWhat helped me was looking at people in the social media space that had nothing to do with musicThe days of selling thousands of CDs is going to come to an end very soon and it's over for most of usSo the podcast has made me look at it more in terms of not being attached to music itself as like, 'This CD or this vinyl is what's gonna earn me a living.' I actually look at it differentlyUnderstanding the mechanics of this, that other people are unwilling to share, is what's going to bring value to meBecause I invest and I learn all the lessons from running a label, to being on a big label, to touring with bigger acts, to touring by myself, to film, to books, to podcasting—I'm building up a body of knowledge which is positioning me as an authority or an expert in my fieldThat's the value—it’s not in the album anymoreThe value was in the experience I've had that other people have not had that I can use to share with others, whether that be in book form, creating a class online, e-books, audio books, seminars, workshops, film, like all of these things now have opened upPeople hit me up about consulting now, just artists who want to pay [me] to consultI know that the lane is there for me to pivot intoI’m starting to see confirmation Zilla: You have speaking engagements with kids in high school where you screen the filmWas it your intention ever to reach that space where you are able to give more people as much mentorship and ideas as you have? You’ve worn so many hats being a full fledged indie artist Blueprint: Yeah I think I always wanted to do itI just didn't know howYou know, I think at its core that's why I had a labelIt was because I wanted to help Columbus with their careers and their ideas and develop them and their platformAnd at the time it seemed like the most feasible way to do it was like, 'Okay, we'll put out people's records and help them create their platform and help them tour.' But now I think that was just the beginning of itYou know, now it's like, 'Oh, this is completely bigger than a labelThis is something that any person or creative person can mess with.' I can help hundreds of thousands of people Zilla: Have you had any situations with an entity like Def Jam or Atlantic Records or Interscope? I feel like someone came knocking on your door at some point Blueprint: I've never had any big labels approached me for anything like thatI think the Rhymesayers experience, with them being distributed by Warner, that situation [and me] leaving Rhymesayers, as I've been putting out my own stuff the last few years, I think that has made more independent record labels curious about meAs opposed to major labels, any artist that was on Rhymesayers, they kind of already know that you have a certain kind of followingSo I do get interest from independent labels as far as like, “Hey, if you ever wanted to do something like this, we're here.” Zilla: So why do you still do it yourself with Weightless Recordings for certain releases? Blueprint: I do it because I just understand the importance of ownership too muchIt's like artists have such a hard time with creative thingsLike we have this creative struggle and we get on labels and we say, “Oh, I couldn't do what I want to do” or, “They did this and I got jerked.” But a lot of it is a byproduct of not owning our artI don't have a problem with any label, and there maybe comes a time when I do something else with another labelI’m not saying someone else, but sometimes you hit a point where you're like, “Man, I've been putting out all these records and I don't own a lot of it.” I mean that [as] securing my financial future and having ownership, whether that be through investments outside or inside musicI need to make sure that my future is a little more stable Zilla: Your palette is really big as a producer—you know soundtracks and composers and sample sources and new technology and old technologyDo you think about your records in relation to the one that comes before it? If you do electronic-based stuff for an entire album, do you plan out the inverse for the next one, like doing stripped down loops and drum breaks? Blueprint: Yeah, totallyI think about the whole catalogI learned this from producing Illogic’s recordsWhen he and I were doing records together, I would always tell him we can do similar things but we should think about what his catalog needs as opposed to what he wanted to make right then in the momentBecause sometimes an artist's catalog needs a certain thingMaybe their catalog needs a record that sounds like some boom bap shit to balance itThat should stand those records out more And so I try to think about what my catalog needsThe last record, King No Crown, was very dark and seriousAnd I went from the Aesop thing [Vigilante Genesis EP] which was dark and seriousSo I'm like, 'Okay well now where did this thing go?' Catalog-wise, I want to do something fun and straightforward, you know? You don't want to get into this rut where people say, “Oh okay, here comes another dark, serious Blueprint record.” That’s what I fearIt's better—especially the longer you do it—to be interesting and keep people guessing Zilla: You've alluded to it in the podcast a lot, but what is your involvement with real estate and construction? Blueprint:  You know, it was funnyJakai The Motor Mouth from MHz was big in the real estate state shit back thenJakai was already out there flipping houses and rehabbing stuffI was interested—I'd read a book on it when I was still in Cincinnati in maybe ’02, ‘03And then when I got back to Columbus in ’04-’05, he was involved with it and me and him used to chop it up about music all the timeHe would always come to the crib and we would do music stuff togetherAnd we talked about thatAnd he would tell me what was going onHe was like, 'Whenever you ready let me know.' So he brought me into it and introduced me to contractorsHe introduced me to hard money lenders, he introduced agents who do rehabs, [which] are completely different from real estate agentsThey are people who know about properties before they’re even listedSo it's a whole different world, manI was learning about that in ’05-‘06 and that's when I dove inI did okay on my first deal; it wasn’t like I really lost moneyI really walked away like everybody else told me to doYou flip the house with the mortgage, you pull cash out, you walk away with a bunch of money, and then you just make a little bit every monthBut I didn't want to do that anymoreI was just doing the landlord thing for a while and then I got tired of itMost people tell you to flip houses and most people say, 'Okay, you're going to flip, find something that costs this much, fix it up, get a mortgage, put somebody into it, or sell it and walk away.' And your profit comes from the difference between your mortgage and your rentI did that alreadyAnd at the time I was thinking about doing more But what I found was it didn't seem worth it to meI told myself , 'The next time you do one of these, don't get a mortgage, don't get a loan, just pay for everything in cash.' Then when you move in, and if you pay with cash and it's free and clear, it'll take you longer to rehab itBut when it's done, you'll have a huge cash cow that you ownYou don’t flip five houses—you'll have one that's free and clear and it'll make more money than five housesNo one told me thatI had to learn it myself by fucking up the first oneSo now I have another one that I bought two years agoFree and clearAnd I'm rehabbing that oneIt takes longer because I'm doing it all cashBut when it's done, there's not going to be a mortgageAll I have to pay is property taxesEvery single dollar of the rent will go to me Zilla: Have you seen the uptick in housing or gentrification in Columbus in the past 10 years? I can tell where I’m at in South Philly, it is a seller’s market Blueprint: Columbus is definitely going through that in the central areas, like the campus downtown areaA lot of the old worse off areas are now like the highest concentration of wealth in the state of OhioIt’s called the “Short North” in ColumbusBut the cost of living in Columbus still hasn't really changedSo it's still outside of that area, it’s still really chillMy neighborhood hasn't really changed that muchI mean, a lot of neighborhoods changed after the housing crisis, with the foreclosure situation, but my neighborhood technically hasn’t changedThe first property I bought is up near that area that's getting gentrifiedBut my goal is to focus on the area I live inI want to find a way to do real estate in situations that are super comfortable, you know? So the house that I bought outright, that house is only ten doors down from my houseSo I just walk down there and work on it when I'm back homeThat's what I want to work on now Zilla: Where do you see this new path of film taking you? You’ve talked about how you've applied DIY rap touring into DIY film screenings Blueprint: Yeah, totallyI've seen how dope of an experience it is for everyoneAnd that to me is something that you get when you take that approach, that real grass roots approachI think that's valuable because it makes people rethink what it takes to make a film: what we can do to show and promote a film and how to connect with your audienceConnecting with your audience doesn't mean you trust someone else to go out there and find your audience for youSo it's something I definitely want to do, like I can see every time I do it,

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