Interview: Illogic & Blockhead

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Hip Hop, Interview
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The second installment of the Preparing for Capture EP series hits the web tomorrow

In the middle of the last decade, the thought of Illogic and Blockhead releasing free EP’s of original music to the public in hopes of landing a record deal of some kind would have been absurd.  Illogic was one of the independent rap game’s most prized lyricists, an artist who gained a lot of attention through the internet with the release of his masterpiece of teenage introspection and angst, Unforeseen Shadows, and continued to gain support with follow up projects like Got Lyrics? and Celestial Clockwork – all of which were released by the small Columbus, Ohio imprint Weightless Recordings – a label he helped build with his partner and collaboration Blueprint.  Blockhead earned his stripes as Aesop Rock’s go-to in-house producer, probably best known for producing a bulk of Aesop Rock’s classic Labor Days and his biggest single – at least at the time – “Daylight.”  But as we all know the record industry is not at all, what it once was and there are only a handful of legitimate record labels left putting out rap music at all anymore.

I caught up with Blockhead and Illogic to discuss Preparing for Capture 2, which is available for name your own price download on bandcamp on September 11th, as well on CD with some extra goodies.  We also talked about their forthcoming LP Capture the Sun, surprise guest appearances, and meeting each other in the Scribble Jam/Rocksteady era back around the turn of the millennium.  As we dug into their own creative processes Illogic revealed that he writes most of his rhymes at work at a call center, and Blockhead still produces on an ASR-10 without monitors, does not believe he invented Enya Rap beats, and once sampled John Tesh (sorry Tony I could only bury the lead so far down the page).  Finally we discussed what a good year it’s been for rap music and how the curse of the lack of record labels may be something of a blessing to the creative process for so many artists.

JB: These are your first real projects together, but you’ve been working together on and off on individual songs for a long time.  When did you first meet one another?

Blockhead:

We met probably at Rock the Bells?  What was it?

Illogic:

Yeah, Rocksteady.  What was it 2000?  2001 maybe?

Blockhead:

Yeah probably 2001.  Maybe 2000 or 2001. Unless you were at Skribble Jam.

Illogic:

I don’t think I met you then though.

Blockhead:

Yeah, it’s all kind of a blur that era.

Illogic:

Yeah, I mean I officially remember meeting you when I was in New York, I was staying with Aesop for Rocksteady.

Blockhead:

Right, right, right.  And we made those two songs.

Illogic:

Yup.  We did those two songs and that was the beginning.

JB: What two songs were those? Illogic:

Umm… it was “[An] Ocean” and “Killing Time” right?

Blockhead:

Yeah.

Illogic:

Yeah, “Killing Time,” was the bonus track, it was only on the vinyl version, of Got Lyrics?  And “An Ocean,” what was that for?

Blockhead:

Yeah that was for a project that I was actually putting together that never happened where I was going to do my beats with a bunch of rappers.  I got a song by Illogic and I got a song by Slug and that’s kind of where it ended. (both laugh)

Illogic:

So you did the Block In a Box right?

Blockhead:

Well yeah because I had that song lying around, I was like this is a good song, I should do something with it.  So I put that song on there, and I put that Slug song on it too.  But yeah initially I was going to have an album called Let a Player Play – I don’t know why I was going to call it that (both laugh) – and I was going to get a bunch of rappers to do stuff, but I don’t know it was like my first EP and I had an Aesop song, but it just never got beyond that.  I didn’t know any more rappers.  I couldn’t find anymore rappers.

JB: So when did you guys record “One Brick?” Illogic:

Well, actually “One Brick,” was produced by Aesop, right?

Blockhead:

Yeah, and that was around the same time, right?

Illogic:

Yeah, that was that same trip.  We did a lot of recording that trip – I know I did.  So that was recorded that same trip, but that was produced by Aesop.

JB: So obviously Illogic you recorded a lot of your early work with Blueprint and then have spent the last few years recorded individual projects with different producers.  Blockhead you recorded a lot of your earlier work with Aesop Rock and have branched out a lot to different artists over the past few years.  What were the circumstances that led the both of you together to put these projects out? Illogic:

Umm, about three years ago right?

Blockhead:

Yeah it’s been that long ago right?

Illogic:

I just kind of hit him up and said, “Hey, you want to do a record together?”

Blockhead:

Yeah, and I was like , “Yeah, no doubt.”

Illogic:

That’s pretty much honestly how it happened, and he sent me beats a couple days later and that’s just how it happened.

Blockhead:

Yeah then we recorded like fifty songs (laughs).

Illogic:

Yeah we’ve recorded probably about forty songs altogether.  That’s why we’ve been able to do the EPs and everything.  You know we still have “album” songs stashed away.

JB: It always seemed to me like the independent scene in Ohio was pretty tight with the independent scene in New York during your generation’s era, why do you think that was? Blockhead:

I don’t know why that is.  All the people doing the same kind of thing, were kind of tight, no matter where they were from, I felt like.  Like Atmosphere fit in there, there was people out there in the West that were doing stuff that we all kind of got along with.  It is weird that we all did kind of connect, the Columbus and the New York scene.  I think it was just an overall feeling like we’re just on the same wavelength.

Illogic:

Yeah, I think that’s what it was.  I remember Blueprint and Cryptic [One] were at least the first two that I knew that had built a relationship just from exchanging tapes and exchanging music, before people were sending zip files and stuff through the internet.  But I know they became close, after what was that album, the Atoms release that they put out?

Blockhead:

Epiphany?

JB:

Euphony

Illogic:

No the one before that?

Blockhead:

The one with the green vinyl?

Illogic:

I think so.

JB:

The Prequel?

Illogic:

No, not that one, the one after that.  The full length that had the Windnbreeze song on it… I can’t think of it.

JB:

There was one the Beyond Human Comprehension one…

Illogic:

Not that one, it was the one after that.  The Beyond Human Comprehension one had…  I can’t think of the name of it, but to make a long story short, Blueprint and Cryptic became really close.  And I know before I even met those guys, Blueprint and Greenhouse [Effect] had already made a couple trips to New York and were doing songs with Cryptic and Atoms Family. The first thing I heard of Aesop’s was on the Fool Blown Compilation.

Blockhead:

Yeah I was about the bring up the Fool Blown Compilation, that’s the first I heard of Illogic.

Illogic:

Yeah, I think that’s the first time we all kind of heard each other.  That was kind of the beginning of everything, because then everybody wanted to meet who these guys were – we were all kind of the same page – it just kind of happened.  It was easier then.  Gas was cheaper and we took that trip to New York without thinking about it really.

Blockhead:

Yeah it was in the early days of the internet too, and I think we were all on the internet as well, and that helped.  So we all connected through weird, I don’t know, maybe kind of newsgroups or AOL chat or whatever.

Illogic:

Yeah the chatboards, because like hiphopinfinity[.com] was really big and that’s where I heard a lot of the underground stuff that I first started hearing was through hiphopinfinity.

JB:  You said you’ve recorded about forty songs for the project.  Have you found a record label for Capture the Sun yet? Illogic:

We have not yet, and everything is always still up in the air.  We have people who have expressed interest, but nothing concrete.  But I mean that’s pretty much the reason that we’re doing the EPs, since we have so many songs, to kind of show the music we have, and the quality of the music that isn’t even for the album.  And just, you know, to draw up some interest and get people kind of looking at us as an actual tandem of artists that are doing music together over a longer period of time – not just a one off project.

Blockhead:

It’s not easy though right now, you know?  Not a lot of people putting out music.

JB: No, I know – anywhere – but independents are tough too, for sure.  So you’re putting out Preparing for Capture 2 next week (September 11th), you’ve put out the first one already.  How would you compare the two?  Do you think they’re similar?  I know these are songs that didn’t make the “cut” for the official LP, but do you feel like there’s a different vibe for either of them. Illogic:

You feel like it’s a different vibe?

Blockhead:

I wouldn’t say that one is a stark contrast to the other.  It’s like, they both have songs that probably wouldn’t have fit as well on the other album.

Illogic:

Right.

Blockhead:

Like you know, they’re just companion pieces that work really well.

Illogic:

Yeah, I think for this one I tried to kind of put songs together that had more of a kind of “today” feeling, with everything that’s going on in the world – you know all of the political stuff – just people being crazy.  That’s why the cover is kind of a little darker.  I think it reflects – it reflects the music a little – but I think it more reflects the attitude of what’s going on in the world now.  The songs that we tried to put together for this one, I think more address today than the other one did.  I think this one has more of a theme then the last one, but as far as feel, I think it’s still me and Blockhead.  As far as theme, it’s a little more cohesive this one.

“Dreamin'” – Illogic & Blockhead

JB: So you put out the “Dreaming” video, talk a little bit about, and what that songs about to you and how the video ties into it. Illogic:

Well that song – speaking to what I was just talking about – that song is more about how it feels like everything in this world is just crazy with all the things with politics – you know –  I think in the last ninety days, there’s been three or four places where people are just randomly shooting people.  You know there’s just so much weird stuff going on and crazy stuff going on it’s almost like it’s a dream.  It’s not the kind of world that we want to… you know I don’t want to raise my kids in a world like that.  But I think a lot of that is based on a lot of the history of this country, a lot of the things that this country was built on foundationally.  You know we had slavery, we had the way that people outside of the social norm were treated and I think a lot of that is creating a lot of this chaos.  I think a lot of things now are just waking up from a lot of the slumber that they’ve been in, and it’s just crazy.  And I think the video just kind of shows the progression from the beginning.  I think one of the first shots is of George Washington and it’s just kind of a commentary on the foundation of this country and it kind of ends with everything exploding, blowing up.  I think it’s all these things that were built, all these houses that were built, and it’s just a symbol of us building this country as a whole and you know at the end of the day if we keep going the way we’re going, everything is just going to explode and be obliterated if we don’t wake up.  So that’s where I was when I wrote it.

JB: Talk about Capture the Sun.  One question I always have for artists who put out multiple projects in promotion of an album, is what will be different about the album versus the EPs or mixtapes that they’re putting out in promotion of the project?  What set apart that music for you to say, “yeah this is gonna be on album”? Blockhead:

That’s a tough question, because we had such a large pool to pick from.  There was a lot of discussion that went back and forth as far as what goes on what, and goes where and I think we both had to make sacrifices for certain songs that we really both like.  I think overall there’s just a – I don’t want to say a higher quality to the songs, because I really like all the songs on the EPs – but it works together as an album, really well.  And it’s a complete album, and a lot of it’s kind of songs that go right into each other and play off each other really well.  And I think we kind of came to that final selection group, and we were like, “OK, we got what we want.”  There was a lot of changing though.

Illogic:

Yeah there was a lot of changing.  I think the last batch of songs that I did was only a few months ago right?  So I mean we have pretty much the album, we have like fifteen songs

Blockhead:

Do we still have extra songs left over?

Illogic:

Yeah, I mean this EP will be done and there’s still probably eight or ten songs that are still there.  So was going to do a third EP probably, but maybe after the album.

Blockhead:

Yeah, we can just call it Captured.

Illogic:

Yeah, like Captured or something.  It’ll be something like that.  But yeah we still have a good number of songs, maybe some bonus ones for itunes or something when we do put the album out.  I think as a whole the album just fits the theme, the Capture the Sun theme, which is basically just go after your dreams.  I think that it’s just more a cohesive piece of work as far as the production as far as the writing like everything really fits, really goes together, and ties in well together.

Blockhead:

I think also – something that’s fairly out of the norm in today’s music – is it’s a fairly positive album.  That’s just kind of something that jumps out at me, like you don’t really hear that very often in rap anymore.  Like and it’s not corny, but there’s just certain songs you just finish listening to and you’re like, “Ah, I feel good.”

Illogic:

Right, that’s true.  You feel like dancing, you feel like moving, and going to do something positive.  Some of the songs even, they make you smile after listening to them.  That’s kind of what I wanted to go towards, because even playing the album for friends and other artist friends that I have.  A lot of people have said that it’s kind of the antithesis of Celestial Clockwork, because it’s a little brighter and more positive, but it still has the same elements as far as the storytelling, and you know, I’m still me on it, but it’s not as dark.

JB: I mean that was something I felt even from the first EP, you’ve definitely done some projects for fun in the past, but a lot of your earlier work was a little darker, and definitely very introspective, and I think it was the first project I’ve heard from you where I felt, both from the production and the rhymes that it really has more of an upbeat vibe to it. Blockhead:

Yeah, I think an element of it, is it’s kind of like a grown-up talking.  It’s an adult.  It’s not a child.  We’re in our thirties, Illogic you’re a little younger than I am, but you’re in your thirties right?

Illogic:

Yeah.

Blockhead:

But you know we’re adults, so to make music about other things would be kind of pointless at this point.  It just seems like it fits the whole album, it’s a mature album.

Illogic:

I mean definitely, I’m married, I have three kids, I’ve been married for almost eleven years and I’ve raised my boys.  So I do talk about family on there, I talk about just a lot of things that I’ve gone through as a grown up, because I’m not a kid anymore.  A lot of the music that I put out before was made when I was young.  So I haven’t really done a lot of music that has been released as a grown-up.  So these songs have been written in the last couple of years while I was in my thirties.  So it does have that grown up feel, lyrically and I think the sound is a lot more mature too.  It’s definitely nothing like “what  the kids are listening to today.”

JB: You guys worked with Open Mike Eagle and Has-lo on this project.  You worked with Rob Sonic on the last project?  What was it like working with those guys? Illogic:

It’s funny because Blockhead actually introduced me to Open Mic Eagle as far as his music.  I had heard of him, but I hadn’t heard his music, until you put together a mix or something of like new rappers.  “Nightmares,” was on that mix, and I heard that and I was just amazed by this guy.  So I reached out to him via twitter and I reached out to him and said, I want to do some music with you.  And that’s pretty much how that happened. Has-Lo actually, iCON the Mic King hooked me and him up, and said that we should do music together.  So we just talked and this song kind of came up and I asked him to be on it, so that’s how that happened.

Blockhead:

And Rob, you know I’m boys with Rob.  So I was able to get Rob on it.

Illogic:

Yeah and I was a fan of Sonic Sum, and I didn’t even know who Rob Sonic was.  I didn’t even know Rob Sonic was his name in the group.  I just knew of Sonic Sum and I was a huge fan of Sonic Sum, before I even knew that these guys knew Rob Sonic.  So that was just a plus for me.  That was like listening to somebody that I grew up listening to a little bit.  So that was great, that was a plus for me.

JB: And do you guys have any other surprises or collaborations coming up on the album? Blockhead:

Should we tell him?  Or…

Illogic:

I don’t know, can we keep it a secret?

Blockhead:

We got Kanye!  Just kidding.

Illogic:

There’s a few surprises – I get to work with one of my heroes which is awesome – I’ll say he’s from Project Blowed.  I’ll say that much.  There’s a good number of guest appearances, but not too much.  I got new some guys, Zero Star from here in Columbus, another guy King Vada, who is actually from here in Columbus, those are newer guys that are coming up.  But there’s some veterans that are on there too.

Blockhead:

It’s definitely not like a 2Chainz mixtape in the sense that there’s not a lot a guests.  The guests were picked specifically, you know?

Illogic:

Yeah and some of the guests only do hooks.  So it’s not like it’s overly done with guest verses.  There’s really only a few guest verses.  A lot of the guests that are on there maybe only do the hooks here and there.  So it’s not overdone with guests, but there are some surprises, at least one or two.

JB: You guys incentivize people to buy the physical copy of the album?  It seems like nowadays most artists are doing the opposite, charging less for the digital copy and then adding digital only bonus tracks, etc.  Why is it important for you to still put out physical copies and why do you add extra goodies when you do? Illogic:

That was kind of my idea, because a lot of people still like to actually have physical copies.  I know I do, even though I get right home and put it right on my ipod, but I still like to actually go to the store and buy a physical copy.  I actually just got a cd in the mail from amazon a couple days ago.  You remember Speech from Arrested Development?

JB & Blockhead:

Yeah.

Illogic:

I got his first album, I ordered it from amazon just so I could have a physical copy.  But a lot of people still like those, and I think for those that are willing to spend the extra money for the shipping and all I think they do deserve to get a little extra, because that is something special.  Anybody can find the link to download it, and that’s why it’s free, the downloadable version is free.  You know, you can pay something if you want, but the downloadable version is free.  But if you actually want to support us in that way and get the cd, then I think you deserve a little bonus.

JB: Illogic you obviously have a unique style on record, both in terms of your delivery and your word choice and vocabulary.  What’s your process like when you’re writing a song?

Illogic:

You’d be surprised that I write 95% of the music that I record at work.  And I work at a call center, so in the process of taking phone calls I’m writing rhymes.  And I don’t understand exactly why, but it’s always been like that, except for when I was in college and I didn’t actually have a job.  Once I started working and being around people and being in that atmosphere of a lot of different voices and a lot of different opinions and seeing people’s daily struggles and the things people go through on a daily basis, it inspires me to write, because that’s the kind of writer that I am, I write about that kind of stuff.  So, you know it’s weird, because I don’t necessarily have a process.  I just open a word document and throw some beats on and in between phone calls I write rhymes down.  It’s really that simple, I don’t really have a process strangely enough.

JB: You say you throw beats on, do you always write your rhymes to the beat you’re going to record on, or do you ever write to one beat and then find a home for the lyrics later on?

Illogic:

These days I write to the beat that I’m recording to just so that it’ll fit.  Because I try to make sure that the way that I rhyme, and the way that I try to use my voice these days, I try to make sure that what I’m saying that at the end of the day it’ll be a complete item – the beat, and the song, and the verses, and the way that they flow over the track – that all of that matches.

I used to write just randomly, and just write and just always have verses available.  And sometimes I still do that, just to have things available, because I still write a lot of poetry, and a lot of my poetry ends up turning into rhymes, and turning into songs, that I didn’t write to beats necessarily.  But for the most part, especially for all of the stuff that me and Blockhead have done, all of that was written to whatever it was recorded to, that’s the beat it was written to.  And I think that’s why a lot of the songs really work, because the song itself is a complete work, as opposed to you know just something I threw onto that, that I wrote two years ago, or five years ago.  And some of the songs are re-done – some of the songs are songs that I did write a few years ago that I re-fit to some of the beats.  But for the most part, it was written to that exact beat that I’m recording to.

JB: Do you write the hook first?  Does it matter to you?  Do you sometimes write verses first or is it just kind of whatever is coming to you?

Illogic:

It’s just kind of whatever is coming to me.  A lot of times I’ll write a song and I’ll write a verse, and then I’ll write a second verse.  And the second verse that I write ends up being the actual first verse of the song.  Sometimes I’ll write four bars that I think I’m working on the verse and it’ll end being the hook.  It just depends on where the beat takes me and where the music takes me and where the mood takes me.  But there’s no rhyme or reason to how I write.  I mean I’m pretty neat.  I have good penmanship, so when I write my words down as opposed to typing them it’s still pretty nice and neat.  I write in complete sentences, I don’t have crazy things all over the place, so I’m pretty structured as far as when I write it down, because I’m a writing student.  But as far as the process there’s no real rhyme or reason to how I come up with the songs.

JB: I always love talking to artists about this, because a lot of time when an artist tells you their process there work makes sense in a new light.  Like I’ve had a few rappers tell me that if they can’t get the hook they’ll just move on and throw the beat out.  And those are usually the people who are more driven on singles or having catchy hooks, but their verses might not be as deeply involved.  So it’s just interesting to get that perspective from different rappers.

Illogic:

See for like for me hooks aren’t as big of a deal.  Like a lot of my music back in the day, didn’t have a hook.  You know the hooks that I did have they weren’t necessarily catchy hooks they were complex hooks.  I had sixteen bar hooks, you know?  So hooks for me aren’t necessarily that important, because of the kind of writer and rapper that I am.  So I don’t really do the hook until maybe at the end unless it comes to me in the process.  But hooks are usually at the end.

JB: Blockhead what are your tools of the trade these days as far as making beats?  

Blockhead:

I pretty much use the same stuff I’ve been using forever.  I use the ASR-10, but I added Ableton to the mix, and I have a Moog that I started messing with recently.  I used to use the ASR and then drop it into Ableton and now I kind of work with them at the same time.  But my process has not really changed that dramatically since I figured it out back in the day.

JB: So everything is basically outboard gear for you?

Blockhead:

Yeah, yeah, like I don’t even have pro tools in my house.  Like I have the most lo-fi, gutter studio on the planet.  Like I don’t even have monitors in my house.

Illogic:

(Laughing) Wow, I didn’t know that.

Blockhead:

Yeah, I know it’s fucked up right? There’s not much space man.  But it serves me fine, I think.  It always sounds fine to me.  When it comes down to it, it sounds how I want it to sound.  And when I’m mixing albums, I don’t do it at my house, I do it elsewhere, or have someone else do it that has the right equipment.

JB: And any reason why?  Is it a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” kind of thing?

Blockhead:

I mean Pro Tools, I’ve never really been dying to learn it to be honest with you, and I just kind of work in my own little world.  And once I got a handle on Ableton, I kind of realized that you could do the same thing in Ableton.  Like you can mix in Ableton and have it sound really good and take it to get mastered.  So I just figured I’d just skip that whole step.  And as far as monitors, that’s just me.  I’m not really a technical guy, and I’m really of frugal when it comes to buying equipment.  I just never get around to it, and it’s never really been that much of a hindrance, except for when say, my computer crashes, which happened recently.  But other than that, I’m more of a creature of comfort and I’m very comfortable with what I use and I feel that benefits how things come out.  Like I may not know how to play the most instruments, but the one’s I do know I can really master.  And by instruments I mean my sampler, my gear.

JB: Yeah I was going to say, I didn’t know you played any instruments.

Blockhead:

Nah, nah.  I mean I can figure stuff out on a keyboard.  I can compose on some level, but you know if you want a blazing guitar riff, I’m not the guy.

JB:  You’ve worked with a bunch of different rappers but do you generally just make beats and then send people stuff you think they’ll like or do you make beats with a specific rapper in mind?  Do you get their input in terms of what they want and go make beats, etc?  

Blockhead:

I use to – because I worked with Aesop so much – I would make beats thinking, “Oh, this is something Aesop would like.”  I would make other stuff too, but the only person I would think of like that was Aesop.  But over the last like four years or so, I’ve just been like fuck it, I’m going to make any kind of beat whenever I want.  It’s been kind of liberating, I don’t have anyone in mind, and when I’m done I’ll kind of sit back – because right now I’m working with a lot of rappers – I can kind of sit back on these beats and be like ‘Huh, I bet this guy would that.’  And I don’t make it for them, but afterwards it will jump out at me a little bit.

JB: Are you the godfather of Enya Rap beats?

Blockhead:

(Both laughing) No.  You know what?  I don’t think I am.  Because I sample a lot of flutes and stuff, or I’ve been known in the past to sample a lot of flutes, but the whole cloud rap stuff that is kind of taking that and running with it, I definitely don’t think that it’s because of me.

JB: Now, you don’t think they heard Aesop Rock “Water,” and they just ran with it?

Blockhead:

No, I think that’s just kind of a natural sound that people have kind of come around to.  But you know, I get clowned, like Aesop always clowns me for sampling flutes a lot – he says “elf life has shelf life” (both laugh).  You know I just like weird instruments, that’s kind of my thing, but I don’t think, like the Enya thing, with me it comes from sampling world music.  Like when I was younger and would buy 99 cent records, that’s where I would find a lot of sounds, on old world records and weird kind of like – not Enya – but like early 80’s late 70’s whatever that genre of music that Enya is.  I don’t know Adult Contemporary? What do you call that?

JB and Illogic:

I don’t know.

Blockhead:

But whatever that is, I found a lot of old records like that.  But yeah, what’s going on now, with actually sampling Enya is crazy.  You can’t sample Enya.  It’s too famous, it’s like sampling fucking John Tesh.

JB: I’ve heard a couple of artists sample John Tesh recently, actually.

Blockhead:

Well, between you and me, and everyone else reading this interview, there is a John Tesh sample on my first solo album, but it’s just a note, it’s like two notes and I played them out totally differently, but I definitely sampled John Tesh.  And that was in 2002 or something.

JB: You know that’s gonna be the lead to the interview right?

Blockhead:

(Both laugh) Blockhead samples John Tesh.

JB: Illogic you’ve worked with a lot of producers over the years, and you have mentioned not wanting people to look at it as a one off project, are you two planning to continue to work together after this project?

Illogic:

I mean I don’t see why we wouldn’t, but it’s not something where we’re working on a follow-up record already.  I mean I think it’s something that could possibly happen, depending on the success of Capture the Sun and who picks it up if anybody picks it up.  Like they may want us to do another record.  I mean it’s possible, it’s always possible.  But I’m always  looking to do new things, I want to get into producing eventually – I know I’m getting older – but I would like to, like the last solo record I do, I would love to produce my own record.  I mean that’s something that I’ve been looking at, I’ve got samples on my computer and I’ve done things like that, but I haven’t gotten into really making beats yet, but you know it’s something I would like to do.  But I don’t see why we wouldn’t continue to work together.

Blockhead:

I’d like Illogic to produce my solo album (both laugh).

Illogic:

We might be able to figure that out.

Blockhead:

Yeah I got old joints that I could pull out.  I was going through my itunes the other day, and I found like some old rap songs I did in ’96, and I was like ‘ooh, I stopped for a reason.’

Illogic:

That’s funny I would love to hear those.

Blockhead:

No one will ever hear those.

JB: Blockhead, what are some of the other projects you’re working on as well?  I know you’ve been working with some different emcees currently.

Blockhead:

Aside from the Illogic stuff, I’ve been working on albums with Open Mike Eagle, Billy Woods, and with MarQ Spekt.  As far as the progress of those, I’d say that the Billy Woods album is the most done, the Open Mike Eagle second most done, and MarQ Spekt is really early on.  But yea, I think Illogic kind of lit a flame under my ass in the sense when he hollered at me to do the EP, I thought, “Oh, you know that’s a good idea, working with rappers who I like, that I’ve never really worked with extensively – that’s a good idea.”  So I kind of made myself very available and twitter definitely didn’t hurt for that kind of stuff.   So I just kind of started seeking out the rappers who I listened to in my own spare time, like Illogic, like Mike Eagle, like MarQ Spekt, and Billy Woods.  Really, I don’t even know if we’re going to sell these albums, I don’t know what we’re going to do, we’re just making them.  Just because, because why not?

Illogic:

Yeah because that’s the thing, like if someone does pick up Capture the Sun I would love for someone to pick it up, I would love for it to come out on a label, but I don’t want it to be sitting around for five years waiting for somebody to put it out.  I mean if it comes down to it, we can just put it out like we’ve been doing the EP.  You know, I wouldn’t mind doing that – I would rather not (both laugh) – but at the same time the way the music climate is nowadays it’s possible that it could come down to that if no labels are willing to put the record out.  I don’t think that’ll happen, but I think we can just continue to do music, everybody can continue to do music, because we do good music and people do support it and no matter if it’s on grand stage or not, as long as it’s available people will listen.

Blockhead:

And one thing to add to that, is I think in a way taking all the labels out of it – I mean granted ideally I’d like an advance, and someone to promote your record – but you know there is a sort of create friend to not really giving a shit about what’s going to happen to the album, or having to worry about what about this song or what about that song.  You just do it.  It reminds me of making music when I was way younger, before I even considered making music as a career.  And there’s a certain feeling to that, like, ‘hey whatever happens man.’

Illogic:

Yeah, because then you get to have fun with it again.  You know what I’m saying, it’s not as serious, it’s not like “Oh, I gotta make sure I’ve got a single.”  You don’t have to worry about that, because whatever song you want to put out this week will be the single.  You don’t have to go and get permission basically, of what song and what music to put out, you know if this costs money or that costs money, there’s a lot more freedom with the independence of putting out music the way we’ve done these EPs.  Just independently of labels.  It makes it more fun and exciting to do it.

Blockhead:

I agree.  I think the idea of controlling your own destiny – of course money would be nice too – but if we can’t get money for it we get freedom, and that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Illogic:

Yeah, not at all.

JB: Each of you – Name two rap albums you’ve really been impressed with this year.

Illogic:

This year?!  Have I heard a new rap album that came out this year?

Blockhead:

Well actually I could name like five, it’s been a great year for rap I think.

Illogic:

I think it has, but I don’t think I’ve really… The Anx album from Dark Time Sunshine is amazing.

Blockhead:

See I haven’t even heard that one yet, I’ve got to check it out.

Illogic:

That album is amazing.  The production, the rhymes, everything about that record is awesome.  I don’t know, let me think of another one, go ahead Tony.

Blockhead:

I love the Billy Woods album, that’s my shit.  That’s my favorite album of the year, History Will Absolve Me.

Illogic:

I haven’t even heard that record.

[Editor’s note: JB and Blockhead spend a few minutes convincing Illogic he needs to go check the Billy Woods album]

Blockhead:

That and the Ka album I like a lot.

Illogic:

See I haven’t heard that either, I’ve been interested in that one.  I haven’t heard that one yet and I want to hear that.

Blockhead:

That album’s a creeper, because when I first heard it I was kind of like, this guy is kind of mellow to the point where you almost might get bored with it, but when you hear what he’s saying and the way the album is put together is very sparse, it’s a very powerful album.  It’s a winter album though, I’d wait till it gets cold to start listening to it, it’ll hit you better.  What else I got? The El-P and Killer Mike album, and the Aesop album too, but I feel weird even bringing that into it, because it’s a little close to him kind of thing, and I like the HomeboySandman EPs a lot.  There’s more too, if I opened my itunes there’d be a lot more if I looked at what I’ve been listening to, but it’s been a good year.

Illogic:

For me it’s interesting, because I don’t listen to that much hip hop, especially new hip hop.  I listen to a lot more alternative music and R&B and rock and stuff.  The hip hop that I listen to is very sparse.  I’m interested in a lot of stuff, but it’s not, you know some hip hop these days is not really exciting to me and maybe it’s because I’m one of those snobs that don’t really go look for it, so I don’t hear it.  But I heard a lot of good about Homeboy Sandman, I’ve heard a few of his songs and I like him as artist, I just haven’t really gotten a chance to dive into him and study him.  Because there’s so many artists these days, it’s not like it used to be.  Like you used to be able to take a cd home and it be in your cd player for a week and a half, two weeks you bump that album.  But these days, you know five or six albums come out a week and I just can’t keep up, so a lot of times I just kind of tune it out, because there’s so much.

Blockhead:

I’ve got to make you a mix or something, because there’s a lot of good stuff.  Like this year has been unusually strong for rap compared to how bad it was like five years ago.

Illogic:

I’ve been excited for Ka since he was on the Pro Tools record.  Like when I first heard him on the Pro Tools record I didn’t even know who he was, and I don’t know if that was the first time he had something out that was nationally available, but when I heard him on that record I was amazed and I was like “who is this dude?”  I mean I know that song back and forth, like I love that song.

Blockhead:

Did you remember him when he was in Natural Elements?

Illogic:

No.

Blockhead:

He was like one of the outlier guys in Natural Elements and he yelled a lot, he really wasn’t good.  I remember being like “this dude sucks,” like back in the day like in 1997 or 1996, like him Mr Voodoo and L-Shift would all rhyme together and I remember like “who is this guy?”  And for him to come back fifteen years later with a completely reinvented style and just an almost monk-like mind.  He’s a deep dude.

JB: You’d be into it Illogic and he’s somebody, where he’s about forty years old and he just recently taught himself how to produce and he produced all of Grief Pedigree.

Illogic:

So there is hope for me.

JB: And it’s really sparse, it’s just basic sample based, very lightly drummed.

Blockhead:

Yeah there’s no like kick, kick, snare it’s like the shaking of a rattle and then like a tamborine hit.  It’s very sparse and it’s awesome.  You don’t hear music like that really ever, it’s ballsy, because there’s nothing marketable about it at all and that’s what’s so great about it.

Illogic: 

Yeah I’ve got to check it out, because I’ve heard a lot about the album, I just haven’t taken the time to seek it out, like it’s on itunes I”m sure right?

Blockhead:

Yeah, definitely.  I have to check him out and just get it.  And I haven’t picked up Trophies yet either and I heard that was a good record.

Illogic:

Trophies with OC and Apollo Brown.  The reviews have been really good and I heard it was a great record I just haven’t heard it yet.

JB: Yeah I think there’s been a lot of good stuff and I think it goes back to what you were saying a little bit ago, about the lack of labels driving a lot of artists to be at their most creative and just bringing their music straight to the listener.

Illogic:

There’s a lot of good music just out there period nowadays, I mean there’s a lot of bad too don’t get me wrong, but the quality of music that is available these days, is a lot higher quality than people would think if you go out there and actually look you can find dope instrumentalists, you can find some really dope singers and rock bands.  The amount of music that’s out, the quality of it, is a lot better than people realize, people say music is dying and stuff like that, it’s not there’s a lot of good stuff out there if you look.

JB: You guys are going out to CO to do a show this weekend.  Will you be doing any tours or anything in promotion of the album do you think?

Blockhead:

Not at the moment.  We’ve just got this one show I guess to promote the EP that we’ve got coming out and to enforce the notion that we’re not just two guys making music together randomly.  We actually want to be seen together, because this is our first show together, because he’s in Ohio and I’m in New York.  And Denver is a really accepting loving city for me at least.  I’ve always gotten mad love in Denver.  So I think it’s a good place to set it off.

Illogic:

Yeah I’m looking forward to it and I think a festival-like venue, will play a lot to the strength of Tony’s instrumental stuff and my rapping.  So I think it’ll play to the strength of what we’re going to do during our set, because it’s not all going to be rap for the forty-five minutes to an hour that we’re doing.  Like it’s going to be instrumental music, rap, and you know stuff.  So I think it will play great and I hope down the line we can do more shows together, I don’t see why we wouldn’t.

Comments
  1. […] and sounding more than comfortable over Blockhead’s up-tempo production.  Illogic hinted in an excellent interview he and Blockhead did with Hardwood Blacktop that the EP was a little darker and more political in […]

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