Album Review: Illogic & Blockhead – Preparing for Capture 2

Posted: September 12, 2012 in Album Review, Best of 3rd Q 2012
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“Dreamin'” – Illogic & Blockhead

Preparing for Capture 2 begins with a sample from a scene in Poolhall Junkies in which Christopher Walken’s character lectures Mars Callahan’s about having a minor league syndrome – messing around with two-bit pool hustlers for so long that he’s begun to lose site of the true scope of his talents, lose site of the fact that he has the ability and talent for something much greater.  It’s an interesting and probably honest choice for Illogic, a rapper who’s skills and abilities as a writer have long suggested that he deserved a more prominent position in rap culture.  After all, at the age of nineteen, Illogic dropped an album in Unforeseen Shadows that many considered one of the best independent rap albums to come out around the turn of the millenium, and certainly one of the more lyrically astonishing debuts  – a masterwork of introspective bedroom rap – the hip hop world has ever seen.  Although he was early to embrace the notion of dropping multiple promotional side projects (the Write to Death series, the Got Lyrics? battle rhyme themed EP, his Off the Clock EP with DJ PRZM) it took him four more years to drop his dense and dark follow-up Celestial Clockwork – a further testament to his savant-like status with a pen when it comes to crafting stories, delivering tracks with strong a strong conceptual framework, and cold getting dumb with the rhymes.  Since the release of Celestial Clockwork, Illogic has certainly put out projects that have plenty of merit, but they’ve been on a smaller scale.  Only 2009’s Diabolical Fun was released on a real label – the same Columbus imprint, Weightless Recordings, that he built along with his longtime collaborator and friend Blueprint.  The Poolhall Junkies sample may also have some meaning to Blockhead who seems to be looking to kick it into gear – by working on producer and rapper collaborative albums – after taking a few years off from heavy producing of rap albums after long-time collaborator Aesop Rock moved out to the Bay Area several years ago.  As Illogic and Blockhead look for a home for Capture the Sun, which Illogic said those around him describe as “the antithesis of Celestial Clockwork” in our recent interview there’s no doubt that both artists have taken their task of collaboration outside of the lens of label oversight seriously, an opportunity for both of them to embrace using their art for more purposeful and personally satisfying ends.

The music of Preparing for Capture 2 has a sense of urgency that wasn’t present on the first EP,  perhaps Blockhead and Illogic decided to turn the heat up a bit in their quest to land a legitimate home for Capture the Sun, or perhaps Illogic just got on a bit more of an activist vibe lyrically and Blockhead worked to support the pressing nature of the material sonically.  While the first EP showcased a more fun loving and positive vibe that was lacking in most of the darker more introspective work from Illogic’s back catalog, the follow-up showcases Illogic and Blockhead each taking on a more hardcore tone.  Don’t get me wrong, the unofficial Ohio rap poet laureate hasn’t started selling drugs or brandishing automatic weapons, and Blockhead isn’t trying his hand at synth bathed trap beat creation (although on one of the CD only bonus tracks, Blockhead’s remix, of “A Mile From Dead,” does sound like it’s sampling something along the lines of Contra machine gun blasts), what they are doing is creating music with a sense of urgency and an edge not too often present in either of their work.

On the EP’s first song “Heartless,” Illogic throws the listener into several doomsday, revolutionary, Armageddon, and fight or flight situations type situations and challenges them on whether their heart is really behind the convictions they’ve  spoken to so boldly over the years.  In today’s society where so much communication is coffee shop banter or 140 character boasting the question of how passionate people actually are about anything is a valid one.  Blockhead’s drives the track’s unease with a pulsating intruder alertish sample that drifts in and out of an otherwise innocuous bassline and drum track.  While it’s one of the album’s most laid back and fittingly dreamy in vibe, “Dreamin'” is the EP’s call to action, as Illogic examines the ludicrousness and dream-like quality of so many of the domestic affairs in the US seem today, from the working class’s perpetual loss of freedoms, rising cost of living, the pointlessness of the current political process, and America’s bankrupt consumerism.

“From Scratch” is an unusual song, a posse cut from three rappers – Illogic, Open Mike Eagle, & Has-Lo – who are as comfortable with humorous self-examination and self-deprecation as they are with actual shit talking. It’s a clever twist on the typical battle rap theme posse cut, as the rappers essentially end up exposing the weaknesses of others through their own honest self-examination, creating a satirical look at many of rap’s hackneyed topics du jour.  “From Scratch” is a bit outside the general theme of the project – although it does indirectly tie into the examination of the purpose behind one’s art – but a welcome interlude from the project’s more serious tone.

From there the EP really settles into a groove of as Blockhead, usually known to embrace more melodious backdrops, tries his hand at some darker more brooding material – something like an updated and more developed version  of portions of the approach he took on Float – with great results and Illogic returns to a more serious analysis of the world’s affairs and his own place in it.  Perhaps it’s adulthood, or a desire to raise his kids in a better world, but it’s interesting to watch an emcee so long dedicated to self-examination turn his lens outward, challenging himself and others to step-up to the task at hand.  “A Mile From Dead,” “Uncharted Path,” and “Wing Span,” all fit right in with this theme, building on the work of “Heartless,” and “Dreamin.'”  On a more upbeat Blockhead track, the Matisha Worthy assisted “Past/Future,” Illogic ends the EP by returning to the self-examination that built his career early on, explaining – in what for him are unusually straightforward terms – a bit about his own life journey and where he wants to take it over the coming years, tying back into the theme of improving the world for ourselves and our children.

With Preparing for Capture 2, on the one hand you have Illogic waxing a bit political and suggesting that he’s had enough of the world’s insanity and the dominance of the 1%, on the other hand you have both Illogic and Blockhead expressing the need for their voices on the rap scene with more urgency than they showed on the first, more lighthearted EP.  Each EP offers an intriguing glimpse as to the kind of material that awaits from Blockhead and Illogic on their full-length project and with these high quality stand alone EPs being made up of material that didn’t make the final cut, there’s no doubt that Capture the Sun will be one of the most anticipated projects either of them have been involved with in sometime when it does get a release date.  In the meantime, we have seventeen tracks of high quality material (21 if you buy the CD versions with bonus tracks) to digest from them as their label situation for the LP materializes.

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  1. […] 11. Illogic & Blockhead – Preparing For Capture 2 – Download […]

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