Posts Tagged ‘Open Mike Eagle’

“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 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.


Before last week was derailed by the leak of Cancer 4 Cure, I was really questioning what I was going to write about during the last full week of April.  I was contemplating another NBA piece, but if the analytics on this website have taught me anything it’s that people don’t really give two shits about what I think about the blazers or sixers, which doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to stop writing about them, but it’s not the primary focus of my energy on here for the time being.  Fortunately, the end of the week brought some nice pieces of music to talk about a bit.

 Z-Man & G-Pek returned from the ether this week to drop In Case You Forgot, a follow up to their impressive 2005 album, Don’t Forget to Brag.  Z-Man is of course most known for the 2004 Bay Area underground classic Dope or Dog Food, but he did return a couple years ago to drop the enjoyable free EP Show Up, Shut Up, and Rap.  The new album is $7 bucks on bandcamp and well worth the funds if you occasionally (or frequently) enjoy a well constructed album with good beats and fun(ny) storytelling.  As always, the major selling point for me of putting an album on bandcamp is that you can listen to it in its entirety without downloading it.  If you’ve been sleeping on Z-Man entirely, I recommend streaming the tracks from In Case You Forgot, and picking up the free EP from 2010 to see what you think, and then you can go from there.  But all that’s out there from him is worth purchasing so support if you can.  It’s more important than ever in an era where more talented artists than ever are finding it financially imprudent just to make music.  If it was a little longer I would’ve definitely considered giving this album the full album review treatment, but in the spirit of quality versus quantity (which is pretty much my motto these days – no YOLO) it’s deserving of some good critical analysis and I hope it gets some out there.  Definitely one of those albums that makes for a nice Sunday afternoon listen or amusing conversation piece.

“Exist to Remain” – I Self Devine


“Duck Hunt” – Billy Woods (produced by A.M. Breakups)

The rise of Company Flow and Black Star to prominence on the independent rap scene in New York City in the late nineties gave birth and hope to literally thousands of new artists over the years to come.  From direct relatives like the Def Jux labelmates to other small imprints like Brick Records, Landspeed, and Embedded and on and on a cottage industry of small independent rap labels cropped up, with emcees and producers embracing the dusty-but-digital aesthetic.  The term “abstract” in rap mushroom clouded from Q-Tip to Aesop Rock.  As this movement coincided with the widespread rise of the internet the independent market flooded with DIY artists who watered down this aesthetic with cheap bedroom studio knockoffs and imitations.  As quickly as young hip hop fans flocked to this new aesthetic on the heels of Funcrusher Plus, Cold Vein, and Labor Days, they ran from it as the “nerd rap” moniker and all that came with it threatened their self-esteem.

Billy Woods began to slowly garner a following back in 2002 and 2003 with the release of his first albums, Camouflage, which featured Cannibal Ox’s Vordul Megallah on a third of the tracks, and Chalice, but at the time these limited pressings were lost amidst the slew of Def Jukies and relatives/offshoots like the artists who recorded for the Embedded and Johnny23 imprints.  A lack of promotion, unpolished production, and a crowded market consealed Billy Woods’s talent to a degree, though in hindsight it was clearly there.  It didn’t help that he came out amidst the dawn of the aforementioned anti-nerd rap backlash.  As the market was flooding with artists possessing similar sensibilities, New York mainstream acts like Dipset and Ghostface Killah offered a more polished and accessible alternative for fans who wished to revel in humorous references and abstraction without facing the stigma of being a “nerd rap” fan.  Nevermind that the always diminutive descriptor never really fit Woods (or a slew of other talented artists from that era).  Sure Billy Woods creates cerebral hip hop, and has a flow that’s probably more influenced by Chuck D and great political orators than it is by Nas or Jay-Z, but that doesn’t mean that the music he creates is anything other than hardcore rap music.