Album Review: Illogic & Blockhead ‘Capture The Sun’
Illogic and Blockhead seemed liked a natural fit as an MC/producer team from the time they announced they were working on an album a couple years ago. Blockhead needed an MC to work with after Aesop Rock became his own producer and Illogic was looking for a producer to help him craft another classic like he and Blueprint did with his 2004 album Celestial Clockwork. A few years after Illogic first reached out to Blockhead to work on a project, Capture The Sun is here, and it feels like an album from a MC/producer group that’s been together for years instead of a random rapper/beat-maker forced combo.
As an MC, Illogic has evolved over the years. Thought provoking, poetic word play has always been a calling card, but throughout Capture The Sun Illogic relies less on cleverness and more on sharing hard earned life wisdom and truths. “Capture The Sun” and “Beautiful Sunday” are back to back cuts that are probably more representative of the album than any other two individual songs. Neither is overtly religious, but both focus on the power of positive thinking and the importance of seizing the day. “Capture The Sun” was the first single and features Slug from Atmosphere on the hook. I previously featured its great video for Thought on Tracks. Blockhead incorporates a couple of great vocal samples (a levitating wail on “Capture The Sun” and a soul refrain on “Beatiful Sunday”) that really drive the songs and help to demonstrate the complex art behind his layered, sample based productions.
“Bridges” is less than two minutes long but it packs a serious punch. Illogic uses one verse to paint a vivid picture detailing his struggle with cancer as a youth, his ability to gain strength through becoming a husband and father, and finally his willingness to burn a bridge with ‘Fess’ (presumably former Greenhouse Effect member Manifest). Blockhead’s simple infectious beat must have really lit a fire under Illogic because his verse is probably the albums best, opening with the gem “Talk is cheap, but a whisper is priceless/ I choose to take a leap of faith no matter what the price is”.
Blockhead’s production is so varied at this point in his career that Capture The Sun doesn’t sound like it was produced by one person. His beat for “Justified” might be my favorite of the bunch because of the multitude of samples and shifts that the song utilizes while still maintaining a cool swing. Illogic and Blueprint trade verses about the role race and racism have on the way the police do their job in America and show why they always make such a great team. “Atlantis Depth” is another great contribution from Blockhead featuring some great jabbing guitar riffs and a creepy vocal sample that sounds like it’s coming from the depths. Blockhead’s judicious use of horns on “Atlantis Depth” and throughout the album complement Illogic’s vocals perfectly, they always seem to come in at the right time.
Capture The Sun ends on a high note with the album’s best song “Lighthouse.” Blockhead’s trippy, morphing beat sets the stage for Illogic to spit another of the albums best verses. Opening strong with- “Showered in blankets of two dimensional soothsayers/ today’s truth sayers are stick figured visionaries/ There’s a gaping hole in the basket we placed our eggs in/ This explains the constant eggshell walking”, Illogic uses the his verse to gaze outward at the world around him and ask “where will we draw the line to ensure that future generations aren’t ashamed of the legacies we leave?”. The song is capped off by a truly great appearance from singer/alternative hip hop Kristoff Kane that tails Illogic’s verse. I’d never heard of Kane before this release, but he’s made me an instant fan with his work on “Lighthouse.”
While the lead-up EP’s that Illogic and Blockhead released last year were recorded at the same time as the songs from Capture The Sun, all of the songs that made the album have a level of polished complexity not found on the EP’s. Capture The Sun is not a concept album, but Illogic’s spirituality is the bond that ties the sixteen tracks together. Illogic has always used religious imagery in his music, but he seems more confident and open with his spiritual side than ever before. Blockhead’s beats on the album sound like soul symphonies from the future. Already one of the one most consistently great beat makers around, Blockhead’s craftsmanship and attention to detail on every single song on Capture The Sun make it the best produced album I’ve heard in 2013. Go pick up the album up over at Man Bites Dog.
Written by John Bugbee
Video: Illogic & Blockhead “Capture The Sun”
Illogic and Blockhead released two solid EPs last year with Preparing For Capture and Preparing For Capture 2. Illogic’s verbose, internalized rhymes meshed perfectly with Blockhead’s soulful production. While I enjoyed the EPs, the duo’s upcoming LP Capture The Sun is the main course and one of my most anticipated releases of 2013. Below you can find the trippy visuals for the uplifting title track which features Slug from Atmosphere on the hook. Pick up Capture The Sun when it drops in April on Man Bites Dog Records.
Written by John Bugbee
EP Review: Illogic & Blockhead ‘Preparing for Capture 2’
Within the not-so-friendly confines of the modern music industry, making good music often isn’t enough. It seems that being prolific and learning how to market one’s self are almost equally important, as there’s always something new over the horizon to take hold of our limited attention spans and distract us from something possibly more worthy. Illogic and Blockhead have traditionally been the type of artists to focus on tightly crafted albums rather than one off projects and mixtapes, and thus haven’t had to release music at the rate the modern music fan is becoming accustomed to. The large amount of music they have recorded over the last couple years though, has allowed them to promote their upcoming album Capture The Sun with a series of EP’s and videos, keeping their name out there and making sure their full length LP will get the proper attention without sacrificing quality for quantity’s sake.
Not only have Illogic and Blockhead’s promotion and presentation been excellent for the previously featured Preparing for Capture EP and the newly released Preparing for Capture 2, but the music’s been pretty darn good as well. While the first EP was more contemplative and introspective in tone (in both Illogic’s rhymes and Blockhead’s beats), Preparing for Capture 2 has a raw edge to it that’s not really the norm for either artist. Blockhead’s beats thump particularly hard, but maintain his excellent use of texture shifts and subtle ambient touches. The three song run of “A Mile From Dead”, “Uncharted Path”, and “Wing Span” is a perfect example of why Blockhead is one of the best hip hop producers around. It’s not the instruments or sounds he samples, but the way he arranges them and makes the compositions his own that truly sets him apart. All three songs have similar elements, but each has its own unique feel and rhythm that always keeps his production fresh.
Illogic’s rhymes on Preparing for Capture 2 find him playing the role of observer more often than not 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 nature, which explains my sense that the outside world was his primary inspiration for the majority of these songs. “Dreamin” serves as the lead single and speaks on the economic machination of the world, featuring top notch wordplay from Illogic- “they got us burning books and Kindle Firing” (video). “Heartless” and “A Mile From Dead” are especially sharp lyrically, the prior taking people to task for materialism and a lack of compassion “you got your favorite cardigan, but tell me where your heart has been” and the latter serving as a calling for people to strive for a better life and to defy expectations and stereotypes.
Just like the first EP, which featured a stellar appearance from Rob Sonic, the guests are kept to a minimum on Preparing for Capture 2. Thoughts on Tracks favorite Open Mike Eagle and Has-Lo are the lone guests on the posse cut “From Scratch” and both deliver standout verses. Illogic ends the EP with the killer song “Past/Future”, tabbing Matisha Worthy to sing the hook. He uses the first verse to look back on his life to this point and the second verse to look towards the future. It’s a fitting way to end the EP, as the future looks very bright with Capture The Sun on the way. Listen to the release below. Name your price for a digital download or pick up a physical copy of Preparing For Capture via Bandcamp.
Written by John Bugbee