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The Music Scene

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Album Review

For now, let's leave aside the question of what makes instrumental hip-hop "hip-hop." (Samples? Breakbeats? A certain general texture or mood or variety of funkiness?) Instead of worrying about genre or categories, let's just focus on the quality of the music on Blockhead's third Ninja Tune release, which is close to jaw-dropping. It's not just the variety of source materials from which he draws, though that alone is pretty impressive: "It's Raining Clouds," the album's opening track, wanders from a cool downtempo mood to a sort of restrained drum'n'bass jitter by the end; "The Prettiest Sea Slug" swings indolently under an explicitly jazzy saxophone and piano; "Tricky Turtle" pairs an old-school funk vibe with splanky guitars, greasy horns, and a possibly African vocal sample; "Four Walls" critiques Auto-Tune abusers with a slow 6/8 groove and over the top vocoder effects. But the album's centerpiece is both more serious and more disturbing: titled "The Daily Routine," it features a laid-back and frankly quite pretty instrumental backing track over which are layered recordings of a drug-addicted couple having a screaming, profanity-laced argument. Everyone makes sample-based music these days, but very few people use found sounds and prefab musical snippets as creatively and thoughtfully as Blockhead does. Maybe he needs a new stage name.


Born: New York, NY

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Underground beat maestro Anthony Simon, better known as Blockhead, first lent his production hands in the mid-'90s to then up-and-coming MC Aesop Rock, who rose to indie rap prominence during the 2000s. Blockhead's contributions to Aesop's LPs were a big factor to the indie MC's success, especially those from Aesop's highly regarded Definitive Jux debut, Labor Days (2001). Nevertheless, in the following years the New York producer garnered his own acclaim as an instrumental rap artiste, turning his...
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The Music Scene, Blockhead
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  • £7.99
  • Genres: Electronic, Music
  • Released: 02 November 2009

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