Blockhead (born Anthony “Tony” Simon), is a Manhattan-based hip-hop producer who has worked with MC’s such as Aesop Rock, Murs, Cage, Mike Ladd & many others. With his new album “The Music Scene”, he is establishing himself as an elite downtempo artist we need to keep our eyes on.
Blockhead uses infectious, diverse samples: guitars, classical and ethnic strings, horns, flutes and live bass with vocals pulled from African folk music and Opera. He has developed a very smooth, refined sound, layered with hip-hop beats that crackle and pop like vinyl.
A lot of electronica tracks, including some of Blockhead’s earlier work, settle into one catchy part and don’t evolve further, fading out complacently. He now keeps it moving, and the individual parts are so rich and varied in themselves that they rarely feel dull or repetitive.
Compared to his first release in 2004, “Music By Cavelight”, there is much more instrumentation and the beats are more polished and eclectic. ‘Cavelight’ is another notable album; its more hip-hoppy, with heavier beats and scratching, straight drumming and traditional lounge/downtempo elements. This new album sounds more like a live band using samples, and is in many ways his best work yet.
I never know when to listen to this stuff though… occasions seem rare, as the tunes are hard to categorize – often busy for “back beats” but not dance music. It has hints of RJD2, Prince Paul and DJ Shadow with a little bit of The Herbalizer but is something unique, strangely mellow and organic.
The tracks show off his sharpening production skills and make me itch for him to collaborate with more bands and instrumentalists. It contains some great songs and shows exciting potential. Blockhead seems only limited by the samples and sounds available to him, and as his library and palette expand, his music grows more complex and interesting. Four albums deep already, he is sure to be a staple of the downtempo/trip-hop genres for years to come.
Grab the album digitally on iTunes or NinjaTune now, vinyl coming soon!