Blockhead – Music By Cavelight (released: March 2004)
At some point in my collecting of musical goodness, I stumbled upon Blockhead. Now, being a serious Def Jux fan (“WHO?” you ask…well, I’ll tell you…the record label involving the likes of Aesop Rock, El-P, Mr. Lif, Cannibal Ox, and many more…if you’re not familiar…well, I’ll probably review them later…but definitely worth a listen) I found Blockhead’s sounds familiar. After minimal research, I discovered that this was the producer behind many of my favorite underground hip hop tracks. Besides that, I discovered that the hip hop beats he was creating for these rappers was merely the tip of the iceberg for this musical genius (remember…almost 90% of the iceberg is underwater!).
And please, believe me when I say that Blockhead is NOT your typical producer. I think a common misconception in the world of hip hop producers is that they can only produce a repetitive, looped 4 to 8 bar beat. While this is evident in many of the mainstream producers you may be familiar with (not naming any names here), Blockhead is of a different breed. While the majority of producers work with their four piece band (guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums) Blockhead acts as if he has an entire full orchestra at his disposal. And perhaps he does!
Upon listening to “Music By Cavelight”, you will find yourself confronted with catchy piano loops, rich strings, bold horns, and perfectly placed vocal cuts. Note…Blockhead is NOT a DJ! And while there is minimal cutting and scratching on this album, it is not the focus nor does it detract from its orchestral nature. Also, please let me add that I am in no means attempting to scare the hip hop heads away…this album does contain sick beats throughout it as well as sufficient scratches to maintain the “hip hop vibe”…however I think you will have to be thinking outside the box to generate any coherent rhymes over these beats (assuming you’re trying to freestyle, that is). Truly, this is a wonderful blend of beats, rhythms, and melodies. Think DJ Shadow with less scratching and a greater diversity of instrumentation. Blockhead is anything but what his name might believe you to think. In fact…you may find him to be quite the opposite (hence the “musical genius” label above)!
My personal favorites on the album consist of “Road Rage Breakdown”, “Breathe and Start”, and “Insomniac Olympics”. There are so many more to name, but let me keep it to those three. “Road Rage Breakdown” follows its chosen name by literally breaking down in the middle of the track to reveal another complimentary beat…only to return to the original melody. “Breathe and Start” starts with the previously mentioned catchy piano loop which rapidly builds on quick drum patterns (think drum and bass-esque) followed by sax and strings. And again…midway through your exploration into this new world of bumping beats and melodies, the song switches it up and takes a new path with the words “…he’s lost after all…listen!”. I’ve provided an interesting video interpretation of “Insomniac Olympics” above for you to enjoy. I won’t say much, as I hope the song can speak for itself. This album is surely one you will be passing to friends with the words “Just give it one listen…”.
Trust me…you need to know about Blockhead – Music By Cavelight…educate yourself!