Exclusive: Columbus-meets-Manhattan as Illogic and Blockhead speak about their Man Bites Dog Records full-length, and why it's an album that the emcee calls "Close to my heart."
After the precursor EP Preparing For Capture in 2012 and then a second installment earlier this year, Illogic & Blockhead finally released their full-length album Capture The Sun on April 16 via Man Bites Dog Records. While it traverses a number of topics, Capture The Sun is densely packed with its emcee’s revealing raps and an ever-layered approach to production. Rapper Illogic has largely built a career out of his calculated collaborations with single producers, most frequently with fellow Columbus, Ohio native and Greenhouse Effect groupmember Blueprint, and he has continued on with that trend in enlisting Aesop Rock mainstay Blockhead here. Earlier this week the duo spoke with HipHopDX about the album and its personal subject matter.
Illogic & Blockhead On The Benefits Of Working With One Producer At A Time
On the choice to unite with singular producers over the years, Illogic explained his reluctance to the alternative: “I’ve always done it just because all of my albums usually are conceptual and it makes it so much easier to stay focused on the concept and have a united sound of the record when you have one producer because you know it’s just you and that one other person working together. I’ve never really worked with multiple producers [on a single project] honestly, but I think when you do it’s harder to iron out a complete vision with records that have a concept because you have to get on the same page and it may be a little more difficult to stay focused on the content.”
Unlike Illogic, Capture The Sun marks Blockhead’s first (non-instrumental) album as sole beatsmith. While Blockhead boasts an impressive work history with a host of indie emcee’s over the past decade, his instrumental releases have been his main point of delivery as of late. Still, speaking with DX he voiced his excitement for the opportunity to craft a backdrop for a single emcee: “I think a lot of times, when people make albums with a ton of different producers—I mean there’s something to be said for like an album with two producers that share an artistic vision—but when you put together an album with like twelve different producers it ends up sounding kind of like a mixtape and it doesn’t have any continuity at all. And for me this was like the first chance I really got to do this and I jumped at the opportunity, and not only because I got to work with Illogic, but it’s something I always wanted to do that I never got the chance to. So yeah, it was definitely a fun experience, I’m definitely looking forward to doing more of stuff like this.”
Given that his instrumental work is generally characterized by a layers on layers quality, Blockhead also took the time to explain how he approaches making music explicitly for an emcee: “There’s no difference in how they’re made really, the only difference comes when it’s time to execute the song. If I’m working with a vocalist, [he/she] will fill up the spots that I normally would have to fill in with other music. So pretty much while there will always be layers in my beats and changes and stuff like that I can kind of back off a little bit and let the rapper take center stage. Whereas when I’m doing instrumental stuff you’re kind of focusing on every bar to be something different, or at least I am, I want things to constantly be changing and evolving and moving. So working with a rapper definitely lets me back up a little bit and kind of simplify the process which is nice because after awhile you get a little too heavy into the mechanics of making a beat and it’s a little overwhelming. And to be honest, there are plenty of songs on this album that I could have put on an instrumental album: 'Beautiful Sunday,' 'She Loves It,' there’s probably five or six songs that I could have put on an instrumental record.”
Illogic was quick to add on: “I think it also depends on the rapper too. You know some of the beats that Blockhead makes for his instrumental music I would like to rap over. And some rappers may think that it’s too busy or too musical or whatever to make a song out of but it’s all about the vision that the rapper has for the particular beat, so it could be something that may be meant for an instrumental record that the right artist could turn into a song. Also, with the way that Blockhead makes beats, there’s a lot of tracks where I kind of let the beat breathe a little bit instead of filling every space with my voice, like in 'Beautiful Sunday' where there’s the cuts and the singing, or 'And She Loves It' and I think it’s a flute part? It’s also about the artist respecting the beat as well and not just trying to fill it up with their voice all the time.”
Illogic Speaks On The Career-Long Project Of Finding His Voice
Despite giving Blockhead’s production a chance to shine, Illogic’s uniquely poetic delivery is no doubt one of Capture The Sun’s most alluring attributes. When asked about the development of his voice, Illogic pointed to his education outside of Hip Hop as a primary catalyst: “It does stem from my general writing, and poetry too, I started out just writing stories and understanding prose and learning more about writing and writing style in school, you know reading [William] Shakespeare and reading a lot of philosophers, reading a lot of things that were written in different ways. My background just in learning about writing and learning about language and reading and all of that plays a lot into my writing style and how it has developed over the years. Now I just write and it’s kind of just how I write but it took a lot because I was never really scared of words, I always was in love with words and I always was trying to find ways to twist and bend them into a way that they would fit over a beat or within the confines of a poem. But I always like the words to be as free as possible and in that I allow whatever style I’m using to be as free as possible. I don’t think I have a particular style of writing, a lot of my cadences are different on every song. I don’t really stick with one rhyme-pattern because I’ve been influenced by so many other artists and so many other writers that it’s hard for me to write songs that sound the same. For instance, I have a few songs that have writing and rhyming styles that I’ve never been able to duplicate just because I was in that zone and in that style. I’ve tried to duplicate some things and I can’t just because my mind doesn’t work that way.”
Illogic Reveals His Grandmother’s Role In Capture The Sun
While Illogic has a penchant for emotionally charged writing, Capture The Sun is an album particularly close to the emcee’s heart and family-life (the album is dedicated to his recently deceased grandmother): “My grandmother passed away about a month and a half ago , she’s always been a person that has trained her children and grandchildren to always go after their dreams no matter what. I mean she was a mother of nine children and went to school and got her Bachelor’s Degree in that process at the same time. So the reason I dedicated it to her is that the concept of the record, Capture The Sun, came from a lot of the things that she had taught me and kind of emulated her example to continue to go after my dream of being an artist, and making music, and talking and writing. You know I’ve always said that I want to write for the rest of my life, no matter if it’s writing songs or it’s writing books or whatever. And the record is just a testament to her perseverance and what she instilled in me and my family. I dedicated the record to her in the process of making it before she passed away. And in the process of us making the record she was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently passed away. So it’s a very close record to me for that particular reason as well because she actually did get to hear the record and she loved it which I thought was really cool. It’s definitely a record that’s really close to my heart and I think one of my best that I’ve done just because of the passion went into it.”