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Illogic and Blockhead: Capture the Sun

Illogic and Blockhead: Capture the Sun

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Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Few, if any, hip-hop artists have ever been able to walk the line of rapper and poet like Columbus, Ohio MC Illogic. While typically the “poet” designation in hip-hop is a red flag that you’re about to listen to something really pretentious, heavy-handed, sloppy and/or rhythmless, none of the above have applied to Illogic’s catalog. Rather, his abilities as a wordsmith rival any oft-repeated quote that’s crawled across your Tumblr dashboard, and even at the time of the mid-2000s indie-rap renaissance, Illogic’s gift of gab was on a pedestal all its own. Formerly one of the most celebrated acts on Weightless Recordings and a member of defunct underground rap supergroup the Orphanage, Illogic’s resurfaced to team with Blockhead, one of indie hip-hop’s most consistently dope producers, for Capture the Sun.

Illogic’s best work has traditionally come from projects where he’s worked solely with one producer, such as the Blueprint produced Got Lyrics? and The Off the Clock E.P. with the late DJ PRZM. Lucky for us, the formula works again as Illogic and Blockhead have both the chemistry that plays to each other’s strengths and the shared vision to make Capture the Sun a top-to-bottom great full-fledged album. While they’ve released two free EPs over the past year in Preparing for Capture and Preparing for Capture 2, Capture the Sun as a whole outshines them both as a significant, well-rounded statement.

Illogic’s never been a better writer, had a stronger flow or exhibited his gifts in as powerful of a way as he does here. From sharing the pain of having cancer in his eye as a child to paying tribute to his parents, Illogic couples the vulnerability of his subject matter with the strength of his words and tyranny of his conviction, making Capture the Sun downright fearless. I’m usually the first guy to call bullshit when the end of a line in a rap song doesn’t rhyme, but Illogic is the first and only MC whose pen game is so strong that when those moments happen, I find myself too preoccupied with a stunning turn of phrase to really mind. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does (most noticeably on “Pillow of Dreams”), Illogic gets away with it because his performance here truly is that good.

Another big reason why it works is Blockhead’s production. Capture the Sun isn’t merely a bunch of Illogic rhymes over a Blockhead beat-tape, but rather feels like true collaboration. Blockhead’s production is layered, textured and tailor made for Illogic’s mood, and Illogic knows how to accentuate the environment Blockhead’s planted him in by weaving his flow through his rhyme choices like a lantern through the deep woods. Other great choices can be found in how Capture the Sun utilizes its guest appearances. Slug’s hook on the title track and Zero Star’s vocals on “One Way Ticket” stand out as memorable presences which make already great songs that much better. Blueprint kicks a chilling verse-of-the-year contender regarding the police’s treatment of black citizens as afterthoughts on “Justified,” and Abstract Rude twists rhythms with a wonderfully complex flow on “Smile.”

The final three tracks, “Last Breath,” “Blindfold” and “Lighthouse” are as good as any three-track sequence on any hip-hop album of the last five years. Spellbinding, touching and downright inspirational without posturing to be any of those, they show the power that can come from two great talents accentuating each other’s strengths. Blockhead’s got a few more one-MC projects slated for 2013, and while Capture the Sun will be a tough act to follow, it’s a promising omen for more excellence to come.

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