I consider hip-hop to be a relatively large part of my life and free time. I own an obscure Fugees vinyl, I’ve read the RZA’s (first) book, Hieroglyphics stickers are littered on my car, and I once met Flavor-Flav on a subway. Hip-hop makes my days a little easier and stress free, with the jazzy beats, smooth flows and good vibes it often sends into any listener’s cerebellum. Blockhead though seems to have completely reversed the trend on his latest instrumental record, The Music Scene. Those of you who are unfamiliar with the maniacal beat composer that is Blockhead, he’s the Manhattan producer who has worked with Aesop Rock throughout his entire career. In his free time, however, he makes his own records, and they are, well, for lack of a better word, interesting.
Most rap instrumental albums you can “chill” to. You know what it means to “chill” to hip-hop (dim lighting, couches, clouds of smoke, laid back atmosphere), but Blockhead makes that virtually impossible with this record. This isn’t something you put on to unwind, this is something you put on to blow minds and strike fear into people’s hearts. The Music Scene sounds like the hip-hop soundtrack to the apocalypse. The production is genius, but keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering when the sky is going to fall. And as you listen to record, you realize it could literally be any minute.
The opening track commences with some heavy drums to let you know, Blockhead is about to kick shit off. With a title like, “It’s Raining Clouds”, the music changes dynamics a few times. The heavy drums continue with flutes, sitars and horns, which despite how relaxing they sound, create a foreboding sense that what’s to follow could be intense. By the end, everything is sped up making your pulse tweak up a couple notches. However, when the song ends, it goes right into a sampled ’60s-sounding title track stating, “The music scene has got me down,” which could be the message Blockhead is trying to convey through his record. If the music scene has got him down, he is clearly blowing up everything the modern scene stands for with his beats. The song gets funkier with an 80’s-styled bass line, ominous guitar riffs, and exotic drumming making Blockhead’s music scene much more diverse than the airwaves.
A more unique track is “Attack the Doctor,” with a faster paced drum loop, Middle Eastern drone, and guitar harmonics to keep the melody going. The track builds and builds, adding more instruments to make things more intense. To close off the song though, Blockhead adds a group of choral singers and makes attacking the doctor seem like something that television serial killer Dexter Morgan might try and pull off (he did actually, he killed his psychiatrist). The eerie piano at the end just makes one think that the doctor has not only been attacked, but most likely has been placed six feet underground. If hip-hop instrumentals can’t scare you, “The Daily Routine” could easily give you nightmares. The song starts with soft piano, until you hear a couple screaming at each other and suddenly the melody turns very dark with distorted guitars and an apocalyptic choir. While the beat is reminiscent of Aesop Rock’s Daylight EP, throughout the duration of the track there are more samples of the couple screaming at each other in a very dramatic, raw and realistic fashion.
Overall, Blockhead’s new album is quite good; it just scared the shit out of me. Something about the production, musical composition, melodies and hypnotic nature of the beats reminded me that the Mayans predicted the world’s end in just two years from now. For sleeping soundly, I’ll stick with Madlib’s Shades of Blue, but for causing chaos and potential world domination, I’ll keep rocking Blockhead’s The Music Scene. That will keep the world on their toes.
The Music Scene