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Underground beat maestro Anthony Simon, better known as Blockhead, first lent his production hands in the mid-'90s to then up-and-coming MC Aesop Rock, who rose to indie rap prominence during the 2000s. Blockhead's contributions to Aesop's LPs were a big factor to the indie MC's success, especially those from Aesop's highly regarded Definitive Jux debut, Labor Days (2001). Nevertheless, in the following years the New York producer garnered his own acclaim as an instrumental rap artiste, turning his sampledelic beats into brooding, trip-hop-like concoctions.
Born and raised in Manhattan, Simon was one of seven children. The bohemian mentality of his father, a painter and sculptor, and the steadfastness of his mother, a social worker, confounded Simon's upbringing, but yet informed his musical pursuits. He was aspiring to be an MC -- that is, until he first met Aesop Rock in 1994, the one year he attended Boston University. After hearing Aesop spit verses, he hung up the mike and focused on producing. Blockhead provided most of the beats for Aesop afterwards, including Aesop's self-pressed material Music for Earthworms (1997) and Appleseed (1999), as well as his proper full-length debut, Float, released via Mush Records in 2000. In 2001, Mush wound up releasing Blockhead's first beat tape, Blockhead's Broken Beats, as well. Blockhead continued producing Aesop when the abstract MC signed with New York upstart Def Jux in 2000. Upon the 2001 release of Labor Days, for which Blockhead produced nine tracks, critics and indie rap fans alike heavily praised the two's work. It led to the release of the EP Daylight the following year, which was based around the popular "Daylight" song from the Labor Days LP.
With this success, Blockhead began to break out on his own. Though not intended to become a real project, the Manhattan producer formed comedy rap duo Party Fun Action Committee with longtime friend Jeremy Gibson, aka Jer, issuing their debut, Let's Get Serious, on Def Jux in 2003; he also supplied beats for many of the label's signees, including Murs, Hangar 18, and later Cage. However, for his solo material, he shopped around to other labels, eventually finding a home in U.K. electronic stalwart Ninja Tune. Blockhead's proper debut, the Insomniac Olympics EP, arrived in 2003, and led up to the more cinematic and downtempo full-length Music by Cavelight in 2004, and an ode to his Manhattan home, Downtown Science, in 2005. His work with Aesop diminished considerably during this period, until the recording of Aesop's 2007 album, None Shall Pass. That same year, Ninja Tune issued Blockhead's third long-player, Uncle Tony's Coloring Book, a more uptempo piece than his previous records. His 2009 release was more complex thanks in part to the producer's embrace of the music recording program Ableton. Three years later, Interludes After Midnight honored the simpler sound of the '80s and late '90s, the time of Blockhead's musical upbringing. Funeral Balloons followed on Backwoodz Studioz in 2017. ~ Cyril Cordor
- New York, NY
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