Five weeks ago, New York beatsmith/producer, Blockhead (born Tony Simon) posted a #throwbackthursday image on his instagram account. The photo was of him and his old pal/longtime cohort, DJ Signify doing a show together and included the text, “I realize the majority of people who follow me on here do so cause of the funny pics but I’m curious how many of you know I make music. Like this pic if you know me like via music and not pics I steal off the Internet. This is a scientific study!” In response to one commentor in the thread, Blockhead followed up with, “I guarantee that at least 80% of my followers are cause of funny pics. That said, I have a shit ton of followers.” For an artist with such a prolific and resilient catalog it may sound like somewhat of a bold assumption, but it’s definitely a legitimate inquiry to make; one that I’ve even wondered about myself — he easily has one of the most on point and entertaining social media presences around. In fact, I know that, over the years, have definitely made suggestions to people who were completely unaware of his music career that they should consider following his Facebook page, or check out posts on his blog, Phat Friend, where Simon is incredibly candid, even doing a semi-reoccurring column, of sorts, in which he provides honest reviews of demo tapes that are sent to him from readers. Let’s Get Serious, his 2003 debut as one half of the “comedy rap” project, Party Fun Action Committee, was a concept record that took both the humor and demo review angles even further by operating on the theme of two label execs sifting through demos with each track being presented as coming from a different fictional music outfit.
Simon was immersed in music, and particularly hip hop, from a young age, writing raps in his early teens and becoming part of a crew called The Overground with some of his friends, but it was in the production that he found his calling and ultimate success. After teaming with a young Aesop Rock to produce the majority of his acclaimed Float LP for Mush Records in 2000, it helped to gain notoriety for each of them and launch each of their respective careers. This was followed up with the break beat album, Blockhead’s Broke Beats and Aesop‘s true breakthrough classic, Labor Days, in 2001. Many may still know Blockhead primarily for his production work with Aesop and other rappers like Murs, Slug, Mike Ladd, Cage, Open Mike Eagle, Maclethal, SA Smash, and Isaiah Toothtaker, but shortly after the Party Fun Action Committee album dropped on Def Jux, Blockhead released one of the most seminal instrumental hip hop efforts of all time through the Ninja Tune label, known more for electronic acts like Amon Tobin and Bonobo. That album, Music by Cavelight, is how I discovered his work and is a project had actually been finished since 2001, but without a label to release it. It’s an LP that not only showcased a supremely unique voice for Blockhead as an artist, but a masterwork that deserves a place alongside similarly groundbreaking crossover releases like DJ Shadow‘s Endtroducing. Since then, he’s continued to put out one solid release after another, but not everything has received the same level of attention. Others, just took a minute to gain the appreciation that they deserved.
With it’s brilliantly surrealistic and unforgettable Anthony F. Schepperd animated video for the title track, 2009‘s The Music Scene may have felt like his big return for many, only punctuated by Interludes After Midnight, 3 years later, but prior to either of these albums came an underground classic for Blockhead titled Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book. “Originally intended for the album to be more upbeat, contrasting the introspective production of his previous two releases” Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book has long been out of print, initially released exclusively on compact disc back in 2007. Over the last decade it’s popularity has steadily increased, with interest jumping exponentially after it was made available digitally in 2015. With his older material getting vinyl reissues in recent years, questions about Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book receiving the same treatment have been looming, but the answer that we’ve all hoped for never seemed in sight. Two weeks ago, Blockhead‘s typical instagram content was broken up yet again with an image of him holding a test pressing of the first ever vinyl release for UTCB with the announcement that it would be “Coming soon! Next month, to be exact.” Today, this all becomes a reality with additional details and the pre-order going live.
Detroit label, Young Heavy Souls is putting out this long awaited vinyl 2xLP. Here’s a new instagram video from their account featuring the man himself providing some breakdown.
Physical copies are slated to hit stores on May 5th with pre-orders shipping out this month on April 21st. One additional bonus for those interested in pre-ordering the release (LINK HERE), rather than waiting, is connected to the “giveaway” that Blockhead mentioned in the footage above. As the official pre-order page states “THREE LUCKY PRE-ORDER CUSTOMERS WILL ALSO RECEIVE AN EXTREMELY LIMITED EDITION TEST PRESSING OF THE RECORD SIGNED BY BLOCKHEAD HIMSELF!” Plus, the producer has always stated that this is being released in a limited run, so, if this is something that you need, it’s probably best to get on it sooner than later.
Those interested in streaming and/or grabbing a digital version of the album can still do so via the Blockhead bandcamp page.
One great thing about having an album from 10 years ago finally being rereleased in 2017 is the fact that Youtube exists, so you have the opportunity to check the whole thing out in advance, before going out and buying it. The downside to that is that, if you weren’t familiar with Blockhead or Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book before all of this, you’re probably going to wind up spending some money that you hadn’t anticipated.
Aside from regularly touring, Blockhead has stayed active, even producing albums that may have slipped off your radar for somewhat less prominent names like Illogic, Marq Spekt, and Billy Woods, whose skills he’s been a longtime fan of. Additionally, he’s done work as part of a group called The MIghty Jones and even self-released a 6th solo album titled, Bells & Whistles. Look for his new album, Funeral Balloons, arriving later this year.