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Now five albums into his solo output, Tony “Blockhead” Simon is still more known as a hip-hop producer to the stars — well, perhaps the underground stars, producing for notables such as Del, Murs, and Aesop Rock. But ever since being asked to create a fully instrumental album, Simon has proven just as interesting on his own, offering down-tempo, sample-heavy, and (mostly) rhyme-free rap tracks (all while increasing brand awareness).
The unlikely pairing of hip-hop artist Aesop Rock and indie-pop songwriter Kimya Dawson recently took the stage in Chicago. The two have been collaborating on new material and have already performed together a handful of times this year. The show at Lincoln Hall, which also featured performances from Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz (with Aesop, the three comprise the new group Hail Mary Mallon), kicked off with an acoustic set from Dawson. At one point or another in the night, everyone performed with everyone else, breathing new life into old tunes and introducing new tunes to an eager audience. Photographer Tracy Graham captured these shots.
Morrow: With a background in hip hop as well as hardcore and punk, New Jersey rapper GDP approaches his genre with a unique perspective, coupling an unfiltered vocabulary with sociopolitical themes, banging beats, and a decidedly Aesop Rock-style delivery.
His newest full-length, Useless Eaters, quickly gets at the underbelly of America, whether discussing drugs, war profiteering, climate change, or big-brother distrust. “Neural Circuitry” begins the album with high-energy hi-hats and a nearly G-funk synth groove, but it hits hardest with its subject matter: hardcore drug use. There’s underlying intellect, however, and in making a passing reference to Afghani opiates, GDP rhymes, “Soldiers aren’t dying for us / they’re risking their lives for the change / a full ride to college or a meaningless grave.”
Hajduch: Australian producer Aoi makes clanging, colorful synth-based beats that remind me somewhat of the kaleidoscopic dubstep pushed by people like Hyetal. It’s glammy and full of square waves, and for all the clamor and seeming lightness, it still bangs. The fidgety beats fit GDP’s restless rhymes well. He’s equally comfortable deploring battle rap as he is deploying it.
Co-founders of the indie-cred-filled Anticon record label, Adam “Doseone” Drucker and Jeff “Jel” Logan have reunited their risk-taking hip hop duo, Themselves, and returned with an idiosyncratic take on rap archetypes.
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Argotec, the New York-based duo of Alex Argot and Defpotec (Richard Courage), shows an impressive array of influences with its self-released debut record, Wherewithal, cementing elements of drum-and-bass, glitch, electronic, and rock into the realm of hip hop. The partnership — Argot supplying rhymes and Defpotec handling production — has created a distinct and developed sound, channeling old-school Aesop Rock verses in a cut-and-paste Flying Lotus aesthetic with dash of screamo vocals. With smart lyrics that demand listeners to think critically about social consciousness, Wherewithal aims to broaden audiences’ horizon both musically and mentally.