Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer Songs: Robbie Ettelson from Unkut.com
posted by O.W.

Editor's Note: For a writer who's not even in this hemisphere, Australia's Robbie Ettelson puts a lot of rap journalists in America to shame with his interviews. Maybe it's just that he actually transcribes and publishes what he raps with these rappers about but even that provides some much-needed candor and illumination.

He ran his interview with KRS-One last week and it actually addresses several of the conversations that came up in my recent KRS post. In particular, Robbie asks him if KRS was going at Jeff Chang with "I Was There" and KRS talks a bit about Can't Stop Won't Stop and what he sees as a failing in "doing your homework" (though notably, KRS says Jeff worked at Def Jam which is completely untrue so it looks like lack of homework isn't just limited to hip-hop scholar/writers). By the way, Jeff addresses some of this on his site.

That said though, I was very much impressed by KRS's self-reflexive comments on any number of different topics and think Robbie, in particular, is really distinguishing himself as one of the best interviewers I've seen in the game.

But since it's actually winter in Australia right now, I thought it'd be fun to have him muse on his summer songs while he's freezing his arse off. For Robbie, his post finds himself waiting on that glorious sun:


    It's tough to write about Summer Songs while my fingers are left froze like that "heron[sic] in your nose", and after spending an hour or so flipping through my shelves - all the while trying to punch through the fog of drunken afternoons at the beach with a mini "jam box" - I was still without a definitive collection of wax. Given that I'm less inclined to sentimentality these days anyhow, I decided to flip it into a dissection of four winning selections involving the sun (note to Ghostface fanboys: "The Sun" has already been given ample *cough* shine here at Soul Sides, having appeared at least twice to my knowledge).

    Special K: Sun Is Up
    From the Treacherous Three's
    Old School Flava (Wrap!, 1994)

    As one of the of the very few moments of T3's painful comeback album that didn't induce bile in the back of the throat (the other being LA Sunshine's Last Poet-channeled solo shot), K strolls through brother T La Rock's fractured, hazy backdrop that recalls the way your head might feel after a lazy afternoon spent consuming cheap cask wine while absorbing some blistering rays.

    Pete Rock & CL Smooth: Sun Won't Come Out
    The Main Ingredient (Elektra, 1994)

    Despite being weighed-down by sappy "smoove" jams, the songs from the Vernon duo's second full-length that actually hit the mark proved to be effin' jaw-dropping. To hear the way that Pete combines a Deep Funk vocal hook with ethereal chimes, razor-sharp snares and a cock-sure bassline is to witness a genius at the height of his powers, while Corey Love feeds of the chemistry and delivers one of his better "wise intelligent" performances. To cap things off, the beat skit on the outro is guaranteed to conjure warm-weather flashbacks, as Bob James meets the Fender Rhodes in fine fashion.

    Large Professor feat. Q-Tip: In The Sun
    1st Class (Matador, 2002)

    OK's mans Xtreme laces The Live Guy With Glasses with some Gregorian chant material for this bright spot on his otherwise frustrating solo debut. The Abstract delivers a rambling assessment of societies woes ("little kids are gettin' warped from computer thwarps"?!?), but we appreciate the fact that he actually turned-up to the session if the stories about "The LP" are to be believed. Large offers a little more clarity - bringing a sombre feel to his musings but still managing to keep his chin up - but this is best appreciated on some vibe-out shit. Don't waste too much time trying to analyse this one.

    Organized Konfusion: Walk Into The Sun
    Organized Konfusion (Hollywood BASIC, 1991)

    If you can forgive the borderline corny intro of this joint, there's plenty of "light-hearted" era Pharoahe and Prince Po antics to be enjoyed. While I generally avoided "zany" rap like the plague when this album came out, there was enough mind-boggling lyrics and hardcore breaks to keep me along for the ride, and this song has enough enthusiasm to win over even the most mean-spirited among us, while there's no shortage of vivid imagery covering the humid months. It just goes to shows that in the right hands, a potentially cheesy track can still be a heater.

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