Monday, December 29, 2003

end of '03 song appreciations for '04

1. Kanye West: All Falls Down (from College Dropout, forthcoming 2004)

Goddamn - my boy let me listen to the new Kanye LP over the weekend and seriously? It's already an early contender for my best of 2004 list. It's both like and unlike whatever else you've heard on the Roc - Kanye has a little bit of Jigga-man's mea culpa flavor to him but he's not really rhyming about rock, women or Rugers - he's mostly just talking about life and this song, sampling Lauryn Hill from her infamous "Unplugged" sessions, is so melted in the cut, it's like salt on an ice cube. Kanye isn't lyrical godliness but he's solid enough to not embarass himself and I think he's going to surprise a lot of cats with this album. And oh yeah - "Jesus Walks", the whole song (not just them mixtape snippets)? I'm confirmed agnostic and that song made me feel the Holy fucking Spirit. That'll probably be on next week's Song Appreciation countdown.

2. KMD: Who Me? (from Mr. Hood & Best of KMD)

I admit it - I slept on [i]Mr. Hood[/i]. I mean, I bought the album and all that when it first came out and I always had high praise for KMD but I never really LISTENED to this album overall. Partly it was b/c the engineering was kind of dirty and muddled, like the first Jungle Brothers album, just four years later...and next to De La and Tribe's Bob Powers-engineered jawns, KMD's album just didn't quite appeal to me as much save for a few tracks here and there. But after getting the upcoming [i]Best of KMD[/i] in the mail, I went back and delivered a swift kick to my backside for not spending more time with this album the first time around. Subroc and Zev Love X (Onyx too) were so ahead of the gave creatively, it hurts to realize how fucked over the industry was in shitting on their second album. Why "Who Me?" - this song encapsulates everything that was genius about this album - from the way the song intros on some found-sound snippets, to the funky soul production, to the subject matter: an anti-Sambo missive. Bert still gets props.

3. Scarface: Mr. Scarface (from Mr. Scarface Is Back)

Has Scarface ever made a fiercer, funkier song than this? Home is combining gangsta braggadoccio with story-telling, showing off some serious lyrical skillage. I mean, you can just picture this guy rolling through South Park, put the fear of God (not to mention lead) into his foes like the Punisher going rampage. And that beat? They're mixing Syl Johnson, Bo Diddley, Le Pamplemouse and whoever else - incredible. I'll put this up against ANY song from its era - Ice Cube, NWA, BDP, whoever and 'Face Mob will stand his ground. The funny thing, I had no idea that the repeated dialogue at the beginning was "All I have in this world" since I had yet to see the movie [i]Scarface[/i] at the time.

4. Ghostface Killah: Run (from whateverhisnextalbumiscalled, single out now)

You could drop Jada off this track. You can even drop Tony Starks off this song. What you're left with is a song that uses a silencing firing as part of the beat. Just stop for a moment. Stop what you're doing. Stop typing. Stop even fucking reading. Just listen to the beat and then, like the pregnant pause before all hell breaks loose, realize that Ghost is KILLING SHIT on top of that. It's like the gold ticket inside a Willy Wonka bar.

5. Sound Providers: Throwback (feat. Maspyke) (from An Evening With the Sound Providers - forthcoming 2004)

I'm going to seem rather contradictory since I give grief about retro-new school groups like PUTS, Dilated, Ugly Duckling, Little Brother, etc. but I really, really, really like San Diego's Sound Providers even if they are arguably part of the same trend. It's very simple: I love their beats. They mine the kind of jazz albums that I spend way too much eBay and dirty knuckle time digging for and while they're not necessarily way different from, say, the Procussions or whoever, I've yet to hear more than one or two tracks from these kids that I don't like. "Throwback" is a perfect example - I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure they looped up a piano cover of the "Love Story" theme and the way Soulo (I'm assuming it's Soulo) chops it up, the track is so nice and warm and inviting, I want to lug over a bean bag chair into it and just lounge for the day. What makes it even better is that SP and guests Maspyke are actually coming with some intelligent verses that aren't pushing some, "you ain't as underground as me!" spiel nor some super-scientifical esoterica. I probably wouldn't shit on the underground as much as I do if more cats were as smart and stylish and these cats. (By the way, the remix of this song is nice too).

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Nick Holder and Jemeni's "No More Dating DJs" is killing me right now. Jem tweaks every vital nerve for anyone who is (or has dealt with) the male DJ ego. (as spotted on different kitchen).

More songs I appreciate...

1. Justin Timberlake: Senorita (from "Justified")
Yeah, I know fools want to hate on him with a passion but I can't deny - this song is so fucking butter I want to spread it on a biscuit. It's just a great, soulful song and you don't necessarily have to love Justin but c'mon, feel this, will you?

2. Digable Planets: The May 4th Movement (from "Blowout Comb")
It's no secret but this album is one of the great hip-hop LPs to come out of the '90s but was never really given the credit when it first came out, mostly b/c Digable's new Black Power politics seemed to alienate all the white, coffee house bohos who were jocking the first album. In any case, this song is such a great way to kick off the LP - not only is the beat beautifully smooth and jazzy but that roll call at the front? "1, time, for your mind...2 times for Mumia's saint crew...3 times for the Brooklyn times and 7 times for pleasure." It's only really ruined by Doodlebug's stumbling flow - no wonder he got left out the group.

3. Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra: Che Che Cole Makossa (12" only)
I've been playing this song every week on my show for at least six weeks. Hands-down, best thing this NYC crew has ever put together and just such a fantastic track that's club-friendly but doesn't pander to it like a Nelly/Neptunes collabo. In my book, it's a new funk classic.

4. Mauricio Smith: Viva Guajira (from "Bitter Acid")
First of all, I need an OG of this LP so help a brother out! It's Latin albums like this that make me realize that there probably is a God, or at least a God who's down with guajira and boogaloo rhythms. This whole album is fab but "Viva Guajira" is such a perfect blend of funk, soul and Latin that if I didn't know better, some intrepid producer put it together last week out of old King and Tico albums.

5. Al Green: I Want To Hold Your Hand (45 and on "Love Ritual")
This was Green's first ever single for Hi Records and unreleased on any album until '89's "Love Ritual." I can't get enough of this cover...I put it on my upcoming mixtape and have practically stuck it on repeat. It's so goddamn funky, snapping with the kind of fervor that songs like "Hey Ya" invoke today.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Songs I'm appreciating right now...
posted by O.W.

1) Tom Scott: Today (from "Honeysuckkle Breeze")

I know a lot of folks think this album sucks majorly and hey, they're probably right but how can you front on "Today"? It's beautiful, laid-back and reminds me of picnics out in the country and I ain't never been on a picnic in the country.

2) Donny Hathaway: Jealous Guy (from "Donny Hathaway Live")

I played this on my radio show a few weeks back and I just keep going back to it over and over. It reflects both the brilliance of the Beatles' songwirting but also Hathaway's incredible, emotive voice. It always makes me sad to remember how devestating his depression was but my god, could he sing.

3) Ray Barretto: Together (from "Together")

When it comes to late '60s Latin, Barretto was the MFin' man. Sometimes, he makes songs like this and "Soul Drummers" that are so fucking good, it seems criminal. This song combines funky, hot boogaloo rhythms with social consciousness lyrics - unstoppable.

4) Arlean Brown: Impeach Me (45)

This combines two genres I love: female funk and funky blues. It's not hyper-than-a-heart attack energetic but gets by on being sly, slick and wicked. I think I like it better than the Otis Redding/Carla Thomas "Tramp" call-and-response.

5) Lord Finesse w/ Big L: Yes You May Remix (12" only)

"I bend a rapper like a fender/I'm slender/but from from tender/killing ni99as like a Klan member." Hot damn it's the return of the funky men.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Sorry it's been a while (dissertation calls!) In the meantime, you can see my picks for Soulstrut's December Ish columns where I submit nine tasty treats for the kiddies.