Friday, March 30, 2007

S.O.T.O.: Brand New Day For My AZN Brethren?
posted by O.W.

S.O.T.O.: Brand New Day
From Crunk City (2006)

When Paul Kim became a finalist on this season's American Idol, it set off a light bulb for a NY Times writer to probe the question of why Asian Americans are missing from the pop music field. That story became "Trying to Crack the Hot 100" which appeared at the beginning of March (you can read it here). Several days later, WYNC's Soundcheck followed up with their own take on the story: "When East Doesn't Meet West". Once again, Paul Kim was the "hook."

What is striking about both stories is that by the time they ran/aired, Paul Kim was already voted off Idol and this actually served to "prove" the point of both stories - Asian Americans can't get a break. Without debating that claim - it's true enough - what I found striking...and a little that neither made mention of the fact that even though Kim was gone, there were still two other Asian Americans amongst the finalists: AJ (who is mixed Filipino/Chinese/etc.) and of course...the South Asian wunderkind Sanjaya.

Anyone familiar with the internal politics of Asian American-hood won't be surprised by this at all - East Asians like Paul Kim (Korean) or myself or Junichi for that matter - are the standard-bearers for defining "who is Asian" whereas Filipinos and South Asians have long been kept on the fringes, a social state of affairs that hasn't exactly done wonders for the call for "unity." That AJ and Sanjaya were seemingly invisible in a story about Asian Americans in pop music only drives that point home.

Coincidentally, DJ Similak Chyld in S.F. recently sent me a song to check out: "Brand New Day" by S.O.T.O. (Something Out of The Ordinary/Sons of The Orient), a Filipino + Japanese American duo who've crafted what very well could be an anthem for contemporary Asian American pop artists.

Few things to note: first of all, it probably doesn't bespeak a great future for the group when their site says "WE WON'T STOP!!!" but their self-advertised URL ( has clearly been taken over by another company. Second of all, it's really unfortunate that the positivity of their song gets undermined by the cover art for their Crunk City album which is both cheap and crassly sexist.

That said, "Brand New Day" is worth a listen for the ways in which it expresses the frustrations (and hope) that a lot of Asian American artists likely feel. Sure, it's not the most sophisticated songwriting ever and yeah, the backing track is the instrumental to Xzibit's "Paparazzi" (you can hear the shutterclicks at the beginning) but that unintentionally nods to the way in which the notion of "Asian American music" is largely a mesh of creativity and adaptation. There's no real organic "sound" that our community can claim as its own but artists have proven quite flexible to adjusting to what's out there in the public, whether it was folk in the 1970s, jazz in the 1980s and hip-hop and R&B since the 1990s.

Then there's Sanjaya, for whom "flexibility" would be an understatement in the many ways his racial "passing" allows him to occupy multiple social spaces at once. Read that Ann Powers' take on him again to get what I mean.

In any case, I'm definitely not mad at "Brand New Day" and the song, like a good anthem, has already picked up a cover. All they need now is to appeal to fellow Pinoy Chad Hugo for a hot Neptunes track and...

Meanwhile, thanks to Get Downnn for their post and farewell and happy journeys to Gray Charles.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ski + Garbs Infinite: Behind the Boards
posted by O.W.

Biggie + Lil Wayne: If You See (produced by Garbs Infinite)
From Unbelievable (Mick Boogie/Terry Urban, 2007)

Jean Grae: Not the One (produced by Ski)
From Beatz, Rhymes & Samples (Ski Beatz, 2007)

I'm in the midst of tax hell so I probably won't have a chance to get up a longer post this week but I wanted to quickly break folks off with these two mixtape songs I've been enjoying of late.

The Biggie/Lil Wayne duet is off of Mick Boogie and Terry Urban's excellent Unbelievable mix-CD they put out to commemorate the 10th anniversary of B.I.G.'s death. "If You See" was produced by Garbs Infinite , and up-and-coming producer out of Cleveland who just straight up kills it with this flip on Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By." I love how he turns it into a chilling threat: "if you see me walking down the street...start to cry." Brilliant. I hope this beat sees life in the future as a legit single somewhere. This and that Lil Wayne/Devin/Bun B remix from a few weeks back are some of my favorite tracks right now. is this new Jean Grae...wait - O-Dub plugging a Jean Grae song? Yeah folks - f--- a beef; I'm still down to plug good music and this upcoming track from Grae's Prom Night album is the kind of anti-love song that Grae excels at. Hip-hop and break-up music rarely go together that well but armed with Ski's melancholy piano loop, it nails the right, bluesy tone. This comes off of Ski's Beatz, Rhymes and Samples, a mix between a breaks tape and beat tape that's designed to remind people just who the hell Ski is (hint: think one of hip-hop's most underrated producers of the last 10 years). Get familiar.

Note: both of the mixtapes these come off of are currently available for free download so get with 'em while they're still up.

In other news...Amy Winehouse became the highest debuting British singer on U.S. charts ever...until Joss Stone trumped her this week.

It's been a good few weeks for white British women who sing soul.

Ann Powers tackles Stone's career and new album for the L.A. Times and makes a point to especially discuss the question of race, appropriation and accountability - issues that, as we've seen, apply just as much to Winehouse as well.

People were quick to argue that Winehouse is an amazing songwriter and hence, this is the root of her success but I've rarely heard the same said of Stone (it's usually her voice that's lauded, not her songwriting).

I'd like to see the same people who want to discount age and race in Winehouse's case take a swing at explaining Stone's appeal. Still think there's no double standard at play?


Friday, March 23, 2007

The Professionals + Lord Rhaburn Combo: Belize Reconnection
posted by O.W.

The Professionals: Theme From The Godfather
Lord Rhaburn: Disco Connection

Lord Rhaburn: Disco Reconnection (snippet)
From 12" (Numero Group, 2007)

Belize? Yeah, Belize.

I need a late pass - Numero Group (aka the best reissue label out there) put out their compilation of Belizean (Belizoid? Belizer?) soul, funk and Latin last year but I didn't really become aware of it until much more recently. Just like that excellent anthology of Panamanian sounds from the same era, Belize City Boil Up introduces listeners to the heretofore unknown sounds of American soul and Latin exported to Central America and then reinvented. The diversity of styles and sounds is amazing and it makes you wonder how deep the soul crates run throughout Central and Southern America (hint: pretty damn deep we think).

Of the various songs off the comp, the Professionals fuzzed out, funked up take on the theme from The Godfather is probably the best known - the group had decent distribution in the U.S. and the album this comes off of, The Professionals On Tour is in the low three digit range - not cheap but not crazy either. Their take on it is pretty bugged out; it's like Nino Rota scored a blaxploitation flick (or maybe the other way around).

As for "Disco Connection," talk about a fusion of styles. The Latin + Disco element isn't anything that folks in the States didn't also play with but there's something distinctly south of the border with Rhaburn's take (not the least of which is that it reminds me a lot of some of the disco era material by Peru's Enrique Lynch). Call it discoxotic.

Numero Group has also begun to release 12"s on their label and in the first batch includes a single with that "Disco Reconnection" edit (plus the original) on one side, plus a nice Latin burner called "Guajida" by Jesus Acosta and the Professionals on the b-side (which has its own remix of sorts too). DJs looking for that next flavor - here it is.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

O-Dub Slips On the Funky Sole - This Saturday!
posted by O.W.

After half a year of living in Los Angeles, I finally have my first DJ appearance ready to go down. It's with my very respected and valued buddies Egon and Miles who've been running Funky Sole to a fever pitch over at Star Shoes in Hollywood (this is actually my second appearance at Funky Sole - albeit the first in yeeeeaaaars) and despite the packed throngs of folks who come through, it's really a very fun event.

Saturday, March 24th
10pm - 2am
Star Shoes Bar
6364 Hollywood Blvd (by Vine).

I'll be guessed it...funk n' soul.

By the way, I'm working on setting up my own night in Los Angeles - hopefully we'll have something put together by the time Soul Sides Vol. 2 drops.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Rare Breed + Linda Lyndell: From the Vaults
posted by O.W.

The Rare Breed feat. Linda Lyndell: Let Me Call You Baby
The Rare Breed feat. The Blues Kings: Drip Drop
From The Rare Breed archives (late 1960s?)

I got an email from Linda Lyndell the other day - she of Stax/Volt "What a Man" fame. I had interviewed Linda for Wax Poetics and I also licensed her song for Soul Sides Vol. 1 and she was kind enough to keep in touch with me about some old songs of hers from way back in the 1960s.

I had been meaning to post about this earlier but with the recent talk about "blue-eyed soul" it seemed even more apropos. Lyndell, to me, is one of the unsung "liminal" artists of the soul era (including folks like Joe Bataan, Betty Davis, etc.) who never quite fit into a neat package and this largely resulted in her talent being underutilized and underappreciated. You want to talk about precursors to a lot of today's White soul singers - just listen to how Lyndell rips it on "Let Me Call You Baby" and witness someone clearly ahead of her time.

These two songs (the second one does NOT feature Lyndell) come from the archives of The Rare Breed. They were a North Florida garage band in the 1960s, mostly students from UF and Lyndell - who grew up in that area - linked up with them in the days of her early career, before she was "discovered" and brought over to Volt. That archives page has other material by the group in case you're curious. Check out "A Man Will Do Anything" feat. Gene Middleton for a great, bluesy ballad.

I included "Drip Drop," a song done with the Blues Kings (presumably another set of North Florida artists) for obvious's funnnnnnnnnnnnnky. It's interesting listening to the Rare Breed songs by themselves - they're much more of a pop/psych group on their own - but arm them with the right vocalists and they prove adaptable to an entirely different sound.

Back to Winehouse for a sec: I realized, re-reading my post, I probably go out of my way to try to "explain" her phenom through a variety of different angles, all of which has the unintended effect of diminishing the fact that her album and her songs are...well...really good. I was listening to Back to Black on the drive home and seriously - it's just a fun album to listen to. None of my comments before were meant to take away from that basic point.

For whatever it's worth, I heard her album is #1 on iTunes. Guess all those "soulless hipsters" make a difference after all ;)

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Speaking of Motown...
posted by O.W.

Got this via email. Thought folks might be interested:
    "WFUV Music Director Rita Houston presents The Whole Wide World of Motown, three hours of Motown live tracks, b-sides, covers and the stories behind the songs, on Friday, March 29 at 8:00 PM EST. "There's so much more to Motown than the same 25 or so hit songs we hear over and over. The plan is to delve beyond the overexposed to dig up some rarities and examine the forgotten Motown," says Houston. The Whole Wide World with Rita Houston airs on WFUV 90.7 FM in New York City and at around the world."

Amy Winehouse: Live at the Roxy
posted by O.W.

Apologies for being gone for a minute - I was back up in the Bay last weekend for a quick trip for this. I've been meaning to post something about Amy Winehouse earlier - and I will be doing something more substantial by early April - but for now, let me just share that I caught her at The Roxy in Hollywood (yes kids, O.W. actually does venture outside the house once in a while) and am pleased to report that I was well-nigh entertained by Ms. Winehouse.

(And no, it's not because she was drunk off her ass, singing "Beat It").

There's been a lot written about Winehouse over the last few months - please see my dear friend and colleague, Ann Powers' recent profile in the LAT - and it's not hard to understand why: she's a Jewish, British gal gifted with a voice that's part of the Billie Holiday/Erykah Badu/Lauryn Hill/Madeline Peryoux school of bourboned warmth and rasp, who was a jazz torch singer last album and has, for Back To Black, reinvented herself into a Stax/Motown era song slinger.

There's much that could be said about artists like Winehouse or Joss Stone - modern day Teena Marie-types whose blue-eyed soul performances raise provocative questions around race and performance but I'm going to put those aside for now...except to say that I was marveling a bit at how her and her band were set-up. Though two of her backing band (the Dap-Kings - more on them in a moment) are African American, the most prominent Black folk on stage were her back-up singers - two very nattily dressed Black men in fitted dark suits - who were on Winehouse's left and spent more time swaying to the music than actually singing. And then there's Winehouse herself - she of the faux-beehive coif, tatted arms, arched eyebrows and ever-so-exotic racial indeterminacy. It's an intriguing spectacle to be sure.

But yeah - for those who listened to Back To Black and thought initially, "wow, this kind of sounds like a Sharon Jones album" it's because Winehouse's touring band and studio band for at least half the album (all the tracks produced by Mark Ronson) are none other than the Dap-Kings.

It's a good look for Winehouse - or should I say, a good sound. What makes her album so much fun to listen to and what made her show so enjoyable was the fact that her tunes just sound great and that's largely thanks to the work that producers Ronson and Salaam Remi (yeah, that Salaam Remi) plus the Dap-Kings put into giving Winehouse's charming soul brogue a bed of sound to play off of.

I'm not saying this to take away from Winehouse as a songwriter - sure, "Rehab" is pretty catchy in a Lily Allen/Nellie McKay sort of way - but let's be honest...we're swimming in any number of neo/retro-soul artists at the moment and what gives Winehouse the current edge - besides her tabloid exploits - is that she's got a great sound working for you.

I'll have a special post in a few weeks that addresses this, namely by situating Winehouse's new album against the new "tradition" of retro soul albums that have cropped up in the last half dozen years or so.

What I want to say right now is that it does bear the question: would Winehouse seem as intriguing if not for her British + Whiteness? Coincidentally, I recently interviewed none other than Sharon Jones, who rightfully deserves recognition as the pioneering retro-soul singer for our era, and though she had nothing negative to say about the woman who's currently touring with the band she normally rocks with, Jones did note that she finds it disappointing that she's never enjoyed the same level of media attention as a lot of these new soul singers coming out of the UK (most of whom, notably, are young, handsome/pretty and White).

The fact that Jones is a Black woman in her 50s does make a difference here - in being seen as more authentic, she's also less a novelty (though her age does put her into a different generation entirely) and thus less likely to have a platoon of publications trying to profile her with the same fervor that Winehouse as enjoyed.

Is there some kind of double standard going on here? Yeah - absolutely. Ironically, Jones was too young in the 1960s and '70s to have been able to become part of the tradition of funk/soul divas like Marva Whitney or Lyn Collins but now she's too old to roll in the same crowd as the Joss Stones and Corinne Bailey Raes.

As you can sense, my thoughts are rather jumbled here and I'm not trying to come at Winehouse sideways - I actually thoroughly enjoyed her show (which is saying a lot considering how much I hate having to drive into West Hollywood for any reason) and I plan to write more about her in the near future. But it's impossible for me to listen to her and the Dap-Kings perform and wonder, "well - would Sharon Jones and this same band have sold out the same venue?" and if the answer is "no," that should be cause for pause.

In the meanwhile, check out her latest video, this the title song off the new CD:

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Back to the Day Glo
posted by O.W.

God bless YouTube. I'm an insane De La Soul fan - they are the #1 reason I got into hip-hop - but even I didn't know about the existence of this 3 Ft. High and Rising video press-kit until now.

Nostalgia overload!

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Soul Purge Pt. 1: Eurojazz
posted by O.W.

Ted Atking and His Orchestra: The Man From Nowhere
From Pop Music For Dancing (Concert Hall, 1970)

The Alyn Ainsworth Orchestra: Cast Your Fate to the Wind
From Big City Soul (Pye, 1975)

Rogier Van Otterloo: My Dearest Fluffie
From On the Move (Polydor, 1976)

Jacques Loussier: Ballet Photo Rogue
From You Only Love Once Soundtrack (London, 1968)

As noted in an earlier post, I realized that I had a long set of songs I've been meaning to post about but haven't gotten to yet. This first batch are all '60s/'70s funk-influenced jazz tunes, movie scores and other instrumentals that wouldn't be out of place on a library record. All are also European in origin; not exactly a coincidence given that you can find a whole range of funky jazz tunes emerging across Europe in this era and though some examples - Peter Herbolzheimer's lauded Rhythm Combination and Brass comes to mind - were directly under the sway of fusion jazz's emergence, most of these are actually more like funk-influenced big band tunes (namely the Atking and Ainsworth tunes).

Speaking of Atking...he didn't really exist; the name was a pseudonym though there are differing stories on who the Atking nom de plume was supposed to stand in for. One source claims the original composer was from the UK's Jack Arel (of Chapell Library fame). Another pairs the name with French composer Pierre Dutour (given that Concert Hall was a French label, I'm inclined to nod towards Dutour). Regardless, "The Man From Nowhere" definitely has a "library record" feel - moody, well-arranged, with layers of sound stacked, most prominently the melancholy guitar at center plus the rich string section that accompanies.

In contrast, the Ainsworth song (I presume he was a real person) is more contemporary in sound, largely thanks to the electric piano at the front end though, like Atking, the string accompaniment gives the song a more expansive feel. Ainsworth was British and at least in this phase in his career, had recorded a series of theme-ploitation albums (i.e. instrumental covers of t.v., movie and chart-topping hits).

Rogier Von Otterloo comes to us from the Netherlands - a Dutch composer of some renown who recorded this funky big band album in the mid-70s for the powerhouse Polydor imprint. This is definitely the most "big band-y" of the bunch, largely due to that prominent brass section but the rhythm section is what makes this groove work with its dark, smoky cool.

Lastly, we return to France and composer Jacques Loussier with a song off of the soundtrack for the movie, You Only Live Once. I really dig the drunk-happy vibe "Ballet Photo Rogue" gives it slips and trips around but never sloppily. The short breakbeat sections are also an unexpected surprise - love that crisp syncopation.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Where Are They Now? Right Here.
posted by O.W.

If you want to know just what makes audioblogging the unique medium it is, Wake Your Daughter Up presents Exhibit A: a breakdown of Nas' "Where Are They Now" that includes histories on the various artists Nas shouts-out PLUS links to their songs. Bonkers.

Round 1 includes MC Shan, Kool Moe Dee, Sha Rock, and UTFO.

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Mary Lou Williams: In Touch With the Keys
posted by O.W.

Mary Lou Williams: It Ain't Necessarily So
From Black Christ of the Andes (Saba, 1963)

Mary Lou Williams: Credo (Instrumental)
From Mary Lou's Mass (Mary 1965)

I realized today that I am way, way, way behind in clawing through a stack of songs/artists I've been meaning to write about. Bad for me, hopefully good for you as I might try to pick up the pace (time permitting) and knock down a slew of posts over the next few weeks.

The Mary Lou hasn't been on the backburner as long as others but I'm just really feeling these two songs so I'm bumping it up the queue for you.

Mary Lou Williams is arguably the finest female jazz pianist in history...good enough that perhaps we can leave off the "female" part and just acknowledge that her work has been exemplary. Not only was she a great player and composer but Williams was an entrepreneur at a time when there weren't a ton of women running their own labels. Through her self-titled Mary imprint, she crafted an independent outlet for her own work, allowing her to experiment with concepts and themes that may not have been as well received elsewhere.

That's how something like Mary Lou's Mass was able to come together - less a jazz album that a meeting of African American cultural traditions bridging soul, jazz, the blues, spirituals and theater. It's a heady album to be sure (and to me, always something reminiscent of what Melvin Van Peebles would do in the 1970s) and contains a whirlwind of different styles. "Credo" has been a favorite of mine though the version that I had, off 7", did not appear on the original vinyl LP but it is a bonus song on this new CD version. As you can hear, it's a very good funky jazz tune that keeps the sound and rhythm taut and tight rather than more "noodly" or fusion-esque. Makes for a great bonus song given how obscure the original 45 is.

Though on the Germany Saba label and not Mary, Black Christ Of the Andes is another conceptual mix of different directions, apparently the first album by Williams after 10 years off the performance circuit. As the title suggests, the album has some definitive Latin American influences to it but "It Ain't Necessarily So," is actually a sublime straight-ahead cut; very soulful and melancholy. I've owned Mary Lou's Mass but never Black Christ so I had never heard this track before and was absolutely taken with it. Reminds me a little of the best cuts on Duke Pearson's The Phantom or something of that caliber.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Al Green: Still Keepin' It Together
posted by O.W.

Al Green: Definitive Greatest Hits (CD/DVD) (2007)

When I got this in the mail, I have to first thought was..."wait, haven't there been about four dozen "definitive" Al Green anthologies? And to be sure, the tracklisting on here is meant to collect songs you already know rather than pick up on more obscure bits from his catalog:
    1. Let's Stay Together
    2. Tired Of Being Alone
    3. Take Me To The River
    4. I'm Still In Love With You
    5. Look What You Done For Me
    6. Here I Am (Come And Take Me)
    7. Love And Happiness
    8. Keep Me Cryin'
    9. Call Me (Come Back Home)
    10. Livin' For You
    11. Let's Get Married
    12. Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)
    13. L-O-V-E (Love)
    14. You Ought To Be With Me
    15. Oh Me, Oh My (Dreams In My Arms)
    16. Full Of Fire
    17. Back Up Train- Al Green & The Soul Mates
    18. I Can't Get Next To You
    19. Belle
    20. I Can't Stop
    21. Perfect To Me
I'll be really real - I wouldn't have programmed it this way (no "Simply Beautiful"? No "Light My Fire"?) but if you really need a starting point and you want to cover a wide range of Green eras without having to ball for this, then sure, it'll work.

The real bonus is the second disc that comes with this set: the DVD full of Green performance videos. I hadn't seen most of these before and though the acoustic performance of "Simply Beautiful" is very, very, very nice, I have to give the nod to the 1972 performance of "Let's Stay Together" while it was at the height of its popularity. For real - a young Al Green was probably living like the mack with his looks and voice.

Good stuff. He even looks good in a suit that would have been a fashion disaster on anyone else (with a turtleneck no less!)

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NPR's Songs Of The Day (March '07 Update)
posted by O.W.

Forget to mention these earlier:I wrote about the Mighty Voices track here I believe but I never did write-up Sisters Love for Soul Sides. Definitely a track worth checking out if you never have before.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

posted by O.W.

After what seemed like a great beginning, I decided to stop using Peel. The main reason was that it stopped identifying all the songs that were posted even though I could discern no difference in how they were listed in a post. That kind of inconsistency pretty much negates the main reason you would use a program like Peel to begin with: consistency and reliability.

The other thing too: Peel won't work for any MP3 site that doesn't host its MP3s directly which means people using any kind of 3rd party storage site (which is many sites) will be operating outside of what Peel - or really, any similar program - can handle.

Especially given my fondness for trying out stuff like, this kind of limitation (through no fault of the programmers) makes any MP3 blog reader limited in worth. I'm perfectly happy with using my RSS reader to quickly flip through updated posts and scan for content I might want. It's not nearly as efficient but then again, I also know I won't end up missing songs by accident either.

If folks have had better experiences trying out other software, let us know in the comments.


Biggie: The Best Ever?
posted by O.W.

Biggie: Biggie Got That Hype Sh--
Demo version (~1992) Courtesy Spine Magazine).

Biggie: Machine Gun Funk (DJ Premier Mix)
Unreleased remix (1993) Courtesy The Low End Theory.

First off, yeah, I know, I'm a few days late to properly commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Biggie's death[1]. It's hard - seriously hard - to believe it's been 10 years. 1997 feels like a lifetime ago which probably isn't too far off the mark; a lot changes in 10 years but seriously - it feels like it was just the other week.


For starters, I pulled (well, "borrowed" to be more exact) two "lost tapes"-style songs from the Biggie archive. "Biggie Got That Hype Sh--" is something which I had never heard before until Spine Magazine threw it up the other day (make sure you visit them to cop a few other rare Biggie joints). Even though the sound quality is terrible - man, this song is sick. I love how Biggie flowed; it wasn't the most stylized but he had an uncanny sense of timing and vocal flair that made his best songs a joy to listen to.

"Machine Gun Funk" - the LP version - was probably my favorite non-single cut off Ready to Die (though "Gimme the Loot" is pretty hard to deny too) but I had never heard this unreleased DJ Premier mix before until The Low End Theory put it up about a year ago or so. I have - I'm glad to hear it, for history's sake if nothing else - but much as I'm a fan of Primo's stuff from this era, the Easy Mo Bee album production can't be faded.

This all said: here's the question to get heads buzzing... Can Biggie really be considered the G.O.A.T. if he only had two albums and a sprinkling of cameos to build that consensus from? (I know I'm not the first to raise the question but whatever). Or do we lionize Biggie because his untimely death meant that we never had to wait to watch him fall off (assuming he would have). After all, if Big Daddy Kane had died after his second album, imagine how different his legacy would look. Or what if Run DMC had disbanded and stopped recording after Raising Hell.

I've never denied Biggie his props (he's not #1 to me but Top 5? Sure.), but I also thought Life After Death didn't deserve the intense praise it got (like most double albums, it was just too long with a lot of tracks I'll never ever care to listen to again) but obviously, coming out post-death, it was treated like the best-thing-ever. Had he lived, I have the feeling that Life After Death would have been seen as a smart commercial effort but I imagine Biggie could/would have surpassed it later. It also imagine, easily, he would have dropped some mediocre material later too: it's impossible to think he would have escaped a fate that even his most talented peers: Jay-Z, Nas, Snoop, etc. have fallen victim to at some point.

So yeah, my question is: do we give Biggie too much credit because his catalog was unnaturally frozen in time? Is he like the Robert Johnson of hip-hop?

Lastly, can I just say how absurd it is that the murders of Biggie, Tupac and Jam Master Jay still remain unsolved? Maybe you can blame it on the "stop snitchin'" ethos amongst the rap community or maybe it's police disinterest at dead Black men. Or maybe both. It's shameless, regardless.

[1] The whole "Notorious B.I.G." name never sat with me. The only reason Biggie wasn't "Biggie" was on some legal bullsh--, same reason Diamond D. had to go by Diamond and why Common Sense was Common. To me, Biggie will always be Biggie, period.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Camp Lo, Smif N Wessun, Cormega: BBQE
posted by O.W.

Camp Lo: Feelin It (Demo Original)
From demo (1995/6)

Cocoa Brovaz/Smif N Wessun: The Tools of The Trade
From 12", b-side of "Spit Again" (and unreleased LP) (Duck Down/Rawkus, 2002)

Cormega: Changin' (snippet)
From Sound Chronicles Vol. 1 (Soundchron, 2007)

Another random trio of tunes for you, this time from the hip-hop side of things. Vibe-wise, they actually go together kind of nicely despite spanning over 10 years of history.

The Camp Lo original demo version of "Feelin' It" comes courtesy the folks down with Ski aka Ski Beatz. For those who recall, Ski's the producer most famously connected with Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt CD but he also helped shepherd All City (remember them?) as well as producing Camp Lo's funkalistically fly Uptown Saturday Night. Originally, he hooked up the beat for "Feelin' It" for Camp Lo but Jay-Z heard the song on their demo tape and immediately asked Ski to lace him with it instead. One less song for Camp Lo, one more song for Reasonable Doubt - it's a cold world but that's how things go down sometimes. It's really great to hear this OG version - Camp Lo sound great over it.

Speaking of lost demo-type tracks, I was recently listening to the unreleased Smif N Wessun album that was supposed to come out on Rawkus; not a life-changing album by any means but it includes "The Tools of the Trade" which I had always liked when I first heard in on 12" in 2002. Seemed like a good time to bring it back into the air since I doubt that many folks really get hip to it back when it first dropped. Not that I condone gun violence but there's something almost nerdy about cataloging your weaponry in the way the Bucktown duo handle it.

Lastly, bringing things up to current, I include a two minute snippet from a new Cormega song that I like quite a bit; it's off of the new underground compilation, Sound Chronicles which Baltimore's Goldrocc helped put together. 'Mega may forever be stuck as a QB second string player but that doesn't mean he doesn't have some good moments to shine once in a while, especially when Ayatollah is blessing him with the beat. Sound Chronicles also includes new joints by Masta Ace, Smif N Wessun (as it were), Styles of Beyond, Planet Asia, Imam Thug and Sean Price. Peep.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Songs of Obsession: Bobby Womack, Tammi Terrell, William Smith: Oh Baby!
posted by O.W.

Bobby Womack: Baby, You Oughta Think It Over
From 7", also on Fly Me to the Moon (Minit, 1969)

Tammi Terrell: Baby Don'tcha Worry
From 7", b-side of "Come On and See Me" (Motown, 1966). Also on The Essential Collection.

William D. Smith: I Feel So Good With You (Baby)
From A Good Feelin' (Warner Bros, 1976)

I admit - the "baby" theme was just an excuse to post up some recent songs (and one that's been waiting in the queue) and I was too lazy to think of something more original. Of course, I realized I have a few dozen other eligible "baby" songs so who knows? Maybe we'll have a part deux somewhere down the line.

I am serious about the "songs of obsession" thing though - all three of these songs have clocked repeat-repeat-repeat listenings from me at some point and I've been waiting to find an excuse to post them up so, voila.

It began with the Bobby Womack song - I had never heard Fly Me to the Moon until recently and while the entire LP didn't blow me away, I loved "Baby, You Oughta Think It Over" enough to hunt it down on 7". I've never been the biggest Womack fan - it's not that I don't think he's talented but for whatever reason, he just wasn't at the top of my list of favorites. This one song though? Love it. It's all in how Womack stretches out "ooooooovvvver." (It's not just that - I really dig the arrangement and Womack's voice in general but that one note was enough to win me over. Everything else is a grand bonus).

The Terrell is such a damn great example of the mid-60s Motown groove that it makes me downright embarrassed that I've never owned a Terrell single (let alone album). I've probably given Motown the cold shoulder for too long (not like I've avoided the entire label writ larger, but I was always more of a Stax man and sometimes, that meant putting the blinders on in regards to how astounding Motown could be) and a song like Terrell's makes me re-evaluate a lot of things. This song brings such a smile to my entire being and I especially like the unexpected key change (at least, I think it's a key change) at the chorus mark. This isn't the most sophisticated R&B song ever recorded but it plain works as a mid-tempo dance track. Never appeared on an album...except a Terrell/Marvin Gaye duets album where Gaye's vocals were added after the fact. I prefer this 7" original with just Terrell on it (sorry Marvin!)

Lastly, I'm genuinely surprised I never put up this William Smith song before - clearly an oversight on my part since it's long been a personal favorite. I don't know a ton about Smith but I can only assume he's from the Gulf Coast since Allen Toussaint produced his album. I'll be the first to admit: as far as ballads go, the Smith borders on being a bit bland yet there's something about that bass guitar riff and the plain earnestness in Smith's vocals that wins me over. From a formalist point of view, I have a hard time making the case for why I like this so much but I just do. Hope others feel the same way.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Morning Anthem
posted by O.W.

Mobb Deep: The Infamous Prelude
From The Infamous (Loud, 1995)

When The Infamous first dropped, I never paid much attention to this intro...not the least of which is because it just seemed highly unlikely that the same dudes who cut, "Hit It From the Back," would suddenly turn out to be the grimiest rappers in history. But whenever I go back and listen to The Infamous nowadays, I sometimes just put this on repeat. Whether Prodigy's thug pose is truly convincing or not is for the listener to decide but his own sense of conviction is highly entertaining in its own right. P drops enough gems to fill a royal crown:

"When you see me at the show, on stage, or in the street, I definitely got the gat on me."
"I used to be in the clubs, the Muse, the Tunnel, whatever the f---."
"You ain't got to waste your time, or your money, or your hospital bills."
"There's a good chance your ass might get shot, stabbed or knuckled down - one out of the three."

...and the grand finale:

"To all them rap ass n------ with your half assed rhymes talking about how much you get high, how much weed you smoke, and that crazy space sh-- that don't even make no sense, don't ever speak to me when you see me. Know what I'm saying? Word. I might have to get on some ol high school s---, start punching n------ in the face just for living."

Man, I miss '95 sometimes.


Boys + Girls, Part Deux
posted by O.W.

Eddie Floyd + Cleotha Staples: It's Too Late

Eddie Floyd + Mavis Staples: Piece of My Heart

Both from Boy Meets Girl (Stax, 1969)

After my recent "Boys Meet Girls" post, I went out to check out the Boy Meets Girl album that "Strung Out" came from. I thought it was a compilation but if I'm not mistaken, it's an album of all original songs, by over half a dozen Stax artists. Great concept...though the execution could have been better (there's a lot on here that sounds like generic, late '60s Stax and while "generic Stax" is not a bad thing per se, it doesn't necessarily get your blood pressure up either).

I picked two of the strongest songs (excluding "Strung Out" which was the stand-out cut on here), including a cover of "Piece of My Heart" (naturally, a SS favorite) by Eddie Floyd and one of the lesser known Staples singers, Cleotha. I'm diggin' it - I'd put it up there with Dusty Springfield's versions of this classic. Also, Floyd and Mavis Staples also collabo on the ballad, "It's Too Late," a great example of Stax's Southern soul sound.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Updated Blog Roll
posted by O.W.

So we finally updated the blog roll.

1) Steinski has a blog?! Awesome. Seriously, Stein is like the dudest of dudes ever.

2) Album blogs are now, for the first time really, represented. It was inevitable.

3) I've also include a few sites that are not, technically, pure audioblogs but mix content, such as the always excellent rap-related sites like Oh Word, Smoking Section and The Rap Up.

4) Of the new-new blogs, the most promising seem to be:
    A) >bounce/oz. The spelling of their site is awkward - even if it is a musical reference - but the content is cool.
    B) Funky Czech-In. I should have added this months ago. Not only does it have a great name but it's the kind of audioblog I really appreciate - super-focused.
    C) Undercover. An audiophile that specializes in soul/jazz covers? Holla!
    D) Loaded to the Gills. Another site that should have been on the roll a long time ago, especially since it's one of our fave new spots. If only they got off the yousendit tip. See below.
    E) Number One Songs in Heaven is dead. Long live Crying All the Way to the Chip Shop. We have no idea what that title means but where London Lee goes, we follow.
    F) Konstant Kontakt. Stretch Armstrong has a blog? With posts of his and Bobbito's old shows? Oh yeah baby.
    G) Press Rewind. We mentioned them before but the last two posts, including Big L doing "Devil's Son" live is just next level.

5) Pet Peeves: Seriously, sites need to realize there's a lot more options out there for hosting than, and whatever else. Unless you're posting up albums, there's no excuse for song sites to be using anything that doesn't allow easy previewing of the songs. No offense, but I hate having to download a song just to hear it. Get familiar with:

Classic Material
posted by O.W.

Kanye West feat. Rakim, Nas and KRS-One: Classic (DJ Premier Remix)

It's stuff like this to make an 80s 70s baby feel old. It's cool they (Nike) footed the bill for a video on top of the song.

Thanks to D. Johnson for the heads-up.

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