Wednesday, February 10, 2010

posted by O.W.

  • T.R.O.Y. has Cypress Hill's demo tape. Seriously - this demo tells me that whoever A&R/exec. produced their debut deserves massive credit for improving the band's final product. The demo is cool as a curiosity but more rough than diamonds, if you follow me.

  • Just Matter and Roger Jao team up for a fun and impressively executed mix called Still Diggin' Disco, featuring the best in electro country house. (Ok, actually, it's all disco).

  • Late pass (#1) on my part but Jay Electronica's Victory mix-CD is a must-to-bump. Can I just marvel, for a moment at how good this sounds to me?
    Jay Electronica feat. Talib Kweli, Jay Cole and Mos Def: Just Begun

    I've read elsewhere this is actually a Reflection Eternal cut feat. Jay E, Jay Cole and Mos. That's less relevant than just appreciating how this is a real flash back to the turn of the 90s/00s, when people still presumably carried about a bunch of "dope" MCs "dropping" "hot lines" over a "cool beat." F--- if you can't feel this.

    Weiss still has the mix.

  • Speaking of the Passion of Weiss site, DJ Sach has put together a Winter Mixtape, a concept I've been wanting to create for a long time but thankfully, someone got around to doing it first. Everyone needs a Winter mixtape.

  • Late pass (#2): DJ Numark live at the Do Over. This dude stays mad underrated but is still one of the most party rockin' DJs out there. And not just because he plays mooged out covers of the Mohawks. (It does not hurt though).

  • Funky16corners brings you their Forbidden City Organs. If you can't get enough of a fiery, funky bunch of organ vamps, this is for you. B3 me!

  • Last but not least, I probably should write a full post about this at some point but I'm hella behind on a ton of stuff and I'd hate to overlook at least saying a lil' something...Souljazz Orchestra are a Canadian ensemble who, true to their name, have kept the soul-jazz sound of the '60s and '70s alive and well. The album is heavily Afro-beat influenced but the cut that really stood out to me is more in the vein of Black Jazz than EMI Nigeria:

    Souljazz Orchestra: Lotus Flower
    From Rising Sun (Strut, 2010)

    Loving the smooth, cool flavor here; absolutely takes me back about a dozen years to when I was trying to grip Strata East, Black Jazz and Prestige titles with the quickness. This drops in the next couple; sleep not.

    The group also has a video for another song off the album:

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  • Thursday, February 04, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Fat Joe feat. Young Jeezy: Slow Down (Ha Ha)
    From The Darkside Vol. 1 (upcoming, 2010)

    Funny; me and Hua were just rapping about the acapella mix for Soul II Soul's "Back to Life" earlier today and then I heard this new Fat Joe/Young Jeezy track that uses part of the acapella to full effect. Seriously, this beat is bonkers and both Joe and Jeezy kill sh-- over it.

    Props to Scoop Deville for the beat. He's Kid Frost's son and given that he also hooked up Snoop's "I Wanna Rock," it's like he's been raiding pop's golden era hip-hop crates (how long until Mixmaster Spade gets remade into a new beat?). I can't wait to spin this out - it's the epitome of banging.


    Sunday, January 31, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    I finally got around to catching up on my blog reading and noticed that Super Sonido recently wrote up Mon Rivera's "Lluvia Con Nieve." This salsa classic was introduced to me by Murphy's Law and I consider it one of my Top 3 go-to, never-fail salsa cuts to get an audience moving (Willie Colon holds down the other two with his "La Murga De Panama" and "Che Che Cole"). "Lluvia Con Nieve" fits right between those two - more aggressive and forceful than "Che Che Cole" though, for my money, nothing can ace the horn opening to "La Murga" but that "Lluvia" comes pretty damn close. Trust a trombonist to know how to use some brass to get feet to slide.

    Super Sonido included Rivera's original plus a cover by Lucho Macedo on Virrey which I had never heard before (good stuff Frank!) and that made me think of this:

    Carlos Pickling: Lluvia Con Nieve-El Molestoso
    From Suplemento Dominical (MAG, 1970s)

    Can't say I know much about this Peruvian organist except that he's, um, Peruvian and an organist. I picked this Mag LP up a while back, mostly on the strength of this medley/cover of "Lluvia Con Nieve" that segues nicely into "El Molestoso," a pachanga (Eddie Palmieri's?). The use of organ is what sells this cover for me, just adding enough of a touch of difference to stick in the ear.

    Meanwhile, over at Philaflava's TROY blog, he's got the latest post in his "Who Flipped It Better" series up, focusing on samplings of Five Stairsteps' "Danger, She's a Stranger." It reminded me that I hadn't done an installment of my own, similar series in well over a year and as it was, in going back over some key Willie Mitchell productions, I forgot how many folks had flipped Al Green's "I Wish You Were Here."

    Al Green: I Wish You Were Here
    From Al Green Is Love (Hi, 1975)

    Nas: Shootouts
    From It Was Written (Columbia, 1996)

    The Lootpack: Wanna Test
    From Soundpieces: Da Antidote (Stones Throw, 1999)

    Consequence feat. Kanye West: The Good, The Bad, the Ugly
    From Don't Quit Your Day Job (Good, 2007)

    Wu-Tang (Ghostface Killah + Tre Williams): I Wish You Were Here
    From Chamber Music (E1, 2009)

    I find it rather remarkable that this song has been such a popular sample over the years if only because it's just not what I associate with Green's core canon. Doesn't mean it isn't a great song and in particular, such a classic Willie Mitchell sound. On that note, it's rather amazing that no one in the Wu seemed to mess with this until last year given that it sounds pitch-perfect for the Wu's well-known affections for the Hi catalog.

    However, it was Nas who seemed to have been the first to flip this (Poke and Tone of the Trackmasters to be more exact), back with "Shootouts" from It Was Written. Call me crazy but listening back to this, some 14 years later, doesn't one get the sense that Poke and Tone were listening to some of Rza's beats and thinking, "yo, we need to get on this steez?" In any case, I admire how they didn't opt for a straight loop but chop it up instead (Jesse "Fiyah!" West style!) Madlib's flip on the same sample for The Lootpack's "Wanna Test" doesn't cut things up as much, opting instead to filter parts of the main, opening loop to add some dissonance. Fast-forward to 2007 and it's an interesting contrast with how Kanye uses more of the original sample in its "pure" sonic form to open, but then chops it up a bit (w/ Green's vocals sped-up and attached) for the main parts of the song. Honestly, I think I gotta give it up to the Trackmasters for the best flip of this sample - it just has the most edge and appealing sound of the bunch.

    Continuing my "songs I thought of while reading other people's posts" - Earfuzz has the new Kings Go Forth's single, "One Day" and that reminded me that I'm behind on posting this:

    The One & Nines: Something On Your Mind
    From The One & Nines EP (2009)

    This soul band out of New Jersey (no Jersey Shore jokes, please) contacted me over winter break and I really dug this one song off their new EP. Reminds me of that Noisettes song I posted last year in general sound but sans the rock elements. The arrangement here is done with smart subtly - the song doesn't try to force an overly aggressive crescendo; it's content with maintaining a slow burn that sparks towards the end without ever departing too far from the core, Southern Soul aesthetics that make this such an appealing tune. (Excellent use of back-up singers too - this isn't nearly as acknowledged as it should be.)

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    Friday, January 29, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Here's a quintet of stuff I've been listening to lately...

    Cumbias En Moog: Cumbia Del Sol
    From 7" (Peerless, 197/8?)

    Cumbia, done in moog. Awesome idea, marvelously executed here by the outfit, appropriately named, Cumbias En Moog. I'm betting there's a lot more of this out there, probably collecting dust somewhere between Colombia and Mexico City. Holler at me with that! This came out of a batch of cumbia 7"s I picked up the other month; money well-spent! Really solid stuff all around (the A-side of this 7", for example, has a surprisingly good, bossa-flavored cumbia). I'll share another one:

    Pedro Beltran y Orquesta: Cumbia De Lucy
    From 7" (Aries, 1970s)

    Killer intro; sounds like a marching band bass drum being pounded there, intercut with chattering percussion and then what sounds like an Indian flute creeps in (I'm assuming it's some Peruvian woodwindaccording to commenter Alejandro, it's a Colombian instrument called a "gaita".). The whole package is an incredibly mesmerizing rhythm. Lyrically, I can only assume the song is a riff on Lucille Ball given that the vocalist (Beltran?) sings "Lucy! Luck!" Ricky Ricardo style.

    The Sonics: Have Love Will Travel
    From Here Are the Sonics (Etiquette, 1965)

    One of my favorite songs to DJ with over the last year or so has been the Lefties Soul Connection's cover of "Have Love Will Travel." The song was originally recorded by Richard Berry in 1959 but like several of Berry's influential compositions ("Louie Louie" being the most obvious), it would actually be later artists who'd record the more definitive version. In the case of "Have Love Will Travel," the version the Lefties are riffing on isn't Berry's original but the 1965 cover by the garage rockers, The Sonics. With the fuzzed out guitar and screaming intro, their version rocks in a way that Berry's never really did and it's easy to see why it's been such a compelling cover to cover since then. Check out Thee Headcoat(ees) cover for the femme makeover.

    Chikaramanga feat. Droop Capone: A Life Like This (snippet)
    From 12" (Tres, 2010)

    Droop Capone aka Dr. Oop is one of my favorite West Coast rappers from the indie hip-hop heyday; he had such a distinctive flow and a knack for choosing good beats to rhyme over. In 2010, he hasn't slipped on that front, teaming with Japan's Chikaramanga for this upcoming single on Tres Records. Call it nostalgist in me but I like any song that a shout out to the Good Life on the chorus. Cop this.

    Professor Longhair: Big Chief Pt. 2
    From 7" (Watch, 19640). Part 1 + 2 version here.

    This is a classic of NOLA music though I didn't get around to grabbing the OG 7" until recently. If you want to understand the roots of funk polyrhythm, you'd do well to just pay attention to what's going on this song in terms of what Smokey Johnson (second line ya'll!) is doing with the drums and how it plays off against the rest of the layers of the song. Longhair's piano work here is sparkling and I went with the lesser played Pt. 2 of the 7" because I like it makes the Royal Dukes of Rhythm horn section more prominent plus you get actual vocals (from Earl King) instead of only whistling. (Home of the Groove has an excellent primer on this single).

    In other news...people may also be interested in:

  • Part 3 of my overview of the Latin soul label, Speed, on
  • An essay for about who usually wins the Grammy's R&B Female Performance award.

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  • Friday, January 22, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Apache: Gangsta Bitch
    From Apache Ain't Shit (Tommy Boy, 1992)

    This one bums me out.

    Apache may not have been a major rapper - his career came and went within a few short years in the early/mid-90s - but if he's destined to be known as a one-hit wonder, I'd argue that "Gangsta Bitch" was one of the more influential of its era. Lyrically, the song roiled many, not the least of which was putting the word "bitch" out so prominently and, if I recall, it fed into concerns (read: paranoia) about girl violence in that era; Apache was accused of encouraging female delinquency and violence, blah blah blah. From what I can remember, while there were certainly female rappers boasting about their bad ass-ness (B.O.S.S. anyone?), Apache was one of the first male rappers I could remember, besides perhaps Ice Cube, to pen an anthem to hip-hop's gangstresses. Biggie hadn't come out with "Me and My Bitch" yet, let alone the Lox's Ride or Die Bitch" or any of the subsequent songs you can think of. So there's that.

    But for me, Apache's verses weren't nearly as memorable as the beat - put together by Q-TIp in one of the first non-Tribe tracks I ever remember Tip's credit appearing on (this was before he gave tracks to Mobb Deep or Nas) and it was a beauty - total classic of its era. The drums come from Lonnie Smith's excellent soul-jazz-organ-puffer "Spinning Wheel" and four bars in, Tip hits you with a loop lifted from Monty Alexander's "Love and Happiness."


    This track stays as one of my all time favorites and that's kept Apache alive in my memory for all these years. I suppose it's what will continue to even after his death.

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    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    I was on WNYC's Soundcheck again last Friday, talking about hip hop in the '00s. Part of what I was asked to do, ahead of time, was submit my 3 top hip hop albums of 2009 and I'm not going to lie: I couldn't come up with three actual albums. In fact, none of the three I submitted were, technically, albums.

    To be sure, I can't remotely claim to have heard much of what was released this year and the stuff I did hear just didn't move me to really admire them as albums. Sure, I liked some of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 but overall, I found the album overly long and kind of anemic for it. I admired Jay's Blueprint 3 but more for its calculated choices than anything inherently pleasurable about the CD as a listening experience. I jumped in and listened to about 50 Gucci Mane songs in a row (his Cold War mixtape series + the new album) just to see what the deal was and while I get his appeal, I'd rather re-listen to individual songs rather than trying to sit through any of the mix-CDs/albums as a whole. I'm not going to put this on hip-hop (well, not entirely). I could do a lot more to "stay current" but now that my writing has become more personally-driven (what I like) vs. professionally-driven (what I should be writing about), I just don't find much about today's hip-hop that speaks to me. People in my demographic aren't really who today's young rappers are aiming at. Either way, I've learned to catch my pleasures when I can, usually in single-servings, and I've learned to moderate my expectations as I recognize that the older I get, the distance between contemporary hip-hop and my tastes grow.

    But for all that, I still leave myself open to crave those moments when a song will absolutely knock me on my f---ing ass, demand my attention and compel me to keep coming back to it. If you had told me that would be Jay Electronica, with a radio rip that skips, I would have laughed you out of the room but that's before I actually heard the song and once I did, all I could think was, "wait, this is that same dude who made this?" I was never checking for him before this song but after it? I'm thinking "Third Coming".

    So yeah, this made my Top 3 even though it wasn't an album because frankly, I found the experience of listening to this more profound than most of the albums I actually did hear this year. And who knows - maybe his album (if it ever comes out) won't live up to this moment but I actually want to hear what he has to bring and that sense of anticipation is like water to the desert of my expectations.

    So what's so good here?

    Begin with the fact that it's the first unqualifiably incredible Just Blaze production I've heard in at least two years. There's the loop itself of course (more on this in a moment) but listen past just the actual sample. The added string arrangements don't just play off the main melody but they're also used to build tension as a second set of strings tick upward in a crescendo effect - all in key - so that by the peak moment, everything is aflame...only to start all over again for another 10 bar cycle (the 10 bar loop is also unusual since it plays against where you'd normally expect the progression to go). Pure intensity.

    And yeah, Just was brilliant in playing with this Billy Stewart song:

    Billy Stewart: Cross My Heart
    From 7" (Chess, 1967). Also on The Best Of...

    I confess that I had never heard this before but damn, what a great Stewart song, no? It opens like "Sitting In the Park" (I mean, exactly alike) but then when you get to hook - "lord, why don't you, send her to me?" is some magic, especially when followed by, "this fat boy is gonna love her!" Not a lyric you hear every day.

    And speaking of lyrics - maybe it's just the acrobatics of it, but I can easily say that Jay's "call me Jay Electronica, f--- that, call me..." verse is probably the most jaw-dropping thing I've heard all year (except maybe for that Tiger Woods' voice mail message) and what leads up to there is pretty damn good too (loved the verse that immediately precedes it - it's not often you can hear Run DMC, Marcus Garvey and Nikola Tesla name-checked within three seconds of one another and it all makes sense.

    Now where's the damn album?

    As for my other favorite hip-hop moments of 2009, here's a sampling of Top 10 in reverse chronological order):

    Jay Electronica: Exhibit C
    Edan: Echo Party
    Big Boi feat. Gucci Mane: Shine Blockas
    Lupe Fiasco: Fire
    Lil Wayne: Death of Autotune freestyle
    MOP: Bang Time
    Raekwon feat. Method Man and Ghostface: New Wu
    The Cool Kids: Popcorn
    Bambu: 2 Dope Boyz
    Young Jeezy feat. Jay-Z: My President Is Black (remix)

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    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    OH SNAP!
    posted by O.W.

    Some time in either the late '90s or early '00s, I was at a De La Soul show in the Bay Area. To be honest, for whatever reason, the energy was kind of flagging throughout the whole thing (I had seen some great De La shows in the past, this just didn't happen to be among the more stellar ones).

    Biz had been one of the opening DJs and during the De La's set, they brought him out and he sang the chorus to "Just a Friend."

    Brought the house down. It was the most energized the crowd had been the entire night. And the thing is - I don't remotely consider Biz to be a one-hit wonder but it is frickin' amazing how powerfully that song has remained in popular culture.

    I've always been curious what Freddie Scott must have thought of that phenom.

    (One more from the Diabolical).

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    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    The 80s keep coming back!

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    Sunday, November 08, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Raven: How Long Before I'm Gone
    Stay With Me
    From Brief Replies (Polydor, 1970)

    The Highlighters: You're Time Is Gonna Come
    From 7" (Chess, 1970)

    I save a slew of songs with the intention of "eventually posting them up" and what inevitably happens is that they just end up "hanging around" and go nowhere fast. Right now, I have at least 1.5 years worth of stuff and decided to get off the proverbial pot by finally posting some up.

    The Ten Wheel Drive's "How Long" came to my attention after hearing this Black Moon cut (arguably the last good one they ever put out), "Way of the Walk." This combines at least two pet loves: 1) funky rock bands fronted by 2) female singers (in this case, Genya Raven who has a huge voice - very post-Joplin. I don't think her version of Lorraine Ellison's "Stay With Me blows the OG out of the water but it was an interesting take.

    Th Highlighters were an Indiana group probably best known for their uber-rare "Funky 16 Corners" funk 45. "You're Time Is Gonna Come" (not to be confused with the Led Zep song of similar title) is a taste of the group's penchant for crafting a great little, doo-wop influenced power ballad that showcases lead singer James Bell's pipes. I also really dig the organ here - unexpected but quite welcome.

    Jan Jankeje: Elsa Marie
    From Sokol (Jazzpoint, 1974)

    Preston Love: Kool Ade
    From Omaha BBQ (Also on LP) (Kent, 1969)

    Roger Saunders: Darkness
    From The Roger Saunders Rush Album (Warner Bros, 1972)

    I previously posted (anonymously) another song from Jan Jankeje's funky fusion LP, Sokol back in the "Breaks and Basslines" post. I'm not remotely as big on fusion stuff as I was about 10 years back but I still have a soft spot for this album by the Slovakian Jankeje which is one solid footing in funk-influenced rhythms but also healthy touches of avant garde jazz as this composition, in particular, seems to capture. File under "I can't believe I never posted this": Preston Love's Omaha BBQ was one of the earliest funky blues albums I ever became acquainted with and I still find it to be one of the most consistent efforts in the genre. "Kool Ade" especially is killer - as gritty a groove you can imagine. The drummer gets some special attention here on the two bridges where band members rap with each other over a chattering like series of breaks and fills.

    Speaking of breaks, you'd be hard pressed to find too many songs with a better 8 bar opening break than this. The actual song itself is a decent, mid-tempo country-rock ballad which isn't quite what you'd expect with an intro like that but it's definitely a step up from "Put Your Hand in the Hand."

    Prisoners of Watts (POW): Language of Funk
    From 12" (No Busters Allowed, 1990)

    Da Lench Mob: Ain't Got No Class (T-Bone Remix)
    Ain't Got No Class (Beatnuts Remix)
    From 12" (Street Knowledge, 1992)

    King Tee: The Great (Distorted Alcoholism Mix)
    From 12" ("Bust Dat Ass") (Capitol, 1992)

    I picked up this 12" by L.A.'s P.O.W. (Prisoners of Watts) on a whim and while it's not exactly the unsung NWA or anything, I do digthe early '90s L.A. hip-hop production steez on here. Bonus points for having Battle Cat (back when he was mostly known as a DJ) on the cut.

    Less obscure (but still staying in the Southland), we have two mixes from Da Lench Mob's "Ain't Got No Class" 12". Again, I don't really ride that hard for the song itself (there are better Lench Mob cuts out there) but I do like the contrast in production style you can here between the Beatnuts and T-Ray. Especially because T-Ray was doing stuff for Cypress Hill and his style and Muggs' seemed so compatible, I always associate it with a Left Coast thing even though neither Muggs nor T-Ray were originally from California. T-Bone's remix (which I, embarrassingly, confused for a T-Ray remix for, uh, years now) is some classic West Coast, post-Sir Jinx/Muggs ruggedness while
    The Beatnuts mix is classically 'Nuts with the filtered bassline and use of horns.

    One more from the West (actually, now that I think about it, these three songs were probably from a long-forgotten "early 90s West Coast hip-hop post") - a remix of King Tee's "The Great" found on the "Bust Dat Ass" 12". King Tee = unsung and then some. I always like going back and listening again to his catalog (especially anything connected to The Triflin' Album - such a good voice and such a damn shame his Aftermath album never got official release.

    Los Pakines: Hojas Verdes
    Oh! Cherie
    From S/T (Sono Radio, 197?)

    I don't know much about Peruvian chicha but this fusion of Colombian cumbia with American surf rock makes for style that's hard to forget once you hear it. I got turned onto this Los Pakines album when I was looking for stuff by Los Diablos Rojo, another group in a similar vein. The Pakines, in particular, seemed to love that reverb and just drench every song on this album with it. "Hojas Verdes" is a slinky cumbia piece with some funk undertones while "Oh! Cherie" sounds like a cover of a '60s tune I should recognize (but don't).

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    posted by O.W.

    Edan: Echo Party (snippet)
    From Echo Party (Five Day Weekend, 2009)

    Answering the question of "what's Edan been up to?" my favorite rapper/producer/DJ/collector from Boston whose name is an anagram of "Dane". No, seriously, Edan is awesome and on this new 30 minute mix, he really outdoes himself in assembling a creatively executed, sonically compelling mega-mix that's in the best traditions of cut n' paste mixes of the past (Steinski, holler) but with Edan's particular taste in echo boxes, fuzzed out effects, psych-meets-old school aesthetics and all else that make Echo Party as ambitious (and enjoyable) a project that I've ever heard from him.

    Stonesthrow still has LP copies available for pre-order, sold-out of their CDs but the album doesn't actually officially drop for another week or so.

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    Friday, October 30, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Bitty McLean: Walk Away From Love
    From On Bond Street (Peckings, 2005)

    Montclairs: Hey You!
    From 7" single (Arch, 1969)

    Captain Planet: Fumando
    From Speakin Nuyorican EP (Bastard Jazz, 2009)

    Big Boi w/ Gucci Mane: Shine Blockas
    From Sir Lucious Leftfoot: Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam, forthcoming 2009/2010)

    Jay Electronica: Exhibit C (radio rip)
    From untitled(?) (Decon, forthcoming ?)

    Lupe Fiasco: Fire
    From Lasers (Atlantic, forthcoming 2009)

    Clipse feat. Pharrell, Cam'ron: Popular Demand (Popeye's)
    From Till the Casket Driops (Re-Up, forthcoming 2009)

    I have a playlist I keep on my iPhone of all the songs that are at the top of my listening priorities but most of the time, I'll add just one or two songs to that list every week or two (if I'm lucky). In the last two weeks though, it's been like a deluge with quite a few things rolling through, including a few tracks that qualify as "today's best things ever" which mostly means I put them on single-song-repeat and just gorge on them.

    Top of that list is Bitty McLean's cover of The Choice Four's "Walk Away From Love," a song most connected to David Ruffin's mid-70s recording of it. Let's first acknowledge that composer Charles Kipps penned an absolute gem here; it is such an incredibly well-written song about a someone who realizes that his relationship is fated to fail so he decides to "walk away from love/before love can break my heart." But here's what McLean does; first, he sets his song over the riddim from Alton Ellis' "Get Ready (Rocksteady)" (which is one of my favorite songs out of JA so this already looking good). Now...McLean sounds like he's 16 (he was really in his early 30s) with a very youthful tenor but Kipps' words to the work to make McLean sound more worldly and this all comes together at the chorus where McLean hits that falsetto during "breaks my heart..." Listen to the song and try NOT to sing along (even if you cause small animals sonic pain when hitting that top note) when he does this. It is magcial to me - despite being a song about heartbreak, when he gets there, I feel positively euphoric. Best thing ever. (By the way, the entire On Bond Street album is basically McLean singing over old rocksteady riddims).

    The Montclairs song has also been in heavy rotation; it's a monster Northern Soul classic from the late '60s that's the best thing in this vein I've heard since first discovering Bobby Reed's "The Time Is Right For Love". I previously wrote about the Montclairs last summer but while the sweet soul on Dreaming Out of Season is lovely, "Hey You!" is on some whole other level. This has everything - great vocal performances, an irresistible uptempo track, and a general joyfulness that rings true with every snappy backbeat. Best thing ever.

    Captain Planet's "Fumando" was, once upon a time, a track called "Boogaloo" which was (and still is) a favorite play-out track (and, as it were, appeared in an episode of Entourage). "Fumando" subtly upgrades the original "Boogaloo" track with some added melodic touches but at its core, it's still the same, bangin' track of guitars, horns, flutes, claps and that crisp breakbeat he's got popping off in the back. DJs - get familiar with this.

    Ok, rap haters, feel free to leave now; the last four songs are all from upcoming hip-hop projects.

    "Shine Blockas" comes from the long awaited Big Boi solo album that was first announced in 2007 but probably won't drop until late this year if not early 2010. Hua was the first to put me up on this, first by sending this to me on some, "this is pretty good." Then he followed up the next day with a succession of IMs: "I can't stop listening to this" and "have you listened to it yet?" and "Dude, what's your f---ng problem, this is fire, get with it already!" (ok, I'm making up the last one but I would have deserved it).

    I don't know what it is but Southern flows over soul loops is a good combination - see here and here if you don't hear what I'm saying. This time around, it's not Willie Hutch (though that would have been a safe bet) but Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with "I Miss You" (last heard(?) on Jay-Z's "This Can't Be Life" (ah, back when him and Beanie weren't beefing). I'm not clear on who produced this (google, you failed me!) but kudos on a nice flip of the Melvin that doesn't fuss around with it too much except for the drum programming. I can see why Hua put this on repeat - between the ultra-smoothness of the track and Big Boi's hopscotch flow this has "instant classic" slathered all over it. (I'm still forming an opinion of Mane's verse but I was impatient to hear Boi back so I guess that's not a ringing endorsement).

    For Part 2 of "Southern dudes rapping over soul tracks," please to see NOLA's Jay Electronica (he of the "terrible name yet intriguing artist" sabor) rapping over a Just Blaze track that is just...uh, blaze. I've been wondering what the hell the Megatron Don's been up to and clearly, it's figuring out how to make a smooth ass Billy Stewart track sound like the world's end.

    And here's the thing: that beat is like the least great thing about this song, which is to say, Blaze's track is aces but holy sh--, I had no idea Jay Electronica could bring it like this. Even though this is a radio rip, with drops making it hard to listen through, by the time the song hits the last verse, I can see why Tony Touch rewound it to play back again. I can't even transcribe it but *whew* cotdamn.

    (By the way, this song encouraged me to go back and listen again to some of Jay E's other works, including Nas' "Queens Get the Money." I originally thought it was a track that screamed for a drum track but I now recognize the simple brilliance of keeping this to just the piano. Hypnotic power. This user-created video understands this by extending that piano passage into a long instrumental before Nasir comes in on it.

    Lupe isn't Southern and Jimi Hendrix isn't soul but whatever - "Fire" is a great pairing between the Chicago rapper and a Jimi classic that burns baby burns here. I'll be amazed if they manage to actually clear this sample for use (see what happened to Fat Joe's "Hey Joe") but I hope they do. This sh-- is a Leatherface mallet to the head; feeling the distorted mic approach Lupe takes here. Seriously, between this and the last two songs, 4th Q 2009 sounds a lot like 2006 (and I mean that in the best way possible).

    ...and just to complete that cipher, we have a new track from the Clipse and Neptunes, with Cam'ron cameoing. Straight up - this isn't incredible or anything, just merely good but I'm willing to settle for that given how some of the Clipse's other recent material was jaw-droppingly weak plus the Neptunes and Cam have stayed MIA for a minute. Cam's turn here isn't much to write home about (surprisingly) but the one shining spot is that beat. "Sparkling" comes to mind even though it also sounds like something the Neptunes might have hooked up years ago. Good enough is good enough.

    (Oh, by the way, I have three CDs - two soul mixes, one Aretha special - all about to come up for the offering. It's been a long time but I hope I've made up for the hiatus).

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    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Shafiq Husayn: Podcast (Mixed by Garth Trinidad)
    From Unreleased (Promotional mix/podcast for “En A-Free-Ka” - Plug Research, 2009)

    Here's a promotional mix/podcast of Sa-Ra Creative Partners member Shafiq Husayn's upcoming project “En A-Free-Ka,” available starting October 6. It follows his career from his own work, including tracks from his upcoming album, to work he's done for others such as Jurassic 5, King Tee, and Ms. Badu. 60 minutes of goodness that is highly recommended!! (Click the link above to be taken to another page to listen to the podcast.)


    Sa-Ra - Fantastic Vampyre (OG version) - Non Album - prod by Sa-Ra
    Sa-Ra exclusive - EXCLUSIVE - Non Album - prod by Sa-Ra
    Shafiq Husayn w/ Fatima - Lil' Girl - Shafiq En' A-Free Kah - Plug Research - prod by Shafiq Husayn
    Shafiq Husayn - Nirvana - Shafiq En' A-Free Kah - Plug Research - prod by Shafiq Husayn
    Jill Scott - Breathe - The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3 - Hidden Beach - prod by Sa-Ra
    John Legend - Maxine - Once Again - Sony Music - prod by Sa-Ra
    Sa-Ra exclusive - EXCLUSIVE - Non Album - prod by Sa-Ra
    King Tee - Trifflin Nigga - The Triflin' Album - Capitol Records - prod by Shafiq Husayn
    Jurassic 5 - Twelve - Quality Control - Interscope Records - prod by Sa-Ra
    Sa-Ra - we are Ra - EXCLUSIVE - Non Album - prod by Sa-Ra
    Shafiq Husayn w/ Bilal - Cheeba - Shafiq En' A-Free Kah - Plug Research - prod by Shafiq Husayn
    Sa-Ra - Drug Traffika - Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love - Ubiquity Records - prod by Sa-Ra
    Sa-Ra exclusive - EXCLUSIVE - Non Album - prod by Sa-Ra
    Erykah Badu - Me - New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) - Universal Motown/Control Freaq - prod by Shafiq Husayn
    Erykah Badu - Master Teacher - New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) - Universal Motown/Control Freaq - co prod by Shafiq Husayn
    Sa-Ra - Bitch Baby- Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love - Ubiquity Records - prod by Sa-Ra
    Sa-Ra w/ Pharoahe Monch - Glorious - Non Album - prod by Sa-Ra
    Sa-Ra - Master Teazer (Ken's revenge edit) - Non Album - prod by Sa-Ra

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    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Sad news today confirming that legendary turntablist Roc Raida of the X-Ecutioners passed away this weekend. According to a statement from his family, he was was recently involved in a mixed martial arts accident.

    The statement reads:

    “Anthony Williams p/k to the world as The Legendary Grandmaster Roc Raida has passed away unexpectedly today September 19 2009. He is survived by his wife, three lovely daughters, mother and friends. Raida was recently in an mixed martial arts accident, something that he has been practicing for several years. Although he had under gone two surgeries with great success, was released to an inpatient physical therapy facility and was in great spirits the past few days. This morning he started to have complications and passed. The family asks for privacy at this time.”

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    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Please start by reading this first.

    Part of why I solicit people for their summer songs posts is because I have a hard time reinventing the wheel for my own sense of what summer means via music. This year, the one song I knew I wanted to write about was "We're Almost There" by Michael Jackson and in many ways, that song brought me back full circle to my very first summer songs post.

    I had a chance to revisit that theme for a post written for NPR's Summer Songs Series:

    As much as I like classic summer anthems — bright, splashy, exuberant — they rarely capture what I think of as the essence of the season. Summer wants to be immortal and endless, and that beautiful delusion has birthed countless pop songs. But for me, summer is always a tangle of conflicted emotions: hope and disappointment, desire and frustration. It's the season of promises that, at their core, are impossible to realize.

    Summer is more about what we want it to be than what it actually is — what I once described as "drops of reality dissolved into a vat of fantasy." Idealism may make a potent brew, but we know the season inevitably ends. That's why my favorite summer songs are almost always tinged with fragility and marked by melancholy. This is music that admits the painful truth about summer: Even the best times won't last, as long days fade with autumn's encroaching dusk.

    And here were the four songs I picked to illuminate those ideas:

    Michael Jackson: We're Almost There
    From Forever Michael (Motown, 1975)

    Like millions, I've spent the summer of 2009 revisiting the Michael Jackson catalog. The song that continues to haunt me is "We're Almost There," from 1975's overlooked Forever, Michael. I keep getting stuck on the idea of being "almost there." The song aches with the yearning to complete, as Jackson sings, "just one more step," but it's that "almost" that lingers. "Almost" teases and tantalizes, but it's as much a threat as it is a promise. Almost means maybe we won't make it. Almost means maybe "one more step" is, as Aretha Franklin once sang, "a step too far away." That's summer in a nutshell: an ambition within reach, but also one step from being lost.

    William Devaughn: Be Thankful for What You Got
    From Be Thankful For What You Got (Roxbury, 1974)

    Has there ever been a smoother, more sublime summer jam than this? William Devaughn's ability to paint with such vivid lyrical imagery -- "Diamond in the back / Sunroof top / Diggin' in the seam with a gangster lean" -- is perfectly matched by the slick insouciance of the song's bass lines and conga slaps. This is no high-noon groove, though; it's a low-rider sunset, a time for quiet contemplation during the slow cruise home. Be thankful for what you got, Devaughn keeps instructing. Take nothing for granted. But even in the fading light, Devaughn's ultimate message is one of hope: "You may not have / a car at all / but remember / brothers and sisters / you can still stand tall."

    Ice Cube: It Was a Good Day
    From The Predator (Priority, 1993)

    If Devaughn opens solemnly but closes on an up note, Ice Cube goes the other way on this 1993 hit. He ostensibly celebrates a halcyon day of basketball games, lucky dice and a late-night motel romp. But it's the turnaround at the end of each verse that tells the true story: "nobody I knew got killed in South Central L.A." & "I didn't even to have to use my AK." Those sobering afterthoughts carry an unease echoed in the somber mood of the music itself. The sample source is The Isley Brothers' "Foosteps in the Dark," which has all the feel of a classic seduction jam: the slow tempo, the syrupy strings. But there's a sadness that flows through; those "footsteps," after all, are of a sneaking lover. "It Was a Good Day" wisely taps into that implicit discomfort. (For a contrast, listen to the far sunnier remix, which uses a different sample.)

    I should add: "It Was A Good Day" was inescapable in 1993, and even now, 16 years later, it still resonates with the summer.

    The Heath Brothers: Smilin' Billy Suite Part 2
    From Marchin' On (Strata East, 1975)

    If I had to score summer's end, this early Heath Brothers song from 1975 would be an easy choice. It positively drips in melancholy, especially through Stanley Cowell's use of an African mbira (thumb piano) to play the memorable "Smilin' Billy" motif. I imagine the song patiently playing out as September days drift quietly towards the fall equinox. There's one last, rousing gasp of life that unexpectedly sparks at the end, but with one dramatic thump, it’s all over. Summer's gone

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    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Lushlife, whose debut album was released in July (and covered here at Soul-Sides), has been doing an acoustic covers series of classic hip hop tunes on the Rapster Records YouTube site.

    Cru – Just Another Case

    Jay-Z - Dead Presidents (version 1)

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    Saturday, August 01, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Sad news out of Detroit (again): Baatin from Slum Village is dead.

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    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Jackson 5: Walk On By
    From Goin' Back to Indiana (Motown, 1972)

    Public Enemy: By the Time I Get To Arizona
    From Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black (Def Jam, 1991)

    Mandrill: Two Sisters of Mystery
    From Just Outside of Town CD (LP version) (Polydor, 1973)

    I had made passing reference to the Jackson 5 song during all the MJ coverage - it's from a medley of "Walk On By/Love You Save" recorded for the group's live Goin' Back to Indiana album. It's hard to imagine someone really improving one of the most epic, monster funk jams in soul music history but the Jackson 5 really understand the power of that vamp, especially at the breakdowns that come back every 30 seconds.

    It's the incredible ferocity of this moment that Public Enemy so beautifully wields to their full advantage on "By the Time I Get to Arizona." What they do at 2:47 in their song is nothing short but a complete distillation of the badassessence of everything that came before it - The Jackson 5, Isaac Hayes, heck, we'll show Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis love here too. They then take this 200 proof spirit, douse the song in it and then light it all on fire.

    To put it in a less convoluted-metaphoric way: the moment where the vamp slams in on "Arizona" is, to me, the "Greatest Moment of a Public Enemy Song That Doesn't Come At the Beginning."

    Seriously, think about this a second: P.E. has probably the all-time best song openers in hip-hop history. To wit:

    1) How Flavor Flav's "yeaaaah, boy!" slides into Chuck D's "bass!" at the beginning of "Bring the Noise."
    2) Chuck and Flavor Flav combining to yell, "Nineteen Eighty Nine!" on "Fight the Power."
    3) The horn punches sliding into the descending sax - plus Chuck's "Yes!" - on "Rebel Without a Pause."
    4) The line, "I got a letter from the government, the other day..." on "Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos." get the idea.

    In this case, the key moment isn't at the song's beginning but rather, when "Walk On By" drops in unexpectedly, as Chuck intones, "by the time I get to Arizona!"

    The impact is simply devastating. The group flips the first chorus of the Jackson 5 song, which includes the screams of the audience. On the Jackson 5, those screams reflect the fans' excitement; on "Arizona," they sound more like cries of terror, as if P.E. has swept into AZ with an ungodly fury. This is Krishna's arrow, Fudo's sword, Thor's hammer. It takes a nation of a million Minutemen to hold them back.

    Lastly, I'd be remiss in not at least giving due credit to the excellence that is Mandrill's "Two Sisters of Mystery" since it provides the main loop that runs through "Arizona." On any other song, this would be the highlight - those angry, buzzing guitars, the slurring bassline - but as good as it is, when the J5 come through, there's no contest.

    (A note by a commentor reminded me that I should link to the video for "Arizona" which takes things to a whole 'nother level. I forgot they even made a video for the song and watching it now, you can see that even visually, the group knew how to time the use of the "Walk On By" vamp perfectly with the explosion of violence you see depicted on screen. Mississippi goddamn, this was one incredible video.)

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    posted by O.W.

    Spinnerty feat. Elliot Peck: Sweet Soul
    From 7" (Trazmick, 2008)

    Spinnerty feat. EP and Czar Absolute: Feels Like Rain
    From 7" (Trazmick, 2008)

    At some point last year, someone suggested to me: "check out this guy Spinnerty," including a link to "Sweet Soul." I instantly dug the vibe, it reminded me some of Adriana Evans' songs from the early 1990s or a track that would have gotten some love at Nickies BBQ in the Haight. I should have already known this was out of the Bay but for whatever reason, I thought it was from Seattle. I also couldn't quite figure out who Elliot Peck was but I'm assuming it's the female singer on here...the fact that she's name "Elliot" is both strange and cool.

    It wasn't until I was actually on Haight, at the Groove Merchant, listening to Spinnerty's latest earlier 45, "Feels Like Rain" that I discovered: duh, Spinnerty, 1) isn't a group. It's a guy and 2) he's currently living in the Bay (though he's originally from the Midwest).

    As much as I liked "Sweet Soul," I really, really, really loved "Feels Like Rain." I credit those sweeping vocals looped up in the background but this is so easy to throw onto single-song repeat and just keep playing it over and over. Peck is back, this time credited as "EP" and joining her is rapper Czar Absolute who drops two small verses. The song works better with vocals but there's nothing wrong with flip the instrumental on as a lovely bit of background.

    Update: I got a nice email from Dan "Spinnerty" Finnerty who corrected my timeline: "Feels Like Rain" actually came out before "Sweet Soul." He also filled in some backstory:

    "The sample for "Feels Like Rain" I actually found at Rooky's [another record store in the Lower Haight]. It's a funny record because you can hear one of the guys coughing halfway through and some other foibles like that. I was over at Elliott's house doing some recording of another emcee for a different track and was playing some beats and heard Elliott humming along in the other room a la the oooooo'ing that made the final version. DING. Lightbulb went off."

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    posted by O.W.

    Pacific Division: Church League Champions mixtape

    What's staying in heavy rotation right now. Ball up.

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    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Arrested Development: Ease My Mind (DJ Premier Remix)
    From 12" (promo) (Chrysalis, 1994)

    Jamie Foxx: Blame It On the People (DJ Fabian Blend) (2009)

    Like most groups labelled "alternative rap" in the early 1990s, Arrested Development had the misfortune of being considered insufficiently "real" at a time when hip-hop's shift towards ghettocentricity was in full effect. To be fair, the group helped in this regard, especially with a relatively lackluster sophomore effort but in hindsight, it seems unfair to discount the quality of their output just because "Tennessee" wasn't "Shook Ones Pt. 2."

    I'm reminded of this by how infectiously fun this DJ Fabian blend is, throwing Jamie Foxx's ode to intoxicated seductions over the "People Everyday" remix beat from '92. That original "Metamorphosis Mix" remains one of the timeless tracks from that era and for whatever reason, Foxx's acapella sounds quite perfect over it. Kick up the treble tone.

    The DJ Premier remix of "Ease My Mind" was only found on promo copies of the single; I don't know if it was a rights issue or whatever but when the actual single came out, the remix was MIA. It's not one of the most intricate Primo beats ever but despite its simplicity, its catchiness is undeniable.

    I'm just blown away that it's been 15+ years since these songs came out. [Insert "I feel old" complaint]

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    Thursday, July 09, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Recently, Schoolhouse Funk Volume 1 was reissued through DJ Shadow's website as well as other retailers. The original release came out earlier this decade in a very limited release and sold out rather quickly. The concept initially started when Shadow and Lyrics Born were trying to outduel one another with who had the best high school records. Currently copies of the initial release are going for $80 on eBay, so get the reissue for a much more reasonable $15 or so while they last. The album features a variety of high school bands performing funk and soul songs like “Scorpio,” “Chameleon,” and “Cisco Kid.” A bit quirky but very fun. My wife hates when I listen to it, but screw it... sometimes a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do.

    In other LB news, this past Tuesday Lyrics Born released a digital-only mixtape The Lyrics Born Variety Show Season Pho (samples available on his website). No reason to not get this... it's only $5. FIVE DOLLA! He even rocks the auto-tune on “Pop Campaign” as well as puts his own spin on Kanye's "Paranoid" on the "Differences" mash-up. Apparently he didn't get Jay-Z's memo. Catch some new exclusives, get a sneak peak of his upcoming album (due in early 2010), and enjoy a solid mix of the one and only LB!

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    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Jay-Z: Never Change (Dilla Remix)
    From Jimmy Green's What if J Dilla Produced The Blueprint? (2009)

    It's a bit odd that in 2009, someone would mash-up Jay-Z's 2001 album, Blueprint with a series of J-Dilla beats. Furthermore, let's just answer the question:

    If Dilla had produced The Blueprint, Jay-Z would have taken an L. That's no diss on Jay Dee but c'mon now - it's not like Kanye West and Just Blaze were exactly slacking on what's arguably one of the best produced albums this decade. What's next? "What if J Dilla Produced It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back?" (Note: maybe Def Jam should release the acapellas to that album).

    All this said, I have to admit that I am loving this remix of "Never Change." I'm not saying it's better than the OG, I'm just saying it's good - so laid-back yet slightly sinister.

    And it really brings to mind how Burt Bacharach compositions (in this case, "The Look of Love") make for potentially great sample fodder given that 1) they're familiar enough to catch our attention and 2) they're generally classics in basic, simple but rich songwriting and arrangements. When I was listening to this, I immediately thought of another mash-up from a couple years back:

    Biggie and Lil Wayne: If You See Me Walking
    From Mick Boogie and Terry Urban's Unbelievable: A Tribute to Biggie Smalls (2007)

    This time, it's a flip on a pre-Isaac Hayes version of Burt's "Walk On By."

    And heck, if we're going own the memory lane of "rap songs flipping Burt beats" then we can't forget this twist on Johnny Pate's version of "Look of Love":

    Show and A.G.: You Know Now (Buckwild Remix)
    From Goodfellas (Payday, 1995)

    And just to really blow your mind, here's the Jackson 5 throwing down their take on Isaac Hayes' version of "Walk On By." The LP version of this appeared on their live Goin' Back to Indiana album.

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    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Slum Village: Fall In Love (Remix)
    From Dillanthology 2 (Rapster, 2009)

    Lushlife: The Kindness
    From Cassette City (Rapster, 2009)

    The ReBel Yell: Everything She Wants
    From Unreleased (Rapster, 2009)

    UPDATE: The Dillanthology 2 and Lushlife albums have been pushed back to July 7.

    Who honestly doesn't like some Dilla in their life? Rapster's second volume in collecting his work in the cleverly-named Dillanthology series focuses on the remixes of the dearly-departed James Yancey. Did you miss that CD single/12” that had the “Woo Ha” remix? Did you, like me, not know that a Dilla remix of Lucy Pearl's “Without You” ever existed? If so, then this compilation is for you.

    You get a sense of the musicality that Dilla possessed as he reimagined tracks from jazz, hip hop, electronic and soul from artists from nearly all coasts and overseas on this release. Even more impressive you get different sounds such as a little boom-bap on De La to more mellow jazz-chord filled beats Mood's “Secrets Of The Sand.” This release hits stores Tuesday, July 7th.

    Also that Tuesday, you can pick up Lushlife's “Cassette City.” Lyrically, it's standard hip hop fare but the production is what really shines on this album.
    “In Soft Focus” has some nice DJ cut work while the horn-heavy “Another Word For Paradise” has a summer feel to it (while also bringing back long-lost Camp Lo). My personal favorite on the album is the laidback “The Kindness” with its nice chopped vocal sample with its screwed-vocals hook. Overall, it has a late-90s indie hip hop feel to it as you can hear on his Myspace page.

    The last of the bunch sounds like it might be bad on paper but excels in execution. Wham has become the butt of many jokes, but you know somewhere deep inside you dig a few of their songs. The ReBel Yell, who is being produced by none other than James Poyser, comes through with this synthy dancefloor stepper remake of the snarky “Everything She Wants.” This is only a teaser of The ReBel Yell's upcoming album “Love & War,” and as of now, this song isn't set to be on the album, which releases this August.

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    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    posted by O.W.


    Jay-Z: The Death of Auto-Tune
    From Blueprint 3 (Upcoming, 2009)

    Now that it's been out there for a couple of weeks, what's the verdict on this new Jay Z song?

    Personally, on first listen, the joint is rather fuego, especially as No I.D. hooks up a basher of a beat that has shades of "The Takeover" but instead of the Doors, the Chicago producer digs into his bag of library records:

    Janko Nilovic: In the Space
    From Psyc' Impressions (Montparnasse, 1970)

    Lyrically...I wanted to like this more than what's actually there to like. For one thing, it's about a year late and the timing here is everything - I read how someone called this "a trend song about a trend" and that's exactly on-point. Provided, it's not as out-of-time as some of Eminem's leftover disses from 2004 showing up on Relapse, but in 2009, auto-tune has already become so parodied, even Wendy's is up on it.

    It's not a bad song, all just feels like something that screams "mixtape cut" (which, who knows, maybe all it will end up as).

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    Saturday, May 30, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Kings of Swing: Nod Your Head To This + Go Cocoa
    From 12" (Virgin, 1990)

    Doo Wop and Da Bounce Squad: Da Bounce Master
    From Noo Trybe Bootleg Summer Sampler EP (Noo Trybe, 1993)

    Most Wanted: Calm Down
    From 12" (Fever, 1990)

    Spike VST: Shut Up and Dance
    From 12" (Street Art, 1988)

    I don't know what it was about today but I was feeling slightly melancholy and decided to start, finally, pulling out some older hip-hop 12"s to digitize.

    The first two songs were pieces I had been meaning to post up a while back, after hearing Funkmaster Flex play them on his now infamous July 4, 2007 show. The Kings of Swing is one of those 12"s I've had so long...I forgot I even owned it and hell if I can even remember when I actually copped it. What can I say? Great use of the "Sexy Coffee Pot" bassline even if it's not as grimy as when Cypress flipped it. I had to throw on "Go Cocoa" too - it's not too often you hear 1) cuts devoted to DJs and 2) female DJs at that (I can only think of two others, off the top of my head, from Salt N Pepa and The Coup) and c'mon, how you gonna pass up any song dedicated to a DJ named "Cocoa Channelle"? I didn't realize they were down with First Priority but I guess that makes sense since Audio Two remixed "Nod Your Head" on the 12".

    The Doo Wop/Bounce Squad joint was something I don't think I ever remember hearing back in the day, likely because it was a rather mega-local 12" (first released independently) before coming out on a promo-only Noo Trybe 12". Two things you can say about this tune: 1) nice use of Allen Toussaint's "Louie" and 2) Da Bounce Squad wasn't boasting the illest line-up of MCs - vaguely competent, sure, but not really memorable (except for maybe Snaggle Puss, who was memorable for arguably the wrong reasons). That said, this is a fun track to, er, bounce to.

    The next two singles are probably tracks either my friend Hua or Dave put me up on (their random rap collection >>>>>> mine). "Calm Down" is a fiery fast rap number - four sets of verses, barely much of a song structure, but one hot beat (dig those 808 booms) and a few hungry MCs. Strangely, I can't seem to find much info on the group though I'm assuming they're out of NY.

    Similar, I'm not sure if Spike VST hail from Florida (where their label is based) or Philly (where the song was actually recorded). Regardless, what struck me about this single is that I'm assuming there's a live drummer working the sticks on here and maybe even a bassist, interpolating Cymande's "Bra" though it could also be a sample. Nothing spectacular but certainly a good representation of hip-hop in that moment.


    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    45 King feat. Latee: Brainstrom
    From For DJs Only (45 King Records, 1992)

    45 King feat. Lati: Lati Rocks the Bells
    From 12" (Blazin', 2001)

    I guess the formula goes like this: 45 King beat + Latee/Lati on the mic + vibes = wickedness.

    I posted up "Brainstorm" back in 2007 and I don't know why it didn't occur to me to double it up with "Lati Rocks the Bells" at the time since the two songs, likely separated by a decade or so, share so much in common in terms of their style and literal vibe.

    "Brainstorm" if you recall, is from a mega-rare 45 King EP put out in the early '90s that was reissued in 2004 but that too has gone out of print. My man Robbie E. has the full history at and I clearly didn't read his post close enough the first time since I didn't realize there were two pressings of this[1].

    Anyways, hot stuff from the 45 King/Latee team, with one of the 45 King's signature drum breaks opening things before the vibes come trotting in. Latee showcases why he was one of the Flavor Unit's most slept-on talents; maybe it was Wild Pitch, maybe it was just bad luck but you would have thought he was poised to really go big in the early '90s but things never seemed to pan out that way.

    Much to many folks surprise, Lati (now renamed for unclear reasons) came blasting back in 2001 with Mark again on "Lati Rocks the Bells," an unexpected (but most welcome) 12" pairing the two men again on yet another ridiculously hot, vibe-laced beat. According to one of our readers, the vibes on this cut are taken from a Cal Tjader song (which makes sense). Yo - will this mean we'll see another team-up in the next few years? Make it happen.

    [1] Ok, so this part is kind of embarrassing but let this be a lesson on keeping your records in order. I got a copy of this EP off of Robbie back around 2005/6 and in theory, it should still be in my collection. The problem is, the other month, when I tried to find it, I couldn't. And when I say, "I couldn't" I mean I went through practically everything trying to find it, including going through boxes in storage (which I almost never do) and all in vain. There is nothing more frustrating than "losing" a record in your own collection and it was bugging me so badly, I just decided to say, "f--- it" and threw down for another copy. Yeah, I know, impulsive (and expensive, to say the least) but at least I have some piece of mind. One thing though: the new copy I have is what Robbie refers to as the first release - orange on one side, yellow on the other - both featuring the "Mark Head" but according to Robbie, only 50 copies exist of this and I find it rather unlikely I ended up with one of them. I could be wrong, of course, but I'm wondering if maybe there were more copies of the first pressing than was previously thought?


    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Apologies for the long gap in posts - I'm in "end of the semester" crunch time right now and just haven't had a ton of mental energy left.

    Having said that...I was listening (late pass) to the new album by Finale, which has gotten some very strong response amongst the hip-hop blogerati. And I was really struck by the bonus song, "Paid Homage," which is dedicated to the late J-Dilla, produced by Flying Lotus, and interpolating Dilla's "Fall In Love" beat for Slum Village.

    It is incredibly striking to me how "Fall In Love" has this mnemonic power to keep recycling back into our musical world, seemingly without tiring out listeners. I've always found that to be the case - as with many, it's one of my favorite Dilla tracks of all time and just in this past year, we've seen it return thrice!

    But first, start with the sample source:

    Gap Mangione: Diana in the Autumn Wind
    From Diana In the Autumn Wind (Josh Music, 1968)

    One of these days, I'll throw down for this LP - Mangione nails a great vibe on the whole thing, well-exemplified by the above song but hardly limited to it. Producers certainly have felt the same way; a few cuts off the LP have been sampled and "Diana" alone has had different segments clipped.

    So here's that Slum Village cut I was talking about. I'm assuming you all have heard it but for the two in the world who haven't, get ready for a treat:

    Slum Village: Fall In Love
    From Fantastic, Vol. 2 (Goodvibe, 2000)

    Great opening drums, beautiful filtered sample of the Mangione, an instant classic.

    One, two.

    So just how popular has "Fall In Love" gotten? As noted, in just the last year we've had three reworkings. I'll start with the Suite From Ma Dukes version.

    Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Fall In Love
    From Suite for Ma Dukes (Mochilla, 2009)

    I've written much about this EP already and this is a lovely interpolation of the Mangione but neither a true cover of either Gap's OG or the SV's tune. It takes those two sources as a starting point and then works from there.

    The Ins vs. Fleur Earth: Fall In Love
    From 7" (MPM, 2008)

    This actually came out last year but I hadn't heard it until more recently - this is more of a direct, instrumental cover of the SV song though vocally, it's just the chorus being repeated over a loungey interpretation of Dilla's beat. And that brings us to:

    Finale: Paid Homage
    From A Pipe Dream and a Promise (Interdependent, 2009)

    True to the song's title, Finale and Fly-Lo do up this homage right on so many levels - Finale's autobiographical tale of meeting and building with Dilla feels real and heartfelt and Fly-Lo recreates the "Fall In Love" beat through his own sonic vision, paying tribute in his own way to a musical mentor. Great way to end the album and a fitting way to close this post.

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    Wednesday, May 06, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    JBX (Jared Boxx): The Fillmore Remixes


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    Friday, May 01, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Bambu: 2 Dope Boyz Drop (prod. by DJ Phatrick)
    From (2009)

    Just wanted to share this - a really cool drop that my man (and former student!) DJ Phatrick put together with Bambu for the 2 Dope Boyz website. Nice production and Bambu puts it down as usual.


    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Jeru: Ya Playin' Yaself (remix)
    Black Moon: How Many MCs Must Get Dissed (remix)
    From 12" (white label, 199?)

    This may sound strange but I've been looking for this 12" for at least 4-5 years and it's not that it's even that awesome of a white label remix 12" but I can get obsessed with certain songs/records and just need to find them, even if that means waiting a Olympic cycle or more.

    I became acquainted with it through Vinnie Esparaza - we used to do a monthly party called Joyride in San Francisco (people who went to 26 Mix, holler!) back in the early '00s and he'd often play this remix of Jeru's "Ya Playin' Yaself" that I never heard and I liked it enough - at the time - to want to go find it. BUT because it was a white label 12" and because Vinnie didn't even remember where he got it, it was a hard single to track down and I patiently had to wait until it showed up on eBay (which it did, finally, the other week) and just hope no one else out there had the same silly obsession.

    Like I said, the remixes are ok but that Jeru definitely doesn't sound as good now as it used to! (Oh, the irony). That said, I dig the bassline (which I think T-Love has also used) on it and the way in which it sort of plays off Prermier's style of that era without being a straight bite. The Black Moon remix is similarly decent though it's not touching the OG.

    Any of my '90s heads out there know who actually did these remixes? At one point, I think I heard it was some DJ Spinna thing but I don't know if I believe that still.

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    Monday, April 20, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    As a music scholar/writer, I attend a fair amount of conferences, many of which include interesting and provocative talks and papers on all things musical/cultural but hands-down, my favorite annual event is the Pop Conference at the Experience Music Project in Seattle. I just got back this weekend from it and even after eight years, it's still a constant inspiration and source of much intellectual fodder.

    It's also a really, really good place to learn about music I haven't heard before and in past years, I have the Pop Conference to thank for introducing me to songs like the Soul Majestics' majestically soulful "I Done Told You Baby" which I heard during a Joshua Alston paper in 2007 and last year, it was Jeffrey Govan's paper on the Skatalites that put me up on Tommy McCook's "Sauvitt" (a 7" I still need even a year after the fact).

    This year's conference "playlist" is even longer. Here's the highlights:

    1) Laura Nyro feat. LaBelle: Gonna Take a Miracle
    From Gonna Take a Miracle (Warner Bros, 1971)

    Nona Hendryx was the opening night keynote, interviewed by two dear friends of mine, Daphne Brooks and Sonnet Retman. Hendryx has had an incredible career in pop music, spanning back to the 1960s when she was a member of Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles, to their 1970s incarnation as Labelle and then onto a solo career since the late '70s that has included collaborations with the Talking Heads, Dusty Springfield and Peter Gabriel. It was tough trying to pick one song from her massive discography to highlight but I really loved her story about working Laura Nyro on the Gonna Take a Miracle album for two reasons. First of all, I have been playing the hell out of this song lately (more specifically, Alton Ellis' version) and second, Nona made a poignant comment about how, back then, a collaboration between Labelle and Nyro - unlikely as it may have seemed to folks -could be as easy as saying to one another, "hey, I like your music, you want to do something with me?" No managers, agents or attorneys to fuss about - artists could simply agree to work together (at least, this is the halcyon world that Hendryx painted).

    Read Mark Anthony Neal's excellent 2002 breakdown of this album.

    2) Richard Berry and the Pharaohs: Louie Louie
    From 7" (Flip, 1957). Also on Have Louie Will Travel

    Rutgers' Christopher Doll gave a fascinating paper that uses musicology to argue that there's such a thing as a "sexual chord progression." If I'm not mistaken (and I didn't take very good notes here), I think he's talking about the E-A-D progression that you can hear in everything from Neil Diamond's "Cherry Cherry" to "I Can't Get No (Satisfaction)" by the Rolling Stones to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. Given that I'm not musicologically trained I could be totally misrepresenting all of this so just take it with a grain of salt. In any case, his argument is not that the progression itself has some inherent sexual quality; rather it's that it's come to be associated with the idea of sexual frustration as evinced by its use in many different songs that have similar topical themes, perhaps most famously the Stones.

    Doll (if I recall correctly) traces the crossover moment of this chord progression from blues to pop/rock in the form of "Louie Louie," that ubiquitous party song most often associated with the Kingsmen but originating with songwriter Richard Berry and recorded by him with the Pharaohs. I had never heard Berry's original and I totally dig it, especially in how one of the Pharaohs uses his baritone voice to mimic the bassline.[1]

    3) Onra: I Wanna Go Back
    From Chinoiseries (Favorite, 2008)

    Van Truong gave an intriguing paper about the role of "migrant sad songs" in linking diasporic subjects with concepts of home, history and memory. She was primarily speaking about her own father and how his love for Vietnamese folk songs of the 1960s is one of the few ways through which he'll speak of the past. As an end example, Truong offered up a few songs from Onra, a Vietnamese French producer (with a notably Dilla-esque sound) who traveled to Vietnam and returned home with both Vietnamese and Chinese records and use that as raw material for last year's Chinoiseries CD. It's not as aggressively stylized as, say, Flying Lotus, but Onra has a nice sense for mood and texture, especially on the soulful "I Wanna Go Back" (plus, peep that industrial vinyl grime creating static!)

    4) Lonnie Mack: Why
    From The Wham of that Memphis Man (Ace, 2006)

    Greil Marcus plumbed the depths of Nan Goldin's "Ballad of Sexual Dependency" by focusing on the imagined songs left out of that exhibit[2] and his #1 choice was Lonnie Mack's "Why," a surprisingly underrated deep soul ballad from the veteran Memphis blues man. The conventional wisdom around why Mack's vocal contributions have gone less appreciated is that his Whiteness made him a difficult person to market to the R&B audience of the 1960s and "Why" actually languished for over five years after being initially recorded until the Fraternity label finally decided to put it out.

    Not having seen Goldin's exhibit, I can't say if this song does or does not belong within it but I can certainly understand the appeal of a song whose desperation resonates in crack in Mack's voice when he screams "whhhyyyyyyy" on the three choruses, especially the final one where, if I recall properly, Marcus suggests Mack "lets the flood gates open" and you can hear the raw emotion pour fourth with terrifying power.

    5) Rhythm Controll/Chuck Roberts: My House
    From 12" (Catch-a-Beat, 1987)

    Some of you might remember Seattle's Michaelangelo Matos from the "Apache" post he graciously reposted for Soul Sides in 2005. That was originally an EMP paper and this year, Matos tackled the returning use of the "dance music's national anthem", i.e. the "My House" acapella (by Chuck Roberts and Rhythm Controll) from a then, small house 12" released in 1987. Apart from his history of the acapella and its continued use throughout dance music, Matos also argues that it is damn near impossible to "train wreck" this in a mix, in other words - you can throw this acapella over practically ANY instrumental and it will still sound good. He even played a few examples to prove his point.

    This perked my curiosity enough to try it at home and you know what? He is completely correct. This acapella can "work" with many beats you might try to throw under it. Seriously, try it (play the acapella in a web browser and then load up another song on your computer's mp3 program (iTunes for example) and see how they synch up). Quite impressive!

    Update: Matos has made his talk available, complete with video examples.

    6) Janis Joplin: Maybe
    From I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! (Columbia, 1969)

    I have to confess, being a relatively rock-ignorant kind of guy, I've never gotten very deep into Joplin's catalog except to know that she certainly had a thing for covering R&B songs. Maybe it's for facile political reasons, but I suppose I've always leaned more towards listening to her source material than Joplin herself but Lauren Onkey's paper on Joplin made me reconsider my prejudices and I was especially struck at her example of Joplin performing "Maybe," a song originally recorded by R&B girl group, The Chantels. Onkey (whose paper on Black British musicians in Liverpool preceding the British invasion was one of my favorites of 2008's conference) isn't trying to rescue/recuperate Joplin; rather, she's coming from the other direction, arguing that most analyses of Joplin have tended to elide how heavily her performance and musical tastes were taken from Black R&B artists, such as Otis Redding, and especially female artists such as the Chantels, Erma Franklin, and many in Jerry Ragavoy's R&B stable. Joplin's performance of "Maybe" is good vocally - she definitely reforms the song in her style and image - but you should also see how she did it live:

    There's just something a little forced and awkward about her movements here, with her violent jerks when she wants to emphasize the rhythm peaks in the song.

    7) Asha Puthli: I Dig Love
    From Asha Puthli (CBS UK, 1973)

    To me, the hands-down highlight of the conference was watching Asha Puthli bring down the house (repeatedly) during a lunchtime talk she gave to Jason King. I wrote about Puthli before, way back when, and I've been derelict in not following up sooner given how interesting and eclectic a career she's had. (I'm working on catching back up, very soon).

    I decided to pull one of her cuts out of the archives, "I Dig Love," a cover of the George Harrison song but probably flipped in ways that Harrison likely wouldn't have imagined. During the lunch talk, Puthli explained that the bubbling noise was her gurgling champagne. Awesomely flossy.

    Surprisingly, Asha's LPs have never had a US release before (they're now available digitally however, which is good). Hopefully, that will be a situation that rectifies itself soon.

    8) Before Carl Wilson was introduced for his paper this year, a joke was made about how he's so big, even James Franco is showing him love. The truth is though, Wilson's book on taste and criticism (ostensibly based around writing about Celine Dion) is quite extraordinary. I just started it recently and it's exceptional, heady thinking about how we form our opinions, especially via music. Perhaps it's apropos from an author on a book about Celine Dion to do a paper on Auto-Tune and in the course of describing the history of Auto-tune as a form of technology-assisted voice manipulation, Wilson played this incredible (though also quite creepy) 1939 performance by Alvino Rey performing "St. Louis Blues."

    For a less disturbing variation using a similar talk box technology as Rey, there's also Pete Drake's "Forever" from the early '60s which is a haunting composition all its own (even without a steel guitar puppet).

    [1] Without trying to confuse the hell out of people here - the intro to "Louie Louie" uses a very common and familiar chord progression of its own, especially within Latin music: a I, IV, V. However, this is NOT the progression that Doll is associating in his argument; he's referring to the more subtle chord progression on the bassline AFTER the intro that you hear on the Kingsmen version of the song. At least, I think that's what he was referring to.

    [2] Marcus was specifically talking about the slideshow + soundtrack version of "The Ballad," and not the photo book, which he considered less powerful in the absence of the music that accompanied the slideshow.

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