I’m checking my facts for an upcoming Kurtis Blow article and found out about a “duet” that features Bob Dylan “rapping”. Dylan just says a couple lines at the beginning which is later chopped and replayed throughout song (all 8 minutes of it!). But he’s not doing spoken word or just talking; it sounds like he’s trying to rap—or at least imitate what rap at the time sounded like. The track isn’t memorable, nor does Dylan exactly spit hot fire, but it’s funny and he sounds exactly like how you’d imagine. I have tons of questions and wish I had known about this before I spoke with Kurtis. For kicks, here’s a snippet of just Dylan’s part:
“Street Rock” by Kurtis Blow featuring Bob Dylan (snippet)
I recently interviewed “Music Man” Miles Tackett, the cellist, producer, DJ, bassist and guitarist of Breakestra. If you haven’t already, check out their latest LP, Dusk Till Dawn. It’s funky and filled with all kinds of nice grooves. My talk with Miles recently went up on Soul Culture, a London-based music site focused on soul and all its modern tangents. Check the interview along with a couple great Breakestra joints below.
Pious funk from old Chicago? I was sold from the get-go. Personally, gospel—and just religious music in general—rarely moves me, but these aren’t your typical songs about Jesus. Actually, they’re not at all hymn-like: gruff vocals, sweaty grooves and bass slaps delivered raucously sums up Good God! Born Again Funk, a new project by Numero.
Derived mostly from Thomas Dorsey, an entrepreneurial bluesman who reconfigured praise-songs, these 18 tracks replace “baby” with “Jesus” and somberness for shouts. The singers, quartets, and neighborhood folks were recruited by Dorsey who sought to exploit the small but devoted market for religious music. In fact, the title of Ada Richard’s song “I’m Drunk and Real High (In The Spirit Of The Lord)” reflects Dorsey’s whole approach.
Please visit Numero’s site to hear and buy the upcoming album (1/26/10). Like their previous divine release, Good God! Born Again Funk is a thorough listen. Check out Numero’s blog to read more on the legwork behind this and other projects. Below are excerpts from a couple choice cuts:
The Sensational Five Singing Sons’ “Share Your Love With Your Master” has such personality and all kinds of elements–dialogue, an early break, crazy guitar work, and hard vocals. This track brings the funk and is fun to boot.
TL Barrett’s “Like A Ship” opens the album and is also its most mellow. Energy-wise, it’s tepid compared to the others but the lyrics (“Just like a ship…without a sail…but I know I can make it…”) sung faintly by the choir make it overwhelmingly earnest.
Aja West controls The Mackrosoft, a label and group that for the last 9 years has released piles of funky, jazz-fusion projects. Their tracks have hip-hop sensibilities (as teenagers, Aja and his brother, Cheeba, interned for The Dust Brothers) yet their music’s quite varied, squeezing R&B, rock, and electronic into textured arrangements—think synthy, erratic Bob James with hard drums.
Mackrosoft Records is 15 albums deep since starting up in 2000. This year, they’ll add a trilogy of works that might be their most intricate; Shirts and Skins, S.E.M.E. , and Upgrade. Colorful and uncluttered, Aja’s arrangements show his composing prowness. He doesn’t read music or write music, but plays most of the instruments himself. He’s surrounded by notable musicians (Money Mark), some of them legendary (Headhunters’ Paul Jackson and Mike Clark). And they all follow his lead, coming in to replay parts, enhance others, or as Aja puts it, “fill in the gaps”.
I spoke to Aja recently while working on an article and found him genuinely eccentric and funny. Here’s a guy who openly takes mushrooms and cuts records, all while orchestrating musicians and running a label. Here are parts of our interview along with standout tracks from his upcoming trilogy.
What exactly do you do?
I make funk jazz, funk soul, funk rock, and all styles of funk that be. I’m Aja West and you’re rocking with the best.
You still take mushrooms while working on your music? How do they affect what you do and others around you?
Absolutely. Over the years, I’ve worked a third of the time in The Netherlands allowing me to use many species of fungi in many unusual but legal environments such as zoo’s, great museums, and red light districts. Altering one’s perception of the world through plant psychedelics will usually give you what you need not want. Psychedelic and mystical catalysts had already provided me with a direct experience of simple joyful noise infused with a plethora of meaning at a fairly young age. Continue reading “Synth-thesis: Interview With Aja West of The Mackrosoft”→
In the coming weeks, some coverage will likely renew interest for 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s, the 1979 documentary on New York street gangs directed by Gary Weis. It captures the end stages of South Bronx gang culture; the high unemployment, violence, racial overtones, angst, and just the overall social decay hip-hop came from. Grainy footage of city scenes, gang uniforms, and the interviewees’ lack of self-awareness make this a valuable time-capsule of urban American history.
I was lucky see this many years ago as a teenager working in a video store. It’s not available on DVD (not yet anyways) and VHS copies can go for hundreds. But thanks to the internet, you can watch it for FREE in its ENTIRETY… Continue reading “80 Blocks From Tiffany’s (video)”→
Lord Finesse, pictured above with Presentable Joe, is an ALL-TIME favorite. He projects such attitude and always comes with hilarious, bull’s-eye punchlines. I still chuckle to the same verses I’ve heard a thousand times. We spoke some months back where he was full of stories about D.I.T.C., stories that shouldn’t be missed if you’re into small histories behind amazing records.
Our interview ran as a Record Rundown for Wax Poetics issue #35 and the remaining portions of the interview (in my opinion, the more interesting parts) were recently published over at Wax Poetics’ site. You can read it in its entirety HERE.
DJ Platurn took Nu-Mark’s version of “Imagine” and blended it with Dennis Edwards’ “Don’t Look Any Further”. He spliced together their videos too. The Dennis Edwards footage alone is awesome! Good work homie! Follow Platurn’s whereabouts and musings over at Rings of Platurn.
Real talk: I wrote about The California Music Project a while back and their efforts to stop the decline of music education in schools. It’s a huge struggle to keep music alive in classrooms, especially due to California’s budget issues, NCLB and the tug-of-war for funds between athletics and the arts. Dr. Diana Hollinger, the main catalyst for the project, will be live on public radio today at 10AM (PST) to speak on this arduous process of sustaining music and art in our public schools. You can listen to it here: KPBS RADIO (streaming replays available).
To learn more about CMP, help or contact, please visit its website.
From start to finish, Now-Again’s new comp Forge Your Own Chains enthralls you with 15 psych-sodden tracks. Besides a song or two that were reissued already, the rest are from records that were culled from all over; Sweden to Nigeria, Colombia to Iran, these songs incorporate screams and shouts, fuzz, funk, folk, and weird touches of improvisation. It was a global era (1968-74) where artists sought to sound different and it showed in their music. Forge… comes with detailed liner notes (written by Egon) that respectfully contextualize the tracks and its makers. To hear and learn more about the project, visit Now-Again’s site. Dig the snippets above—the project comes out in a couple weeks.