Over the next few weeks, I’ll be rolling out guest spots from some of my favorite music lovers. These dudes (all of whom usually come correct in their respective fields) typically get us geeked so the prompt was simple: grab a few of your favorite records, talk about them and share. I’m flattered by the response but also eager to unleash these thoughtful and funny, top-notch submissions.
First up is one of our favorite personalities, J-Zone. You might know him by 2001’s Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes LP, his work with Ego Trip, or his stellar musings for Dante Ross’ blog. He penned this post for us shortly after obliterating one of the Bay Area’s best parties, The 45 Sessions. His new book, Root For The Villain, is available now. Thanks J! -DM
Soul Suspects’ “Handle It” [Black Prince, year unknown]
This was one of many 45s I got off an ex-DJ turned drug addict in 1994. I worked in Vance Wright’s (Slick Rick’s DJ) studio in high school; one day the dude rolled up in there trying to sell his entire 45 collection. He wanted like $100 but Vance and I talked him down to $50 and split the bill. There was all types of good shit in there, like rare good shit. Pazant Bros.’ Chick-A-Boom,” Ricky Williams’ “Discotheque Soul,” some General Crook, Ramrods, Joe Quarterman, JB and early Kool and the Gang 45s…it was a nice box of shit. I got all the joints with mean breaks and this was one of the meanest. It’s got the same song structure as Sly & the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music,” as did most funk 45s from about ’68 through the early ’70s. There’d be a groove, then each instrument would get called out for solos. Then they’d groove to the outro.
It was a popular format for early funk shit, but this one was always particularly funky and I always liked really fast funk records because they’re good for the dance floor (as opposed to just being used for sampling) and remind me of shit that Big Daddy Kane would rhyme on. This one really builds at the end with the horns and special effects – it always stuck out to me. And when I found out that it was pretty rare, I began treating it better than other human beings. One time after a gig I put the 45 on the passenger seat and made the girl I was dating ride in the trunk.
Sam and the Soul Walkers’ “Soul Walk” [Transcontinental, 1968]
There was a rap song from 1990 that sampled this. (Don’t wanna snitch; these past-the-statute-of-limitations lawsuits are getting out of control.) Anyway, I loved the beat and it drove me crazy that for 20+ years I never knew what the original was. Nobody I asked knew either. It’s rare that I don’t find out the original sample of something I want to know, especially in the internet era and with all the diggers and producers I know. But this one stumped me. Earlier this year I was in Big City Records (NYC) listening to 45s and pulled this out not knowing what was on it. It’s a dope, uptempo joint and I was gonna buy it to spin out anyway, but then the fuckin’ break came in!
Solving the mystery by surprise like that was like touching a live wire. That was just a diggin’ throwback from the ’90s because that’s how you discovered samples back then. I’m learning to play drums now and I practice to this one a lot, too. I love that raggedy, late ’60s-era, four piece Slingerland drum kit with one mic on it sound. Then the female singers and piano twinkles add this subtle touch that make it a little less predictable than the average funk 45. It’s a multi-purpose funk / soul 45 and the b-side is a decent straight ahead soul joint.