FROM HARD TO URN

Preemo, left, Guru, right

I called Preemo to see what went into the latest Gang Starr (the first in 16 years!) One Of The Best Yet, an intimate next step in their ongoing legacy, featuring posthumous verses from Guru culled through bitter lawsuits with Solar, whose strange involvement with Guru towards the end of his life, and whose vocal Preemo slander leaves a bitter underscore beneath the whole thing. Nevertheless, the new one is a great album– a familiar conversation between old friends– and Preemo was open and gracious as always in this recent interview. Written for THE FADER, read it HERE.

HIGH FIVE MARINERO

Now that I’ve sat with Marinero’s Trópico De Cáncer, his Needle to the Groove debut, I wanted to know more about the album; the person behind the music, other songs that inspired these.

Trópico… is spacey, sensitive, beatific, Los Freddy’s-esque, a little bossanova too. To shed light on the inner approach of Jess Sylvester, the songwriter behind Marinero, we asked Jess to share with us FIVE enormously impactful records that were foundational inspirations behind Trópico De Cáncer.

It’s eye-opening to have thoughtful artists narrow down prominent works that framed their own– and we’re always grateful when they take time to do so. Thanks Jess!

Antena – Camino del Sol (Numero, 2004)

This record is basically ’80s French-Belgian electro-bossa. It’s like ’80s outsider music made by Astrud Gilberto fans. There’s even a song called “The Boy From Ipanema”, which is basically a darker, synthier, and more monotonous version of the original. The title track “Camino del Sol” is one of my faves though. I’ve even sampled it and used it for my other band Francisco y Madero on a song. I can’t tell you the song title because Napster might sue me, but it’s a track I find myself playing during long car rides from The Bay to LA when I’m in the company of friends who might not yet know it. I chose this album because I admire how Antena reinterpreted bossanova and did their own thing with it by using drums machines, synths, guitars with chorus, and solid hooks and harmonies. Even though the singer is French, her vocal style is smooth enough for any Sausalito style jazz or bossa combo.

Continue reading “HIGH FIVE MARINERO”

E-4O THE AGELESS

I recently spoke with E-40 who, besides being an absolute legend, also wears shirts that say ‘Eat Lumpia’ and gives back to local schools in Vallejo. I have a bottle of E. Cuarenta tequila sitting on the shelf as I write this. Despite this article not being as extensive as I would’ve liked, 40 was a great interview; present and pleasant, spastic, shared stories about Too Short, the Bay, Tupac and more. It’s also my first byline for Vibe Magazine (shouts to the editorial squad!). You can read it HERE.

HIERO Y’ALL!!!

I wrote the liner notes for Hiero’s recent 20th anniversary deluxe reissue of 3rd Eye Vision. The best part was just talking to Souls, Del, and Domino about them learning as young artists the realities of starting their own business– this record emerged from that era, a time in their lives starting an indie label and transitioning from majors. The reissue sold out but has been recently been restocked. It also has a pretty dope “lost cut” that I cannot link to because it’s exclusive to the wax, and so far I don’t see uploaded anywhere (but Del and Pep GO OFF). (COP THE RECORD HERE)

LIQUID HEAT ROCKS

Huge honor to appear on Heat Rocks, the wonderful and expertly executed podcast hosted by Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes. I’ve listened to so many great episodes with so many incredible guests and to be a guest myself on the program was terrifyingly thrilling. Each guest chooses an album to deep dive into and mine was an easy choice, GZA’s Liquid Swords. I had a great time talking to Morgan and Oliver who are always such pros I still cannot believe I was at the table with them. Available HERE and pretty much any podcast outlet.

BILLY WOODS MADE THE BEST RAP ALBUM OF 2019

I first heard of Billy Woods through Dean Van Nguyen, music journalist and now author who’s a longtime friend of the site. He graciously sent us this Q&A with Billy in 2009. Earlier this year, Billy released Hiding Places, produced by Kenny Segal, containing songs that probably got the most plays, and certainly resonated most with me. “Red Dust” is Frantz Fanon with a megaphone over Fan Dam era EL-P.

Woods is really settling into his voice and delivery, comfortable with annunciation; he’s more sparse now but takes bigger chomps of the beat. Yet he’s still no less a mystery now as he was in Dean’s 2009 interview, but I did my best to learn more about him as a writer, label chief, and mind behind 2019’s best rap project.

I spoke with Billy pretty in-depth for Okayplayer; Read it HERE.

THE CARLTON DANCE

Cold Diamond & Mink are absolutely killin’ it over at Timmion headquarters in Helsinki, Finland. I’ve been onboard since they blessed us with one of the most touching and barest songs ever, Little Ann’s “Deep Shadows.” Earlier this year, they’ve been on a roll with very solid releases, including 1634 Lexington Avenue by Carlton J. Smith (above, right, with MJ). It had some real rhapsodic moments and overall I felt the album was slept-on. Admittedly, the snappy drums and pronounced bass is what struck me most. But nevertheless I went onto have a great conversation with the project’s glowing vocalist, Carlton Smith, a lifelong student and enthusiast of soul who has in many respects, through a lifetime of work and travel, has become a global soulman himself. I spoke with Carlton about his career and new album HERE.

THE MAKING OF FREESTYLE FELLOWSHIP’S “INNER CITY BOUNDARIES”

My column for POW continues with Freestyle Fellowship’s stunning classing, “Inner City Boundaries,” an earworm that’s stuck with me since first hearing it almost twenty tears ago. While I typically don’t always value virtuosity over punch-in-the-gut dynamics, FF has always been able to be both, teetering sometimes between unlistenable and confounding ingenuity. HERE’s how it was made.