Always excited when I’m asked to contribute to Wax Poetics Japan, especially because their market allows them to explore real deeply into subject matter in a way that the American market doesn’t. The recent one focused on the best rap record of 2015 (and perhaps of the last decade), Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Pick it up HERE and many thanks again to the Wax Po crew out of Tokyo.
Man, been so busy I forgot to mention a recent cover story I did with one of the greatest ever– the uncanny, most venerable, most natural rappers to ever do it, Tony Starks himself, Ghostface. We went over hilarious ODB memories and pretty much detailed his entire catalogue, touching on rather baroque benchmarks and his profound prolific streak. As of this writing, the followup to his Adrian Younge collab, 12 Reasons To Die Pt. II, is slated for release, as is a VERY VERY much anticipated album with DOOM. Go HERE to pick up what I consider to be– at least up to this point– the most in-depth piece with Ghostface ever written.
UPDATE: Wax Po just made the entire piece available online. Take a gander HERE.
Pete Rock’s long-awaited followup to his Petestrumentals album is finally here. But unlike its predecessor, and partially due to the ever changing landscape of how people get their music, Petestrumentals 2 is available totally for free, featuring a memorable, head nodding tribute to Dilla (“Dilla Bouce (RIP)”). Go HERE for a listen.
Hearing this reminded me of a talk I did with Pete a while back; we discussed his famous production histories and essential records that profoundly inspired his own style. For example, when asked about the last time he spoke with Biggie, said Pete: “Man, it was right before he died. He told me: ‘Pete, my raps sound best with you and Large Pro. I love that shit!’ That was the last thing he said to me before he died, I swear.” You can read the article in full HERE.
I’m thrilled to have written my third cover story in a row for Wax Poetics Japan. This issue (#35!) is immensely focused on the rap’s first royal collective, The Juice Crew. The photos are amazing, with deep pieces on Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, Kool G Rap, and other stalwarts. You can peruse parts of the issue and purchase it HERE .
Since it’s for WPJ, it (obviously) reads in Japanese, but my dudes at Wax Po here in the US were gracious enough to post the original English translation on their site. Take a look at Rap’s clown prince and his deep history, followed by a Q&A sourced from a series of interviews I did with Biz a few years back. READ IT HERE.
I’ve always had a love affair with Joe Meek’s music and strange life– “Telstar”, I always thought, would be the perfect dirge at my funeral. Meek was so innovative for his time, lacing spooky instrumentals with washes of echo and sound effects. He sang, composed, and famously produced so many songs, and a good number of them were weird and icy, mostly due to his innovations behind the engineering board. It was also said he had a weird obsession with Buddy Holly, claiming that he spoke to him from the afterlife.
Meek also infamously told Brian Epstein not to sign the Beatles and advised the Small Faces to get rid of Rod Stewart. His story ends with a crazy murder suicide that capped a career of eerie tunes and an obsession with the occult (he’d set up tape recorders at graveyards to ‘speak with the dead’).
Produced by Meek, “Sunday Date” by the Flee-Rekkers is one I’ve wanted for a while and just recently acquired. It’s distinctly Meek, sounding like a slowed down surf instrumental, melancholy and kind of pleasantly haunting.
Quick plug: I recently helped edit the latest issue of Globetrotter Magazine, a music, art/design, style and culture publication that dares to exist in the rapidly decaying world of print publishing– it’s 2015 afterall. This issue features Afrobeat legend Tony Allen, Parisian beatmaker Onra, menswear maestro Jeff Staple, and a stunning photo essay from Kathmandu among so much other interesting, worldwide happenings. Honored to be apart of something that’s hard to pigeonhole while making a sincere effort to capture the global community. It’s a big thick book you’d likely find at bookstores and airports. To purchase, or for more info, head over to their Facebook Page and make friends.
When I was in graduate school, Check The Technique was one of the guiding books for my thesis. It not only served the assignment well, but was also every bit as entertaining as its predecessor, Rakim Told Me. I nerded out over specific tracks and their backstories and always thought Brian’s approach and clean presentation really did the subjects justice.
Brian Coleman’s new book, Check the Technique Volume 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies (Wax Facts Press) is more of the same, a wonderfully written celebration of all these songs and artists we grew up loving. Who knew MF Doom’s initial moniker, Zev Love X, was “X Evolvez” spelled backwards? Mindblown! For info and ordering links, visit: www.WaxFactsPress.com.
It’s completely gratifying and an obvious honor to have Brian stop by with a guest post. With the highly anticipated Check The Technique Vol.2 out now, here’s a snapshot on Mr. Coleman’s mantra when it comes to digging for vinyl. Many thanks sir! – DM
I am a digger. Some of my best friends are diggers. And I love hanging with them and shooting the shit. But when it comes to music, I get frustrated at times because they go for obscurity at most costs, and don’t smell the roses in front of their faces. And by roses, I mean records we can all find every day in broad daylight (vs. dank basements of shady record stores).
So here are some records I randomly grabbed from my collection in a matter of 15 minutes (dig-free), records that should be readily available if you choose to seek them out. These are jams that, for the most part, I have loved since high school– which wasn’t exactly yesterday– and I still love as much today as I did then. Support your local record store!!!!! Buy vinyl!!!! FUCK CDs!!!!!
Okay, I guess this is a little obscure, but it’s still a dollar record if/when you see it. Goofy drunk-rock from a band I first learned about in the amazing flick of the same name (“Complex World”), based around the debauchery at Providence, RI rock fleabag venue Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel.
H.R. is listed as “throat” in the liners, but he was heart and soul, too. This was later in the group’s career (at least their career making great records), but proved they still had it. One of the greatest live bands I have ever seen.
Regular readers will notice we dig international music, especially of the forgotten, funky, soulful, and psych variety. We’ve covered Sinn Sithamouth and other pioneering artists who’ve been criminally overlooked for various (and sometimes, terribly regrettable) reasons. Our good bud DJ Basura has put together an assortment of lost grooves from the Philippines, all culled from glorious, crackly vinyl– lots of breaks, lots of fuzz, and endearing covers. Based on these effusive selections, hopefully more of the same is afoot. Some words from Basura on his fantastic new mix below.
Says Basura: “This mix was inspired by labels seeking to unearth good ‘world music’, like Folkways (now Smithsonian Folkways) and Sublime Frequencies. Ranging from a wide variety of genres including rock, pop, garage, soul, disco, funk, jazz, psych, & Filipino folk dance mainly from the 60’s-80’s (There’s even a surf song and a couple of James Brown covers, amongst others on here!), my goal was to simply shed some light on music made in the Philippines from the past. It’s not an actual ‘mix’ as what most would consider a ‘mix’ to be these days (it’s neither completely beat matched nor made specifically for the dance floor, though you can certainly groove to most of it), this is a collection/compilation more than anything else. This is just an inkling of what seems to be a mainly untapped resource (the past history of Filipino music). Hopefully this could lead to more awesome Filipino compilations/mixes that I put out.”
Though I’m not too into Alicia Keys’ music, it was fun and eyeopening researching her backstory. She came from truly humble beginnings and her subsequent ascent into greatness is almost unmatched as far as modern r&b artists go. Like her or not, she’s immensely talented with brains to boot– and she’s not hard on the eyes either, which was something of a hurdle if you want your artistry to be taken seriously. A free ride to Colombia University AND a record deal with Columbia Records, all while she was 16? Must be nice. The article ended up as this month’s cover story for Wax Poetics’ Japan and since Nerdtorious has a pretty sizable Japanese readership, here’s the link to WPJ’s latest issue. On stands now, kampai!
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Will ‘Quantic’ Holland stopped by The Chapel in San Francisco last week, showing off chops that made him known throughout the States, Europe, and South America. His style’s pretty accessible, considering he incorporates different genres into his work over a 9 album course starting in 2001. We spoke a while back, touching on his upbringing, the groundswell of support he’s received, and his work with a personal favorite of mine, Alice Russell. Below is a quick Q&A. – DM
Talk a bit about your musical background and history a bit. What instruments do you play? What was the first instrument you picked up? Which would you say is your main one?
My Mum and Dad were into alot of music before I was born, my father played Guitar on Welsh Television regurarly in his teens and my mother played fiddle and sang, they were quite a musical couple interested in Folk music in general, Bluegrass, English Folk, Irish. By the time I was born, my father had taken up banjo and both him and my mother had a house full of instruments, dulcimers, ukeleles, a piano and various british made banjos. My sisters had a ukeleles each and I was taught to play guitar by my dad as well as reluctantly taking piano lessons with my mothers friend. It turned out I was pretty hopeless at it all and rarely enjoyed singing in the family car like my twin sisters did.
Your father was pretty influential then.
Yeah, he was a lecturer and part time computer programmer, so as the 80s progressed, our music room was gradually filled with computer equipment, first a BBC Micro and then various Archimedes machines. My father showed me how to program bits of code and eventually, once computers progressed, how to sample and record. He also bought me a cheap electric guitar once I had gotten into my Iron Maiden ‘Powerslave’ period and out the other side into Nirvana. At 16 my mother leant me money to buy a simpe yamaha sampler and that got me interested in looping, especially using the onboard mic to loop up piano chords and use instruments from the house. Around that time I had inherited a Uher portable reel to reel tape recorder from an uncle on my mothers side who had a sound recording business and I had an uncle on my fathers side who was a DJ and record producer. I remember him bringing us a 45 to house, one each for me and my sisters, he was into managing pop groups and seemed a world away from my household’s folky outlook. But gradually the idea of producing records and stylizing sound in a recorded fashion dawned on me.
Which albums have most profoundly affected you?
There are a few landmark records for me, when I first heard Sly Stone’s ‘If You Want Me to Stay’ that blew me away, so did Carla Bley’s ‘Escalater Over the Hill’. I also remember loving Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath at a young age, their Drums and Guitars seemed so powerful and expressive. As I got further into music and it became more accessible with the internet, I discovered more by Moondog, Richie Ray, Fela Kuti, Arthur Verocai. More recently, hearing ‘Krishnanda’ by Pedro Santos from Brasil changed my ears forever. From getting into 45s at a young age, I had the luck of coming across some really good Northern Soul and Jazz. I managed to pick records cheap like Pearly Queen’s ‘Quit Jivin’ and Russell Gorden’s ‘Double Booty Bump’ and started playing at house partys with my friend Russ Porter. I was lucky, because the Midlands and Northern England has a strong appreciation of American Black Soul, Ballads and Dance music. I was growing up in a period where I could find Chicago and Miami 45s in my local store for cheap but also there was good Dum and Bass being produced, great and exciting UK urban music being made, it was a good time. The Midlands is not the most picturesque of places, but it had alot of Soul.
When you write a composition, do you purposely try to incorporate different stylistic elements or does it occur naturally as it’s being written?
Admittedly, I wasn’t big into Blu before writing about him for the current issue of Wax Poetics— although I always dug the production on his early work with Exile. He has a sizable and seemingly rabid fan base so here’s the full transcript of our recent talk. His new release, Good To Be Home, is a testament to his hometown of LA and finds him on the ascendant in terms of comfortability on the mic and overall more fully realized subject matter. Says Blu: “First off, I have to say this a huge honor, I have been waiting for this opportunity to meet for a long time and preparing for the day I sit down with the magnificent Wax Po!”. – DM
Tell folks a bit about your history with Exile. Your first release was in 2007. How sure were you at that point that music would be your career?
I actually wasn’t sure at all. I started working on the record in 2005 at the age of 21, and I knew I wanted to make a strong debut like all the greats I admire like Nas, Ice Cube, Krs, Snoop, and others. It was a huge blessing to get Exile to produce the entire record. I had other producers in mind when we first started crafting the album but after exile and I did one song, I knew he was the perfect person to man the production on the entire record. I always looked up to Premier, Dilla, and Hi-Tek and I finally met someone from California who was on that level of production mastery. He had all the jewels for me to create and get out everything I needed to express for my debut.
You started as a hypeman? How was that experience as an aspiring rapper?
Well, my cousin wrote my first raps for me when I was thirteen but because I was raised in the church, hip-hop was restricted in my household growing up. It wasn’t until I moved back into LA county with my father that I began to buy rap music. It was right after I listened to DMX’s “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” that I started writing my own raps. I was a great freestyle emcee for years, it wasn’t until my good friend who worked at wake up show convinced me to start writing and recording songs instead of battling every emcee for my recognition.I thank him to this day. I remember he always said, “Aint no money in free styling bro, its free”. Then he hipped me to Aquemini. I would eventually hype man for many california groups and bands before my crew and i would get to the point of gracing the stage on our own. Continue reading “Kind of Blu”→
What an honor it was to finally speak with Preemo, especially since his work has underscored so many favorite songs of mine. Here, he gets to discuss records that changed his life. Take a look/listen over at Ego Trip. Shouts to my dude O-Dub for the ill assist and peep Soul-Sides which is currently filled with plenty of awesomeness to round out an all-too-short summer (aren’t they all though?).
I recently wrote the cover story on Dr. Dre for Wax Poetics Japan. I was hoping to get Dre on the phone but dude’s probably busy swan diving into piles of cash after his recent 3 billion dollar headphone deal. If you collect issues of Wax Po Japan or read Japanese, the piece explores Dre’s history and influence on commercial music’s landscape through these last three decades. Pick it up HERE.
I spoke with DJ Jazzy Jeff recently for a local story and our conversation ran a bit long– after all, dude has been in the game very long and remains remarkably personable to boot. With the Bay Area as a frequent tour stop (he calls it a ‘second home’) we conversed a bit on some history and his career as a DJ/producer. Below are snippets from our talk on some of the more poignant moments of his ongoing DJ career. -DM
On Meeting Will Smith: “He was in a crew and I was in a crew too and we knew of eachother. We never officially met. I got a last minute DJ gig and had to go without an MC, which is fine. I was gonna rock the spot anyways, but it just so happened to be on Will’s block. He came down and we gave each other daps and just formally met. He was like ‘Where’s Ice’, which was the name of my MC. I told him Ice couldn’t make it and Will was like ‘Mind if I rock with you?’. So then I gave him the mic and it was magic. We were in sync right away from a musical perspective. As dudes, we hit it off too, just laughing and joking all night. I picked up the phone the next night and asked if he wanted to do another gig with me and that was that. It wasn’t too cool for MC Ice who essentially became unemployed [laughs]. But man, it worked out great.”
Why He Started DJing: “More than anything, I loved being the guy who was in charge of playing music at the local parties. You did it because it made you feel good and I liked being the guy responsible for making people dance. So you go from playing a party on your street, to a party on the block, then you’re playing clubs in Philly. That’s pretty much how it started.”
On His First Time in the Studio: “When you make records, especially rap records back then, you never think they’ll hit iconic status one day. You sort of just go in, have a good time in the studio, and try to be as creative as you can. You have to think it’s just for five people rather than 5 million. I feel that outlook keeps it fun. There’s no pressure. You just wanna make good songs for your friends. It was literally just going into the studio or even my mom’s basement, and Will’s rapping and I’m playing my beats and adding cuts, and it’s all cool by the time we hit the studio.”
On Record Collecting: “I will never stop digging. Its one of those things where I laugh and say thank I have so many records already. I have so much music, man. On my computer, in my garage, everywhere. But you know, you can’t walk pass a record store without going in and buying just one, or two, or ten. And it’s like that everywhere in the world I go to ‘til this day.”
Bay Area DJs and What He Does When He’s Here: “Q-Bert is like the Jimi Hendrix of the turntable. I joke with Shortkut and call him a Swiss Army Knife because whatever you want, he’ll provide. I mean, when I’m in the Bay, I’ll go to Thud Rumble Headquarters or I’ll go to Q-Bert’s house. Me and Shortkut will go get Dungeness crab at a local spot. I have my ritual of where I go to eat, who I go to see and all that. I love the Bay and can’t wait to be there again. It really feels like a second home to me there.”
On Sudden Stardom: “It’s crazy because literally ten months after we cut the first record, we’re on the stage at the Grammys. And all of it came from us just having fun. We went thru a period where it was too serious, which I’m sure most artists go thru. I compare my music and art to basketball; you go out to play ball after school to have fun. And if yo’re good at it, you’l play for your school, then maybe your highschool, then maybe college, then if you’re really good, you go pro. But the day it became no longer fun, your game changes.”
DJing Versus Producing: “To me, DJing is producing on the fly. It’s my job to produce the night. As a producer, you have more time to put things together. It’s piecing things together, which is taking nothing and making something out of it. I can just start playing and programming stuff and piece together a puzzle and it’s one of the moist gratifying things you can do.”
For Fans Who’ve Been Listening Since the ’80s: “I just have a huge, high level of love and appreciation. I love what I do so much and am blessed to still do what I do. There so much drama and I’ve always been lucky to still have all this joy. I’m not young anymore but still travel and do what I love. I’ve covered almost every base one would cover in the music industry and to come full circle and still do what I started out doing as a kid is incomparable. I will always DJ and do music. I might not always be involved in the industry side of things, but I get to cut the middleman and just give music directly to the people now. Then I’m off to the next venue. Not much I can ask for.”
G Rap’s early career was a minefield of shifty fictions anchored in large by a dizzying cadence and attention to detail. And while these early years were fleeting, they, like any true pioneers’ work, set the framework for younger cats to explore. Wu-Tang, Jay-Z, Nas, and Biggie were all spawned from G Rap, later citing his delivery and Mafioso street narratives as immensely impactful and of influence.
I spoke in depth with G Rap for Wax Poetics issue 58, touching on ballyhooed history and other watershed moments during his immensely rich upstart. But there’s so much more to his story, so many colorful characters that came and went in an era where Biz Markie had entirely long beatboxing routines and Big Daddy Kane rapped while doing vigorous dance numbers— all of it under the guidance of rap’s first super producer, the venerable Marley Marl. It was a showcase of fun and well roundedness that underscored the Juice Crew’s heyday.
To this day, the trajectory of his career and its catalogue has been a point of reference for so many, and here’s the rest of our interview, bookended by opulent moments of his storied rise. Says G rap: “I just had crazy confidence in myself. I knew that skill-wise, especially back then, I was an elite. I was untouchable.”
Even though most fixate on those first early records of yours, you’ve had a lot of artistic output since. What are you up to these days?
I’m working on a screenplay. I’m transitioning from rapper back to just writer and am working on concepts for short films. Some of the themes are taken from my old albums. I’m gonna start shooting short films of all these song concepts I’ve had through the years. I can’t wait to get in the field and just put art out there again.
Perhaps one of your well known is “Road To The Riches”. The video itself is remarkable. Talk about working with director Fab Five Freddy.
I was no older than twenty at that point even though I looked thirteen [laughs]. It was directed by [Fab Five] Freddy who I think did an excellent job. He’s from that element, he’s from the streets. He’s definitely a fan of hip-hop and captured what we were going for.
That song was taken from my real life experiences. I wasn’t literally sweeping floors for dimes but if you consider the minimum wage then, I was basically working for dimes [laughs]. It was just my life and things that were going on around me. I mentioned John Gotti because it was the topic of the times. Any part of the violence that I wrote about were things I saw, even if I didn’t directly participate in all of it. I mean, right before the video shoot, this Jamaican cat I knew shot this dude in my neighborhood. Later, the dude ended up killing the Jamaican cat. These were real life things and experiences that I took in.
Let’s talk about the Juice Crew explore that history a bit. How was it working with Marley Marl? He was already known and you were actually the newcomer to the crew.
He’s that dude! Needless to say, he’s one of the first, most innovative producers in the game. Marley was the first one where people knew him equally as much as the vocalist. His name stood out as much as Kane or Biz. It was like he set the format without rapping on anything. Everything he did was behind the scenes. He was in a skit and a video, which was cool since he was already so big and should’ve made himself more identifiable. Then (Dr.) Dre and RZA kind of became what Marley laid out— the dude in the studio that made everything happen and known to the listener.
For this year’s Record Store Day, Fat Beats reissued UN or U OUT, a gritty NY rap joint that came and went but also happened to be Roc Marciano’s first official release. I wrote the liner notes and as a big fan of Roc’s solo joint, Marcberg, I was happy to research a bit about his history. Available on LP, CD AND cassette!
*Take a listen to the re-issue in full via Spin Magazine featuring production from Pete Rock and Large Professor HERE.
*You can also read portions of the liner notes and peep an exclusive, recently unearthed track HERE via our buds at Ego Trip.
DJ, vocalist, and producer Greg Broussard literally started a movement in LA thirty years ago. With a huge Jheri curl only equalled by his bombastic beats, Broussard manifested his Egyptian Lover persona onto party records that defined him for decades. His pioneering history intermingles with characters like Ice-T and Dr. Dre, all of whom were young and using rap as springboards for eventual careers. He was amongst the first in the rap scene to start his own label, Egyptian Empire Records, doing it to control his assets and career path long before others thought to do so. At the time, there was an opulence of open minds– and fun to be had– and Egyptian Lover supplied the score for it all, even encouraging interlopers through his catchy, electro production.
He now gigs the world as a one man show, playing all vinyl, blasting 808 beats that thump hard as they did back then. These are records that were meant to be played loud and there’s a certain genuineness about hearing them on 10 x 10 speakers while your teeth and skull rattle. It’s timeless dance music without versifying complications– or as Egyptian Lover says, “Just get your freak on.” I caught Greg quickly to drop a little background as he heads to the South Bay Area to commemorate Record Store Day. Salute sir! – DM
In this age of MP3s, talk a bit about your obsession with vinyl and record collecting.
I started at a young age buying 45 singles of my favorite songs and then later on I started buying albums. My first 45 single was “A Letter to Myself” by The Chi-Lites in 1973. My first full album was The Best of Earth, Wind and Fire in November 1978. My first 12” single was Rapper’s Delight in 1979 and worth every penny of it. That’s when the bug hit me. 12” singles of everything that came out. I loved the long versions of songs that did not come on the radio. The instrumentals on the B-side, or whatever they put on the B side. I loved it!
Do you still collect?
Yes, that will always be my thing. I always find something I never seen before.
Tell people about the Radio Crew and Ice-T’s involvement. What do you think is its main legacy?
It was a once in a lifetime period in history. Ice T, The Glove and The Egyptian Lover. Playing records at that club was mind blowing. Then we made an album for the documentary and people to this day are still losing their minds from it. It has so many well programmed beats and scratching on it. We only pressed 25 copies so the bootlegs are out there! It was the beginning of a new era in music. Music to dance to.
I spoke with Monch about records that inspired his own writing and added to his already uncanny acumen. Check it out on Ego Trip HERE.
One of the most revered MCs to ever do it, Monch’s dextrous verses are at times completely untouchable, intense, and leaves you amazed by the delivery. As the great music writer Dave Thompkins once wrote (and I’m completely paraphrasing, sorry Dave!) : “Monch raps like he’s in total control of every cell in his body.” Or something like that, but you get the point, and we couldn’t agree more.
I believe I saw Bronson in SF around 2010 and have been a fan ever since, especially after hearing his mixtape (Bon Apetite…Bitch), Dr. Lecter, and his free internet release, Blue Chips Pt.I. Dude was intense and funny, made old WWF references, loved Kool G Rap, and talked about food. My story with the weedsmoking-gourmand is featured on the cover of the new Wax Po and Bronson was a great interview; super candid, hilarious, and grateful for the successes he’s had so far– he even addressed claims of him sounding derivative. We talked about hash, Wu-Tang, and plenty of food.
One of my favorite later Bronson joints is on Blue Chips 2, as you hear below:
Action Bronson (production by Party Supplies)- “Midget Cough”
I learned from O-Dub that the sample source was some Filipino band called Joe Cruz and the Cruzettes. Hear the OG version below, with its slow groove that kind of oozes along. Says O-Dub:
“I don’t know very much about Joe Cruz except that he and the Cruzettes were largely a lounge act with heavy Brazilian/bossa influences. Most of their albums claim to have been recorded at different tourist hotels in the Philippines, including the one “Love Song” appears on (which is, by far, their most obscure LP from what I’ve seen).
Their version of “Love Song” came out in 1973 (supposedly) which would mean they were covering Lani Hall and not the other way around. It’s also notable that Hall’s album had a release in the Philippines.”
While parties brand themselves in order to branch-out to other cities, Platurn’s 45 Sessions was able to do the opposite– make OTHERS come to YOUR party. The roster has been thick through the years, Just Blaze, Nu-mark, J-Zone, Maseo (De La Soul), and Diamond D to name a few. As a past participant, I’m nothing short of honored to be a part of something that’s so intrinsically positive; good people, good 45s– what else could you ask for? Hats off to the 45 Sessions for turning the party out for 4 years. Dare I say, here’s to another 41 years?!?!
As fate would have it, Platurn just put down a killer set at the Boiler Room. Please take a look and listen to the dude behind the Sessions HERE! Congrats homie!
(J-Zone is back! Last time, he touched on his favorite 45s for a pre-45 Sessions blowout; this time, he zeroes in on his all-time choice breaks. His new release, Lunch Breaks, a sample-palette of live drums performed entirely by Jay himself launched last week, primed for drum-less MPCs everywhere. We’re always stoked to have Jay swing through these parts.- DM)
Every hip-hop producer has their favorite drum breaks – until they start playing drums! I had this epiphany two years ago, when I picked up a pair of sticks and set out to learn a new instrument at the tender age of 34 and three quarters. When discovering the wide range of sounds a kit can make and the wide range of playing styles a drummer can use, you begin to hear breaks differently.
You also begin to realize how difficult some of these classics were to play. Nowadays, it’s no longer about which breaks are easiest to chop up, toss into the MPC and boom bap with, but which ones I like to emulate when I practice and mimic the recording of when I’m making my own breaks. So I’ve decided to mix it up and include both: a few choices from a production angle and a few from a (still learning to be a) drummer angle.
In celebration of the release of my ‘Lunch Breaks’ live drum package out now at The Drum Broker, I present my ten favorite drum breaks of all time.
10. Led Zepplin – “The Crunge”
Drummer: John Bonham
Ask anyone putting on a show in the drum section of a Guitar Center who they’d like to be for a day and the answer is probably John Bonham. The freakish Led Zepplin drummer has more Stans than any drummer in history, and although I have different heroes, I’d never front on Bonzo’s brilliance on the set. For fuck’s sake, the dude plays this groove in 9/8 with the pocket of a James Brown jam. And it was the driving force behind “The Magic Number.”
9. B.T. Express – “Energy Level”
Drummer: Leslie Ming
Although rap hasn’t been this fast in years, I’m shocked at how little this joint has been sampled (or if it’s been sampled at all). Leslie Ming is one of my favorite drummers. A session musician in New York throughout the ‘80s, Ming got his start with disco-funk outfit, B.T. Express, where he lit up the band’s Energy to Burn LP with rat-ta-tat-tat drumming from front to back. Accented, machine gun hi-hat marksmanship, syncopated kick-snare patterns and pure pocket make this a gem for b-boy circles and a dance floor smoker for those with soul.
8. Lonnie Smith – “Spinning Wheel”
Drummer: Joe Dukes
When Q-Tip de-virginized this record for sampling in 1990 for Tribe’s “Can I kick It?” he only scratched the surface. Organ trio jazz drummer, Joe Dukes, goes for his multiple times in the song, playing with grooves and giving producers a buffet of rudiments, licks and hits to fool with. One of the very first drum breaks I cut my sample chopping teeth to, there wasn’t one part I didn’t try to flip while learning to hook up drums. The classic Van Gelder Studios sound brings “Spinning Wheel” to life; it’s even more of a pleasure to listen to as an aspiring drummer.
7. Simtec & Wylie – “Socking Soul Power”
Those toms! The toms often play second fiddle in funk drumming and are tuned arbitrarily. But the way the drum set was miked, tuned and recorded gives the toms a bruising thump that nearly distorts the entire mix. This is just a raw, demo-like drum recording reminiscent of the great drum recordings of Chess Records.
6. Lee Moses – “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”
Sometimes it’s all about feel. I’m not sure who the drummer was on this twisted, mind-melting cover of the Motown classic, but it’s just the right mixture of a slightly ahead pocket, fills, jazz tuning and gritty recording gear that bring the song to life. The simple single stroke rolls on the toms for the breakdowns late in the song are gold. The feel and sound are insane enough on their own; the song doesn’t call for any fancy playing.
Admittedly I wasn’t hugely into Black Milk’s catalogue but part of it, I came to realize, is how prolific dude’s been in the last few years. I spoke with him for the recent Wax Poetics and thought it was endearing that, to him, he finally “made it” when his parents came to one of his shows.
“My moms and pops were there! It was the first time after all these years that they saw me live. I knew right then and there this is what I’m meant for,” he said. While researching his work I re-listened to his Danny Brown collab, Black & Brown. As it now stands (and I consider myself a fan of Danny’s work) this album with Milk might be the only one where Brown’s abrassiveness doesn’t wear thin– don’t get me wrong, this Danny joint is still one of my favorite semi-recent rap songs. Peep the new Wax Po piece and here’s my favorite joint from the two; it thumps when the drums finally set in, and is such a hard, flashy moment in their young careers.
One of our all-time favorite mixes is Age’s Audio, a blend of old soul, breaks, and rare cuts which continue to (no pun intended) age quite well years later. After all, it kicks off with Quinn Harris’ “All In The Soul” which is hardly a bad way to start any sequence of music.
It cannot be overstated how much influence and just overall pleasure we’ve gotten from O-Dub’s site, the venerable Soul-Sides. From the blog’s consistency to its superb song picks, it’s nothing short of, I think, one of the best blogs ever published. So we were certainly geeked when selected tracks from the site were pressed onto vinyl– Soul Sides Vol.1 and Vol.2, respectively.
Through the years, O-Dub has dropped by Nerdtorious and I’ve had the honor of adding to Soul-Sides. This year, however, marks Soul-Sides’ 10th anniversary! To celebrate (and as a goodwill token) Volume 3 was released for download. Though it’s a bummer we won’t see it on wax, these songs, in short, are completely quality driven-as is Soul-Sides has been for a quick decade. Here’s to another 10 years – DM
I was lucky to pen the coverstory for the last issue of One More Robot, the premiere art & music magazine out of Dublin, Ireland. For the latest one, themed the “The Crime Issue”, I interviewed Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel about one of the most colorful yet anti-crime records ever, their debut, Melodica.
It firstly reminds me of being young with a backpack full of distrust for all things radio. But it was also the pair’s first outing and still stands out to me as far as Bay Area rap goes. Pick up the latest issue of OMR and relive hearing “Swan Lake” for the first time all over again. Below is an excerpt of the transcript.- DM
Let’s start off with basics. How old were you guys when this was recorded and about how long did it take to make?
Gift of Gab: We were in our early twenties, I’d say 22 or so.
Chief Xcel: Off and on, it took about a year finish. It was actually released as a cassette tape first [laughs]. We probably haven’t heard it since the mid-nineties.
But you guys had already recorded together prior, right?
Xcel: Yeah, we had teamed up about 5 years before we actually sat down and made Melodica.
How advanced was your studio at this point? What equipment was this primarily made on?
Gab: We were still in our dorm rooms then [laughs]. Everything was kind of makeshift. And although we all had been making music for a few years then, we were just in our learning phase.
Xcel: Basically, we used a MPC 60 and a Tascam 4-track. Not much really [laughs].
Did you two have certain concepts in place before making it? Or was the concept simply good rhymes and good beats?
Gab: It was our first project together and we had been together since high school. We were hip-hop heads and just wanted to make some sort of contribution that would be respected by our peers.
I understand Melodica was recorded mostly at Dan The Automator’s place? Did he have any influence on the project in any way?
Gab: That was at a time when our crew was young and just formed. So even though he didn’t work on the EP directly, just being around Dan definitely had an influence. I think it’s important to always surround yourself with creative people whom you respect.
Doris & Kelley’s “You Don’t Have To Worry” was my favorite “new (to me)” song of 2013. Granted, it was released in 1967 to little or no acclaim but it flipped my wig this year when at a DJ gig in Bernal Heights with DJ Ferrari aka Forty Fivan. He played it, I ran to the speaker.
Ferrari said that night: “This ain’t hard to come by, but it ain’t cheap.” By far the most moving and impactful song I’ve been lucky enough to hear in 2013. Vocals are killer right out the gate and the arrangement doesn’t drag. I couldn’t find much on Doris or Kelley so please hit us with any info if you’ve got it! For now, enjoy the slow, sultry burner.
Glad to finally have this in my modest crates and glad to add the “audio” aspect back to the site, which, after all, is an “audioblog” first and foremost. More audio to come!
It had been years since I spoke with the Bay’s own, DJ Q-Bert. But the time was apt given his TWO releases this year and his continued impact on the game. Titles like “Yoda” or “Einstein” would be outrageous if it were anyone but Q. DJ Jazzy Jeff recently called him the “Jimmy Hendrix of Turntables”. Peep Q-Bert’s new projects and our recent discussion HERE via MIXCRATE.
“The former soloist whose flow was sick,
The token sober kid stressed so the role was switched.
Now Four Lokos down the hole and a loaded spliff,
Look who’s as useless as a broken wrist when trying to open shit”- Earl
I spoke with Earl Sweatshirt recently who was open, insightful, and a bit deflective. It’s understandable when you’re 19 and the world is picking your brain. Dude dropped our favorite album of 2013 (Doris) which is dense enough to keep unpacking through the next year. He’s young and formidable, and it doesn’t hurt that his idol is DOOM. Earl’s off to an epic start and I’m glad to have caught him before the glitz does. Peep the feature article in the current Wax Poetics.
(One of our favorite sites to nerd out on is Flea Market Funk, ran by our dude Jamison Harvey, a collector who also goes by DJ Prestige. Stop by FMF for merch, cool features, funk-bombs, and posts like the one below. Glad to kick-off 2014 with this one. More stuff like this in the coming year. Without further ado, DJ Prestige. -DM )
Here’s a record that I scored at my go to “Spot” in New Jersey. I used to scour this place about three days a week. It took me many years to finally get in with the local, old-time vinyl dealer. He would piece meal me records every week. I had to buy stuff from “The Old Man” aka “Samurai Mike” even if he sold me the same record previously to keep him bringing more from his stash. Unfortunately we lost him a few years ago and his massive collection got stolen from his family by swindlers. This particular day I had bought my stash from Mike but saw another dealer, The Meatball, who was notorious for trying to make a quick buck. As I dug and found this record, he immediately told me it wasn’t for sale. Bullshit I said. I’ll give you $20. Now I don’t pay more than a few bucks for records but this Midwest burner was not slipping through my fingers. He agreed at $20 but said he wanted to do research. Whatever man, and the next week I saw him he tells me it’s not for sale. I don’t want to say I bullied him into selling it to me but I questioned his character as a record dealer, and he finally had to sell it because he knew I’d see him every week and give him shit until I finally got it off of him. I read about this record from an old Big Daddy article and knew it had to be in my 45 box.
Straight out of Rubbertown, Akron, OH, the Soul Tornados Heller Twins (not really twins) were destined to be entertainers. Their mother, who at any time had performers like Jimmy Smith or Brother Jack McDuff sleeping and eating her home cooked meals when they were performing at the local Hi Hat Club, might have given those boys the inspiration to play the B-3 and drum kit she bought them a little longer with those kinds of house guests around. In other words, these boys learned from the pros. They formed the Soul Tornadoes and soon were signed by Ernest Burt to Burt Records. Burt was responsible for labels like Magic City, Mello, and Sock-It among others. The Tornadoes dealt with a lot of adversity including a bad contract with Burt that locked them in, preventing a move to Motown,, a diss by James Brown on this very record as a rip off of “Cold Sweat”, and various other tragedies that prevented them from making it big. Some members found their way to LA where they were in the band Lakeside, but all in all this two-sided 7″ on Burt was their shining moment.
This record absolutely moves me because I believe they weren’t trying to rip off JB per se, I’d like to think they were paying homage to the Godfather in their own Midwest way. It’s an all around Funk bomb and a record I dare anyone to sit still to. You just can’t. This was $20 well spent, as this kind of Funk never would turn up in any of my digging spots ever again.
I have never been a Latin expert so when I was digging through a 50 cent box with some other friends and someone said “This looks right up your alley”, it wasn’t long before I fired up the Fisher Price 825 and listened to this Latin Soul record through some headphones. Immediately this mellow side with Tito Ramos on vocals called to me. No sooner did I get into this record did I hear a shout of “Drum call” before this giant drum break which then went right back into the Latin flavored Soul pill I just ingested. 50 cents for this? I wish there were 10 of them. Now this particular digger had totally passed on records like the Funk Factory LP , Dave and Ansel Collins “Double Barrel” and a few other choice 45s in my collection, so I’ll tip my hat to Long Beard Neil for passing on those sides. This side quickly became one of my favorite 45s ever.
The Cotique label was short-lived (1968-1970), but initially was attempting to capture the “new Boogaloo sound” (already available since the 50’s known as guajira) coming out of New York City. Clearly trying to lure in the young Latin audience with liberal lyrics about illegal drugs and LSD to a Boogaloo rhythm, it would be bad business practices and gradual move to Disco that eventually crippled the label. However, this is just one of the gems released on this NYC label, and it found its way to a pile of 45s in some dirt farm in Central Jersey. I will take the mint copy with pleasure. I’d like to think that this side is equal parts Archie Bell & the Drells “Tighten Up” and a James Brown dance cut rolled into one all done in the TNT Band’s unique Latin style. Although both vocalists, Ramos and Tony Rojas were accomplished front me in their own right, it would be Ramos taking center stage on this record. 3 records and a few hits later, to me, “The Meditation” is of their all time best. Who would have thought that a mellow Latin Soul 7″ could also be so funky?
This is the best mixtape I’ve heard in a long time. So This is De La Heaven 2 is the long-awaited sequel to DJ Platurn’s excellent De La tribute mix from 2003. The long gestation process has been fruitful, as the accumulated effort is apparent in the impeccable song selection, blending, pacing, and tasteful yet apparent ‘dj hand’ audible throughout. Though this is not just a straightforward exercise in playing originals into the tack that sampled them, some of the strongest segments consist of the unique ways that he re-contextualizes each track by comparing them with their source. The ‘Hey Love’ segment is a master class in utilizing turntable techniques to bring new context to beloved and intensely familiar tracks.
De La played a major role in expanding the sonic palette of sample-able material throughout their career, and Platurn is unafraid to get a little weird here, as you will notice when you get caught at a red light really enjoying bumping a Walter Wanderly instrumental. Props are due to Platurn for focusing on semi-deep catalog material like ‘The Patti Dooke.’ It’s a treat for the De La obsessives among us. Also incredible is the long section dissecting and interacting with the ‘Buddy Native Tongues Remix’. There are so many references both musical and verbal in that song that there may have been an entire mixtapes’ worth of material just in that song. How many dudes that you know could get an actual member of De La to drop an intro to their tribute mix? Platurn is that dude, and this mix is absolutely top-notch. Get it. – Nate LeBlanc
* To read more on the mix and order, please go HERE.
One of the year’s most formidable mixes came in March and I’ve lagged on coverage, partially due to a frenzied dayjob and partially due to the denseness of the mix itself– it’s a lot to take in. A home brewed project spearheaded by Nerdtorious regular Allen ‘Overflo’ Johnson and Taran Escobar-Ausman of Fatheadphones.com, We Got Sound features rare African songs outside of the typical ‘High Life’ fare or ubiquitous Fela nods.
These are some serious records you can’t hear anywhere else compiled, dusted-off, and blended together in seamless fashion in all its crackly glory. In short: essential listening. I shoulder-tapped Taran to expound a bit on the mix and some of the artists that went into it. Here’s what he came up with. – DM
Effi Duke & The Love Family “Time Has Come”
Album: Mr. Love 
This hypnotic, jazz influenced head-nodder is definitely one of the centerpieces of the mix, and it guided the feeling, theme, and tempo of the whole project. It immediately grabs your attention with Effi’s octave guitar workout over the echoed clap (which actually sounds like the scraping of guitar strings with wah-wah and echo) on the backbeat. Once the funky turn-around riff plays, there’s no turning back.
Charles Effiom Duke was a man on the scene, being a hired hand and contributor to a slew of bands, including the Funkees, Wings, Original Wings, Dan Ian, Kingsley Burstic Bassey, and Etubom Rex Williams, to name a few. At the same time, he was a founding member of the Ceejebs, an afro-rock band from Calabar. Eventually, the Ceejebs disbanded in the mid-70s, after which Duke formed his own band, Love Band/Love Family, which recorded two albums, including Mr. Love. Duke gets credits for guitar, bass, vocals, composer, engineer, and producer. In other words, he has the skills to pay the bills!
The Elcados “Funky Music”
Album: Whatever You Need 
The Elcados started out as the Moonrakers, the resident band at the Moulin Rouge Club in the Nigerian city of Kano, in 1966. After a management change, the Moonrakers left the club and changed their name to the Elcados, recording two LPs for EMI in the mid 70s. The song Funky Music, however, comes from their third album, Whatever You Need, which was more of a reunion album, with one member not returning.
This song gave the mix its name with its refrain, “We got rhythm, we got sound. You’re going to dig it, we got sound.” Sound they have indeed, as they lock into a funk/disco groove that doesn’t let up, declaring their sound credentials to everyone on the dance floor. The Elcados’ previous records were more rock oriented, but with this late 70s ‘reunion’ release the beats get tighter and mixed with Disco/Reggae influences, which was becoming popular in the region. My 3-year old asks for this one on repeat. (Props to ‘oreje’ scholar, Uchenna!) -Taran Escobar-Ausman, Fatheadphones.com
I recently had the honor of speaking with the great Ron Isley. Very meaningful, especially since we pretty much grew up hearing the Isley Bros. in an endless parade of great rap on the radio. Take a look at some of Ron’s favorite sample flips of his own over at Ego Trip.
Man, it’s been way too long since we’ve heard from one of our favorites, Edan. Last time we spoke was following the release of his wildly entertaining Echo Party. What followed were singles, guest spots, and these equally thorough, offbeat, off-the-cuff home mixes dubbed “Radio Shows”. Here’s the latest one, a live mix of records, washes of echo, and on the spot cuts. We’re stoked on the announcement of a new Rap EP due out in 2014, as is a Rock EP. Looking forward!
There’s a certain espirit de corps in the following posts, all of which stem from our basic love for Darondo and his music. He was also from the Bay and just sharing the same turf makes his eccentricities and songs personally more touching. The majestic “Didn’t I” struck a chord with all those who heard it– and all who did, all wanted more. That’s how a chance discovery of said single led to wonderful meetings with Darondo, culminating in songs resurfacing and him doing the splits onstage again at age 60. With Darondo, the more layers that peeled away, the more endearing he became.
Spry with a pompadour and belt buckle bearing his name, he was an actual former pimp who drove around Oakland with a mini-bar in his car. He sometimes wore a cape and sported huge, almost novelty jewelry. He had local cable access shows, one was called Darondo’s Penthouse After Dark. There are more lovable asterisks to his story but ultimately, what we adore is his music– the only thing tantamount would be his personality. After recording a few more in the ’60s, he did odd jobs and left the US during the ’80s before settling into the real estate business where he floated until the market slowed in the early 2000s.
Here’s where we pick up the story; Darondo’s songs are rediscovered by clued-in cats who were awestruck and moved, compelling them to share and officially release what was doable. All the funny, interesting lore aside, anyone who saw Darondo live was struck by his natural stage acumen and dirty humor. He radiated during those performances, energized though at times visibly old and shaky.
When word got out of Darondo’s passing, we tapped our Nerdtorious braintrust to cover a bit of the history behind his late but more than worthwhile ascent, including those who aided his career in its later stages. The stories here highlight Darondo’s pronounced persona. If only there were a time machine to relive the magic of hearing “Didn’t I” again for the first time. Rest in peace soul-master D. Thank god cats like you existed. – DM
“Forget It” by Blood Orange aka Devonte Hynes WATCH HERE
My article on Devonte Hynes is now up Wax Poetics’ site, lifted originally from their epic 50th anniversary issue. It’s a piece that was super fun to write and finally available for the first time online HERE for non-subscribers.
An absurdly talented songwriter, Dev has penned songs for Florence and the Machine, Sky Ferreira, Theophilus London, Solange, and many more in addition to his killer debut, last year’s Coastal Grooves.
“Forget It” is a striking cut off the album and is one of my favorite songs in recent memory. The whole project was made on his Macbook with a keyboard, mic, and guitar. Dev announced this week that his second Blood Orange album is near completion.
Antwon has been a local standout for a minute now, amassing great press through fun videos and kiler mixtapes. His latest, In Dark Denim, was released a few months back and here he shares some choice cuts by way of words and youtube. Word Antwon!-DM
Spank Rock – “Chilly Will”
The perfect example of “club rap”. At one time it was the standard I guess. I saw so many copy cats between 2006-2009 but Spank Rock was my favorite. The focus was on being very cool and technicolor. Spank Rock releases spoke to me the most because I felt the roots; I could tell the influences that were being payed homage ’cause I very much did the same thing but defintely not at that caliber. Pay this nigga.
You only really grew up in the ’90s if you subconsiously were into house music. MTV’s The Grind had all the jams back then. If you thought Yo MTV Jams was where it was at you were sadly mistaken. I care what no says, if this doesn’t make you throw your hands up and say “ohhhh shiiit” we are not friends.
I love the formula of Goldie songs. They’re what I basically look for in most music; to be emotionally attached to it and for it to take me to another place. I know Goldie is still around and it would be a dream to work with him. – Antwon
I’m currently working on this upcoming release (off Strut) on Rodion Ladislau Roșca, a forward thinking composer who made mad-scientist-like tracks with homemade speakers and toy Casio keyboards in Romania during intense socially oppressive times. These recordings haven’t been heard in 34 years and are weird, hard-hitting joints with loads of fuzz, keyboards and sound effects. They veer towards funk and even jazz at times but are overall dark, dense, and set in sometimes elaborate arrangements. Interesting stuff to be sure. Take a look at the preview video above and be on the lookout for an expansive piece on this bit of lost Romanian jams.
I still love covering local stories, especially when it’s about two 80+ year old dudes who run the largest and oldest record store in my area. Joe (pictured above) yells “there he is!” every time you walk through the door. I wrote this a few months back but if you’ve ever been in the South Bay or been by Al’s through the years, check the story HERE.
Snippet from All Killer No Filler mixed by Gaslamp Killer
Long-haired, sweaty, yogi-looking producer/DJ William Bensussen (Gaslamp Killer) is an instrumental part of LA’s Flying Lotus-driven beat scene, anchored by its epic Low End Theory parties with cats like D-Styles and guests Thom Yorke of Radiohead or Erykah Badu.
Though I didn’t dig the new one as much as his previous works (sitar overkill and a bit droning, even tepid at times) it does have its moments, rooted mainly in off-kilter breaks and energetic bursts in the arrangement. The snippet above is from a mixtape that showcases more his DJ skills whereas the new one is more production.
(With the release of his LP Land of 1000 Chances, DJ Day has pretty much lived up to what friends and fans anticipated– a moody album with many change-ups anchored by a vast yet tempered sample pallet. And the album’s terrifc title video just happens to be thematically couched in all things Bay Area. So we thought the timing was apt for Day to pop by Nerdtorious with some of his favorite Bay Area joints, from LPs to specific tracks. Have a look/listen below and grab his fantastic full-length– it won’t disappoint. – DM)
Third Sight – “Rhymes Like a Scientist” [Darc Brothas Records, 1996]
I don’t remember where I bought this 12″, but I do remember bugging out on D-Styles scratches type heavy. San Francisco and Philly are truly the greatest cities when it comes to the history of DJing and this record is a prime example of one of – if not THE – best the bay has to offer. Jihad and D made a perfect team and the whole album is worth checking out.
Soft Touch – “Plenty Action” [Sundance, 1976]
I’m still trying to find a copy of this, but if we’re talking Bay Area funk records, this has gotta be in the top 5. I could hear that intro on a loop for days. Top quality every which way.
RBL Posse – “A Lesson To Be Learned” [In A Minute Records, 1992]
I got hip to this record in ’93 while in Job Corps in San Bernardino. Dudes used to blast this playing ball and “Bammer Weed” became the anthem. I still play this cut on the regular.
The Residents – George & James [Korova Records, 1984]
The Residents, for those who might not be up on them, are an experimental/performance art group originally from Louisiana, but didn’t get their start until moving to San Mateo. I was listening to them quite a bit while I was making Land Of 1000 Chances and some of that influence can be heard on “FML”. They’re weird and pretty fucked up all around, but I’m a fan. This particular album is a split LP with one side being George Gershwin covers and the other being their version of James Brown’s Live At The Apollo siphoned through a lot of hallucinogens and bad recording techniques. I love it.
Matthew Larkin Cassell – Pieces [N/A, 1977]
The first time I heard this was on a Kon & Amir comp and later found out a good friend of mine (what up Herm) in Tuscon was responsible for the record getting some publicity. “In My Life” and “You” are the jams. Wish the OG record was easier to come by.
Too Short – Life Is Too Short [Jive, 1988]
No Bay list would be complete without a Too Short or E-40 record. Trying to choose from Short’s first 5 albums was tough, but I think I played this one the most growing up. “I Ain’t Trippin” , “Don’t Fight the Feeling”, “Cusswords”… this one had all the classics.
Doobie Brothers – Livin’ On The Fault Line [Warner Bros., 1977]
My love of yacht rock is well known and, again, was probably apparent on some of Land Of 1000 Chances. This whole LP isn’t the greatest, but “You Belong To Me” is the joint. Reminds me of what a coke and wine fueled night strolling in a half unbuttoned shirt with your lady on Embarcadero in the 70’s would sound like. Or something like that.
Huey Lewis & The News – Sports [Chrysalis, 1983]
I don’t care what anybody says this is going on the list. – DJ Day
(One of our favorite dudes DJ O-Dub will be dropping by tomorrow at one of our favorite parties, The 45 Sessions— founded by non other than the homie, DJ Platurn. It was an honor to be a past participant in an event where partygoers care about the music as much as the DJs– plus, 45s just sound so damn good and loud! We asked O-Dub to give us a peek into his crates for tomorrow’s not-to-be-missed affair and here’s what he came up with (hit it!). – DM)
It’s been ages since I’ve spun a “vinyl only” party, let alone “45s only” and truth be told…as great and convenient as the infinite digital crate is, I find far more creative pleasure in working within limits. Sometimes having access to everything makes a challenge banal; it’s like playing a video game in “god” mode. That said, I knew, going into this 45 Sessions set, I was certainly going to bring along a few go-to favorites on one hand as well as some “yeah, I got this” flossalistic singles. But I also want to use this as an opportunity to play out a few 7″s that have always almost made it to the turntables yet, for whatever reason, never quite made my party playlists. To start:
The Springers – (I Want You) Every Night and Day
My friend Hua Hsu put me up on this many years ago and I immediately fell in love with those hard, hammering piano strokes at the beginning. Great vocal touches and harmonies too. It’s not quite as slick – dancing-wise – as other Northern tracks but it has such a distinctive feel and punch to it. Maybe I’ll finally give this one a spin.
Los Amaya – Que Mala Suerte la Mia
I do love me some rumba catalan and Los Amaya’s “Caramelos” has usually been the track I most frequently play out. But this time, I’m planning to play the flip side – “Que Mala Suerte la Mia” – instead. It’s not as obviously “funky” as “Caramelos” but listening to it, I appreciate the slinky soulfulness that infuses the energy of the singing and guitar. I hope the dance floor can get with it too!
Samson and Delilah – Will You Be Ready
Never played this out before but that’s mostly because I only picked it up last fall and haven’t had a gig where it would have made sense to drop it. If ever there was a rhythm that could be described as “irresistible,” this is it. It’s no great songwriting accomplishment, lyrically, but as a groover, I don’t know if I’ve heard anything quite as propulsive in a while.
Released in 1968, this here is a choice 45, one that I play out whenever I can. It’s a hard, driving love number with irresistible doo-wop touches and the beginning alone thumps, sounding like something Prince Paul would’ve used. But it’s the vocals (and harmonies) that drive this, along with a lively arrangement anchored by sharp horn stabs. I picked this up a while back in Chicago but can only gather that its origin is Detroit due to the label. Though certainly not a rare record, it’s a favorite with seemingly no information available anywhere (hit us with any info!).
I recently interviewed Benjy Melendez of the Ghetto Bros. on his incredible story and the music that accompanies the Ghetto Brothers’ legacy. It’s a record that’s not only considered a ‘holy grail’ for collectors but it also serves as a juxtaposed soundtrack for the violent, fiery Bronx where it was made. I say juxtaposed because you figure an album made by gruff street gang members from the ’70’s Bronx wouldn’t be as sugary as it is. But the GB’s lone output turned out to be a mix of Latin garage-rock, Santana, and The Beatles, some of which were anthemic in a political sense but most were just wide-eyed love songs.
I could do without the Santana nods but above are my favorite joints from the album which FINALLY got the proper reissue treatment from Truth & Soul Records. You can read my story with Benjy in the upcoming Wax Poetics and in the meantime check out a recent review HERE.
(A friend to blog, my collaborator, music journalist and author, Stacy Gueraseva was an obvious pick for this year’s guest spot series. Here, she covers two classics through her own immersion in ’90s rap prior to her renowned work, Def Jam Inc. Like her book, these picks have a timeless quality to them and best believe we’re stoked to have her back. – DM)
Back in the late ’90s when I fancied myself a bedroom DJ with my Numark mixer and Technics tables, I made a monthly pilgrimage to a record store in Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall called Beat Street. I say pilgrimage because when you lived in Manhattan, like I did, late 90s Brooklyn was still a bit of another country. Pre-Barclays Center’s Times Square-style descent upon downtown Brooklyn, the Fulton Mall, a bustling outdoor shopping strip filled with jewelry and discount clothing stores, was the true essence of Brooklyn. There was simply no other place like it on the planet.
I may have looked like a bit of an anomaly at Beat Street, but it didn’t matter. I fit right in, because everyone at Beat Street was there for the same reason; man, woman, black, white, we were all united in our passion for hip hop. As soon as you descended into the basement store, you were greeted by eye candy unlike any other: row upon row of records, vintage and new, way below Manhattan prices. My pulse would quicken; it was shopping time. I knew I would be walking out of there with a nice stack—instrumentals, vocals only, remixes, promo releases—without breaking the bank.
More than half of my record collection came from Beat Street. Reading the liner notes of these is like thumbing through pages out of hip hop history books: names of places and labels that no longer exist. Loud Records…. D&D Studios…the Hit Factory (which was converted into condominiums in 2005). The following two vinyl cuts, for artistic and sentimental reasons, remain some of my most treasured.
To me, this single off Tribe’s fourth studio album, “Beats, Rhymes and Life,” is one of the best showcases of the unique vocal dynamic between Q-Tip and Phife Dawg, a perfect example of how their respective flows differ yet compliment each other perfectly. The song is affirmative, almost soothing, with the kind of soulful, laid-back vibe that could only be crafted by the hands of Raphael Saadiq. He, along with Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jay Dee comprised the production crew The Ummah, which produced the album.
This remix is mellower than the original version, more layered, and also more emotional. “So nowadays I go see wifey just to keep from stress / lay my head on her breast / Sugar dumpling knows best / Explaining all my problems to her / Getting things off my chest…,” Phife raps, in a departure from his typical braggadocious rhymes. Q-Tip, meanwhile, is philosophical as ever, examining the human condition in a way only he can—”Your whole being comes from greatness”—as Faith Evans sings in her warm tone, as though giving the listener a big vocal embrace: “I really know how it feels to be stressed out… We’re gonna make this thing work out eventually.” It’s kind of like a big bowl of hot soup on a rainy day; it hits the spot, when you need it most.
Mos Def: Ms. Fat Booty [Rawkus, 1999]
While on the subject of Tip, I’d like to take it back to the night of December 2nd, 1999. The scene: Kit Kat Klub on Manhattan’s theater district, filled to the brim with everyone who was anyone in the hip hop industry, gathered to celebrate the release of Q-Tip’s first solo album, “Amplified.” The mood was high, everyone was dancing, girls rocking Baby Phat, guys in Northface jackets and Phat Farm parkas, the air was filled with anticipation of the impending new decade and all of its futuristic promise.
Jay-Z was there too, and so was producer Lance “Un” Rivera. At some point, there was a momentary scuffle, but it was cleared out quickly. No one quite knew what happened, until later, when we learned that Jay-Z had in fact stabbed Rivera. Ah, rappers…The party continued, and so did the head-bangers. The DJ dropped all the best songs at the time, like “Still Dre” by Dr. Dre with Snoop Dog. There were so many juicy cuts of hip hop that it would have been hard to blast through them and come out with something truly remarkable. And then, just as I observed, in disbelief, Prince—decked out in a white suit, flanked by three bodyguards—walking in and sitting down a mere few feet away from me, I heard it: Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty,” clocking me upside the head with its beat, fatter than any beat I heard that night. It was vintage and new, sexy and hard, quintessentially New York, with lyrics that were at the Slick Rick-level kind of storytelling, but with a dash of dry wit. (“Ass so fat that you could see it from the front.”)
Soon enough, I was going down to Beat Street to buy my own copy, and then listening to the instrumental over and over, examining the complexity of the layering and sample use (***courtesy of Aretha Franklin’s “One Step Ahead”) on this unique song. It is an underrated but genius track, and will forever live in my mind as the finest example of the great potential and promise of 20th century hip hop music.
** Aretha Franklin : “One Step Ahead” (Columbia, 1965)
(I recently wrote for One More Robot, a Dublin-based Art Culture Magazine that for the past few years has put out terrific issues with rather wide-ranging themes. Its editor, Dean Van Nguyen, whose apparent affection for ’90s rap history is displayed prominently throughout his work as well as his publication(read his recent piece on Mac Dre HERE). I covered Chuck D for OMR’s latest issue and Dean returned the favor with the following Q&A, a piece on Billy Woods whom he calls “the most slept-on rapper in the world right now”. – DM)
Making music for well over a decade now, Billy Woods learned his trade as a perennial figure in New York’s alt-rap scene, associating with Cannibal Ox’s Vordul Mega and various other members of his sizable crew The Atoms Family. Embarking on his own career as one-half of the double act, Super Chron Flight Brothers – alongside collaborator Priviledge – the duo crafted a series of records in the ilk of Cannibal Ox and other Definitive Jux signees, cutting the kind of discography that should have elevated Woods to the status of Underground King several times over.Instead, he is probably the most slept on rapper in the world right now.
Dealing with the break up of Super Chron, and frustrated with his inability to find a sizeable audience for his music, earlier this year the DC-based MC threw everything he had into what would potentially be his final record, the solo joint History Will Absolve Me. Reaching deep within himself, Woods produced one hip-hop’s standout releases of the year – a long, smart and brilliant piece of work that rounded several corners of human existence, all of which drew from it’s author’s own experiences.
Having only recently discovered Woods, I reached out to him in the hope of telling his story and unearthing the man behind History Will Absolve Me. I was not left disappointed. Like his lyrical style, Woods is upfront and thoughtful in an interview setting. Opening up about his family’s remarkable history, the satisfactions and frustrations of his career, and the creation History Will Absolve Me in length, Woods offers up the same bluntness that has makes his music so essential.
I came across History Will Absolve Me and I wanted to find out more information, but I found there wasn’t actually a whole lot out there. To start, can you tell us who you are, where you’re from, and how you got involved in music.
I was born in the United States. My mother was from Jamaica and my father, who is deceased now, was from Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. At the time they met, Zimbabwe was still called Rhodesia. You know, I’ve never really considered if when they met was before or after Rhodesia declared – basically the white population of Rhodesia declared independence from the crown, in part because they had no intention of allowing black people to vote. There was like an apartheid. Obviously its right next to South Africa; it was like a less codified version of apartheid I guess. My father was in the US getting his PHD when they met.
I was born here and when I was very young my father was active in the liberation movement in Zimbabwe, and so when they won the war and reached a negotiated settlement, he went back for the elections and we followed soon after. I lived there for the most of the 1980s although I would come to Jamaica and the United States to visit my family and my mother’s side of my family on a regular basis. Then I moved back to the DC area when I was a teenager. I moved back to Maryland right outside of DC.
Roc’s debut, Marcberg (which you can stream here), was an eye-opener for fans of gritty NY rap. The producer/rapper also made guest spots on seemingly every rappers’ album in 2012 based on the strength of Marcberg and subsequent releases (i.e. Greneberg). His new one, Reloaded, is more of the same inverted rhyme-schemes and dark production that marked his past work.
I spoke with Roc recently for Ego Trip’s “5 Records That Changed My Life”. Check out Roc’s rather rap-centric picks HERE.
[Our homie and frequent contributor DJ Platurn hit us with this, the 3rd and final installment of Breaking The Ice, a three-part series highlighting these immensely ill, not to mention very rare, Icelandic records Platurn grabbed when in the motherland. His brainchild The 45 Sessions (which I’ve been honored to be a part of) reaches its boiling point next month when famed producer Just Blaze headlines. Don’t miss it or Platurn’s ongoing works, including an official full-length release of Breaking The Ice with liner notes by yours truly. But for now, peep this terrific bookend to the series.– DM]
Trubrot: “Hr Hvit Skyrta Og Bindi b/w A Little Song of Love”
Although only one LP, an EP, and couple of 45s to their credit, I think it’s safe to say that Óðmenn (translated literally as ‘mad men’ or ‘crazy men’) is my favorite all time Icelandic band–with Trúbrot coming in a close second. Their sounds were similar and I believe they shared some sessions players — easily the finest groove based prog rock out of Iceland in the ’70s came from these two outfits.
This particular 7″ is especially interesting — as far as I know none of these songs appeared on any of their albums. On the b-side, ‘Hr. hvít skyrta of bindi´ (Mr. White Shirt & Tie) segue ways into ‘A Little Song of Love’, not something you commonly hear on a 45. When it’s two songs to a side then the tracks are usually seperate and it’s considered an EP. This particular record has a track entitled ‘Starlight’ on the back — not a bad song in itself but much more folky in comparison to the more, almost b-boy-esque feel of Mr. White Shirt.
The lyrics are also poignant, touching on subdued hints of being a mindless drone who doesn’t know who he/she is while trudging through life with little meaning, other than wearing a suit and tie and pleasing Mr. Boss Man. The lyrics of ‘Little Song’ are a simple ode to the joys of innocent love, with a fresh flute intro that could have easily been flipped by one of DITC’s finest in the mid ’90s.
This single is a true gem, a rare piece of bad ass music from one of Iceland’s finest and is incredibly hard to find.I first heard this 45 from my cousin Sveimhugi, the other half of my excavating journey through Iceland’s lesser known wax history. Still trying to find my own, but in the meantime the motherland based half of the duo currently claims the only copy I have access too (him and I are the ones who initially began the ‘Breaking The Ice’ journey). This will be the last post until the whole compilation actually drops, brought to you in part by Nerdtorious dot com and with even more extensive insight, liner notes, and stories of diggin’ thru Middle Earth. Enjoy! – DJ Platurn
As one of our favorite artists, it’s never a bad time to pick Prince Paul’s brain. I spoke with Paul some weeks back at length about what else? Records. Specifically, 5 records that changed his life and career accordingly. Read it HERE on egotripland.com.
The latest issue of Clout Magazine just dropped, featuring an in-depth piece I did with the legendary D-Styles. Not only is D one of the most precise DJs to ever do it, he’s one of the nicest, most humblest dudes ever. Gotta respect that. Pick up the latest issue (and a hat or two) at the Clout Store and peep this Low End Theory podcast by D himself.