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 a piece for One More Robot, a Dublin-based Culture Magazine (part artbook, part DIY zine) that puts out terrific issues offering wide-ranging perspectives on mainly art, music, film, and at times, politics. Its editor, Dean Van Nguyen, has an affection for ’90s rap history which is displayed prominently throughout his work (read Dean’s piece on Mac Dre HERE). I interviewed Chuck D for OMR’s latest issue and Dean returned the favor with the following Q&A; a piece on Billy Woods, an at times enigmatic artist, 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.
(This is hands down our favorite mix of the year. Alex LaRotta is a friend to the blog (and to the most excellent Musica Del Alma whose new mix is bonkers). He’s also co-founder of the Alamo City Soul Club and is completing his thesis at Texas State on San Antonio’s “West Side Sound” (i.e. Chicano Soul) of the late ’50s and ‘60s, tracing the narrative history of the local music industry and the introduction of artists like Sunny and the Sunliners, Royal Jesters, Spot Barnett, The Webs, etc. Hopefully we’ll hear from him as he ascends into academia. Immense thanks to Alex for unleashing this exclusive, utterly awesome mix of Cumbia cuts! – DM)
I always jump at the chance to speak with Chuck. He’s always a great interview and never minces words. We spoke last time after the ’08 election so I felt it was befitting to revisit the same themes this time too, especially with the looming election and the ferocious political climate it brings. And if there’s someone you’d want to hear from on the eve of what looks to be a hotly contested debate, it’d be a riled up Chuck D.
The interview is the cover for the Autumn issue of One More Robot, a Dublin-based pop culture magazine (and one of the few upstarts that remains in-print). Old and new issues can be found at its webstore. Check out more on the new issue, which includes a nice interview with Adrian Tomine who is a cartoonist for The New Yorker. What’s more, the issue features a previously unpublished, crazy in-depth interview with Rick James. Stoked to speak with Chuck and be a part of OMR to boot.
(Editor’s Note: Cosmo Baker is one of our favorite DJs. Widely considered one of the top party-rocking DJs on the planet, the Philly native cut his chops alongside contemporaries like ?uestlove and Rich Medina, and helped found the internationally known DJ / remix collective The Rub. Now as a solo performer, Cosmo is bringing his show to larger audiences around the globe. Dude’s a rare breed of DJ that bridges the gap between new and old and does so with impeccable taste. We’re glad to have caught him for this fine guest post. Peep game. – DM)
As a teenager growing up in Philadelphia, jazz was this omnipresent force that weaved its way through all of my musical experiences. Some of my earlier memories are of my mom playing Coltrane records on Thanksgiving and me having this unreal magnetic attraction to his version of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.” When kids my age were packing West Philly basements to see underground hardcore shows, I was heading out by myself to see lions like Sonny Rollins or Elvin Jones play their souls out. At some of my first DJ gigs, I would be quick to throw some Gary Bartz or Herbie Hancock into my sets, trying to draw some obviously (to me) direct correlation between jazz and the boom-bap that I was a part of. Let’s put it this way: with every visit to the record store, the jazz section was always the first destination. It was on one of these visits that I discovered Norman Connors “Love From The Sun.”
With the death of John Coltrane in 1967, there was a shockwave that reverberated throughout the jazz world and, amidst the rise of the Vietnam War and the faltering civil rights movement, the groups of artists set forth to redefine their community. What came about post 67 was a new sound – more importantly a new feel – within the music that was more contemplative. Fitting right within those confines comes Norman Connors’ third album “Love From The Sun” in 1973. The North Philadelphia born and raised drummer penned the title track, a smooth ballad featuring a sublime vocals by Dee Dee Bridgewater, accompanying an atmospheric treatment of bells, percussion and flute, and although it seems the song is about solar worship the subtext is much deeper. It was one of those songs that I would listen to incessantly, during the summer of a new love that held so much promise through the following fall, when that love had crashed and burned and I was left to make sense of it all. But even today, I listen to this song and it causes a wave of tranquility to was over me.
Norman Connors “Love From The Sun”
In the mid 90s I worked at Eightball Records in New York City and the shop became an oasis of some of the biggest house DJs in the city (and vicariously the world.) We were tasked to help pick out records for some of the scene’s top guys, who in turn went on to play these records and turn them into monster hits, launching the careers of many artists and remixers. We always got the big records and the exclusives first and one of these records was from Tribal America, one of the biggest domestic house labels at the time. It was the first single off the debut Danny Tenaglia album. Now I always considered Danny Tenaglia one of my favorite DJs, and he was also one of the nicest people as well. But as a DJ he successfully bridged the gap between his Paradise Garage influence and the dark, futuristic soulful sound of New York of the mid to late 90s. The song was “Look Ahead” a romping, driving vocal with messages of empowerment and a bright future. It instantly became a favorite of mine. Not 2 weeks later, and old DJ came into the store to sell his old vinyl collection. One of the records I grabbed was by Norman Connors Aquarian Dream. Aquarian Dream was a soul and funk outfit that Connors took under his wing to produce their first album for Buddah Records. They failed to score any hits big, and went on eventually to a sleeker disco sound (and it’s worth to note their one-time lead singer was none other than Sylvia Striplin.) But back to their first record, in listening to it I discovered that the original version of “Look Ahead” was on it. I became so enamored of this song and started to play it in my sets incessantly, always getting a great response. Still to this day, it remains in my “Finishing Off Strong” crate as a wonderful song to end a night with.
Norman Connors Presents Aquarian Dream “Look Ahead”
Much like many jazz artists of the 60s and early 70s, like Roy Ayers or the Mizell Brothers, Connors branched out in the latter half of the 70s in a more smooth R&B direction, resulting in his biggest hit – the 1976 slow jam anthem “You Are My Starship.” Now I don’t know what made him blast off into the intergalactic dimension with his prose, but likening a woman to an interstellar spacecraft never sounded so sexy. Perhaps it’s Michael Henderson’s silky vocals instructing the object of his desire to not be too late, “but not to come too soon” or perhaps it’s the smooth sweeping keyboard introduction, that ended up becoming the backbone to many a rap record. But either way, this late night Quiet Storm staple has aged well, standing the test of time and still inducing many panties to drop when it’s played at the right place and time.
Norman Connors “You Are My Starship” feat. Michael Henderson
* Take a look & listen HERE for more of Cosmo’s work.
The last time we heard from Keith was right after the NBA finals. It was hilarious and with Keith hitting us with guest posts throughout the year there’s more hilarity to come. But for now, he’s opening up for questions from the audience.
Hit us with your questions for Poppa Large at Nerdtorious@gmail.com with ‘Mail 4 Matthew’ in the subject and we’ll pass it along to Dr. Dooom. Who knows when we’ll catch him again so send your queries our way (all questions MUST be submitted BEFORE October 15th). We’ll post responses shortly thereafter. Fire away!
(Editor’s note: This comes to us from veteran music writer Michael A. Gonzales whose work appears in XXL, Spin, The Village Voice, Wax Poetics, Vibe, The Source and Stop Smiling. Gonzales writes about visual arts for HYCIDE, co-edits the erotica journal Open, and publishes crime fiction. You can also catch him on his blog, Blackadelic Pop. He lives in Brooklyn where, according to him, the ghost of Biggie Small haunts him constantly. We’re very excited and honored to have Michael get down with us. – DM)
“Love & Happiness” by Al Green [Hi-Records 1972]
I’ve had a long with relationship with the buttery hot grits southern soul of Al Green. When I was a boy growing-up in Harlem, my lanky next-door-neighbor Betty had a crush on the brother Green so hard that she bought a replica of the white peacock chair he was sitting on the cover of I’m Still in Love With You .
Convinced Al Green was going to be her husband, I guess she grew tired of waiting and got hooked on angel dust instead.
Ten years later, having moved downtown to 24th Street, across the street from the School for Deaf Children, my next-door neighbor played Al’s repertoire every Sunday morning as though his voice was the equivalent of a Baptist Church service.
Still, it wasn’t until I began living with publicist Lesley Pitts in 1991 that I finally understood the power of soul. Returning home from interviewing Method Man for an Ego Trip cover story in 1994, I was feeling kind of rowdy. Since most of the day was spent watching homie Chi Modu shoot shots for the album packaging while the ill Rza produced tracks played in the background, I was determined to keep that same energy when I got back home.
Opening the front door, Lesley was cooking a soul food dinner that smelled delicious while also blasting Al Green’s laidback mack attack “Love and Happiness.” After kissing her hello, I went across the room and began searching for a rock song I desperately wanted to hear. “What are you doing?” she asked. “I was going to play Led Zeppelin’s song ‘Dazed and Confused,” I answered. After puffing L’s with Meth all day, that was exactly how I felt.
Lesley looked at me, turned to the stove where she was fixing fried chicken, macaroni & cheese and greens, and then glared at me again. “Well, I believe that music affects the cooking, so do you want the food to taste like Al Green or Led Zeppelin?” Needless to say, the velvet funk of Memphis’ main man Al Green stayed on until those pots were turned off.
“Keep on Truckin’” by Eddie Kenricks [Tamla Records 1973]
It was a few weeks after my tenth birthday and the regular sitter where me and baby brother went every morning was sick. With nowhere to go while mom dukes worked, she decided that we would be shipped go the heart of Harlem to daddy’s apartment on 123rd and 7th Avenue. Daddy was a short Puerto Rican nightbird who hung tough until the break of dawn and slept through the day. I suppose mom had no choice, but babysitting wasn’t really his thing.
Around noon, when we got a little too loud, he gave me and Carlos some money and instructed us to, “…go to the Apollo, watch a movie and call him from a pay phone when we were finished.” Luckily, for my music loving self, the feature that day was Wattstax.
Although for the duration of the film I was exposed to the grit and grime of the Memphis soul folks The Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers and others, afterwards I was still thinking about my then favorite song, the slick pre-disco dance track “Keep on Truckin’” by former Temptations singer Eddie Kendricks.
Having heard the song blaring on pop station WABC and the soul heavy WWRL, its irresistible groove put a mojo on me. Earlier that day, the gangster swagger of the rhythm track was blaring from one of the colorful hogs the players parked outside the Shalimar Barbershop and stayed stuck in my head.
With a couple of dollars burning a hole in my pocket, as grand-ma used to say, after we left the movie I split the cash with baby bro, who went directly to the pinball machine cluttered game room down the block.
Me, well I darted down a few doors to the Harlem Record Shack and bought the 7” of “Keep on Truckin’ (Part 1).” Although I could barely understand the lyrics, one could just tell the brother was saying some cool shit as the conga drums and sly guitar work swagger in the background.
To paraphrase Eddie Kendricks, nothing could hold me back. Returning home that night, I played that jam a million times.
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan [ABC Records 1974]
Back in the 1970s, while little girls had the Jackson 5, The Sylvers and other dance-step coordinated boy bands to drool over, young boys like myself didn’t have any age appropriate sex symbols to call our own. Most of my puppy love was limited to the refined pop of Diana Ross, Marilyn McCoo (please don’t get me started on the wonders of the 5th Dimension), Dionne Warwick and Shirley Bassey.
However, in 1974 when I first heard “Tell Me Something Good” blaring from the radio, the twenty-one-year-old wild child named Chaka Khan became the first carnal pop crush of my wet dreams. Unlike the sequined darlings mentioned above, Chaka Khan wasn’t trying to be a lady as she sang on the Soul Train stage wearing a midriff top and dancing passionately as Rufus threw down with the perfect rock-funk hybrid.
All of twenty-one at the time, Khan’s vocals on this Stevie Wonder penned single was sexier than Pam Grier’s photo spread in Players magazine the year before. I wasn’t quite certain of the sexual innuendos, but I so badly wanted Chaka Khan (even her name sounded mythological and raw) to make me wish there was “48-hours in each day.”
While I was content listening to the song on the radio, in August of that ‘74, I found out that my country cousin Dawn was coming to visit from Hagerstown, Maryland, so I strolled down to Mr. Freddy’s Record store and bought the 7’’ single of “Tell Me Something Good.”
From the open guitar riffs to the talk-box thing speaking in strings two years before Frampton came alive, this was my eleven-year-old way of trying to tell my cousin Dawn that I was cool and had great taste in music.
(Editor’s Note: Our next guest post comes from Paul Cheever, aka The Cheebacabra, whose new solo joint and past work (as part of The Makrosoft) gets plenty of play around here. An arranger and multi-instrumentalist who’s been dubbed a ‘synth maestro’, Paul just returned from a whirlwind tour of Japan and hit us with these Tokyo inspired choice cuts. Keep up to date with his work HERE. Thanks Cheeba! – DM)
“Balancer” b/w “Stone and Fruits”
I just returned from my first DJ tour of Japan a few weeks ago. I had the time of my life there. And the fact that I had the opportunity to go pretty much traces back to this 45. Back in 2007, I was killing time on MySpace, adding friends, connecting with other bands. I clicked on a page and was instantly hit with the dope sounds of 9dw. I started an email friendship with the Tokyo-based bandleader Kensuke Saito. I sent him some of my music and he mailed me this 45. All three of these tracks are sick instrumental grooves with crisp drums and catchy melodies. “Black Coffee” and “Balancer” are loaded with juicy analog synth and “Stone and Fruits” showcases Kensuke’s thoughtful guitar playing. I helped put him in touch with Wax Poetics and they went on to release a 9dw double LP in 2009. Kensuke and the label he manages, Catune, released my latest album in Japan and also arranged the tour. It was amazing to finally meet in person after a five year internet friendship. I’m so grateful for the ways that music can connect.
UCND [NNNF, 2012]
“Morondava b/w DJ Shinya “SK. High”
Keeping on the Japanese tip, this is a 45 I picked up while in Kyoto. UCND is a duo: Masato Ucon on upright bass and KND on beats/samples. I saw them perform live and they were hyped, relentless with their groove. There’s not much that satisfies me more musically than some tight drums combined with a funky bassline and that’s what this track delivers (there’s also a lot of percussion, rhodes and didgeridoo). On the B-Side, DJ Shinya presents a nice reworking of the Nat Adderley track “K. High”, slowing it down, beefing up the drums and really bringing the clavinet and best sax parts to the forefront. DJ Shinya seems to preside over the funk scene in Kyoto. Not only is he the buyer at a local record store called Japonica, he also organizes a live event called Butter which brings together the dopest DJ’s, funk bands and visual artists (when I was there, there was an artist painting a massive Gil Scott-Heron portrait). Both of these tracks are solely available on this 45 which is limited to 200 copies.
I spoke to Boots Riley (of The Coup) recently for Ego Trip and had him share 5 life changing records. It’s always good to have an excuse to talk to Boots. The Coup’s new album, Sorry To Bother You, is production-wise a stylistic change but the themes and content are solid and thoughtful per usual. Read Boots’ list HERE.
Pick three numbers 1-9, match the words, and BOOM… you have your Wu-Tang moniker! The scan originally appeared in Big Daddy Magazine in the early 2000s (we think). Click the image to enlarge. If fate will have it, you could be Buddah The Jesus…definitely not one to f*ck with!
[Editor’s note: This comes to us from Michael Barnes who runs one of my favorite audioblogs, Melting Pot. Catch Michael on his weekly radio program, Melting Pot Radio every Sunday from 4-6pm on KPFK (90.7 FM Los Angeles / 98.7 FM Santa Barbara / Worldwide @ KPFK.ORG). Starting this week, for Southern California folk, Michael DJs every Tuesday night at the Virgil in Los Angeles. Per usual, he comes correct with choice cuts and great info. And congrats to Melting Pot for 3 years of keeping things consistent; definite two thumbs up!- DM]
“Daglar Dagladi Beni” by Edip Akbayram & Dolstar
At some point as I was buzzing through youtube videos looking for a track that was stuck in my head, I came across this video promising “Crazy Turkish Heavy Psych Funk Breaks.” The link did not disappoint, fuzzy guitars, heavy drums, cool singing in Turkish and, strangely, stills from Team America: World Police of turban wearing puppets. What was not shown or mentioned in the video was the name of the artist or the song. Having been led to youtube in an attempt to solve one riddle I had been led into another one and after hearing all those fuzzy guitars I was determined to figure it all out. Through some deductive reasoning (starting with the label, cross checking Ebay, moving to 1970s artists on that label and then back to youtube) I finally discovered that the artist was Edip Akbayram along with his group Dostlar.
The video featured excerpts from both sides of a 45 the band released in the early 1970s, “Daglar Dagladi Beni” on one side and the equally heavy “Ince Ince Bir Kar Yagar” on the flipside (each of these tracks are also featured on Edip’s super rare debut LP though they’ve also been compiled together by Shadoks, but even that collection is tough to find these days). As luck would have it the 45 was just waiting for me to get it on Ebay and I was more than happy to snatch it up. Whenever I hear the opening first minute of “Daglar” I immediately envision it being used in the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film, as two characters are about to face off. It just has THAT kind of sound.
“Toe Jam” by Mount Rushmore
Recently ran into this at the Pasadena Flea Market/Record Swap. Having heard the Handsome Boy Modeling School’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll (Could Never Hip-Hop Like This)” I knew that “Toe Jam,” from the band’s second LP, had served as the primary sample. Mount Rushmore were more of a blues-oriented Frisco band and fans of that sound would dig most of the other cuts on the album. For me it all comes back to those drums and the fuzzy guitar and bass. It’s a super heavy sound, almost Black Sabbath heavy once the unsampled melody kicks in. The first three minutes are so good I don’t even hold it against them for speeding things up and losing the funk for the last half of the song.
“LaçoNegro” by União Black
One of the few exceptions to my “never buy a record recorded after 1976” quality assurance rule, at least as it applies to funk, are records out of Brazil. Things just didn’t seem to get quite so heavily disco-fied in Brazil as quickly as they did here in the US, so you can often find very heavy funk records from 1977 and even 1978. União Black’s self-titled debut from that year is a record that I bet a lot of people pass up just because of the cheesy graphics on the cover. This would be a total mistake because it’s also one of the funkier bits of Brazilian wax ever released. In addition to the funk, the influence of the burgeoning Brazilian Black consciousness movement is also clear in this music, with half of the album’s songs having either “Black,” “Negro” or “Africana” in the title. Of those (which are also the best tracks on the album), LaçoNegro is the one I chose to share with you, just because I love mid-tempo funky struttin’ quality of the beat and I’m a well known sucker for soul claps.
* Add Melting Pot’s FB Page for more of the like if you dig what you’ve heard!
The “Black Label” collection (BLC) is nearly 250 MP3s that my old editor Tommy Tompkins hit me with back in 2004 or so. I forget where he got them from but whoever originally compiled the collection did a bang-up job: superb taste in R&B that range from the early 1960s through early ’70s. My original plan was to create a series of posts based on songs in the collection – I even created a custom image to go with such posts – but in the end, the momentum of writing on other songs ended up leaving the Black Label series ideas by the wayside.
Yet, I would be reminded of the BLC every so often because I’d learn about a new single, cop it, and when I’d go to digitize it, realize: oh wait, this was already in the collection. I’m slightly embarrassed how often this happens to me if only because I should really just sit down with the damn thing and go through it, song-by-song. But really, it speaks to the quality of the collection that over the last 8 years, I still am discovering the gems it holds, even if inadvertently. Here’s three 7″ singles that appear in the Black Label collection.
1) The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: A Dance, a Kiss, and a Song (Warner Bros. 1968)
My original interests in Watts 103rd St. (pictured above) off of the Together album tended to gravitate more to the straight up funk instrumentals, especially “Giggin’ Down 103rd St.” (straight fiyah!) but I didn’t really catch wind to how incredibly great ” A Dance, a Kiss, and a Song” was until I started combing through the BLC. The songs features drummer James Gadson on vocals rather than Charles Wright and as I discovered the other month, not only is it on the flip side of “Do Your Thing” (one of their biggest hits before “Express Yourself”) but it has a cool European pic sleeve version which I was only too happy to drop a few bucks for.
2) Mike & The Censations: Victim of Circumstance (Highland, 1966)
This is one of those cases where I really appreciated how deep the BLC went, despite also having clearly slept on going through it to have discovered this single earlier than I did (which was 1-2 years ago). Mike & The Censations were lead by L.A.’s Mike James Kirkland who’d go onto bigger fame in the early 1970s with “Hang On In There” but this is back during his early career. Mike was actually a contemporary of a lot of the guys in the Watts 103rd, several of whom worked studio gigs for the Censations (and Wright went to the same high school as Mike’s brother). “Victim of Circumstance” is one of several superior singles the group recorded (and licensed through the Highland label). The horns are awesome here – what an opening! – and the song itself is on some classic, late night dedication, firm rola tip.
3) Jackie Ross: Selfish One (Chess, 1963)
While Jackie Ross didn’t have a massive career, this was her biggest hit and should have been a single I was up on years ago. Instead, I only copped it a few weeks back, only to learn – once again – that it had been in the BLC all along. Great Northern tune (that borrows heavily, arguably shamelessly, from the Motown sound). Am I crazy in thinking it also briefly borrows from the jazz standard, “Tenderly,” before Ross swings in? Either way, hand-clapping soul at its finest.
Here’s a recent piece I did on the wonderful rise of Kurtis Blow, when he ruled the world and when rap was still young, surrounded by doubters, believers, and artists of all kinds. And Kurtis was the biggest rapper on the planet.
* Bonus: here’s a strange duet between Kurtis and Bob Dylan of all people (peep Bob’s “hot bars”).
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.
(I just wrapped up a story on Alice Russell for a piece due out soon, touching mostly on her new project with Quantic, Look Around The Corner. But we also covered her past work, most notably a fan favorite, “Seven Nation Army”. It’s a killer White Stripes’ cover heard on Nostalgia 77’s album (The Garden) which I think resonates a bit more due to the heavy, low-end elements. You be the judge and read Alice’s thoughts on the making of it.– DM)
* Original painting of Alice Russell (above) by the talented Ms. Anabella Pinon
“Seven Nation Army” by Nostalgia 77 ft. Alice Russell [Tru Thoughts/Ubiquity, 2005]
“That was Ben’s (aka Nostalgia 77) idea. He called me up and told me he wanted to cover this song. And the thing is, at that time, I hadn’t even yet heard of it. And so I went ’round to his house and he played it to me and told me he had this idea to cover it. I loved it right away. But in our version he said he wanted heavy drums and horns, which of course to me sounded like a fantastic idea. I love the White Stripes and love the lyrics to the song so much. So after listening to it a few times over and over, I just got down to recording it pretty much right there and then in his bedroom studio– or I should say living quarters [laughs]. It’s such a good song and I loved how it turned out is what I can humbly tell thee.” — Alice Russell
“Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie” by Elizabeth Cotten [Folkways Recordings, 1957]
Admittedly I’m not much of a bluesman nor do I know much about the great Elizabeth Cotten. But I recently came across this gem of hers and found out today just so happens to be the 25th anniversary of her death.
Born in North Carolina, it’s said that she started playing banjo at age 8 before switching to guitar. Left-handed, she taught herself to play the guitar backwards (or upside down) and performed until she was in her late 80s. Not only that but her style, a plucking technique that sounds like multiple guitarists playing at once, was later dubbed “Cotten Picking”. Most of her work, bare-bones folky blues stuff, was recorded on reel-to-reel in her home and released on Folkways Recordings. “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie” is the tune that turned me onto her; a striking, somber love song written and performed by Ms. Cotten 55 years ago that speaks to me more now than any modern love track ever could.
Though I consider myself a big Bo Diddley fan, I apparently knew very little about his extended catalogue. I always dug his earlier songs and probably regulated myself to them (which I tend to do). But this, The Black Gladiator, is a bizarre and awesome period in Bo’s career equally great as his early work. I was stoked to review this recently for Soul-Sides.com which you can read HERE.
(Editor’s note: We’re delighted to have KOOL KEITH drop us guest posts! Yes, Black Elvis himself– who just quit rap— will be hitting us with monthly musings, running the gamut from answering reader mail, listing his favorite pornos, touching on classic Keith moments, or just random of-the-cuff posts. Who knows! Tune in for these monthly critical beatdowns! And here’s the first: a timely post on the recent NBA Finals. Read Keith’s thoughts and peep the rare, All-Star promo vid from ’89 featuring hilarious Ultramag raps!- DM)
Keith on this year’s NBA Finals:
“Lebron wanted a championship and he was real hungry. He’s also real sensitive, you can tell. Like if you say something mean to him he’ll have to try not to cry right away. He left the Cavs to gain a title and no one wants to play in the league for years and be an old man and not get a ring. Dirk waited forever and kept smelling it but Dirk already looks mad old. Lebron can smelled the ring and I think it was a lot for his head. It was a real good matchup and OKC was real nice. They’re young, aggressive cats and they have an old dude like Fisher on there to keep ’em balanced. A lot of these NBA dudes are old and have ugly faces, but some dudes like Fisher still run things. Plus Durant and Westbrook are young and so fast but I think Miami was just a bit wiser. It’s like rap. Everyone always likes the young rappers but the old ones are wiser.”
“Check The Method (Remix)” by Lord Finesse [Exclusive WPJ Flexi-Disc]
I recently wrote the upcoming cover story for Wax Poetics Japan on an all-time favorite, Lord Finesse. Though it’s in Japanese it does however offer an abundance of awesome pics from Finesse’s own archives. So many dope shots; from Finesse with Dr. Dre in the studio, to him and Biggie, and even him and Grace Jones chillin’ in a hotel.
Our buds at Ego Trip are slowly unveiling some of the pictures with article excerpts. Peep everything HERE and check the exclusive remix that’s gonna lace said issue of WPJ in the form of an exclusive flexi-disc via Slice-of-Spice Records.
The legendary Large Professor will be in the house at one of the Bay Area’s finest parties, The 45 Sessions. Don’t miss out on an epic night of all 45s from solid residents and an NY giant. Read a recent piece on Large Pro’s breakdown of his historical songs HERE via our buds at Complex and don’t miss this rare opportunity!
(This one on Rob Swift of the X-ecutioners comes to us from Kyle Eustice, a music journalist from Omaha, Nebraska whose work appears in IQ Magazine, Thrasher Skateboarding Magazine, and Kansas City Pitch. She also contributed an article on the new Killer Mike / EL-P collab, R.A.P. Music, for the upcoming Wax Poetics’s Hip-Hop Issue. On the birthday of Roc Raida (RIP), here’s a quick q&a with DJ extraordinaire, Rob Swift. Thanks Kyle! – DM)
“Raida’s Theme (snippet)” by X-ecutioners, 12″ [Asphodel, 1997]
In the realm of DJ crews, it doesn’t get better (or bigger) than the legendary X-ecutioners from New York City. Originally comprised of 11 turntablists, the X-ecutioners were whittled down to four integral members including the late Roc Raida, Rob Swift, Total Eclipse and Mista Sinista. Their beat juggling was unprecedented and style, supreme. After leaving the X-ecutioners in 2005 to pursue more personal endeavors, Swift remained close to his former crewmates, especially Roc Raida. Following a freak Mixed Martial Arts accident, sadly, Raida passed away on September 19th 2009. Since then, Swift has made it his mission to honor his fallen crewmember’s memory. Here, on Roc Raida’s birthday, Swift takes a minute to talk about Raida, the art of turntablism and his Scion radio show, “Dope On Plastic.”
What have you been working on since your 2010 groundbreaking album, The Architect?
I’ve dropped a follow-up EP called Sketches Of The Architect. I’ve also been collaborating with Large Professor on material for his new album, which drops this June and of course, my Roc For Raida project is my latest work.
Belita Woods passed away a couple days ago from heart failure, leaving behind a pretty stacked legacy that’s often understated. Belita played with Parliament-Funkadelic in the later stages of both their careers in addition to fronting Brainstorm, a boogie/disco troupe whose work was mostly around in the ’70s. She had a great voice, belting out easily over Parliament tracks with George Clinton. But her career began in Detroit in the ’60s where she exuberantly kills “Magic Corner”. I’ve always really liked this one, especially the arrangement, the piano, and the singing. This is her at 19, for the Moira label in 1967. RIP Ms. Woods.
I spoke to EL-P around this past SXSW for an upcoming piece spanning his career from Co Flow to his latest, Cancer For Cure, and R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike (which he entirely produced). His approach has always certainly been against the grain but his progress as a producer can’t be overstated. Huge leaps are obvious between Funcrusher, Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein and I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead–and of course Fan Dam, his first solo record. All have cold, eerie templates but the latter are significantly more layered with a focus on structure (and overall just more explosive). Here’s a portion where we revisit his first joint, “Juvenile Technique”, a lo-fi number which samples an always great Bob James tune. Take a listen and read the full story in the upcoming Wax Poetics Magazine.
“I Feel A Song (In My Heart)” by Bob James ft. Patti Austin [CTI, 1975]
“Juvenile Technique (clean)” by Company Flow [Libra, 1994]
“I remember this being the first time I broke through and made something that I felt was presentable [laughs]. I was young then. I come from an era where people still don’t get to hear the first ten years of your music. Where as now, everyone can hear the first song anyone makes. This was the first song out of about fifty tracks that I thought finally sounded cool [laughs]. (Big) Juss wasn’t even in Co Flow yet and entered the picture later. We became friends when he ended up living in my apartment. He was working on his own shit so we said ‘lets just work on a project together’ and that’s kind of how the group started. This is Co Flow at the beginning when it was still just me and (Mr.) Len. This is us just trying to be different; just kids rapping our asses off and seeing what happens.” – EL-P
Selections From The Best of Perception & Today Records [BBE, 2012]
“Gingele” by Astrud Gilberto
“Matrix” by Dizzy Gillespie
“Honey Buns” by Bobby Rydell
I recently reviewed this terrific comp and it’s worth mentioning again since its one of the year’s best. What was meant to be a guest post over at one of my favorite sites, soul-sides.com, ended up schooling me on some history on one of the most short-lived yet varied labels ever, Perception Records (and its subsidiary, Today). What the comp compiles (and what you essentially hear) is a straight forward jazz label struggling to adapt itself to shifting musical trends, reaching out far and wide, sometimes radically, to stay afloat. The result was a hodgepodge of songs, huge hits, rare renditions, and artists in different career stages all on one magnificent catalogue. The comp was compiled by DJ Spinna & BBE Soundsystem, take a look at the review for more.
Here’s a nice new one featuring the legendary D-Styles on cuts, Opski Chan (out of San Jose) Roughneck Jihad (Third Sight) and longtime Kool Keith collaborator, Motion Man. Produced by Jerry ‘Da Hermit’ whom I spoke to briefly on his studio and said track. Peep the eerie, lo-fi posse cut and keep an ear out for more of the like from Sticky Lab Studio, one of the busiest studios from South Bay area.
(Though we typically cover tangents of hip-hop, funk, and soul, it’s fun to diversify here and there. The following piece is from Gabriel Ramos, a San Francisco native and musician who records as Ssleeping DesiresS. Here’s a rather in-depth q&a with fellow upcoming SF-based electronic troupe, Water Borders. Thanks Gabe! – DM)
By Gabriel Ramos
I first learned of Water Borders in late spring of 2009 while working in a warehouse. One of my co-workers was Amitai Heller, a member of the group. One morning, before the work day officially begun he handed me a CD-R wrapped in torn newspaper with “Water Borders” scrawled on it and said something along the lines of: “Here’s what I’ve been working on. Give it out to as many people as you want.” I tucked it away in my bag and threw it on shortly after arriving home. The first track “Even in The Dark” immediately entranced me not even 10 seconds in. “What is this?” I thought.
It was inevitable that I wouldn’t be the only one captivated by their music. It seemed like a blink of an eye between my introduction and the group unleashing a slew of carefully crafted releases on a myriad of smaller but much lauded labels. A 6-song release on witchhouse epicenter label Disaro, a 12″ EP on the blog 20 Jazz Funk Greats’ label Hungry For Power, and a cassette on Skrot Up. And in October 2011, they released an official full length on one of the UK’s most prominent up and coming labels of the year, Tri Angle Records. In addition to this prolific output of material, simultaneously Water Borders released free mixes and remixes through their Soundcloud profile and a variety of blogs and online magazines.
In early February I had the pleasure of interviewing the two men behind this murky electronic project. Comprised of Amitai Heller and Loric Sih, both formerly of gothic art punk collective New Thrill Parade, Water Borders, in a short span of existence, have carved out an impressive and significant niche for themselves within the darker regions of the electronic community.
I wanted to start from what I imagine would be the beginning. I was curious about the transition between your past group, New Thrill Parade, to your current one, Water Borders.
Amitai Heller: We were in a suburb of Atlanta, on tour, doing karaoke, it was someone’s birthday. We were on a grueling two month tour.
(Lateef at one point was the most vicious MC around, especially on songs like “The Wreckoning” (produced by DJ Shadow) an aggressively dark track where he details the decomposing body of a dead MC on the second verse. It was unlike anything then (or now really) as him and Solesides aka Quannum took over the West Coast. Here’s a recent talk I did for URB with Lateef, one of the most creative and genuine dudes who’s built quite the career over the last couple decades– DM)
“21 Gun Salute” ft. Lateef and Headnodic (Production by DJ Platurn)”
Hailing from the West Coast’s Quannum Projects (home to DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Tommy Guerrero, Pigeon John, etc.) Lateef The Truthspeaker is a longtime MC with deep histories that precede him. As half of Latyrx (with Lyrics Born, half of Mighty Underdogs (with Gift Of Gab) and half of The Maroons (with Chief Xcel) there hasn’t been a shortage of output from the Oakland native. What is noteworthy is that, after all these years, after all the tours, all revered tracks, and a Grammy to boot, Lateef finally debuted with a long-awaited solo album, this year’s Firewire.
“I’m very happy with it” he says of the new album. “I always try to keep busy but it was nice to finally focus on just my own songs.” Lateef’s focus has been what’s driven him and his crew since they were college-aged kids in the early ‘90s when they were known as Solesides. It’s this early work that catapulted their subsequent careers, a body of work that ranks amongst the best West Coast has ever offered. And while “Lateef” translates as “gentle” in Arabic, Lateef the Truthspeaker is a vicious MC with a catalogue that precedes him. Here, we talk with this son of Black Panthers about work ahead in both political and musical realms, touching on some history, the time he battled Murs, the forming of Latyrx, old recordings and interesting new ones.
Another mix via Matthew Africa? Yes please. Like his past mixes, Yay Game is meticulously crafted and untrammeled with filler. This time, he celebrates Bay legend Earl Stevens, also known as Charlie Hustle but widely known as E-40.
Given 40’s lengthy career, this mix (40 E-40 tracks!) succinctly covers all eras of Fonzarelli’s vast catalogue, serving as both a primer for youngsters and welcomed nostalgia for oldsters. Head over to Matthew’s site to grab the mix and read more about the impetus behind it all.
A huge congrats to Wax Poetics for 10 years and 50 issues of fine– and in many ways, unmatched– music journalism. Peep the anniversary issue HERE and take a listen to a wonderful coinciding mix by our dude FA.
It’s been a pleasure to contribute to Wax Po through the years– such a notable cast of nice dudes whom I’ve been lucky enough to now and again brainstorm with. For the anniversary issue, I covered Devonte Hynes, recently known as Blood Orange. Check the video for “Forget It” (directed by Alan Del Rio Ortiz, shot on VHS) off his killer debut, Champagne Coast. Here’s to another 10 years of classy coverage.
(Alice Price-Styles, a young journalist and aspiring academic out of London, contacted me wanting to contribute an article. Ms. Styles has an affinity for hip-hop, particularly the ’90s era and has done some extensive coverage of Delicious Vinyl and its history. In line with some of her recent work, I thought it’d be interesting for her to interview one of SF’s current brightest MCs, DaVinci of the Fillmore district. Here’s a talk that went down between Alice and DaVinci at Gussie’s Chicken & Waffles. Word to DaVinci and shouts to Alice for the nice interview. – DM)
“Runnin Wit Us” by DaVinci (produced by Merk S. Villain)
A metropolitan melting pot of cultures and characters, the eclectic city of San Francisco has long been known for its diverse population and distinctive, colourful history. Tightly sandwiched between Japantown, Hayes Valley and affluent Pacific Heights is an area steeped in musical history: the Fillmore district. Music permeates the historic area’s atmosphere and activities, draws in scores of visitors each year, and has a profound affect on the lives of its residents.
Due to development and gentrification the Fillmore may be shrinking, but the district’s lineage of jazz and blues remains proudly preserved, and can be traced in the young musicians breaking out of the scene today. One artist aware of the Fillmore’s heritage and its neighborhood influence, for better or for worse, is underground rap artist, DaVinci. A talented emcee from the ‘Moe and highly aware of his surroundings, DaVinci the rapper seems rather wise beyond his years.
2010 saw his debut album The Day The Turf Stood Still, followed by the EP Feast or Famine in 2011. His gravelly voiced rhymes have been relating the heavy issues that he sees around him, garnering much interest and praise for their insight and honesty. In anticipation of his forthcoming LP The Moena Lisa, I met with DaVinci in the heart of the Moe (Gussies Chicken & Waffles!) to hear a little more from the rising rapper himself.
What would you say your musical background is? How did you first start getting into records and how did you start rapping?
I would say I first started getting into rapping in middle-school. When I was ten/ eleven years old I was in a band and played the drums – any instrument I could pick up I would try and play back then – and I learned how to read music, so that’s my foundation in music. I started writing rhymes around that time too – when there used to be free writing sessions I would write poetry, and slowly that turned into me putting poetry on top of music. Continue reading “A Fillmore Story: Interview With DaVinci”→
“What’s On Your Mind” (directed by Alex Saylor) is a new animated video featuring Stones Throw funk maestro Dam Funk and non other than Tony Cook, James Brown’s longtime funky drummer. The video’s aesthetic is a great nod to Tony’s now legendary “On The Floor”, famously dubbed “The Granddaddy of All House Records”.
Read an interview I did with Tony HERE and check the new video.
We tend to keep localized posts to a minimum but this is worth sharing, especially since it’s our first sponsored event! Return of The Boom Zap and 45 Sessions (both hugely successful Bay Area parties) are combining efforts for a killer night this coming Sunday. I’ll be playing records with some very esteemed gentlemen in the Bay Area, most of whom are past and current Nerdtorious contributors as well as some of the best DJs and notable collectors around. Peep more about the party (and come out!) if you’re in the area. We’re playing all 45s, all night– or as Cutso put it: “Small records, Big sound!”
I was recently able to connect with Finesse again, this time for Ego Trip’s outstanding “Sample Flip Series”. This year promises to be a big year for him, as projects both vaulted and new are slated for release courtesy of Slice-of-Spice Records. As a fan of the label and series, I was glad to touch base with the Funky Technician. You can read/listen to it HERE.
(I did this one a couple years back and at the time, Bob had me send him the story so he could plug it on his own site (which then, wasn’t yet up and running). Bob’s site went live last week and to my pleasant surprise, we’re getting a lot of traffic as a result. The piece covers perhaps his most important works (albums One, Two, and Three) in addition to his deep history with CTI and his subsequent connection to hip-hop. Here is my in-depth 3-piece article on Bob James, re-posted given the sudden surge of relevance. – DM)
“I’m flattered to be a part of hip-hop’s history,” says Bob James nonchalantly. “But I believe we’re still at the beginning of understanding how young people make music.”
Bob James’s career developed during a time when radio ruled, records sold, and Roberta Flack had the country’s number one song. Things were different then. Popular music was changing, and over in New York, kids were priming themselves for a burgeoning hip-hop scene. James was thirty-five by 1974 and had just released his first solo album on CTI Records. His subsequent projects for the label were both commercially successful LPs and unsung flops. Regardless of units sold, it was those very records that would lay the foundational sound for some of hip-hop’s most coveted records. It was those kids in New York who initially took James’s music and adapted it for themselves to use and the world to see.
James’s first three CTI releases—One, Two, and Three—are amongst the most sampled records ever. And if we’re truly beginning to grasp how younger generations make music, it’s safe to assume that James’s catalogue is a resource that’ll be continually sifted through and sampled from.
In this three-part interview, he talks in-depth regarding details of his career: The first part of the interview touches on colorful names that are intermingled with his history, its development and legacy. Next, he reflects back on his first three CTI releases, breaking down the most sampled songs on each album. In the interview’s final component, Bob James explains the process of sample requests throughout the years, its affect on him, and why he’s “flattered to be a part of hip-hop’s history.”
Plug 1 and Plug 2 of De La are reinventing themselves (sorta), taking on monikers Dave Jolicoeur and Kelvin Mercer for their new project, First Serve. Though it’s more of an excuse to mess around and possibly explore newer avenues of output, First Serve seems like a modern De La project with a party vibe, plenty of laughs, throwback nods and a Handsomeboy-esque approach.
You can see more on the release on their Soundcloud page or peep their Tmblr to get a sense of the humor and aesthetics of the project.
In addition to the ensuing hype, peep their Goon Time Mixtape below, a party mix featuring some odd pairings, mainstream mashups and an old school party vibe– most importantly, it showcases the new First Serve joints. They might blow up but they won’t go pop!
Happy birthday to Daniel Dumile AKA MF DOOM! We take this opportunity to revisit a past URB Magazine/Nerdtorious interview with the supervillain himself who was born on this day in ’71. Conducted right before BORN LIKE THIS was released, it’s an extensive look back on his career; from KMD, to collabs, to current. Read “Impending DOOM: Interview with Daniel Dumile” HERE. Best wishes D!