Devilish Tunes

Pious funk from old Chicago? I was sold from the get-go. Personally, gospel—and just religious music in general—rarely moves me, but these aren’t your typical songs about Jesus. Actually, they’re not at all hymn-like: gruff vocals, sweaty grooves and bass slaps delivered raucously sums up Good God! Born Again Funk, a new project by Numero.

Derived mostly from Thomas Dorsey, an entrepreneurial bluesman who reconfigured praise-songs, these 18 tracks replace “baby” with “Jesus” and somberness for shouts. The singers, quartets, and neighborhood folks were recruited by Dorsey who sought to exploit the small but devoted market for religious music. In fact, the title of Ada Richard’s song “I’m Drunk and Real High (In The Spirit Of The Lord)” reflects Dorsey’s whole approach.

Please visit Numero’s site to hear and buy the upcoming album (1/26/10). Like their previous divine release, Good God! Born Again Funk is a thorough listen. Check out Numero’s blog to read more on the legwork behind this and other projects. Below are excerpts from a couple choice cuts:

The Sensational Five Singing Sons’ “Share Your Love With Your Master” has such personality and all kinds of elements–dialogue, an early break, crazy guitar work, and hard vocals. This track brings the funk and is fun to boot.

TL Barrett’s “Like A Ship” opens the album and is also its most mellow. Energy-wise, it’s tepid compared to the others but the lyrics (“Just like a ship…without a sail…but I know I can make it…”) sung faintly by the choir make it overwhelmingly earnest.

Synth-thesis: Interview With Aja West of The Mackrosoft


“Three Views Of A Secret”, S.E.M.E.

Aja West controls The Mackrosoft, a label and group that for the last 9 years has released piles of funky, jazz-fusion projects. Their tracks have hip-hop sensibilities (as teenagers, Aja and his brother, Cheeba, interned for The Dust Brothers) yet their music’s quite varied, squeezing R&B, rock, and electronic into textured arrangements—think synthy, erratic Bob James with hard drums.

Mackrosoft Records is 15 albums deep since starting up in 2000. This year, they’ll add a trilogy of works that might be their most intricate; Shirts and Skins, S.E.M.E. , and Upgrade. Colorful and uncluttered, Aja’s arrangements show his composing prowness. He doesn’t read music or write music, but plays most of the instruments himself. He’s surrounded by notable musicians (Money Mark), some of them legendary (Headhunters’ Paul Jackson and Mike Clark). And they all follow his lead, coming in to replay parts, enhance others, or as Aja puts it, “fill in the gaps”.

I spoke to Aja recently while working on an article and found him genuinely eccentric and funny. Here’s a guy who openly takes mushrooms and cuts records, all while orchestrating musicians and running a label. Here are parts of our interview along with standout tracks from his upcoming trilogy.

What exactly do you do?
I make funk jazz, funk soul, funk rock, and all styles of funk that be. I’m Aja West and you’re rocking with the best.

You still take mushrooms while working on your music? How do they affect what you do and others around you?
Absolutely. Over the years, I’ve worked a third of the time in The Netherlands allowing me to use many species of fungi in many unusual but legal environments such as zoo’s, great museums, and red light districts. Altering one’s perception of the world through plant psychedelics will usually give you what you need not want. Psychedelic and mystical catalysts had already provided me with a direct experience of simple joyful noise infused with a plethora of meaning at a fairly young age. Continue reading “Synth-thesis: Interview With Aja West of The Mackrosoft”

80 Blocks From Tiffany’s (video)

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In the coming weeks, some coverage will likely renew interest for 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s, the 1979 documentary on New York street gangs directed by Gary Weis. It captures the end stages of South Bronx gang culture; the high unemployment, violence, racial overtones, angst, and just the overall social decay hip-hop came from. Grainy footage of city scenes, gang uniforms, and the interviewees’ lack of self-awareness make this a valuable time-capsule of urban American history.

I was lucky see this many years ago as a teenager working in a video store. It’s not available on DVD (not yet anyways) and VHS copies can go for hundreds. But thanks to the internet, you can watch it for FREE in its ENTIRETY… Continue reading “80 Blocks From Tiffany’s (video)”

The Funk Soul Brother: New Lord Finesse Interview

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Lord Finesse, pictured above with Presentable Joe, is an ALL-TIME favorite. He projects such attitude and always comes with hilarious, bull’s-eye punchlines. I still chuckle to the same verses I’ve heard a thousand times. We spoke some months back where he was full of stories about D.I.T.C., stories that shouldn’t be missed if you’re into small histories behind amazing records.

Our interview ran as a Record Rundown for Wax Poetics issue #35 and the remaining portions of the interview (in my opinion, the more interesting parts) were recently published over at Wax Poetics’ site. You can read it in its entirety HERE.

Also, here’s one of the best battles ever: Finesse and Percee P from ’89. The footage is grainy, but both wreck shop. Ness slays it in part 2… Continue reading “The Funk Soul Brother: New Lord Finesse Interview”

California Music Project

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Real talk: I wrote about The California Music Project a while back and their efforts to stop the decline of music education in schools. It’s a huge struggle to keep music alive in classrooms, especially due to California’s budget issues, NCLB and the tug-of-war for funds between athletics and the arts. Dr. Diana Hollinger, the main catalyst for the project, will be live on public radio today at 10AM (PST) to speak on this arduous process of sustaining music and art in our public schools. You can listen to it here: KPBS RADIO (streaming replays available).

To learn more about CMP, help or contact, please visit its website.

Off The Chain


D.R. Hooker – “Forge Your Own Chains”

The Strangers – “Two To Make A Pair”

From start to finish, Now-Again’s new comp Forge Your Own Chains enthralls you with 15 psych-sodden tracks. Besides a song or two that were reissued already, the rest are from records that were culled from all over; Sweden to Nigeria, Colombia to Iran, these songs incorporate screams and shouts, fuzz, funk, folk, and weird touches of improvisation. It was a global era (1968-74) where artists sought to sound different and it showed in their music. Forge… comes with detailed liner notes (written by Egon) that respectfully contextualize the tracks and its makers. To hear and learn more about the project, visit Now-Again’s site. Dig the snippets above—the project comes out in a couple weeks.

Black Dynamite Giveaway!

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Black Dynamite, Scott Sanders’ new hilarious spoof on the Blaxploitation film genre, is currently playing in limited runs across the country (to stellar reviews) so click HERE and request to see it in your area. PLUS, the film has two—that’s right, TWO—accompanying soundtracks! The original score and the soundtrack itself are available now.

To score FREE COPIES OF BOTH SOUNDTRACKS just send an email wth your name to with “Black Dynamite Contest” in the subject. Winners will be chosen at random from all entries received. The contest ends in one week, November 9th ’09…SPREAD THE WORD…ENTER NOW!


Black Elvis Is In The Building

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Me: You’ve worked with so many different producers through the years. How have those experiences struck you?

Kool Keith: If you just got off the plane from 42nd Street with crazy people yelling at you, and bums on the streets, and piss-filled elevators, and people upset, and traffic, and all that mess, your style isn’t gonna mesh with a producer who’s from a sunny meadow… they made the beats in their beautiful backyard, with a horse in their garden and poodles running around… I don’t want to rap over a fluffy beat from a producer who just picked flowers from his garden.

Read the rest of this new piece I did with Kool Keith on the recently relaunched Wax Po site.

Confessions of a Beat Junkie: Prince Paul

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We’re huge fans of Prince Paul. So naturally, we were geeked to get our hands on Confessions Of A Beat Junkie, a promo tape Tommy Boy put out in ’97. The 35-minute blend of b-sides, unreleased stuff, famous works, and many skits don’t disappoint—especially if you’re familiar with Paul’s work. Not much info exists, so I wrote Paul and asked him to introduce the tape for us. Here’s his response:

Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the tape. I made this for Tommy Boy as a promo item in the late ’90s to reintroduce myself to the public. It was to launch off the reissue of Psychoanalysis and a new project, A Prince Among Thieves. I just wanted to make something different from the old traditional mixtape that was out at the time. I had my friends and mom do little intro pieces to the songs.

I wanted to make it appear like I was this elusive, eclectic guy, and they were describing my work to those who weren’t familiar with me. The photo [on the back] is a picture of my son when he was about 3 or 4. He was always facinated with the turntables now he’s a DJ himself at 17. I put a lot of work into that tape, I’m glad that it’s still being enjoyed. Thanks again.

Hear Confessions Of A Beat Junkie… Continue reading “Confessions of a Beat Junkie: Prince Paul”

Original Sinn

sinn sithamouth image from:

Known as the “King of Khmer Music”, Sinn Sisamouth was a wildly prolific singer/songwriter who made thousands of known songs—thousands. He was active from the ’50s through the ’70s and is believed to have been killed by the Khmer Rouge during Cambodia’s holocaust. It’s said that even more of his work existed, but was destroyed by the Cambodian government during their “cultural cleansing” campaigns.

The recordings that did survive are plentiful and pretty amazing. Sinn’s songs—and Phnom Penh’s pop scene during the the ’60s and ’70s in general—had heavy elements of psych, garage, R&B, and some funk. If you’ve heard any Cambodian comps, chances are you’ve heard Sinn. He was such a versatile singer and soulful in a way that is atypical in Western music; his voice wasn’t powerful or distinctive, but rather delicate yet spry. Even to foreign ears, he conveys emotion well. Here are a few songs from Sinn that blow me away. The first three are covers, the last is an original.

“Always Hope” is a killer Beatles cover. Dig the dusty drums and the weird organ in the background. You haven’t heard “Hey Jude” like this.

“Missing Tender Care” is a cover of Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)”. The vocals have this eerie echo effect to them.

“Women of ’72” is a rendition of the often-covered “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”. Notice how Sinn does his own backup vocals, fluctuating his voice from high to low during the chorus.

“Beloved Girlfriend” is oddly quite haunting and is definitely a sharp turn from the one above. Personally, it might be most moving of the four.

There’s a wealth of info on Sinn Sisamouth so look around. If you have Sinn records (music and/or cover art) to share, please do!!! Here’s Sinn’s cover of “Sugar Sugar” I just got off youtube.

Doctor’s Note

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“Phantom Lights”, from Calm Seas, Phantom Lights

Doctor Nurse is a San Jose band whose perfectionist (and laissez faire) approach delayed this release for years. Besides a droning, 8-minute instrumental interlude (aptly called “Graveland”) the other songs have touching lyrics that volley between detailed, real life moments and abstract imagery. The melodies are bright and replete with illustrative musicianship that combines traditional tools with vintage synths like the Prophet-600 (Sequential Circuits). Occasional French horns, vibraphones, and organs flesh out the rest.

The 4 members (and 2 guest musicians) are multi-instrumentalists whose roles rotate depending on the cut. The songs are laid-back compositions—short, garage-y, indie-rock tunes with occasional psychedelic flare. The joint above, “Phantom Lights,” is a personal favorite and displays a sense of reverie that Calm Seas... is bound with.

*JB of Doctor Nurse, who plays guitar, sings, and writes all the songs, will be sharing an amazing interview he did with pioneering ’70s filmmaker, Jamaa Fanaka. This has been a long time in the making. Be ready.

To hear more of Calm Seas, Phantom Lights and to purchase it, please click HERE or contact Doctor Nurse directly at


Road Less Traveled: Interview With Pax Nicholas

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“You (snippet)” from Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef

Published concurrently on Soul Culture

“Pax” Nicholas Addo-Nettey’s early life was spent on Fela Kuti‘s Kalakuta Republic. He would eventually appear on all of Fela’s records between 1971-78, singing and playing congas like he had been since age 6. Eventually, a teenaged Nicholas even recorded solo projects on the side (much to Fela’s chagrin). In 1978 while at the Berlin Jazz Festival, Nicholas (along with Tony Allen and other members of Africa 70) decided to stay and avoid returning to Nigeria. To this day, Nicholas, now in his mid-50s, resides in Berlin with his two sons.

Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef, one of those solo projects Nicholas made in the ’70s, was reissued by Daptone and is out now. It was discovered by Frank Gossner, a collector and DJ who—for 3 years—scoured West Africa for records. Strangely enough, he found Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef in Philadelphia before leaving on his trip. But the record “remained somehow special” to Frank, even among the thousands of records he’d eventually find. He took it to friends at Daptone and, fortunately, here we are talking about it now.

Fela flouted convention, so it’s interesting to hear the product of someone who came from that environment. Imagine growing up in Kalakuta and Fela Kuti and Tony Allen are your bandmates? As expected, Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef is strong afrobeat with long songs that are swift and exuberant. It’s a lovely record from a young Pax Nicholas who was even lovelier when we recently spoke. Nicholas still gigs, still records with his current band, Ridimtaksi. Here are some of his stories.

How old were you when you started playing music?
I have always had an interest in music from the age of six. But the decision to go into music came to me at the age of 15 years.

Did you feel it was your life’s calling? Or were you just raised into it?
I would say, I was raised into it. When I was growing up there was a lot of music around me. In the church with gospel music, and in the community where people met from time to time to play traditional music with drumming and dancing.

How did you end up in Kalakuta?
In 1971, I travelled to Nigeria on the invitation of Joe King Kologbo and his family. While in Nigeria, he introduced me to his brother the late Igo Chico who was the main tenor saxophonist with Fela’s band- Africa 70. He then introduced me to Fela as a singer and percussionist from Ghana. Later I was asked by Fela to visit his shrine at the Surelere night club. The rest is history. Continue reading “Road Less Traveled: Interview With Pax Nicholas”

I Gots to Have It, I Miss Mr. Magic

mr. magic, right, with grandmaster caz, 1981

It’s hard to overstate the importance of radio DJs when hip-hop first gained popularity. Mr. Magic (pictured above, right, with Grandmaster Caz, 1981) was one of the few who lobbied to get rap music on the radio when it was new and considered an edgy, passing fad. His compilation tapes also introduced hip-hop to legions of cats outside New York. His impact is well documented in the many songs that referenced him (here’s an early example). Also called “Sir Juice”, he got Marley Marl on the radio and was an early proponent of the Juice Crew. John “Mr. Magic” Rivas passed away yesterday at 53. Here’s a nice NY Times piece on him; and another piece by Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker. RIP.

One More With Mayer


Now that everything’s come full circle, I called up Mayer Hawthorne recently for URB. This interview, I think, is a proper bookend to that first piece we did. Link below:


*Link is down since URB’s site got a makeover. Will it be up again? Maybe so, maybe no…

We were one of the first (if not the first) to interview Mayer Hawthorne when his catchy single debuted last November. People know him now—especially since his full-length, A Strange Arrangement, has gotten nods from Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, ?uestlove, and other celebrities. It was also a top seller at itunes the week of its release and is currently becoming one of Stones Throw’s most popular albums ever. Yessss. Congrats Haircut!

Bonita Voz De Sophy


This album has been getting lots of play lately. Made in 1973, Yo Soy Mujer is a perfect blend of funk, folk, rock, and disco. It’s very cohesive, due to the vocals and how they tie everything together. It’s no wonder this album made Sophy one of Puerto Rico’s most known singers.

Born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Sophy moved to New York City in 1960. There, she met and worked with Tito Puente, a towering figure of Latin-jazz and mambo. Sophy sung in Tito’s orchestra, and was so impressive, that he later produced some of her projects. Yo Soy Mujer was her third release in a career that would produce over thirty albums. She had a string of big hits in South America in the ’80s, but it’s her early ’70s work that really shines. The music is fantastic, so check it out. This would be a good starting point if you’re unfamiliar with Sophy and her records.

Below are two great cuts off Yo Soy Mujer, both of which were also famously sampled by RJD2.

“Un Amor Original”

“Locuras Tengo De Ti”

Koushik’s Ghost


I’m a couple days late, but Stones Throw just posted an exclusive version of Koushik’s Out My Window for free download. The vocals on this are mixed way below the beats, making it sound extra ghostly than the original.

For the unfamiliar: Koushik sounds like Four-Tet and Air on valium. My problem with him are his vocals, which can sound too New Age, too Enya-esque at times. This version is perfect, since it’s basically the instrumentals with a couple bonus cuts. Download this if you dig laid-back, melodic beats drenched in reverb. It’s solid stuff, so GET IT FOR FREE while you still can!

The free download cycle has ended. You can still purchase the album HERE though.

Stacy Gueraseva on Psychoanalysis


I was sitting in the Soho offices of Interview Magazine on a hot July day in 1996, working on one of the most challenging album reviews of my life, MC Lyte’s Bad As I Wanna Be. Its sheer mediocrity was giving me a bad case of writer’s block. A dose of inspiration was required, so I began rummaging through the piles of unopened jiffy envelopes with various promo CDs that were strewn all over the tiny office of my boss, the Music Editor. I was his intern.

I tore one open and out fell a regular 60-minute TDK cassette tape. Hand-written on one side was: “copyright Wordsound Recordings” and on the other: “Prince Paul, Psychoanalysis.” Continue reading “Stacy Gueraseva on Psychoanalysis”

Subscribe Yo!

Subscribe to NERDTORIOUS! Just click on Costello’s face!

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We have more subscriptions than ever (THANK YOU!) but it still deserves attention. It’s real easy; it takes two clicks, there’s no spam, and no personal information is needed. Everytime there’s an update, the content gets delivered to your reader. That’s every new interview, new music, new articles, EVERYTHING! Subscriptions work with Google, Yahoo, AOL, and almost every internet reader out there! Totally fast and easy!

In the works:

I recently interviewed Aja West for an upcoming Wax Poetics feature. He’s the mad genius behind Mackrosoft Records. Not only do they have a new project coming out— they have 3! We’ll be posting our conversation and some exclusive tracks from the upcoming trilogy. Expect some of the hardest jazz beats you’ll ever hear from one of the weirdest, most genuine dudes ever.

We got a hold of Prince Paul’s promo, Confessions Of A Beat Junkie, a tape Tommy Boy provided press and media to promote the reissue of Psychoanalysis. It’s a 35-minute “Best of Prince Paul” blend that showcases his famous work, b-sides, and unreleased material. We’ll have it available for download next week! Plus, an introduction by Prince Paul himself!

Speaking of Psychoanalysis, Stacy Gueraseva, NY writer and author of Def Jam Inc. , will be stopping by with her thoughts on the album, what it meant to her, and what it did for hip-hop as the millenium closed. It’s an exclusive she wrote for NERDTORIOUS!

Similar upcoming contributions from DJs, writers, rappers, musicians, music nerds: Cosmo Baker, Prince Po, Brian “B+” Cross, Vivian Host, Amir (of Kon & Amir), Binky Griptite, Dam Funk and many, many more!

We landed an exclusive interview with Pax Nicholas, teenage member of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70. Mr. Nicholas is in his 70s and lives in Berlin. This is a VERY RARE interview! His lost record, Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef, will be out soon on Daptone. He had some amazing stories to tell.

We also have another rare feature in the works: An in-depth interview with Jamaa Fanaka, ’70s cult-filmmaker and pioneering African American movie director. This timeless interview has been in the works for awhile and shouldn’t be missed!

An upcoming NERDTORIOUS mixtape for download, featuring rare records ranging from Psych to Soul, Funk to Garage— and other recordings we think you might dig.

– More contests and giveaways from labels we love!

This is just the stuff we’re telling you about! STAY TUNED FOR WAY MORE!

Darrell, Eddie, Ernie, Ever-Soul


Daptone puts out so many good projects that it’s easy to overlook their equally impressive subsidiary label, Ever-Soul. They specialize in forgotten soul and have another great project out next week—Detroit’s own Darrell Banks, a singer known for his hit “Open The Door” and who was fatally shot when he was 35. Here’s a great blog post about some fans who raised funds and bought a memorial plaque for Mr. Banks after visiting his grave and seeing that it was unmarked. You can read about Ever-Soul’s release, pre-order it, and hear snippets over at Daptone’s storefront.

One of Ever-Soul’s best releases is Eddie & Ernie’s “Bullets Don’t Have Eyes”. It’s a spirited track made in the early 1970s. This would be one of the pair’s last recordings and is one of their best. This came out a while ago, but copies are still available and are highly recommended. Hear it below.

Eddie & Ernie – “Bullets Don’t Have Eyes”

whatnauts and what not


The Whatnauts: “Instigating (Trouble Making Fool”)

The Whatnauts put out some great 45s on Stang Records during the early ’70s. They also joined forces with The Moments for “Girls“, a great cut that was later sampled by Diamond D.

He’s nothing but an instigating, always fakin’, trouble makin’ fool…” is the hook on this 1973 single. The song is a warning to an ex-lover about her new, shady boyfriend. It’s actually a sweet tune despite the negative lyrics about some nefarious dude. This is the only 45 The Whatnauts ever cut on GSF Records. “Instigating” is another smooth Whatnauts joint, full of nice melodies and even nicer harmonies.

catch the blast of a hype verse


I can’t think of a rapper that has aged as well as Ghost has. Raekwon is 39 and Jay is turning 40. And while both dropped big albums recently, their best work is likely behind them. But with Ghost, who is 37, there’s still the possibility that he’ll outdo himself. He’s so natural and is sharper than ever. Like his earlier work, he still raps with vigor, except it’s more focused, more tempered and a lot funnier. Big Doe Rehab has some great songs on it and, I think, is heavily slept on.

I received the sampler for his new project, Ghostdini: Wizard Of Poetry In Emerald City, a while back. I didn’t realize how near the release date was or else I would’ve posted this sooner. A big part of why Cuban Linx 2 wasn’t a total failure was because of Ghost’s appearances. If you like Starks, peep the sampler for his new one, Ghostdini: Wizard Of Poetry In Emerald City. It leans more towards Pretty Toney than Fishscale, but I’m still looking forward to it. It comes out in a couple weeks. Hopefully that supposed Ghost/DOOM project, Swift & Changeable, will be next.


(end of) summer songs

sf sundown by mike drummond

Summer’s over and I’m bummed to see it go. No more sunsets at 8pm. No more t-shirt weather. Now comes rain and the terrible holiday season. To bid adeui, here are four tracks I intended on posting in May but never got around to it. The first three are among the sunniest songs ever; the last, not as much, but it’ll remind me of summer when I hear it during the cold, bitter winter.

1) “Let’s Have Some Fun (Pt. 1)” is a foot-stomping funk 45 by the Mod Singers & Mod Lads. It’s a bit novelty, but it’s one of the happiest songs I’ve heard and captures what it feels like when summer first starts. It’s akin to Shirley Ellis’ “The Clapping Song“, but shorter and less literal. I picked up this 45 in Chicago for two bucks.

2) These next two are Latin tracks from my friend John who was recently in South America. The first, “Menino Jesus de Praga”, is by the great Jorge Ben. It’s from his late ’70s phase, off the album A Banda Do Ze Pretinho. It kills during John’s DJ sets and certainly goes great with summer.

3) This second one is “El Rayo de Sol” by Le Mans. It caught my attention at a BBQ in early August. Sweet and totally laid back, this is a summertime joint if ever there was one.

4) This last one is Dusty Springfield’s killer cover of “Spooky”, the 1967 Mike Sharpe (AKA Mike Shapiro) recording which has been covered many times. And though it isn’t particularly rare or anything, it’s a song that aesthetically sounds like a hazy, summer evening.

Large Pro uses payphone


Large Professor (ft. Nas)- “One Plus One” from The LP

Is this the best picture they could find? Who’s on the other end? The awkward (and hilarious) photo is from a piece I did on Large Pro and is currently one of the coverstories for Waxpoetics Japan.

On the real, Large Pro has made some classic material. Plus, he’s a revered figure— Pete Rock and DJ Premier have cited him as being influential in their own development. He also helped Nas’ career early on, recording demos that later became Illmatic. It’s fitting this article is currently out since Large Pro’s lost debut, The LP, was also recently released. Shelved since ’95 or ’96, it finally came out after years of speculation. To read my interview with Large Pro, hear more of The LP and buy it, head over to Wax Po’s storefront.

reasonable clout


I like Jay-Z. I like how he carries himself in interviews. I like Blueprint 3 too (though it ranks lower compared to his back catalogue). Not many mainstream rappers actually rap anymore. No one cares about having different cadences or actually riding rhythms. Cats like Wayne have made it cool to be lazy, to limp over beats as if ferocity is somehow played out. Jay still switches up his flow and remains pretty charismatic, but even he doesn’t utilize (16) bars like he used to.

DJ Ayres just posted a new mix–D.O.J.- The Best Of Jay-Z— on The Rub. I seemingly like Jay’s new stuff more than Ayres does, but I also agree with his overall sentiment. The dudes over at The Rub (DJ Eleven, Cosmo Baker and DJ Ayres) are the homies so please check their site, and prolific mixtapes, if you haven’t already. For now, check Ayres’ killer mix to hear pre-retiremant Shawn Carter, when he was vicious and more wordy.


Jesse Serwer on NYC Badmen

nyc badmen cover


I’ve been asked a few times how I “got into” dancehall. It’s pretty simple: I’m from New York. (Anyone asking me this is usually not from here). Jamaican music has been a familiar soundtrack for nearly as long as I can remember. I think it was around 1990, when I was 11, that it first left an impression. New York’s twin Black radio stations WRKS (“KISS FM”) and WBLS were playing records by Shabba Ranks and Mad Cobra. Chaka Demus & Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote” first came out around then, beginning its steady rise to Bar Mitzvah/White Folk Wedding-level ubiquity.

Truthfully, I didn’t like the stuff at first. Not knowing too many Caribbean folk at the time, the lyrics, particularly from gruff deejays like Shabba, were initially tough to decipher. And the rhythms, made more for the dancefloor than passive consumption, didn’t grab me the way hip-hop beats did then. My gateway drug came in the form of Shabba Ranks’ “The Jam,” a collaboration with the reggae-absorbent KRS-ONE, and Bobby Konders and Mikey Jarrett’s “Mack Daddy.” This was dancehall, but with a hip-hop beat, and I was hooked. I’d heard rappers like KRS toss around patois in their own songs, but the sound of Shabba and Jarrett’s full-throttle toasting over the familiar thrust of a hard-hitting breakbeat grabbed me in a way I can’t quite explain so many years later. Continue reading “Jesse Serwer on NYC Badmen”

Stones Throw Contest Winners!


First off, thanks to everyone who took the time to enter! Second, thanks to Stones Throw for building with us!

The response was much larger than expected! We were stoked to see entries as close as San Jose, California and as far away as Australia and Japan! The East Coast and Canada represented too! Thanks so much! We’re looking forward to doing it again with more of our favorite labels and companies. Stay tuned!

CONGRATS TO THE WINNERS: Kamal, Waylan, Lady K, Benjamin, and KB! Hope you like the freebies!

Here are the answers to the contest: Continue reading “Stones Throw Contest Winners!”

Straight Outta SJ: The Mumlers


The Mumlers- “Coffin Factory”, lead single from Don’t Throw Me Away

The Mumlers‘ second album, Don’t Throw Me Away, comes out tomorrow on Galaxia Records. Like their debut, the musicianship is sharp and the songs really sound sincere. And the arrangements, though quirky at times, always compliment the vocals in an unforced way. The first album had traces of Soul, but the new record has even more. Don’t Throw Me Away contains some of their best work yet.

What’s more, these guys are from San Jose, California of all places. In the coming months, Will Sprott, lead singer/songwriter of the Mumlers will be dropping by NERDTORIOUS with thoughts on his favorite singer; American soul and blues artist, Bobby “Blue” Bland. Until then, please pick up the new record and catch them on tour where they’ll be opening for The Black Heart Procession. They’re definitely going places—check out their music to see why.

Drunken Master: Interview With Kid Koala

kid koala_photo by selector marx

Kid Koala (ft. Dan The Automator)- “Unreleased Live Track”

I spoke with Dan The Automator back in ’05 when he was riding the success of Deltron, The Gorillaz, and Lovage. Kid Koala, who had emerged years earlier as a DJ with fresh, innovative routines, subsequently did the cuts and scratches on all those albums. At the time, Automator said this: “Koala does his own thing. I think other DJs are starting to catch onto his methods now. He has an amazing musical touch. Q-Bert’s technical, but Koala’s musical. He knows how to drop shit in and work the musical keys unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of DJs, and Koala’s acrobatics are amazing. There’s no one I’d rather have touch up my records than Koala. He’s insanely good.”

It’s been 4 years since that interview and Koala still does his thing. I’ve seen him do wildly entertaining sets without using headphones, tossing records behind him until they pile into huge, tipping stacks. His reputation as an oddball follows him, but so does a lot of reverence (Cut Chemist referred to him as his “hero” during The Hard Sell tour). Koala still uses only vinyl; still puts together weird projects that confuse and engross fans. I spoke with him recently, talking about his gear, his “Drunk Trumpet” routine, and seeing what future directions he thinks DJs might take. Koala hits the road later this month on a big tour–The Slew–with a live rhythm section and 6 turntables. Here’s our talk with one of the most creative DJs around, Kid Koala.

What new routines do you think DJs might start doing?
Turntable love ballads. Rocking parties is easy, trying to pull off a turntable serenade is a whole other animal.

You think DJs get better with age or is there a point when they’ve done all they can do?
I think as you get older it gets easier to communicate ideas through your instrument. Your life experiences and personality just sort of naturally come through the more you play. I look up a lot to those jazz musicians down in New Orleans. They seem to really hit their stride when they’re 70 years old. It’s like they’re monks of music. They just breathe into their instruments and the most beautiful sounds and stories come out.

What does your setup look like right now?
For The Slew tour we are using 6 turntables, 2 Rane Empath mixers, Radial Duplex DIs and an old Fender PA100 with two 4 x 8″ speaker columns.

No Serato?
I actually haven’t jumped over to that yet. I’m too lazy to bring a computer to shows. I have more fun with a pile of records. I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.

Continue reading “Drunken Master: Interview With Kid Koala”

Archie Whitewater: Unreleased Material

Cover Design By Musk

Archie Whitewater’s “Cross Country” is one of my favorite songs ever and this is blowing me away right now. From Psychadilsnik.Blogspot.Com: Apparently recorded shortly after the self- titled LP was released on Cadet Concept in 1970. This was never released due to numerous complications with Chess Records and all its sister labels, which includes Cadet Concept. The tracks were forgotten and never released. The album probably wasn’t quite finished. Also some tracks were meant to be used as radio station spots and promos. The tracks are instrumental, calmer shorter versions of the full tracks. The track names are speculation and not confirmed.

For the tracklisting and a bit more info, peruse Pschadilsnik and download these tracks. The site–and their youtube channel–feature really good stuff so look around. These unreleased tracks are killer! Many thanks!

Cambodia to Oakland

cambodian cassette (2)

Unknown Artist – “Blue Basket (instrumental)”:

Unknown Artist – “Birds Are Singing But My Lover Won’t Return”:

Cambodian Cassette Archives, another fantastic release from Sublime Frequencies, came out in ’07 and is a collection of folk, lo-fi pop, funk, garage, ballads, and strange psych from Cambodia. They were culled from old tapes found at the Asian branch of Oakland’s Public Library. Apparently, some of these recordings precede the Cambodian Holocaust so info is obviously scarce; only a few songs and artists are even named. Others are said to be from the US (presumaby the Bay Area) by Cambodian immigrants who fled the Khmer Rouge. Rich with analog warmth, these 20 tracks are totally raw and filled with colorful inflections and timbres. Don’t sleep on this like I did.

**Sublime Frequencies constantly release amazing comps (Group Doueh, Shadow Music Of Thailand, and Group Bombino to name a few). Visit their site and take a look around.

Kid Cudi Cover

Photo taken by Raymond Leon Roker

Kid Cudi was cool when I spoke to him a few months back. He was mad grateful for all his recent success and came off like a very positive dude. My interview with him ran as the cover story for the current issue of URB (check for it if you’re a Cudi fan!). URB organized a photoshoot for the story, which you can check out here. And while I’m not a huge fan of the Kanye protege (in fact, not feeling “Day N’ Nite“), it’s always interesting talking to young cats doing big things.

stones throw giveaway!!!


*Update: The response has been crazy, but the contest is still active for 2 more weeks… SO PLEASE ENTER!!!

Contest is over! Results and winners announced soon!

Thanks to our readers, traffic to NERDTORIOUS is at its busiest! Our modest numbers are kinda increasing, and as a thank you, we got Stones Throw (one of our favorite labels!) to sponsor a free contest/giveaway. Click to find out how to get loads of free stuff on usContinue reading “stones throw giveaway!!!”

covergirl: el perro del mar

el perro

I just got El Perro del Mar’s upcoming album in the mail which reminded me of how better her covers are than her original songs. The new one, Love Is Not Pop, is a lot like her last one, From The Valley To The Stars— not bad, but kinda forgettable. She relies way too much on cuteness (too many la-la-las) to push her songs along, and the music, normally pretty mellow, sounds thin and lacking overall. Her best work is probably her self-titled that came out in ’06. In light of a new album and tour, here’s a couple of those covers that first came to mind:

1) Her cover of The Isley Brothers’ “(At Your Best) You Are Love”, which was the b-side to Lykke Li’s “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” 45, released during Record Store Day earlier this year.

2) “Here Comes That Lonely Feeling”, a great cover of this Gaylettes’ sure-shot.


sharon_jones (2)

I was able to get Sharon Jones on the phone for a quick interview last week. She was at the airport so I kept it brief, knowing she’d probably rather chill than be interviewed at a noisy airport. Besides, this was for The Metro and they tend to like short, almost generic interviews that introduce more than inform. Sharon was more than pleasant and will be in my backyard (finally!) this week for The San Jose Jazz Festival.

Read: Finally Soul’d Out: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings Visit San Jose

amy winehouse eps

amy-winehouse ska ep (2)

Winehouse’s cover of The Speicals’ “Hey Little Rich Girl”, off The Ska ep, which you can purchase here.

I know I’m mad late on this, but nobody made noise about this Amy Winhouse ep. It’s a red 7-inch where she covers The Specials (“Hey Little Rich Girl”), Toots And The Maytals (“Monkey Man”), Andy & Joe (“You’re Wondering Now”) and Sam Cooke (“Cupid”). It’s just 4 tracks, all of which were either previously released b-sides or live takes, but they’re killer renditions– showing her talent and how it’s most obvious when she’s non-chalant about it (like in this video). Apparently, I like this a lot more than this guy did.

I heard of this through emails I’ve been getting about another upcoming ep of hers, The Nelson Mandela ep. It’s supposedly a 7″ of live versions of “(Free) Nelson Mandela”, “Valerie”, and “Rehab”, which comes out soon.

Cuban Linx Revisited: Interview With Raekwon

blue rae by Logan Walters

Published concurrently on

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… surpassed all expectations in 1995. Wu-Tang was hurling towards greatness and Raekwon, the MC with most time on Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was up next. Hopes were high, and yet, Cuban Linx went platnium, embraced by fans and becoming a critical triumph. The New York Times named it one of the best albums of the ’95; Rolling Stone included it in their list of Essential Recordings Of The ‘90s. XXL’s 2005 feature, The Making Of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, furthered its status, giving longtime fans an in-depth look at its making process.

This year, Cuban Linx marks its fourteenth anniversary with a long-talked about sequel, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II. Rae’s legacy still rests largely on part one, which is something he knows and was very aware of when we spoke. “Motherfuckers love that shit. I know! That’s my rep right there,” he insisted, before adding: “That’s why I wanted to add more life to the original story and give fans what they’ve been asking for. We continued the new one exactly as if it was a movie sequel.” The addition of Dr. Dre and Marley Marl on the sequel adds clout, but it likely changes the overall feel of the original–as does guest spots by Busta Rhymes and Bun B. But Rae disagreed, explaining: “We kept the same vibe. I ain’t stupid. I went back and made sure that shit was compatible. RZA sat for hours and guided everyone through exactly what we needed. Trust me, this is what fans of the first one have been waiting for.”

Ahead of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II, I spoke at length with Rae about the original Cuban Linx, hearing back-stories and breaking down certain tracks individually. Could Cuban Linx ever have a fitting bookend? Here’s what The Chef had to say before the coming of part two.

When was the last time you sat down and heard Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… all the way through?
I probably heard it again around three months ago. It had been a while before that though.

What did you think of it fourteen years later?
It brought me back to a different time. It was when we straight didn’t give a fuck about what people thought. I was just trying to be a good emcee. RZA was just trying to be a good producer. This was before all the money kicked in. I was thinking about me standing on my block and me trying to get off that motherfucker. I was formulating about feeding my family the best way I knew how. At that time, I would just be earning money the negative way, you know? So it was about making people all over the world respect the Wu and what we were doing. Continue reading “Cuban Linx Revisited: Interview With Raekwon”

AGE’D MIX: El Fantasmas Espejo

age El Fantasmas Espejo Part_ 1

El Fantasmas Espejo (Part 1 of 2) is: “A mix I just did that’s from a large collection I was given 2 to 3 months ago from a former local radio DJ. It ranges from psych, soul, chicano anthems, covers, rock, balada, etc. It’s all over the place. All Latin records, all OGs, none re-issued and some below radar..til now,” according to AGE, Bay Area record junkie and local DJ/producer.

AGE’s last mix was a longtime favorite of mine. Listen and download his new one, El Fantasmas Espejo (which translates to “The Haunted Mirror”). Thanks holmes!

edan radio show #1 & #2


We’re big Edan fans, so we’re always stoked when he does something new. Here’s a couple radio shows he did recently. According to him, they’re “very casual”. Show 1 has been around for a while; show 2 was recorded a couple months back. Both are really good (and long, over 2 hours each!). Part 2 is flooded with some of my favorite songs ever. Supposedly, there will be more of these radio shows to come. For now, check these out!



Here’s an interview we did with Edan.

mayer hawthorne’s a strange arrangement

mayer-hawthorne-strange arrangement (2)

After one listen (while skipping songs I’ve already heard), Mayer Hawthorne’s new full length, A Strange Arrangement, is pretty enjoyable. Expectations for it were high since his first single, “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”, had us geeked for months. Other songs on the new one are much better than his second single, “I Wish It Would Rain“, which isn’t bad but didn’t surpass the (unfairly) high expectations I had for it.

The songs on A Strange Arrangement are varied, some are Motown-ish (“Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin'”), some are slow burners (“Shiny And New”) and others, total floor-stompers (“The Ills”). After an initial listen, “Let Me Know”, a killer track, stands out as Mayer abandons his falsetto steez for an almost Neil Diamond-esque delivery. And it works. “One Track Mind” sounds like a Marvelettes album cut and “Shiny And New”, a well-placed ballad, rounds out the album nicely. The only setback is his cover of The New Holidays’ “Maybe So, Maybe No” which, in his defense, is impossible to cover due to its delicate arrangement and insurmountable cult status; and “Prelude”, an unnecessary 20-second intro of vocals.

For a debut with immense hype, Mayer lives up to high hopes, delivering 12 self-produced songs that aren’t cheesy or overly imitative. In fact, between tracks #3-#11 lies an almost perfect EP. And while his voice isn’t the greatest, he understands soul music and knows how to write catchy songs. I’ve read about people questioning his authenticity, but being authentic doesn’t make your songs good– writing good songs do. I plan on covering this more for my various outlets as the September 8th release date nears (where it will come with 2 new songs on a free 4-inch single!).

For now, here’s an interview we did with Mayer a few months back, a new podcast he did for Stones Throw, and the youtube joint for his debut single that first turned heads.

*BONUS: Here’s Mayer’s version of the theme song from the TV show Weeds.

oh yesterday came suddenly

24 carat black 2

Later this month, Numero Group will put out Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday, the long lost followup to 24-Carat Black’s now-revered, Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth. NERDTORIOUS features a lot of Numero’s stuff and we’ll keep doing so as long as they keep coming correct like this. The packaging, the histories, the photos (how dope is the one above?) and the music itself, are all stellar examples of Numero’s excellence. Here is Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday‘s backstory and some song snippets from it, including a lost track that Numero left off the upcoming release… Continue reading “oh yesterday came suddenly”

michael jackson (1958-2009)

Everyone has an opinion on MJ and that’s fine. My generation saw him at his most thrilling and a big part of my childhood is totally bummed. Remember Captain EO? Yeah, me too. Those images connect me to a much simpler time. Seeing a young Michael kill it on youtube won’t ever be the same again either. Tabloids, punchlines and ambivalence aside, Michael Jackson was one of the best to ever do it. His records are some of the finest ever made and today we celebrate our affection for them. Below are some of my favorite cuts from his Jackson 5 years. RIP, MJ. What a legacy.

little mj









budos budos golly


Staten Island’s Budos Band are back with a perfect EP for these summer nights. The tracks are from sessions between the making of their first self-titled release, The Budos Band, and its successor, Budos Band II. They’re from the Daptone family, so it’s tightly crafted per usual. They lean a bit more towards Afro-Soul, but do have touches of Jazz, Funk and Latin too. The musicans are part of a rotating cast that make up The Mighty Imperials, Menahan Street Band, The Dap Kings, and Sugarman 3. Included is a list of the band members (because these dudes don’t get enough individual credit) and for your downloading pleasure, “The Proposition”, a previously released 45 that’s also on the new EP. Continue reading “budos budos golly”

new verse from rick

slick rick

Edit of “Auditorium” featuring ONLY Rick’s verse, minus Mos and other nonsense.

Mos Def’s latest, The Ecstatic (which is listenable but weak overall), features a collab with The Ruler himself. On “Auditorium”, Rick talks about being in Iraq and eventually being hailed as the “Elvis of Baghdad”. It’s funny and is even slightly political, though not particularly catchy. I still think it’s interesting to hear Rick kick storyraps about modern settings. Rick didn’t say much about new projects when I spoke with him for Waxpoetics issue #31 but he did say a new album called The Adventure Continues was in the works. As one of my favorites, I’m always stoked to hear from Rick (even if it’s with this clown).

his world finally: interview with lee fields

LeeFields (4)

Lee Fields, a man who cut his first record at age 17, is a relentless worker. His latest album, My World, caps a career of over 40 years in music, an industry where he survived without ever making it big or getting the acclaim you’d think talent would earn. But all that is behind him because, according to Lee, “My World is truly the work of my life. I think it’s the greatest project I’ve ever been a part of.” And while every musician says the same about their latest album, Lee has no reason to lie. He’s an honest man who’s carved an honest living his entire life, gigging from huge theatres to shabby venues while quietly making records here and overseas. And his latest work, another tightly knit effort from Truth & Soul, might indeed be his best. Lee still hustles at 57-years-old, still records because he “never learned to be tired” and plans to keep doing do. Here’s our interview with the tireless Lee Fields, a talk where we comb through his long career, touch on his latest LP, and look at his largely understated legacy.

You’ve been singing and gigging since you were a teenager. How much longer do you envision yourself doing this for?
I don’t know. I’m really having such a wonderful time. I think music is like a sculpture. If you sculpt, then you stop when you run out of things to sculpt. I don’t think I’ve sculpted everything I wanted to yet. I’m real serious about that.

You’ve said recently that this is the most creative stage of your career. Why do you think you’ve finally hit your stride after 40 years?
Throughout my musical career, I’ve done a lot of traveling and been to a lot of places. I’ve worked with a lot of people as well. I’ve always kept writing too. I’ve never stopped doing what I do. So just through my life experience alone, I feel like I can convey lots of emotion and conviction—even if it’s not a song I wrote. The whole purpose of being an artist is to make your work as evoking as possible when it comes to passion. At this stage, man, I think it really shows through my work. Continue reading “his world finally: interview with lee fields”

quick cuts from africa

The Best of DJ Quik Mixed by Matthew Africa

Matthew Africa just gave us the OK to post his Best Of DJ Quick, an evenhanded blend of both hits and album cuts from West Coast legend, DJ Quick. The 39-songs celebrate his many collaborations, his beefs with EVERYONE, and his steady growth (as rapper and producer) through the years. Click HERE to read the original post and learn more about the mix. Peace and thanks to Matthew Africa, great work as usual. Quick’s deep career is long overdue for something like this!


For complete tracklisting… Continue reading “quick cuts from africa”