Thursday, September 27, 2007
Beneath The Planet Of Funky 16 Corners Mix (mp3)
Bobby Cook and the Explosions – On the Way (Compose)
Dorothy Ashby – Soul Vibrations (Cadet)
Pat Lewis – I’ll Wait (Solid Hit)
Art Butler – Ode To Billie Joe (Epic)
BT Express – Do It (Til You’re Satisfied ) (Scepter)
Rhine Oaks – Tampin (Atco)
Junior Parker – Tomorrow Never Knows (Capitol)
Pioneers – Papa Was a Rolling Stone (Trojan)
Willie West – Fairchild (Josie)
Shuggie Otis – Strawberry Letter 23 (Epic)
Marlena Shaw – Woman of the Ghetto (Cadet)
Winston Wright – Heads or Tails (Green Door)
Jackie Mittoo – Hip Hug (Coxsone)
Not long ago your host, Scholar invited me to whip something up for presentation herein, and the mix you’re downloading/listening to is it.
If you’re familiar with the Funky16Corners blog, you already know that I have a thing for themed mixes. However, when I work with a theme, it’s more often than not based in a particular musical style or region. This time out, the theme is more of a vibe, wrapped in a feeling, encapsulated in a mood. Naturally I did this by using an audio framing device that had little or nothing to do with the music in the mix, though a slightly deeper examination may reveal an underlying thread of unease, actually present in the audio clips, merely suggested in the feeling of the music. It’s not going to jump up and poke you in the eye, but if you allow yourself to get inside and roll with it, all will be revealed.
Things get started with one of my favorite obscure Hammond sides, ‘On the Way’ by Bobby Cook and the Explosions. The tune creeps along at fairly slow pace, yet manages to remain quite intense, with some great shots from the drummer and very heavy Hammond sound.
Dorothy Ashby’s ‘Soul Vibrations’ is a truly remarkable record, sounding at times like the theme from ‘The Invasion of the Soul Martians’. The whole thing is a groove, but the last 15 or so second are absolutely sublime.
The next cut is a moody slice of mid 60’s Detroit soul, in which the sadly underappreciated Pat Lewis (her ‘No One To Love’, also on Solid Hit is no less than brilliant), wraps her pipes around ‘I’ll Wait’, originally a Parliaments b-side. Though I dig the original, the more I listen to Pat work it on out, the closer her recording gets to the top of the list.
Art Butler is kind of a mystery artist, in that I’ve never really been able to nail down any solid info on him. He may or may not be the same cat that recorded/arranged a bunch of soundtracks as "Artie Butler", but I can’t say for sure. His cover of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ appeared on the flip of his smoking Hammond funker ‘Soul Brother’. On ‘Ode…’ Butler uses an unusual organ sound, as well as a quirky, repeated bass figure that does justice to the spooky vibe of the original.
Surely I can’t be the only one here who thinks that ‘Do It (Til You’re Satisfied)’ by BT Express is one of the great records of the 70’s. This 45 rip may not have the epic breadth of the Tom Moulton LP mix, but it’s still a killer. The tune – one long associated with the early days of the disco era, yet hardly disco in any measurable way – from it’s string and harp flourishes, to it’s falsetto leaps sounds every bit inspired by Norman Whitfield-era Temptations (and is worthy of the comparison).
As far as I’ve been able to tell, the Rhine Oaks were actually Allen Toussaint, a Meter or two and sundry other New Orleans session heads. ‘Tampin’ is a brilliantly understated instrumental, possessed of a slow, syrupy funk dressed with bits and pieces of wah-wahed out guitar. It’s worth the ride if only for Toussaint’s echoey clavinet.
Junior Parker’s take on the Beatles ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ completely recasts the lysergic panorama of the original in stark terms. It’s a record I only became aware of earlier this year, and it quickly became a favorite, sounding like a distant cousin to Blind Willie Johnson’s epic ‘Dark Was the Night’. There are those that have ridden the psychedelic bus that will assure you that Junior’s approach is a lot closer to the heart of the experience than the reverse tape satori of the Beatles.
Speaking of the Temptations, dig the Pioneers reggae-fication of ‘Papa was a Rolling Stone’. The group tightens up the groove, with the guitar chanking along under their harmonies, along with some great organ and electric piano, and even a soprano sax solo in the beginning.
Willie West recorded a number of 45s for Allen Toussaint-related labels through the 60’s, but the only certified classic in the bunch is ‘Fairchild’. In the late 60’s Toussaint made a number of arrangements that featured the acoustic guitar prominently, and ‘Fairchild’ is the best. There’s a somewhat darker, unreleased (on vinyl) mix of the tune – with the horn section removed - on Grapevine’s ‘Crescent City Funk’ comp.
The early 70’s recordings of Shuggie Otis have experienced a resurgence since their reissue on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. Though the Brothers Johnson had a huge hit with their cover of ‘Strawberry Letter 23’, I’ve always preferred Shuggie’s original, which has a slightly more laid back vibe.
Marlena Shaw recorded some great stuff with Richard Evans for the Cadet label in the late 60’s. Though her cover of ‘California Soul’ (the one with the Brainfreeze break) is better known, her ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ is much darker, politically tinged epic. The record features several Evans' trademarks, including the kalimba, heavy bass and drums and even harmonica flourishes. A heavy, HEAVY record.
Winston Wright was one of the most prolific reggae organists of his day (that’s him on the Harry J All Stars classic ‘Liquidator’), and his cover of Booker T and the MGs ‘Heads or Tails’ takes the Memphis heat of the original and spaces it out a bit. I especially dig the deep, deep reverb on the organ.
The mix closes out with another Booker T cover, coincidentally also in a reggae style, this time with Jackie Mittoo's slightly psyched out take on ‘Hip Hug Her’ (retitled ‘Hip Hug’). Winston Wright may have been a busy man, but the prolific (and influential) Mittoo made him look like a piker. If you get a chance to grab the LP from which it hails ‘Evening Time’ do so, as it’s a killer.
That all said, soak up the mix, give it a listen or two, or three. I hope you dig it.
Word From Larry's Moms:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars...Jack Kerouac
Sunday, September 23, 2007
It's lucky number 13, soul children. I put together some extra-special tunes for you in honor of this momentous occasion...
"Move Over"---Soul Children
(Sampled on "On The Real" by Nas)
"Common Man"---David Ruffin
(Sampled on "Never Change" by Jay-Z)
"Morning Broadway"---Keith Mansfield
(Sampled on "Space Ho's" by DangerDoom---MF Doom + DangerMouse)
"What It Is"---The Temptations
(Sampled on "The Corner" by Common)
(Sampled on "Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa" by De La Soul, "Long Live The Fugitive" by K-Solo, and "Hay" by Crucial Conflict)
"The Look Of Slim"---Gene Harris & The Three Sounds
(Sampled on "Slim's Return" by Madlib)
"Why I Keep Living These Memories"---Jean Knight
(Sampled on "Defeat" by Afu-Ra---prod. by DJ Premier)
"You Roam When You Don't Get It At Home"---The Sweet Inspirations
(Sampled on "One" by Ghostface Killah)
"Changing Face"---JJ Band
(Sampled on "Jewelz" by OC---prod. by Lord Finesse)
"Gimme Some" ---Freddie McCoy
(Sampled on "For Pete's Sake" by Pete Rock & CL Smooth)
"On The Real"---Nas (from the 12" single b/w "Star Wars")
"The Corner (Mo' Green Remix)" ---Common
"Somersault (DangerMouse Remix)"---Zero 7 w/ MF Doom (If you like a little danger in your doom...)
Video for the LP version of "The Corner"...
...and the Ro Blvd. remix (for my man Tony Li)
Video for "Slim's Return"...
...and one of the most informative Madlib interviews of all time.
David Ruffin performing "Common Man"--a performance thats magnitude is rivaled only by the size of his hairdo...
Word From Your Moms:
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."---Berthold Auerbach
Thursday, September 20, 2007
A couple of years ago, Scratch magazine ran an article about the legendary Bomb Squad crew and the early days of Public Enemy which included a passing reference to the fact that Public Enemy Number One, the song that convinced Rick Rubin to sign the group to Def Jam, originally started out as a promo for a radio show that Chuck D-going by the name "Chuckie D" at the time- hosted on WBAU. I'm a huge fan of P.E., so after reading that article I made it a priority to track down the original version of the track. I have yet to find the original demo (if any of you have a copy of it, please get at me!) but as a result of my quest, which took me through virtually every hip hop-related site on the internet, I came away with a bunch of songs from various rappers that were put out before they became famous. Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I've always been fascinated by hearing the early work of rappers before they developed the image and style that eventually gained them mainstream success. What follows is a random sampling of some of those tracks:
Having spent my formative years listening to the rap of the late 80'sand early 90's, Dr. Dre is, and always will be, the face of gangsta rap to me. I realize that there are many of you who would take issue with that statement, but his work on Straight Outta Compton and The Chronic are, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the genre. So I always found it a little hard to believe when Ice Cube, Eazy E and Tupac all made reference to the fact that Dre went from "wearing lipstick to smoking on chronic at picnics." It wasn't until the advent of the Web, where every celebrity's most embarrassing moments have been catalogued and made readily available to the public through the magic of search engines, that I finally got a chance to see him dressed up as a member of the World Class Wreckin' Cru along with fellow N.W.A. Yella Boy. Perhaps more surprising than seeing Dre looking like an extra in a Michael Jackson video was hearing the actual music itself: Mission Possible.
It wasn't until Dre hooked up with Ice Cube to form the group C.I.A.that he stopped making electro beats and made the transition to hardcore rap. Here's one of the tracks from their days as C.I.A.: My Posse.
When a young Shawn Carter dropped from the sky and into the middle of Jaz O's luau in Hawaiian Sophie, could any of us have predicted his domination of the rap game in the coming years?
If the Joe Cool sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt didn't have you questioning his future in hip hop, his lyrical style at the time certainly did not suggest that he would be capable of putting out a song like Dead Presidents just a few years later. Here are two of his early tracks, from his pre-Roc A Fella days: The Originators w/ Jaz-O and Can I Git Open (peep the video here). Jay would continue his ride on the Thuggish Ruggish fast-rap bandwagon into '94 on I Can't Get With That before slowing down the tempo for In My Lifetime. After singles with Mic Geronimo on Time to Build and Foxy Brown on Ain't No, Jay finally settled on a lyrical style that he would stick with through the end of the Roc-A-Fella dynasty, at which point he started rapping to the thirtysomething crowd completely off beat.
Remember Onyx, the mean-mugged leaders of the early '90s Mad Face Invasion? In this post-G Unit world they're probably best known for introducing a young, ice-skating 50 Cent in the days before Supreme left him with a bullet in his jaw (due in large part to 50's name-dropping on Ghetto Qu'ran) and a surprisingly radio-friendly lisp. But years before that, Onyx made a name for themselves as grimy stick up kids-turned-rappers, spending more time shouting over beats than actually rapping. On the first single that they released, however, their sound was almost unrecognizable from the raspy, hardcore vocals that became their signature: Ah And We Do It Like This.
Onyx, of course, are not the only rappers to find commercial success after adopting new personas. One of the more recent examples would be Chicago's skateboarding voice of consciousness, Lupe Fiasco. Most of us first heard Lupe when he took the beat for Kanye's Diamonds and flipped the lyrics into a condemnation of the blood diamond industry, an idea Kanye himself would jack for the video to the song (to make amends, the Louis Vuitton Don let Lupe drop 16 bars on his next single Touch The Sky). Lupe wasn't always so focused on ollies and socially conscious lyrics, though. A couple of years before he signed with Atlantic he was dropping hardbody rhymes like every other aspiring trap star at the time, even going so far as to claim that he "push rocks, dawg," a fact that came to light when one of his early demo tracks made the rounds shortly before his album Food and Liquor was released: Pop Pop (link via rizoh). As far as I know, Lupe has never responded directly to questions about this track beyond a vague acknowledgment that he was willing to rap about anything to get a record deal. Perhaps the best response we'll get from him comes on his mixtape track Switch, in which he switches back and forth between the personas of a conscious rapper and a gangsta rapper.
Well, that's all I've got for you today. Thanks for indulging me, and shout out to my man Scholar for holding it down for the past couple of years!
Word From Your Moms:
"You can call me old school, but I'm no fool
Cause back then, at least we had a hip hop rule
And the rule was you got to be original."-Doug E. Fresh
Monday, September 17, 2007
"Where Were You" ---Freddie Scott
With the unfortunate passing of Bobby Byrd this past week, I began to reflect on how many legendary artists we've lost in just the past year or so. Within that time frame, we've witnessed the death of James Brown, Alice Coltrane, Eldee Young (Young Holt Trio), Billy Henderson (Detroit Spinners), Joe Hunter, Barbara McNair, Luther Ingram, Dakota Staton, Zola Taylor (The Platters), Alex Brown (The Persuaders), Alvin Batiste, Tony Thompson, Dorothy 'Kim' Tolliver, Richard 'Kush' Griffith, Nellie Lutcher, Bill Pinkney (The Drifters), Max Roach, Jon Lucien, Willie Tee, and more.
One of the losses that hit me the hardest was that of Freddie Scott, who passed away this summer on the 4th of June. Although I've featured Scott's work in the past (most recently his oft-sampled tune, "(You) Got What I Need"), I felt compelled to write a bit more about his legacy since I failed to do a proper memorial at the time of his death.
Scott was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1933, and had his first musical experience singing with his grandmother's group, Sally Jones & The Gospel Keyes, as a young teenager. Although he initially went to college to study medicine, Freddie joined the Swanee Quintet Juniors and altered his career path to pursue his musical aspirations. His first solo single was "Running Home", a song he recorded for the J&S label in 1956. Later that same year he was called to military duty in Korea, but continued to record sides for a few different labels during and in the years following that period.
What is often noted to be a pivotal point in his musical career came in 1962, when Gerry Goffin and Carole King approached him to sing a song called "Hey Girl" that was originally intended for Chuck Jackson. Scott made the absolute best of being the songwriters' second choice, crafting a single for Colpix Records that climbed into the top ten on the R&B and pop charts. Following this, he relocated to Columbia for a brief stint before signing on with Bert Berns' fledgling Shout label in 1966.
Today's selection is one of many gems from the latter period. Not long after Scott signed to Shout, he and Berns co-wrote "Are You Lonely For Me?", a track that reportedly required over a hundred vocal takes to complete. The record stayed at the top of the R&B charts and even crept in the pop top 40, so it seems as though this element of perfectionism was ultimately worthwhile. Since many soul enthusiasts are already familiar with this much-storied track, I decided to post the underappreciated flip side instead. It's a fine deep soul ballad that Scott penned himself, and is more than worthy of receiving proper recognition.
Rest in peace, Freddie Scott. You will surely be missed.
There is ever so much more to his story, which is why I would encourage you to dig deeper.
"Livin In The City (Willie Evans Jr. remix)"---Akrobatik
Willie Evans, Jr. has been doing some amazing things in the hip hop underground for quite some time now, but is yet to receive the attention and glorification he rightfully deserves. Hailing from Jacksonville, FL, Evans has been affiliated in one way or another with the likes of Asamov, The ABs, Deep Rooted, Therapy, and The Perceptionists. Although he initially made his mark as a skillful MC, he's just as, if not more, capable of crafting phenomenal beats. Counting James Brown and DJ Premier as his primary influences, Evans has undoubtedly set high-as-the-sky standards for the quality of his musical output.
This joint is from Black Mega: The Remixes, a project in which Evans reworked joints by Akrobatik and Mr. Lif. He was already quite familiar with the work of these two MCs, having engineered and/or produced several tracks from their Perceptionists debut LP, Black Dialogue. When asked about why he endeavored to remix some of their joints, Evans noted that at some point every beatmaker thinks, "Man, I could have did something funky with that." On Black Mega, he more than lives up to this expectation, creating layered soundscapes that often outweigh the originals. "Livin' In The City" is one such example, in which Evans brings a soulful vibe to some of Akrobatik's most intelligent and socio-political rhymes. Anyone who thinks hip hop is all about bitches, whips, and the glorification of violence sincerely needs to give this joint a listen.
"I'm Hurt"---Tyrone Thomas & The Whole Darn Family
Despite not being as well known as the most celebrated soul artists, Tyrone Thomas' contributions to the genre are many. His career began at the tender age of 10, when he started going by the name Lil Tommy. He and Major Harris were in a quartet called The Teenagers who opened for some of the finest soul and blues acts at the time---Sam Cooke, Mary Wells, Jimmy Reid, Fats Domino, etc. His legacy from that point forward is far too enormous to be described in a couple of paragraphs, so I would highly recommend further pursuit of information about his prodigous career.
In the interests of providing a brief overview, I'll mention a few highlights. In addition to being blessed with an outstanding vocal instrument, Thomas was also a proficient songwriter, composer/arranger, producer, and drummer. His group Nobody's Children was the backing band for Patti Labelle and The Bluebells in the early 1970s. After the group dissolved, he went on to play drums for a variety of first-rate performers, including Freddie Scott, Charlie Whitehead, Doris Duke, Swamp Dogg, and The Sweet Inspirations.
After being on the road for several years, Thomas went back to his residence in Richmond, VA and formed The Whole Darn Family. He wrote "Seven Minutes Of Funk", which ultimately became one of the most sampled songs in hip-hop history. It appeared with several other sought-after funk classics on The Whole Darn Family Has Arrived LP (1976). "I'm Hurt" stands out as the most soulful cut on the album, a heartfelt torch song that Thomas originally wrote in his youth.
Over the years, Thomas has amassed over 200 songs in his vast catalogue of works, and has continued to make music well into the new millenium.
"Soul Music"--- Stic.man and Young Noble
For those of you who aren't familiar, Stic.man is from the hip hop duo dead prez, and Young Noble is from The Outlawz. Their collaborative effort, Soldier 2 Soldier (2006), was honestly not something that I ever intended to buy. One of my readers sent me a copy a while back, knowing that I'm of the rare breed who isn't turned off by dead prez's political slant. I couldn't possibly give a fair review of the album at this juncture, because I've only gotten around to listening to the whole album once. I was preoccupied with other things while it was playing, but "Soul Music" gave me reason to pause and crank up the volume to a more audible level. It's obvious why I'd be a sucker for this joint---any track that pays homage to classic soul music deserves at least one listen. A lot of legends get a shout here, including Bobby Womack, The Temptations, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, etc. On the whole, it's a worthy tribute to music of days gone by, so you kinda have to forgive them for incorporating an awkward and out-of-place reminiscence on Apollonia's breasts in Purple Rain...
"Sweet Sweet Baby"---Dolly Gilmore
I can write about this tune with relative ease considering that I don't know any biographical information about Ms. Gilmore. This is another instance in which I'll open up the floor to any of my readers who may know more about her than I do. I've included a label scan of the original 45, although this "cult classic" has also been included on a few funk compilations over the years. This slightly abridged version appeared on Sister Funk 2.
Maybe I'm a bit biased in my thinking, but I simply can't imagine anyone not enjoying this track---which is why I'm gonna shut up now and let you give it a listen...
"The Bull Is Coming"---Lee Fields & The Devil's Personal Band
I did a feature on Fields some time ago in which I discussed some of his comeback material that's been released since the '90s. The response was favorable, so I decided to post this song in the interests of generating some enthusiam for his earlier work. This track was released on Angle 3, and represents one of the finest moments from the infectiously funky material Fields released in the '70s. "The Bull Is Coming" is a highly regarded record amongst funk enthusiasts (b/w "Funky Screw"), and gives somewhat of a hint as to why his style was often likened to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. In fact, Fields' style, groove, and sound owed so much to this celebrated figure that he was given "Little J.B." as a nickname. That said, Field was an underappreciated and legendary artist in his own right, so I'd recommend seeking out his releases (both past and present) with a funkdafied vengeance.
"No One Like My Baby"---Bobby Byrd
In the event that I don't have time to properly memorialize the death of Bobby Byrd in the near future, I wanted to share one of the most soulful tunes from his solo career in his honor and remembrance. Rest in peace, my brother...
Word From Your Moms:
"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."---C.S. Lewis
"The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life's tragedy."---Oscar Wilde
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thanks for creating this brilliant mix of soulful and funky dance tunes for us, Jason. No better way to get the party started for the weekend. Give this a "spin" and work it out, soul kids...
The world of soul music was largely a world of dance music. Although the primacy of the beat figured into nearly all forms of African-American music, be it jazz, blues, r&b, soul, funk, disco, hip-hop or even gospel, the 1960s was a fertile period for soul dance records, most notably by Chicago soul artists, who literally learned the new dances coming out of the city's high schools and sock hops and turned them into fine records. Robert Pruter correctly notes in his seminal work Chicago Soul that dance records are unfairly overlooked in the study of classic soul music, but it is with fun dance records that the listeners of the time, and fans of these classic tunes today, are able to put aside the blues and put on their dancing shoes. With that in mind, here's my guest post for "Souled On," with many thanks due to the Scholar, for inviting me to participate. I've included quite a few Chicago soul dance records, but also some southern soul, New Orleans stuff, and even a little Nuyorican action. Enjoy!
Dance The Blues Away! (mp3)
1. The Mighty Hannibal, "Jerkin' The Dog"
2. The Sharpees, "Do The 45"
3. The Emperors, "Karate"
4. The Daylighters, "Oh Mom (Teach Me How To Uncle Willie)"
5. The Olympics, "The Bounce"
6. E. Rodney Jones, "R&B Time (Pt. 1)"
7. Betty Harris, "Ride Your Pony"
8. Kako & His Orchestra, "Kako's Boogaloo"
9. Tommy & Cleve, "Boo-Ga-Loo Baby"
10. Tom & Jerrio, "Boomerang"
11. Les Cooper & The Soul Rockers, "Do The Boston Monkey"
12. Alvin Cash & The Registers, "The Philly Freeze"
13. Otis Redding, "The Hucklebuck"
14. Clarence Carter, "Thread The Needle"
15. Warren Lee, "Under Dog Back Street"
And speaking of the blues ...
Word from a real “mutha,” Howlin’ Wolf:
"A lot of peoples wonder, 'what is the blues?' I hear a lot of people saying 'the blues, the blues,' but I’m gonna tell you what the blues is. When you ain’t got no money, you got the blues. When you ain’t got no money to pay your house rent, you still got the blues. A lot of peoples holler about 'I don’t like no blues,' but when you ain’t got no money, and can’t pay your house rent and can’t buy you no food, you damn sure got the blues. If you ain’t got no money you got the blues, because you’re thinking evil. That’s right. Any time you’re thinking evil, you’re thinking about the blues."
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
"Poverty's Paradise"---24-Carat Black
(Sampled on "The Birth" by RZA)
"Darling Come Back Home"--- Jr. Walker
(Sampled on "Heartbeat" by Royce Da 5'9")
"Seed Of Love"---Little Boy Blues
(Sampled on "Public Service Announcement" by Jay-Z and "Stay Real" by Black Moon)
"I'd Find You Anywhere"---Creative Source
(Sampled on "Wouldn't Get Far" by The Game/Kanye West and "By Your Side" by Jadakiss)
"If You Let Me"---Eddie Kendricks
(Sampled on "Brooklyn Battles" by Masta Ace, "Illside Of Town" by M.O.P., and "Excalibur" by Killah Priest)
"Can't Help But Love You"---The Whispers
(Sampled on "Drop A Gem On 'Em" by Mobb Deep)
"By The Time I Get To Phoenix"---Dorothy Ashby
(Sampled on "Start The Show" by Common/Kanye West)
"Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing"---The Dynamic Superiors
(Sampled on "Nothing Like It" by Beanie Sigel)
(Sampled on "The Pain" by Murs---prod. by 9th Wonder)
"William Tell Overture"---Gioacchino Rossini
(Sampled on "Still Tippin" by Mike Jones/Paul Wall/Slim Thug, but then who knew about this relatively uninteresting backstory? Not I.)
"Switch"---Lupe Fiasco (Bonus mp3)
Lupe has never ever been more clever than on this mixtape joint over the "Still Tippin" beat. (Yes Nichele, this one's dedicated to you...)
Eddie Kendricks in a superfly purple outfit, singing a cappella on Soul Train and avoiding questions about his departure from The Temptations:
Black Moon's "Stay Real" video:
Word From Your Moms:
"The difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to that which is unknown."---Albert Einstein
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Alright, soul kids---time to let Adam school us on karma, Sly Stone, and the fine art of yodeling. Thanks for being here, bro...Scholar
First of all, let me just say how big a thrill it was to get an email from Scholar asking me to write a guest post on Souled On, (even more so, now that I’ve seen the other folks who have written them). My site hahamusic owes a lot to Scholar (he was the first person to link us) and Souled On has been a big inspiration, so I’m hoping this even comes close to his normal caliber of posting.
I could never get on board with the concept of karma. It seemed too easy to me, because if you follow the logic (you have internal balance of good and bad acts that you have committed, etc), you can absolutely cheat at it. Say one day you jump into a lake and save somebody from drowning and the next day you rush into a burning house to save someone from burning alive respectively, do you push your karma points so far into the positive that you’ve got enough to push all those kids out of the way to get to the front of the ice-cream truck line so you can get your Fudgsicle first? Doesn’t seem quite fair does it? Not to me anyway.
So what does this have to do with sweet soul music? Or music at all? Well, I’ve been thinking recently about how we as fans give a free pass to musicians (or artists in general) who have created music (again, or art) that we really really enjoy. I’m sure you’ve done this: Your favorite musician puts out an album, or even a song on which he/she tries to do something different and experimental and fails miserably. But you let it slide, because hot damn, their first album filled a hole in your life you never knew you had, and that summer it came out you LIVED that one song from it. I have friends that will overlook entire DECADES of their favorite musicians’ careers (think Bob Dylan in the 80s) out of pure loyalty to those musicians.
This all came from the fact that I recently bought the Sly & The Family Stone album There’s a Riot Goin’ On. I hear you soul children, “Just recently? What’s wrong with you? That’s one they should issue people upon leaving the birth canal!” Regardless, I just got the album and quickly settled into it like an old comfy chair. Those old favorites “Poet” and “Family Affair,” hearing the beat on “Brave and Strong” and racking my brain to figure out where it’s been sampled (“3 Minute Rule” from Paul’s Boutique) ... it was good. But one thing really bugged me about the album. One song actually: “Spaced Cowboy,” on which Sly YODELS. Let me repeat that: Sly Stone, one of the funkiest people to have ever lived YODELS. The song itself isn’t really all that bad, but good gravy, that yodeling is like nails on a chalkboard and microphone feedback combined. But, here’s the thing: I can forgive Sly. He could make an album of just farm animal noises, and I could forgive him. He wrote “If You Want Me to Stay,” pretty high up on my list of greatest music made by human beings ever.
And then of course the conspiracy theorist part of my brain takes over and I start wondering ... What if Michael Jackson recorded Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad just to bank on himself being the batshit crazyweirdo dude he is today? Those folks with the signs supporting him at the trials weren’t there because they were close personal friends, that’s for sure. It’s like the karma thing: you score enough good points, people tend to forgive when you rack up a couple bad ones (or in Michaels case, a couple very heavy bad ones ... cough cough allegedly). I’ll say this, if they make yodeling a federal crime, I might have to pick up a sign and head down to the courthouse...
"If You Want Me To Stay"
Word From Adam's Moms:
"All the squares, go home!"---Cynthia Robinson
Friday, September 07, 2007
There are many possible words or phrases I could potentially employ to introduce today's guest writer, Zilla Rocca. Producer. MC. CEO of Beat Garden Entertainment. One-half of the dynamic duo, Clean Guns. Marketing strategist. Hustler. Authentic hip-hop junkie. Needless to say, ZR stays forever on his grind, and currently holds way more titles than your average rap heavyweight.
Since music writers/bloggers/basement critics tend to respect Zilla's artistry as much as his hustle, many different sites have featured the man and/or his music at one time or another. We all know that it's my style to show up fashionably late for the party, but then it's only polite to compensate by showing up with a pretty spectacular gift.
Instead of doing a straight-up Q&A with Zilla, I decided to take an approach that I hoped would shed some light on the essence of what drives this unstoppable machine. I asked him to write about an LP that had made a significant impact on his life. What I got in return was this insightful retrospective on Wu-Tang Clan's Forever LP---an album that undoubtedly fueled my enthusiasm and belief in the powers of hip-hop as well.
Much gratitude for being with us, Zilla. Your turn to break it down...Scholar
Last year, Jay-Z said he released Kingdom Come because hip hop needed more events to stir up anticipation. Sorry Shawn, but if you wanted an event, you had to be a hip hop fan on June 3, 1997 when Wu-Tang Forever dropped.
Talk about a build-up that actually paid off. Granted, about 3% of double albums are a good idea front to back, but that didn’t matter when Wu-Tang Forever dropped.
What mattered is that daytime hip hop radio would play “Triumph,” “It’s Yourz,” and “Reunited” whenever the hell they felt like it! What mattered is the video for “Triumph,” a five minute lyrical excursion with NO HOOK, was on TRL, Rap City and local cable video shows every day. Even if you weren’t a fan of Wu before that album came out, you at least borrowed your older brother’s double cassette from his ’95 Pontiac Grand Am to hear what the fuss was all about.
For a kid like me still learning to MC at this time, this album was a thorough practicum. You had Ol Dirty’s wild swagger and courage. You had Inspectah Deck’s precise and thoughtfully raw punchlines. You had Method Man’s charisma, flow and hardcore metaphors. You had GZA’s briefly wise narrative. You had Rae and Ghost’s Mafioso slang sprinkled with vivid storytelling and abstract shit. You had RZA’s metaphysical, mathematical off-beat flow that influenced Wu-affiliates down to white rappers named Caleb (if you’ve been in a cipher with a white guy wearing cargo shorts and dirty Saucony’s, you know what I’m talking about). And for shits and giggles, there was Masta Killa, U-God, Cappadonna and Street Life.
What I really liked about this album besides the insane lyrics was the production. RZA really could’ve just made beats that sounded like holdovers from all the classics he had in the bag prior to Forever. By bringing in a live sound (“Reunited,” “Triumph”) and allowing then up-and-comers True Master, 4th Disciple, Mathematics and Deck into the fold, Ruler Zig Zag Zig REALLY took some chances by expanding without losing the hardcore Wu sound (“For Heaven’s Sake,” “Severe Punishment”).
The album still had some gritty, overly distorted 36 Chambers moments (“Ghetto Boys,” “Heaterz,” and Raekwon’s verse on “Triumph”) blended with technically clean music and vocals. Unlike the great Wu solo albums before it, Forever didn’t stick to one cohesive style or sound. Hell, “Black Shampoo” is still the weirdest song to be on a multi-platinum mega-rap album. But it was different. It was thought provoking. It was definitely overkill. It was MASSIVE in hip hop.
Here’s a few of my personal favorites from the record that are somewhat overlooked:
“Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours”
This is the classic example of a beat that is simple enough to let the MC’s shine without getting boring. The piano loop coupled with a vocal sample that sounds like it’s saying “Oooh” is just dark enough without being gothic. Add three of the greatest flows on top in Raekwon, Method Man and Ghost and this track is curtains!
Method Man’s cadence and inflection is almost a hook in itself sandwiched between Rae and Ghost. “I remember sticking fiends at the one-six-ooh, when we was STARVING, DUCKING five-oh, PAYING them dues.” I honestly believe that Method Man’s appearances on Forever are still his best work by far. He was easily among the best MCs of 1997 alongside Inspectah Deck and Biggie.
This song was also ill because Ghost’s last 4 bars are spit acapella as his voice fades out, leaving you to wondering what would happen to Big Bolo, who stacked his shit, financed a Volvo and copped his shot from a small coffeeshop in Soho.
“As High As Wu-Tang Get”
The bass line alone on this song would make Dilla, Dr. Dre and Erick Sermon mouthwash with battery acid. The drums are almost an afterthought. Bass lines played and EQ’d like this, you will only hear on a hip hop record. Eat shit, Wynton Marsalis.
Without any recognizable samples, this track has sparse hits of keys and bended synths that don’t get in the way of the vocals (something RZA doesn’t get enough credit for when juggling a diverse group of characters).
Interestingly enough, amid ODB’s whino-singing and Method Man’s impeccable flow, GZA appears on this song (he only appeared on 7 of 28 songs). There’s a reason his name is the Genius: “Yo, too many songs, weak rhymes and mad long, make it brief son, half short and twice strong.” GZA unknowingly summed up the career of most mixtape rappers in 2007 while staking claim as the Most Efficient MC of All Time.
"Bells Of War"
Songs like this is why I really am a diehard Wu fan. The beat provides a somber and sad feel provided by the Tom Scott sample “Sneakin in the Back.” The Clansmen respond by dropping insanely descriptive and deep jewels with laid back flows.
U-God: “Words seem to zing on down to Beijing, when we touch down you crown renowned kings”
Method Man: “The smell of fear makes my nostrils FLARE, truth or DARE, ask yourself can you COM-pare, to these n*ggas in the hood, Johnny B. Good or he be gone, yeah”
Masta Killa: “We came to punish the glutton with a substance that can’t be contained, Wu-Tang”
RZA: “I stay high/hi like treble, those who oppose get plucked like rose petals, arresting and holding, penetrate forbidden regions, wack MC’s only lasting one season”
Ghostface: “Fix your sawed off, Wu-Tang tore me off the cross, all you saw was white meat skin hanging off”
There’s a small interlude in the middle where Raekwon converses with a mentally retarded man about Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. It finishes off with RZA telling us that we won’t even understand half this shit ‘til the year 2G (he was right), and that’s the formula for a solid album cut.
“Hellz Wind Staff”
Thankfully, this song didn’t appear on Liquid Swords—it’s too hectic for the GZA’s masterpiece. However, it fits right at home on Forever; it’s like a sequel to Disc One’s “Severe Punishment.”
I think if this song ended up on a solo Clansmen album, it would be a certified Wu classic. “Hellz Wind Staff” is definitely a progression of the 36 Chambers sound—fast paced, dirty kung fu samples, various sound effects and a gang of MC’s just killing shit. Even Street Life manages to catch wreck!
To me, this was an overlooked album cut because the energy of the track and the delivery of each MC’s verse is tailor made for a live show. While Street Life, Raekwon and Method Man all body the track, few can match the opening bar from Ghostface:
“Ayyo break that n*gga arm fast as a fuck”
That ranks right up there with the visually entertaining line “Throwing n*ggas off airplanes ‘cause cash rules” from “Criminology.” Ghost knows how to come off more visually authentic as a crime boss in a mere 2 bars than the entire combined efforts of the Firm album.
Plus, Inspectah Deck, who treated Forever as his coming out party, dropped one of MANY serious heatrocks on this beat.
“With the force like Luke Skywalker, rhyme author, orchestrate mind torture, live performer, bit the mic sayonora, borderline to insane I rain firewater.”
I literally ripped off Inspectah Deck’s entire style of MCing from 1997-1999. Can you blame me? Rebel INS is that dude!
I really don’t recall anyone my age at the time who didn’t own this album. Sadly, I can’t imagine that many people STILL own this album. We all know what happened to Wu after this record and the climate of hip hop from ’98 until now. And while Forever didn’t completely change the culture like 36 Chambers, it most definitely had a ridiculous impact on hip hop fans who didn’t want to hear “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” all damn day.
It’s Wu, motherfuckers. Wu-Tang, motherfuckers!
In addition to blessing us with his thoughts, Zilla also was good enough to share a couple of his mixtape joints to accompany his post. Witness the witty, unpredictable Zilla as he and his compadres rhyme over a couple of classic Wu-related beats...
"Shadowboxin' Freestyle"---Clean Guns & DAME (from an upcoming mixtape on yadibox.com)
"Run Freestyle"---Clean Guns (from the Living In Harmony Mixtape)
The first mixtape will be available soon on yadibox. The site is currently experiencing some technical issues, but keep checking back until you succeed...
The Living In Harmony mixtape can be purchased here.
Word From Zilla's Moms:
"You can't be lucky all the time but you can be smart everyday."---Mos Def
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
How we feelin' out there, soul children? I hope that you've been enjoying the guest series because some of the best submissions are yet to come. Since I've been on somewhat of a hiatus for the past couple of weeks (with the exception of the latest edition of Souled On Samples), I figured I'd hijack the plane for a second to share a few records that I've been diggin' recently...
"A Fool Can't See The Light"--- O.V. Wright
This isn't the first time that I've posted about Overton Vertis Wright, so there probably isn't a need to write a lengthy dissertation about my affinity for his deep soul sound.
Born in Leno, Tennessee, O.V.'s humble beginnings stem from singing in the church, which led to his involvement in several gospel groups, including The Five Harmonaires, The Spirit of Memphis Quartet, The Highway QCs, and The Sunset Travellers. Even as his career progressed into secular music, Wright's vocal style continued to maintain a certain sanctified intensity that simply couldn't be matched by the majority of his peers. If his records don't make you feel something, well...you're probably dead.
This particular track was recorded during Wright's tenure at Hi Records---the label he was signed to in the latter phase of his career, before his untimely drug-related death in 1980. Despite the fact that many soul enthusiasts argue that his best work came out of his earlier recordings with Back Beat, this song has always been an absolute favorite of mine from his years on Hi. Wright didn't sign with the label until after being released from jail on narcotics charges, and it's often speculated that his addictions and a push towards achieving greater mainstream recognition resulted in an overall weakening of his artistic integrity. That said, I think you'll agree that this track is a notable exception, exemplifying the signature harrowing emotionalism that helped O.V. become one of the most celebrated deep soul singers of all time.
"Momma Momma"---Betty Barney
Despite the fact that finding biographical data on Ms. Barney is somewhat of a needle-in-a-haystack endeavor, there's no denying that she's as brilliantly gritty as she is obscure. Originally released in 1969 on the GWP label as the flip side to "You Want My Lovin", this irresistible tune has since appeared on a few rarities compilations over the years. Barney's vocal delivery on the track is funky, yet soulful, and travels directly from her gut through the pathway of your auditory canal.
This song was originally written and recorded by hippie folkster Melanie. Barney's version makes you want to move your feet, while sorry, but the original conveys the sort of somber tone that's a more fitting soundtrack for moments when you feel like slashing your wrists. Goodbye cruel world...
I considered offering Melanie's take as a bonus mp3, but since only about 10 of you will be inclined to give a damn, interested parties can request it via email (email@example.com).
If this tune gets you hooked on Betty, she also laid some vocals for the Pazant Brothers, who were mainly an instrumental outfit. They cut some amazing records that are genuinely worth digging for as well.
My first introduction to Blockhead came by way of his efforts as a hip-hop DJ/producer, including his work with Murs, Aesop Rock, Slug, S.A. Smash, Mike Ladd, Cage, Party Fun Action Committee, etc. While he's crafted some amazing beats along those lines, it's become somewhat of a fool's errand to try to describe his material within the confines of a single genre. Some might categorize his three solo offerings on Ninja Tune as downtempo or trip-hop, but even these categorizations don't quite seem like an all-encompassing or exact fit.
"The Strain" is from his most recent release on Ninja Tune, Uncle Tony's Coloring Book. It's a fine example of the versatility he embodies as a beatsmith and recording artist, because...what exactly is this stuff, anyway? Incredible to listen to---that's what.
A couple of videos for exceptional tracks from Blockhead's previous LPs:
"The Art Of Walking":
"Didn't We"---Irene Reid
I'm not going to lie to you, children. Most of the time I discover the soul, jazz, funk, and blues records first---but in this case, I tracked this record down because of its use as a sample on a hip-hop track. Despite not being much of a fan of Lil' Kim, I have probably heard most of Kanye West's productions at some time or another. I remember hearing an instrumental version of "Came Back For You" some time ago and quickly resolving to track down the original song.
This inevitably led to coming across the lovely sounds of Irene Reid. Although she's primarily known as a jazz vocalist, there's an unmistakably soulful vibe to many of her recordings, especially her ballads. I won't pretend to be an expert on her material, as I have yet to hear all of it, but I do know that her career began in the 1960s, and that she's experienced an unlikely return to prominence since the late '90s with some releases on the Savant label.
"Didn't We" (from The World Needs What I Need LP) is the gorgeous song Kanye sampled that initiated my ongoing quest to discover more of her material. This version is ripped from vinyl, giving it that deep, crackling sound that wax enthusiasts (such as myself) so completely adore.
"Spottieottie 'Til Infinity"---Outkast/ Floyd the Locsmif mix
I'm going to roll with the assumption that Outkast doesn't require any sort of introduction, so I'll focus my attention on Floyd the Locsmif. Hailing from Fitzgerald, GA, Floyd is currently crafting his jazzy, soulful beats in the "durty, durty" streets of the ATL. While his name may never have been uttered in most households, he boasts some of the finest production work that the South currently has to offer. His supreme clientele includes Cee-Lo, 50 Cent, OC, Lil Sci, J-Live, and more.
This particular joint is from a lovely collection of remixes and blends he released in 2004, Outskirts: The Unofficial Lost Outkast Remixes.
"The Way We Lived"---Wax Tailor w/ Sharon Jones
I haven't met many soul fans who don't think the world of Sharon Jones, but Wax Tailor's name may not be as immediately recognizable to many of you. Consider yourself baited, and hopefully hooked...
Wax Tailor (born JC Le Saout) is a French producer/DJ/arranger/composer who's more than paid his dues in the music business, despite not gaining much attention from North American audiences until he licensed his last LP (Tales Of The Forgotten Melodies) for distribution in this part of the globe. Following its release, he embarked on a worldwide tour, opening for the likes of RJD2 and Aceyalone. "The Way We Lived" appears on his most recent LP, the exceptional Hope And Sorrow. As I love to say when I get to preachin' about lesser-known artists---don't sleep on this one, kids.
Video for "Que Sera" from the Tales LP:
"Came Back For You (instrumental)"---Kanye West (featuring a sample of "Didn't We" by Irene Reid). Good, but yes---he gave it the sped-up, "chimpmunk" treatment...
Word From Your Moms:
"I don't dig staying in one groove."---Chico Hamilton
Saturday, September 01, 2007
For his guest post, he was kind enough to break down the history behind underground heavyweights Tha Alkaholiks. Many thanks for stopping by to school us, Jaz...Scholar
“Baby , baby it's Tha Alkaholiks...”
DJ/Producer (and MC) E-Swift and his amazing MCs J-Ro and Tash were one of a kind, a legendary West Coast rap group that always had the best of the West and East Coast styles and sound.
First known as ESP, it wasn't until 1991 (when the other group ESP on Atlantic made them look at changing their name) that LA rap vet King Tee christened them as the World Famous Alkaholiks (later shortened to Tha Liks).
E-Swift first appeared on the King's dope 1990 At Your Own Risk LP on the cut "E Get Swift".
In 1992, the King enlisted his new crew on the classic single "I Got It Bad Y'all", a fat concoction of infamous Lou Donaldson jazz drums (the best use ever, in my opinion), bass, James Brown samples, horns, and the unique flows of all three sounding just as at home alongside the King as they did when they appeared on "Bust Dat Ass". Both tracks appeared on the The Triflin Album in 1992, which eventually led to the crew being signed to Loud records.
The first single, "Make Room", featured hard-hitting Sly and The Family Stone drums, J.B.'s trumpet squeal, and a classic Slick Rick sample. The track is still a dancefloor anthem to this day. The Liks never claimed to be role models and the lyrics were often centered around partying, liquor, girls, twos, Hip Hop and having fun, with the line “aint no party like an Alkaholik party” eventually becoming a slogan.
In 1993, the 21 & Over LP followed, and was a classic (albeit short) album of classic breaks, cuts, loops and intoxicated rhyming. It also featured a young and unknown crew named Lootpack on "Turn The Party Out". 21 & Over also signaled the debut of Threat.
This album also saw the beginning of The Likwit crew, with King Tee appearing on "Likwit", and E-Swift producing the 1994 street anthem "Duck" for King Tee's (in my opinion) dopest album, King Tee IV Life.
In 1995, Coast II Coast was released. It was just as dope as the first one, and contained the hits "Daaam" and "The Next Level". The album featured not only 2 really dope Diamond D beats, but also an incredible Madlib beat. Declaime was introduced on "WLIX" and a young Xzibit also appeared on a couple of tracks. The album also spawned a sought-after Diamond D remix of "The Next Level", and the crew also released the title track, "Coast II Coast", on the Friday soundtrack (and not on the actual album, which I always found odd).
By now Tha Alkaholiks were very well-known names, and other groups started coming to E-Swift for his beats. Between 1995 and 2002, he laced tracks for Heltah Skeltah, King Just, Defari, four tracks on Xzibit's debut At The Speed Of Life, OGC, Everlast, Tash, Dilated Peoples, Phil Da Agony, The Barber Shop MC's, and others.
In 1997, the crew dropped their fourth album. Likwidation wasn't as good as the first three, but there were still some great tracks. The album had a mass of guest artists from Keith Murray, the late, great and certifiably insane Old Dirty Bastard, Lootpack and The Whoridas, with beats from Easy Mo Bee, Madlib, T-Smoov, and of course E-Swift.
Between 1998 and 2003, Defari's great Focused Daily debut album dropped; Xzibit had more success with his second album, 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz; Tash dropped a good solo album, Rap Life; Lootpack released Soundpieces: Da Antidote (I fail to see how people can not enjoy this album); Declaime had a great EP, and Wildchild dropped his solo debut album Secondary Protocol in 2002.
By the time they dropped their fifth album, X.O. Experience, rap had changed and Pharell was having his heydays, so they enlisted him for their first single off the album, "Best U Can". I honestly thought it was a very average album, but there were a few gems like the rocking DJ Scratch produced "Bully Foot", "My Dear" and "Bar Code", featuring Xzibit and produced by E-Swift.
In addition to what I have listed, J-Ro has appeared on tracks with J-Zone, Dangermouse and Jemini, The Hieroglyphics, Coolio, Masta Ace, De La Soul, Stimulated Dummies, Daz and Kurupt, The S.T.O.P. Movement (Paris), Prince Po, as well as some solo cuts.
Besides his solo album, Tash has appeared on tracks with Madkap, Ras Kass, Mos Def, De La Soul, Rakaa, Ice-T and Q-Tip, Tony Touch, Phil Da Agony, Spontaneous, Prince Paul, Beat Assailant, Classified, Federation, and others. In 2006, they released their final album Firewater, which a lot of people slept on, but the album had some great tracks and was much better than X.O. Experience.
I was lucky enough to see a final Alkaholiks show when I was in Melbourne last year. I still have fond memories of that show and I will always have fond memories of the great Alkaholiks, as they have given myself and their fans so many years of listening pleasure, and more than made their mark in the competitive World of Hip Hop.
I have done up a compilation of remixes, b-sides and other Liks material. I have no doubt there have been others up, but this is my dedication post, and my compilation as a salute to Ro, Swift and Tash....Bottoms Up...hic
Special thanks to my man Riffs for some dope hook ups and of course thanks a ton Scholar, I appreciate it a lot...
Jaz presents Tha Likwit Files:
(Note: If you're interested in this exclusive compilation, contact Jaz at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy. He prefers this method of distribution to "annoy the leeches".)
1. king tee ft e-swift - e get swift
2. tha alkaholiks ft threat - who dem niggas
3. defari ft the alkaholiks & phil da agony - likwit connection
4. tha alkaholiks - coast ii coast
5. tha alkaholiks - the next level (e-swift remix)
6. tha alkaholiks ft lootpack & declaime - wlix
7. xzibit ft king tee & tha liks - let it rain
8. tha alkaholiks - daaam (swift mix)
9. lootpack feat. the alkaholiks & defari - likwit fusion
10.king tee ft the alkaholiks i got it bad yall (calypso remix)
11.tha alkaholiks-no hand outs
12.king tee ft tha alkaholiks,mc breeze and xzibit- free style ghetto
13.xzibit feat tha liks & phil da agony-prime time (prod pete rock)
14.tha alkaholiks ft o.d.b. - hip hop drunkies (vinyl reanimators remix)
15.tha alkaholiks-relieve yourself
16.tha alkaholiks ft busta rhymes-blow up the spot
17.dilated peoples - right on (feat. tha alkaholiks)
18.tha alkaholiks - contents under pressure
19.likwit allstars-cali kings
20.tha alkaholiks- mary jane (remix)
Word From Jaz's Moms:
"Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art."---Charlie Parker