Monday, April 28, 2008
From The Depths Of Creation Life Still Flourishes...
How we feelin' out there, soul children?
No sense in trying to conceal the obvious---I've been lazy as all hell this past week or so. I've written some excerpts for upcoming posts and been in contact with a couple of future guests who I'm sure you're going to appreciate, but otherwise, I've just been taking it easy for a minute.
I don't know about you, but most of the time when I'm relaxing, music is somehow involved in the equation. That means that even when I haven't consciously decided to put forth any effort for this site, I'm still constantly hearing sounds that I want to share with all of you. It's an illness that I'm pretty certain has no discernable cure.
Maurice Blanchot once shared this piece of wisdom: “Lovers of painting and lovers of music are people who openly display their preference like a delectable ailment that isolates them and makes them proud.” I suppose that sentiment speaks volumes as to why my energy and enthusiasm for this blog seems to perpetuate into infinity.
It may very well be a sickness, but fuck it---it's time to get ill...
"Stay With Me"---Lorraine Ellison (zShare)
"Stay With Me"---Lorraine Ellison (savefile)
This is such a strange thing to admit, but the first time I recall hearing this song was when Bette Midler sang it in The Rose. Bette often bores me to no end with her insipid adult contemporary balladry, but I won't hate. Before she started belting anthems for desperate housewives and insufferably sappy soccer moms, she was doing edgier stuff like performing in men's bathhouses and plastering 45 records in her 'fro with copious amounts of Aqua Net. While this was utterly offensive to the ozone layer and the so-called moral majority, at least her antics back then were mildly amusing.
At any rate, Midler's version of "Stay With Me" is hardly the best on wax even though I almost kinda like it. There have undoubtedly been some very worthy covers of this tune, but Ellison's version remains the uncompromising original. I don't generally gravitate towards songs that have a flat emotional affect, and Ellison's vocal performance is just the opposite in terms of expression. Her voice is urgent, pleading, and full of despair. Just listen...you can feel the woman's pain all up in your spleen.
"Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)"---Jay Electronica (zShare)
"Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)"---Jay Electronica (savefile)
I would ask for a late pass on this one, but everyone knows my ass is retro. I was reading some comments in a forum the other day, and the e-thugs are already declaring Jay dead because his hype has supposedly peaked before he's even released a full-length LP (not to mention that little mishap at Nokia Theatre). On the current hip hop clock, that may well mean that he'll be considered "old school" by the middle of next week.
I have no good reason for not posting about him sooner, because I've been diggin' this cat since day one. This joint is just one of many reasons why I've contemplated whether or not Jay could possibly save our misguided souls from blingtastic ridiculousness once and for all. Regardless, this should be required listening for anyone who refuses to acknowledge the spectrum of creative possibilites inherent in this thing we summarily refer to as hip hop.
"This Time"---Baby Charles (zShare)
"This Time"---Baby Charles (savefile)
I actually couldn't agree more with the description that appears on this band's website: "Baby Charles are a special band. Their funky music is simultaneously tight but loose, heavy but soulful and dirty... yet beautiful."
I know that many of you refuse to listen to any funk or soul that was pressed after 1975, and although I can appreciate that sentiment to some degree, I can promise that you've missed out on some truly phenomenal artists in the past 30+ years, gramps and grannies. Just don't let Baby Charles be one of 'em.
"The Lie"---Andre Williams (zShare)
"The Lie"---Andre Williams (savefile)
Whether Andre "Mr. Rhythm" Williams is a bizarre sleazebag or a misunderstood genius is a matter of relatively strong opinion amongst those who are familiar with his legacy. Regardless of your viewpoint on his...ummm...morality, it can hardly be denied that the Black Godfather's written and performed some of the most bad-ass, soul-shaking rhythms to ever rattle the chains of an unsuspecting music industry.
Addressing his detractors, Williams once said: "Get off my back about the language; I'm trying to tell a story. Dig the theme. We can't all go on the expressway. Sometimes some of us got to take the low road." While you couldn't pay me enough to introduce him to my grandmother, focusing entirely on his smuttier material is to mistakenly overlook the many facets of the man and his music.
There's so much to Williams' story that I can't possibly do his biography justice without writing something of encyclopedic proportions. However, here are a few very random facts about him:
*Andre not only has enjoyed an illustrious recording career as a solo artist, he's also known for his songwriting and production credits. His past affiliates include Mary Wells, Ike & Tina Turner, George Clinton, The Chi-Lites, The Dramatics, The Contours, and Stevie Wonder. In the first phase of his career he was associated with labels such as Fortune, Motown, Epic, Chess, and Duke/Peacock.
*He's sometimes been called the Father Of Rap, owing to the spoken-word and graphic storytelling style evidenced on many of his recordings. He also knows a thing or two about hustlin'.
*Williams definitely doesn't hold his tongue when he reminisces on the people who he's worked with over the years...
On Motown's Berry Gordy: "Berry was one of the greatest record producers that I've ever seen, but I didn't like him!"
On Alvin Cash (for whom he wrote "Twine Time"): "What a dumb motherfucker!"
On Stevie Wonder: "Stevie Wonder was a real nuisance, he knocked the pianos out of tune all fuckin' day."
*Williams had some major addiction problems that effectively ended the first part of his career. He traces much of his affinity for cocaine back to the time he spent producing Ike Turner. He ended up smoking crack, being homeless, and panhandling on a Chicago bridge for a period of time.
*In 1996, Williams got it together and began working towards revitalizing his career in music. He released a comeback LP called Greasy, and started performing live and reacquainting himself with the record-buying public. Since then, he's released 6 subsequent LPs, and is reportedly working on another.
While Williams has undoubtedly maintained some fans from his earlier years, he's also amassed a cult following of new admirers. Largely due to his own diversity as an artist, his music appeals to a broad audience of funk, punk, soul, hip hop, rockabilly, blues, and country enthusiasts.
"The Lie" appeared on his Bait & Switch LP, released on Norton in 2001. Not particularly naughty, but not exactly nice, it should serve as a worthy middle-of-the-road introduction to the many faces of Mr. Rhythm.
"Blue Monday People"---Curtis Mayfield (zShare)
"Blue Monday People"---Curtis Mayfield (savefile)
If I was forced to compile a list of my ten favorite Curtis Mayfield tracks (how do I come up with these highly unlikely predicaments?), "Blue Monday People" would be included without a second thought.
I suppose I could have posted a nice clean copy of the track, but this vinyl rip makes the song all the more appealing to me. The static hiss, scratch and pop has become such a welcome familiar, I prefer the deeper grooves.
"Saul Seance (Sardonic Smirk Mix)"---Saul Williams (zShare)
"Saul Seance (Sardonic Smirk Mix)"---Saul Williams (savefile)
I'm convinced that Saul Williams has come to Earth light years before the people are ready to receive his prophetic message.
The history of the universe is destined to read something like this: Once we thought that the world was flat, that drilling holes in people's skulls would make them well, that McDonald's actually tasted good, and that Saul Williams was just talkin' some crazed Afro-electro-hippie bullshit. Damn...did we get it twisted or what?
Sardonic Smirk is still not widely known, but he's released some fairly good mixtapes, one of which is entirely dedicated to Williams. While it has its imperfections, this mix of "Gypsy Girl" is pretty exceptional in my opinion. The music sometimes drowns out the lyrics...I'm undecided as to whether that effect was intentional or not. Either way, the musical backdrop seems to perfectly complement the intensity of the lyrics the more that I listen to this. If you're interested in reading all of the words, you can find them here.
Dig deeper... (Saul Williams)
Dig deeper... (Sardonic Smile)
"One For Jackie"---DJ Arkive/The Harlem Experiment (zShare)
"One For Jackie"---DJ Arkive/The Harlem Experiment (savefile)
This track comes from the third installment in Ropeadope's Experiment series---an effort to revisit and pay homage to decades of music that emanated from Harlem's rich cultural and stylistic landscape (Philly and Detroit were the first to be explored). The Harlem Experiment is not a band, but rather a collective of musicians who were united to generate this somewhat massive undertaking.
Obviously, this is a rather ambitious idea for a project, and the high level of expectation that naturally attaches itself to such a lofty concept/ideal is bound to occasionally disappoint. With that understood, this LP can be truly enjoyable if you don't sincerely expect it to single-handedly encapsulate and represent the voluminous wonders of the Harlem music scene. If you simply think of it as inspired funky jazz hop with a soulful salsa twist, the Experiment will yield incredibly desirable results.
"The Prelude"---Has-Lo (zShare)
"The Prelude"---Has-Lo (savefile)
I first heard from Has-Lo a few months ago when he asked me to check out his EP, Fuck Has Day. I slept for several weeks, planning to listen, but always postponing it for one reason or another. Have you ever gotten an amazing CD or record after much deliberation and later wondered why you put it off for so damn long? That's exactly the feeling I had when I finally downloaded his EP, as if every moment that link sat in my inbox was time wasted and illness deferred.
There are so many reasons why this Philly resident reigns supreme over most of the unsigned hype I've heard in the past year or so. Although many of his influences are apparent in his beats and rhymes, Has is hardly a cheap imitation of anything you've ever heard before. His wordplay is thoughtful, clever, and intelligent, while his production style is both innovative and unique. Despite this element of originality, he manages to avoid the pitfalls of pretentious fools who sound like they're trying too hard to be different. These qualities alone make this EP as relevant to the streets as it is to backpackers in button ups. Although you can tell he's spent quite a bit of time honing his skills, his tracks somehow come across as profoundly effortless.
While I believe in supporting musicians at every level of the food chain, we all know that up-and-coming artists are almost always struggling to make some paper. You can buy tracks directly from Has on his MySpace page, where you can stream the other joints on his EP before you make the wise decision to cop his material.
"Nude (Holy Fuck Remix)"---Radiohead (zShare)
"Nude (Holy Fuck Remix)"---Radiohead (savefile)
My fixation with Radiohead reduxes is well-documented, so you must recognize how much I'm diggin' the "Nude" remix contest at radioheadremix.com. At the time of this writing 1989 remixes have been submitted. Admittedly, I've only listened to about 200 of them, but from what I've heard, Holy Fuck deserves to win the lifetime supply of Hamburger Helper or whatever the hell they're giving away as the top prize.
Despite the fact that I enjoy the act of rebelling against the consensus (whatever it may be), I can't help but give these guys props. Apparently, a lot of blogs feel the same way, because this mix is posted everywhere I turn in cyberspace. Is the buzz because they're winning, or are they winning because of the buzz? Chicken vs. The Egg hypotheses hurt my brain...you snitches be the judge.
"Fucked Up (Hurricane Mix Ft. Thom Yorke)"---Tupac Shakur (zShare)
"Fucked Up (Hurricane Mix Ft. Thom Yorke)"---Tupac Shakur (savefile)
Before I peace out, I have one more Radiohead-related remix for the enlightened few who will appreciate. Hate me if you have to...although I respect him, Tupac is not one of my Top 5 Dead Or Alive. Although there are billions of exceptions, I'm not immediately drawn to the production sounds on a lot of early '90s west coast hip hop records, and that greatly impacts my ability to listen to Pac on a regular basis. As a result, I'm always up for a good remix of his material. Blend that with a little Thom Yorke and I'm doubly down...
All respect and propers to Dukes over at The Full Clip for putting me on to this track. Dukes is my kind of people, and not just because he seems to like Radiohead remixes as much as I do. My man is posting incredible hip hop joints over there every single day. I'm actually waiting for him to drop something that isn't quality, but he just won't let it be. Think hip hop is dead or at least gasping for air? Let The Full Clip convince you otherwise.
A few Souled On family members have released material in the past few weeks. Gotta do what we can to support our own:
You may remember how much I hyped Soul Klap's American Gangster remixes when he first dropped them. Now Klap's back with another banger called Soul-Xplotation, his proper debut EP. As I've said before, this dude's production skills are impeccable, but I was literally floored by what a dope MC he is as well. It may sound unbelievable, but Klap makes the present-day Kanye sound like a parody of himself. I bought Graduation praying it would sound something like this. Soul-Xploitation takes me back to a much better time and place, when 'Ye was tearing up the mixtape circuit with one hot joint after another. I use the Kanye metaphor only as a reference point, but make no mistake...Klap's got his own style that is virtually unparalleled on the current hip hop scene.
Head over to Souler Space where you can cop the first of many big things to come from this lyrical and production wizard. It's well worth your time and the little bit of change it'll cost to show him some support.
Another soulful beatsmith on the rise is my man Graziano from Italy. Although Graz has done production on single tracks in the past, his recent remix of Joe Budden's Mood Musik 3 is his first full-length effort. He calls his take on the LP The Soulful Mood, and you should recognize one or two of the tracks he sampled from music I've previously posted here. I told Graz off the top that I'm not a big J.B. fan myself, but his soulful spin makes these joints much more enjoyable...trust and believe. The project is absolutely free, so you have nothing to lose by checking it out. Cop it here.
Last but never least, my friend Donny Goines is staying on his hustle by sending out tons of new material to those who run blogs and websites where his material has been featured in the past. Most of you will remember his guest appearance here several months ago when he wrote a captivating article about life as a struggling artist. I got a lot of positive feedback via e-mail about that feature, so I'm sure quite a few of you are ready for more.
Here's one of Donny's latest joints. If you like his style, be sure to keep his name in your mouth and his music in your headphones:
"Play Out In The Rain"---Donny Goines
Saul Williams and DJ Krust's brilliant collabo on "Coded Language":
"Studies show that when a given norm is changed in the face of the unchanging, the remaining contradictions will parallel the truth."
Word From Your Moms:
"You see, Ms. Winfrey, at it's worst; Hip Hop is simply a reflection of the society that birthed it. Our love affair with gangsterism and the denigration of women is not rooted in Hip Hop; rather it is rooted in the very core of our personal faith and religions. The gangsters that rule Hip Hop are the same gangsters that rule our nation. 50 Cent and George Bush have the same birthday (July 6th). For a Hip Hop artist to say "I do what I wanna do/Don't care if I get caught/The DA could play this mothaf@kin tape in court/I'll kill you/ I ain't playin'" epitomizes the confidence and braggadocio we expect and admire from a rapper who claims to represent the lowest denominator. When a world leader with the spirit of a cowboy (the true original gangster of the West: raping, stealing land, and pillaging, as we clapped and cheered.) takes the position of doing what he wants to do, regardless of whether the UN or American public would take him to court, then we have witnessed true gangsterism and violent negligence. Yet, there is nothing more negligent than attempting to address a problem one finds on a branch by censoring the leaves."
*An excerpt from Saul Williams' open letter to Harpo, addressing her denigrating remarks towards hip hop.