My man Travis from WYDU is one of my favorite people in the world to discuss hip-hop with, and we are always making recommendations to each other based on our unique tastes in the genre. At some point a while back, Travis bridged a connection between myself and one of my absolute favorite MC/producers on the rise, Has-Lo. Since then, Lo and I have kept in contact, and ultimately decided to bring something more original than simply discussing his work (if you remember, I already did that here). Realizing that there are many crate diggers and aspiring producers who pass through here, we came up with the idea for him to shed some light on the sample sources and production methods he utilized on his Small Metal Objects EP.
Going all the way back to Afrika Bambaataa steaming the labels off of his records so that no one would know what he was playing, DJs and producers have generally been apt to conceal the weapons of their trade behind a veil of secrecy. Consequently, I consider it a great honor that Lo was willing to bless us with this critical breakdown. Hopefully you crazy kids will enjoy the ride.
At some point there will be a sequel covering the remainder of the tracks on the Small Metal Objects EP, as well as some remixes and videos. Meanwhile, check for Lo on MySpace, where you can download both of his projects and a remix of Fuck Has Day by Small Professor. As Moms always says, the best things in life are free.
Keep diggin', snitches...Scholar
I was actually supposed to do this when my first EP came out. I couldn't really do it the way I'd have liked to. However, it's a new day...and I have a new EP. And I'm back for round 2. The EP is called Small Metal Objects. The title (if you're wondering) comes from the title cut's opening line: "I'm the small metal object that enters your brain/ after being shot screaming out a tunnel of flames". I think we all know what that means...heat rocks beeyooootch!
Anyway, I got at Scholar again and he was gracious enough to give me some space to show my wares. I thought you guys may be interested in going behind the scenes with me: taking a look at some of the source material that I drew from to produce this EP. If you didn't know I produced all of it sans "The Commentary" which was produced by my good friend, DeeJay Tone. In that way, you might enjoy the EP on a deeper level, or if you don't have it, you may be more excited about downloading it.
Let's get to it!
"I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know"---Donny Hathaway(LimeLinx)
"I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know"---Donny Hathaway (savefile)
"Ain't Got It In Ya"---Has-Lo (LimeLinx)
"Ain't Got It In Ya"---Has-Lo (savefile)
The first actual song on the EP is "Ain't Got It In Ya". This is a pretty easy one for all you music lovers out there. The sample comes from my man and yours, the great Donny Hathaway. The inspiration for the way I chopped it was another great, J Dilla. I believe I had been listening to Donuts. It intrigued me that he'd lace these beats and some of them wouldn't even really have drums. He'd let the drums in the sample drive the entire beat. I wanted to do something like that...with my own twist. I picked out "More Than You'll Ever Know" mostly for the feeling, and added some 808s for the win. I had the ill intro into the first verse, but I wanted an interesting breakdown in between the verses. DeeJay Tone came with the idea of kinda blending into the original. This EP was about having fun and just trying things. We did it and it's a bit strange but I think it's fresh.
"Synthetic Substitution"---Melvin Bliss (LimeLinx)
"Synthetic Substitution"---Melvin Bliss (savefile)
"Small Metal Objects"---Has-Lo (LimeLinx)
"Small Metal Objects"---Has-Lo (savefile)
I can't say much about the title cut "Small Metal Objects" because a brother like me can't give away ALL his secrets. There are, however, one or two elements to this experiment in sound that are classic and easy to identify. The Melvin Bliss break? Let me tell you guys something: I'm a big Ghostface fan. I am positive I listened to Supreme Clientele at some point during the making of this EP (for the fifty-millionth time). After hearing "Mighty Healthy", how could I not use this break at least once? It's almost a right of producer passage, like flipping "Nautilus".
"Love Me Like The Rain"---The Chambers Brothers (LimeLinx)
"Love Me like The Rain"---The Chambers Brothers (savefile)
"Inhuman Interlude"---Has-Lo (LimeLinx)
"Inhuman Interlude"---Has-Lo (savefile)
"Inhuman Interlude". The halfway marker on the EP. The title doesn't really have anything to do with what's going on vocally in the interlude. The title of the beat is "Inhuman"...I just went with it. This sample comes from the same Chambers Brothers album as the frequently sampled gem "So Tired". The LP is called Time Has Come Today. If you haven't heard it, I recommend it. Anyway, the song I tapped was "Love Me Like The Rain". The guitar piece is mad soulful with the tamborines and all. I added the heavy drums, some synths and a touch of bass. It came out pretty dope if you ask me. I originally had the idea to make this a posse cut. That idea didn't pan out. Instead I took some funny voice-mails I had and laced it a la "Aight Chill". A nice head nod moment.
"Night Bird"---Basil Poledouris (LimeLinx)
"Night Bird"---Basil Poledouris (savefile)
"Dogma"---Has-Lo ft. Awar (LimeLinx)
"Dogma"---Has-Lo ft. Awar (savefile)
The "Dogma" joint wasn't originally planned for the EP. It just kinda came together. In between games of GTA4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, we somehow found time to actually get in the studio. That day, I was in there about to work on a beat for a different song I was thinking about putting on the project. A few guys were over the crib. We were all just laughing and talking trash. I was going through the "Conan the Destroyer" soundtrack looking for a certain sample I had in mind. I came across this eerie string piece on my way to it. I sampled it on a whim and started messing around with it. About 15 minutes later I had a serious contender. It was also dope because I don't usually make beats that fast. I added some bass, some bells in the hook, and some vocal parts from a story on vinyl...something about a war I believe. Funny how a beat like this can knock so hard. Sometimes basic is beautiful. Keep it simple stupid.
So there you have it. We were going to do this in one shot at first, but you know what? Go on 'head and keep the party going: 2 parts.
I'll get back at you guys with the next half on the flip.
Direct link to download the entire Small Metal Objects EP here.
Word From Has-Lo's Moms:
"There is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right living"---David Starr Jordan
"The machine don't rest. Love, hell or right...or love hell in death"---Has-Lo (from the song "Dogma")
Monday, November 24, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Update: All links via LimeLinx have been fixed/re-upped; let me know if you have any other previewing/downloading problems
"Foolish Fool"---Dee Dee Warwick (LimeLinx)
"Foolish Fool"---Dee Dee Warwick (savefile)
"I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else"---Dee Dee Warwick (LimeLinx)
"I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else"---Dee Dee Warwick (savefile)
If you've been reading Souled On for a while, you may already know that I consider Dee Dee Warwick to be one of the most underappreciated female soul singers of all time. When she passed away at a nursing home in New Jersey a few weeks ago, it was predictably with little fanfare or recognition by mainstream media sources. As it was throughout her lifetime, so it was at the time of her death...
Dee Dee (born Delia Mae) and her sister Dionne began their music careers in the 1950s, performing together as The Gospelaires and joining forces with The Drinkard Singers, some of whom were members of their family. While both vocalists crossed over into secular music the following decade and embarked on solo ventures, it wasn't long before Dionne's popularity and commercial viability would come to fully overshadow that of her younger sibling.
Ultimately, Dee Dee enjoyed a few R&B chart successes and managed to garner a couple of Grammy nominations, but she primarily made her name and living as a session singer. Sadly, her talents were continously outshined by the radiance of the stars she was professionally aligned with, including legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Anyone familiar with the warmth and resplendence of her vocals, however, might agree that soul heaven burns that much brighter now that she has passed through to the other side. Rest in peace, sweet soul sister.
Dee Dee performing "We're Doing Fine":
"All Good"---Illa J (LimeLinx)
"All Good"---Illa J (savefile)
Anyone familiar with the hustle of the late great J Dilla knows that the hip hop producer/MC was one of the most prolific and hard-working artists to grace the pages of music history. As a result, he left behind a wealth of unreleased material that has gradually been leaked onto albums, bootlegs, and mixtapes. While posthumous efforts by many artists sound unfinished and are often greatly lacking in terms of quality, Dilla's stash of unused beats has proven to consist of quite a few gems worthy of unleashing.
A grip of these unheard sounds were recently handed down to John "Illa J" Yancey, Dilla's younger brother, from the vaults of Michael “Mike Floss” Ross, owner and founder of Delicious Vinyl. An aspiring singer/rapper/musician himself, Illa moved from Detroit to Los Angeles after his brother passed away, setting up the Yancey Boys Studio with Dilla's recording equipment. When Ross met up with Illa last year, he decided to bless him with beats he'd been holding for over a decade. "They're his birthright" he said. "I really believe Jay Dee would be proud of what his brother is doing."
Illa J dropped his self-penned lyrics over the material, culminating in what would come to be known as the Yancey Boys LP. The album wasn't officially released until November 4th, but the "We're Here" single and speculations buzzing from Dilla's loyal fanbase have already resulted in quite a bit of hype about the project.
You don't need me to tell you what to think, which is good because I can't offer a definitive opinion about Yancey Boys. Sometimes I think oh-that's-so-nice-this-Illa-J-kid-is-really-tryin'-his-absolute-damnedest-to-keep-his-brother's-legacy-alive, but other times...despite feeling kinda guilty about it...I want him to shut the hell up. I'm like...damn...couldn't we have just gotten these beats on some Donuts: The Sequel-type ish?
Regardless, I ain't the least bit mad at Illa J about "All Good". I can usually do without the neo-soul caterwauling, so this joint's laidback spoken word/rap takes a smoother ride through my aural pathways than the lion's share of the tracks on the LP. Dilla's ridiculously tight beat is as fresh as it is familiar...something new to nod your head to, but uncompromisingly true to his signature sound. Illa flows over the beat like H 2 the O, lacing the track with a few lines that seem to especially penetrate and resonate. Check it for yourselves, children.
"(I Remember) Mr. Banks"---Maceo & All The King's Men (LimeLinx)
"(I Remember) Mr. Banks"---Maceo & All The King's Men (savefile)
When Maceo Parker revolted and momentarily left his role as James Brown's sideman, the aptly titled Doing Their Own Thing (1970) was the first record that he and other members of JB's orchestra released without the Hardest Working Man In Show Business at the helm. Obviously, the project wasn't given the proverbial Godfather's blessing, and it's been rumored that Brown paid radio stations not to play it and/or used his widespread influence to ultimately spell the record's demise.
Whether or not there's any truth to this claim, it's difficult to understand why else this masterpiece of funkdafied jazz failed to move any units, quickly descending into a realm of obscurity reserved for the serious-crate-diggers-only crowd. Although the LP was released on the relatively unknown House Of The Fox label, it had the invaluable benefit of featuring heavy players such as Maceo's brother Melvin Parker, Alphonso Kellum, Richard Griffith, Bernard Odum, Jimmy Nolen, and Eldee Williams. If you're familiar with the talents of any of these guys, then I shouldn't need to say more.
Maceo's style as leader clearly didn't fall all that far from The JB tree, but he charted his own impressive territory by sponsoring a more relaxed, jamtastic rhythm section that was accompanied by unbelievably tight horns. While Maceo's sax would often trail off on JB recordings just as he was really beginning to blow, the tracks on Doing Their Own Thing seemingly allowed him to more fully realize his creative potential. The only possible downside/distraction is that Maceo isn't exactly a world class vocalist, but hell...if that's what you're looking for, perhaps you should cop some Celine Dion.
Doing Our Own Thing has been reissued a few times, so it's relatively easy to secure a copy. There are a quite a few funky highlights on the LP that are just perfect when I'm in a certain mood, but "(I Remember) Mr. Banks" is the sort of jazzy, melodic groove that I can fall into wherever, whenever, whatever is going on around me. Mr. Banks, by the way, was the music director at Maceo's high school who mentored him and nurtured his prodigious talent during his adolescence. This lovely homage would no doubt make him proud.
"We Have Love"---Amnesty (LimeLinx)
"We Have Love"---Amnesty (savefile)
Amnesty was a collaborative effort featuring the vocal talents of The Embers and the instrumentation of Crimson Tide. The Indianapolis band recorded the tracks on Free Your Mind: The 700 West Sessions on two separate occasions in 1973, but most of them didn't see the light of day (with the exception of two obscure 45s) until they were compiled and released on the Now Again label last year. Egon from Now Again (a Stones Throw subsidiary) has a knack for conjuring up exemplary unheard material from decades past, and this release is certainly no exception. According to the liner notes, these killer recordings were shelved because the Lamp label they recorded them for specialized in rock music, and listening to this album, it's not difficult to understand why their eclectic funk/jazz/psychedelic soul/afrobeat style might have sounded like untread alien territory.
At any rate, the whole album is as brilliant as it is engaging. On "We Have Love", you get a distinct sense of how effortlessly these guys blended soulful harmonies with their vividly colorful palette of sounds. Fans of Whitfield-era Temptations, Mandrill, Rasputin's Stash, L.A. Carnival, P-Funk, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Black Heat will definitely want to pick this LP up without hesitation. Better recognize...
"Writes Of Passage"---Sadistik w/ Vast Aire (LimeLinx)
"Writes Of Passage"---Sadistik w/ Vast Aire (savefile)
When I first heard about Sadistik, I imagined something along the lines of shock producer/MC Necro's tenebrific fare...you know, one of those my-mommy-wasn't-very-nice-to-me-and-now-I'm-going-to-take-ruthless-revenge-on-the-trailer-park-and-the-entire-fucking-world- rappers. I also immediately associated his name with this guy, whose voracious appetite for homocide is...I dunno...lightweight disturbing.
Despite my reservations, I decided to give the The Balancing Act a spin and I certainly wouldn't be typing this now if I hadn't been incredibly impressed by what I heard. The album's soundscape is melancholic and moody...certainly nothing you'll hear bangin' in the trunks of your friends who dig Rick Ross and Young Jeezy. Sadistik's poetic lyricism is deeply introspective and confessional in nature, straying too far from traditional subject matter to make the album suitable for mass consumption. That said, there is most assuredly an audience for the Seattle-based MC...they're just not likely to discover him on BET. There's no denying that this kid is all heart, and his rhymes are bound to strike a chord with a particular segment of the underground sector.
I've been keeping a lot of joints on The Balancing Act in heavy rotation, because really...I ain't 'fraid of his ghosts. Sadistik was clearly exorcising some of his personal demons through these narratives; at times you can literally hear him flailing on the tightrope between madness and lucidity. Depending upon the listener's perspective, his lyrics are either cleansing and cathartic or dreary and depressing. As a wise friend of mine once said, some people are rightly driven to create from their despair, because otherwise it will completely devour them. Sadistik's reflective writing style validates and personifies this sagacious truth.
"Writes Of Passage" is probably the most accessible track on the LP, featuring Sadistik's elevated wordplay, stellar production, and some razor-sharp rhymes courtesy of Vast Aire. It's been somewhat of a disappointing year for hip hop, so the head rush I got after listening to this joint was exhilarating to say the very least. Damn, I miss those natural highs...
Anyway, if you're feelin' this like I do, show some love and support the artist.
"If I Could See You One More Time"---Johnny Adams (LimeLinx)
"If I Could See You One More Time"---Johnny Adams (savefile)
Like so many of my favorite soul artists, Johnny Adams (aka Laten John Adams) began his career singing gospel. Born and raised in New Orleans, Adams left high school at 15 and eventually began making his living a roofer, showcasing his extraordinary vocal talent in his spare time with acts such as The Soul Revivers and Bessie Griffin and the Consolators. However, fate took an abrupt turn in his life one day while he was singing "Oh Precious Lord" in the bathtub. His neighbor, celebrated songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie, overheard him and pleaded with him to record a song she'd been crafting. Subsequently, "I Won't Cry" was released as a single on the Ric label in 1959, becoming a substantial hit and launching Adams' illustrious career in secular music.
One of the things that I love most about Adams is that he truly embodies the spirit of New Orleans. Well-versed in soul, jazz, country, R&B, and the blues, Adams' artistry reflects the rich musical tapesty and eclectic stew of his birthplace, capable as he was of expressing himself brilliantly through any one of those genres.
It will come as no surprise that I prefer the deeply soulful side of Johnny Adams, the sort of raw and hearfelt emotional catharsis that gives such tremendous power to a song like "If I Could See You One More Time". He gets to testifyin' so expressively that you can't help but believe in the pain and confusion he's feeling in the absence of his lover. If that's not the hallmark of the greatest soul music, then I don't know what is.
If you're interesting in becoming more familiar with Adams' canon of works, the Heart And Soul reissue on Vampi Soul is a good place to start. It contains all of the tracks on his phenomenal 1969 LP of the same title, as well as a few bonus joints. Also, be sure to dig deeper for more biographical info.
"The Sly, Slick, And The Wicked"---The Lost Generation (LimeLinx)
"The Sly, Slick, And The Wicked"---The Lost Generation (savefile)
Some of you may already know this song, as it was a relatively big hit in the summer of 1970, but it's such a phenomenally smooth track that it's undoubtedly worth revisiting.
Originally released on Brunswick Records, "The Sly, Slick, And The Wicked" and the LP of the same title were produced by Eugene Record, vocalist, chief songwriter and primary creative force behind the legendary Chi-Lites. Although The Lost Generation aren't nearly as well-known, they definitely bear some distinct similarities to The Chi-Lites. Both groups hailed from Chicago and helped to usher in the omnipresence and crossover appeal of the sweet soul sound, in conjunction with like-minded artists such as The Stylistics, The Delfonics, and The Moments. Although all of these acts maintained an uncompromising loyalty to traditional vocal harmonies, they infused them with contemporary sounds and an adrenalized energy that effectively distinguished their style from that of their old school predecessors. Collectively, these ensembles would come to represent a significant evolutionary shift in the tenor and commercial viability of R&B and soul music.
The Lost Generation was comprised of Lowrell Simon, Fred Simon, Jesse Dean, and Larry Brownlee. Although they would never score a hit as popular as this song, they did do some minor damage on the charts with singles such as "Wait A Minute" (a saccharine-sweet ballad penned by Eugene Record), "Talking the Teenage Language", and their final chart climber, "Your Mission (If You Decide to Accept It) Part 1". Shortly after the release of the latter, the group disbanded, but not without making their mark on music history. In addition to the handful of exceptional material they left behind, their staggering success with "The Sly, Slick, And The Wicked" generated enough funds for Brunswick to buy itself out from its owner, Decca Records.
Search for this in the crates, children...and get mellow/get laid.
Word From Your Moms:
"I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind."---Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free."---Clarence Darrow
"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."---Jean-Paul Sartre
"Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom."---Marilyn Ferguson
Sunday, November 02, 2008
What's good, soul children? I greet you today with eyes closed, head bowed, and fingers crossed...
For the past several weeks, I've been meditating on what HOPE really means. It's a word that the Obama campaign has adopted in conjunction with its "yes we can" mantra, epitomizing the hunger for change in America and belief in the possibility that a new day could potentially be on the horizon. However, the question remains: is this notion of HOPE merely political propaganda or is it possible that at this juncture in American history, this simple four-letter word signifies something truly meaningful?
Admittedly, optimism as it pertains to politics is an extraordinarily bitter pill for me to swallow. Like many of you, I feel frustrated, skeptical, and apathetic about the government. We've witnessed our tax dollars being shamefully wasted here and abroad, even as many of our hard-working brothers and sisters can't afford to maintain an acceptable standard of living for themselves and their children. We've seen corruption and inefficiency erode our democratic process, causing us to question whether or not the votes we cast will be counted, let alone translate into significant change. We've been cheated, lied to, and taken for fools by those who we've elected and entrusted with our collective well-being. In light of such profound deception, hopefulness may seem woefully analogous to naiveté.
Although I have been a staunch supporter of Barack Obama throughout his run for the presidency, I've never once subscribed to the view that he is some sort of a messiah, healer, prophet, or magician. Our wounds in this country run deep, and the myriad of problems we face on a global level cannot easily be remedied. It's clearly beyond the scope of any one person to solve the crises we face, but there is literally no limit to what human beings can achieve by acting in unison. An effective leader isn't one who has all the solutions, but someone who inspires people to come together and work towards the change they want to see in the world. Segregation, marginalization, and divisiveness be damned...everyday people have always had the power to make a difference. We've just been too disinterested and disenfranchised to acknowledge or assume it. As Obama has said time and again, this election isn't about him...it's about us.
There is a French proverb asserting that "hope is the dream of a soul awake." In the past several months I've witnessed many of my fellow Americans finally opening their eyes and being rejuvenated in the aftermath of a longstanding comatose state. Although the country is predictably divided about which candidate they prefer, the groundswell of support that's surrounded Senator Obama is nothing short of miraculous. The energy at his campaign rallies is something I've never witnessed in my lifetime, the wondrous vitality of a people ignited by a passion for the possible.
Regardless of your political leanings, you have to admit that McCain's audiences don't seem nearly as juiced about their candidate (even if they do think Caribou Barbie is hot). When I reflect on the possibility of four more years, I think not only of the extension of Bush's failed policies, but a return to the sort of lethargy and impassivity that weakened our collective muscle in the first place. Like it or not, Obama has been instrumental in restoring the faith of millions who have grown weary and inadvertantly forgotten how to dream.
To be truthful, my cynical side is afraid of what the outcome of this election may be. I worry that people will allow fear to inform their decision-making process; that the ballot box at my polling station may be stolen or the machines will malfunction; I'm frightened that Obama could one day be assasinated.
When these feelings of negativity arise, I take pause to remind myself of slaves who once prayed for freedom, women who fought tirelessly for the right to vote, and immigrants who've yearned for their inalienable right to breathe free. There have been countless unnamed heroes throughout history who've walked uphill on treacherous terrain, resolving not to sit down just because their feet were tired. Leaders of these movements have often been jailed or murdered, but a stirring in the soul of a people is not easily laid to rest, despite the counteracting efforts of their oppressors.
Hope is an immensely significant aspect of this election, but it's far from being the exclusive domain of Barack Obama. In a broader context, it represents the will of the people and the song of the silenced. Challenge yourself to graduate beyond despair, and be cognizant of the fact that freedom is priceless and hope is free. If we truly want change, our desire must persist beyond the outcome of the upcoming election regardless of who wins. As George Weinberg once said, "hope never abandons you; you abandon it".
Stand up and be counted, children. I'll see you at the polls...
“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
Click here for more videos from Vote For Change
Note: LimeLinx is fairly similar to zShare (you can preview tracks, etc.), except it actually works...
"What The World Needs Now Is Love"---Tom Clay (LimeLinx)
"What The World Needs Now Is Love"---Tom Clay (savefile)
"Imagine"---Nas w/ Pitbull (LimeLinx)
"Imagine"---Nas w/ Pitbull (savefile)
"Hope"---Twista w/ Cee-Lo (LimeLinx)
"Hope"---Twista w/ Cee-Lo (savefile)
"Get Involved"---George Soule (LimeLinx)
"Get Involved"---George Soule (savefile)
"We'll Get Over"---The Staple Singers (LimeLinx)
"We'll Get Over"---The Staple Singers (savefile)
"Bushonomics"---Cornel West & BMWMB ft. Talib Kweli (LimeLinx)
"Bushonomics"---Cornel West & BMWMB ft. Talib Kweli (savefile)
"My Sister's and My Brother's Day Is Comin'"---Dyke & The Blazers (LimeLinx)
"My Sister's and My Brother's Day Is Comin'"---Dyke & The Blazers (savefile)
"Typical American"---The Goats (LimeLinx)
"Typical American"---The Goats (savefile)
"For God's Sake Give More Power To The People"---The Chi-Lites (LimeLinx)
"For God's Sake Give More Power To The People"---The Chi-Lites (savefile)
Word From Your Moms:
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
"Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction."
"We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes we can."
Above quotes by Barack Obama