Thursday, October 14, 2010

Souled On Samples: The Wonder Steady Edition

Soul children! Damn~ how we feelin' out there?

Many of you wrote to me this summer to inquire as to my well-being, and as always, I sincerely appreciate the show of love and support! Once again, however, I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to dispel an abundance of mythology and urban legends surrounding my sudden disappearance. To set the record straight, I haven't choked to death on a spam rising fame isn't attributable to membership in the Illuminati...I wasn't killed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a ploy to distract attention from Iran...and...for fuck's sake, K-Fed didn't chop off his head and have it sewn onto my superhero, athletic frame!!!

One infallible truth, in a universe riddled with enigmas and unanswerable questions, can be relied upon for certain...I would never jump out of a chalk outline on the pavement and come back to you empty-handed. I had so many records stockpiled for this edition of Souled On Samples, that I had to scale back on 80% of what I'd originally planned to post. It's a schizophrenic mix, as usual, but I doubt you've come here seeking cohesiveness...or sanity.

I won't take so long between posts again, if you promise not to talk shit about me while I'm gone. Ha!

Catch you on the flip...Scholar

"I'll Never Sail The Seas Again"---The Detroit Emeralds (LimeLinx)
"I'll Never Sail The Seas Again"---The Detroit Emeralds (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

*Produced by Exile

"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"---Smokey Robinson (LimeLinx)
"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"---Smokey Robinson (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"Devil In A Blue Dress"---Kanye West (LimeLinx)
"Devil In A Blue Dress"---Kanye West (YSI)

"As Long As I Have You"---Carolyn Franklin (LimeLinx)
"As Long As I Have You"---Carolyn Franklin (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"I'll Never Be Ashamed"---The Sylvers (LimeLinx)
"I'll Never Be Ashamed"---The Sylvers (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"Cut Out To FL"---RJD2 (LimeLinx)
"Cut Out To FL"---RJD2 (YSI)

"Free Angela (Thoughts...and All I've Got To Say)"---Bayete (LimeLinx)
"Free Angela (Thoughts...and All I've Got To Say)"---Bayete (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

*Produced by Just Blaze

*"Free Angela" was also flipped on:

"Twice"---Little Dragon (LimeLinx)
"Twice"---Little Dragon (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"San Pedro"---Exile (LimeLinx)
"San Pedro"---Exile (YSI)

"La Voce Del Silenzio"---Dionne Warwick (LimeLinx)
"La Voce Del Silenzio"---Dionne Warwick (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"Must Be Bobby"---RZA (LimeLinx)
"Must Be Bobby"---RZA (YSI)

"Thin Line Between Love And Hate"---Lost Generation (LimeLinx)
"Thin Line Between Love And Hate"---Lost Generation (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"Taxi"---Mos Def/Whosane (LimeLinx)
"Taxi"---Mos Def/Whosane (YSI)

*Produced by Ski Beatz

*Note: A few blogs/websites have attributed the original to The Persuaders' version of "Thin Line Between Love And Hate". To my ears, that's erroneous, but feel free to engage me in a friendly debate if you disagree...

"Devika"---Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes (LimeLinx)
"Devika"---Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

*Produced by Butterfly, Shane Faber, Mike Mangini

"You Can't Blame Me"---Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr (LimeLinx)
"You Can't Blame Me"---Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

*Produced by Big Chop

*Also sampled on "Big Dreamers" by Reks, "When You Find" by Wiz Khalifa, "Represent" by Jester and and Don Martin, and "What Goes On" by Mobb Deep

"400 Girls Ago"---Billy Butler (LimeLinx)
"400 Girls Ago"---Billy Butler (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"Potholderz (instrumental)"---Count Bass D/MF Doom (LimeLinx)
"PotHolderz (instrumental)"---Count Bass D/MF Doom (YSI)

"Tear It Down"---Blue Magic (LimeLinx)
"Tear It Down"---Blue Magic (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

"Just Out Of My Reach"---Sam Dees (LimeLinx)
"Just Out Of My Reach"---Sam Dees (YSI)

Dig deeper...

Sampled On:

*Produced by 9th Wonder

As always, if you have any additional knowledge to share, drop it in the box...

Word From Your Moms:

"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."----Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Thursday, July 15, 2010

There Is No Planet Sun Or Star Could Hold You, If You But Knew What You Are...

"My Love Is Showing"---Bettye LaVette (LimeLinx)
"My Love Is Showing"---Bettye LaVette (YSI)

Over the course of the past five years, it's been unimaginably uplifting to behold the wonder of Bettye LaVette as her gracious persistence in the music industry has finally begun to show its worth. With a few highly acclaimed studio releases under her belt, as well as a string of powerhouse live performances, the Great Lady of Soul is poised to show the world what she's made of now that she has our undivided attention. Critics are unanimously singing the praises of her latest LP, Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, and the stunning vocalist is likely to turn even more heads as she opens for Robert Plant on his July tour (maybe even some metalheads, which...I dunno...would fuckin' rock, dude).

Having released her first single as a teenager in 1962, LaVette followed with numerous failed attempts at attaining commercial viability. While her records were fairly popular on the UK northern soul scene, it took most of America 40+ years to even begin to fathom what they were missing. This probably wouldn't be so frustrating if I hadn't recently witnessed a bunch of people getting misty-eyed about some kid on American Idol who had to work in a fuckin' paint store for a few years before being catapulted into superstardom. Our conceptualization of what it means to pay dues seems increasingly skewed as it becomes infinitely more facile to achieve fame with only the slightest moronic effort. We're all suckers for a good fairytale I guess, but if Justin Bieber gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before Ms. LaVette, (in deep, ominous, psycho-killer voice) I don't know what I might do...

At any rate, as much as I'd like to offer up one of the many great selections from her Interpretations LP, I'm really hoping that you'll show the hardest working woman in show business some true love and actually purchase it. While the album debuted at a rather impressive #56 (all factors relating to the idiocy of the record-buying public considered), she still has a long-ass way to go before she can pull a tortoise move on all the spastic little hares who are blocking her way to the finish line.

"My Love Is Showing" is one of my favorites from her phenomenal repertoire, culled from her Child Of The Seventies LP. The album, slated to be her first full-length release, was recorded in the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama in 1972 for Atlantic/Atco Records. At the last minute, the label made an abrupt decision to shelve the material and chalked it up as a loss. Although the Great Lady was understandably devastated, she soldiered on with her career in hopes that she would finally catch a break.

Decades later, she played her personal mono recordings of the album for Gilles Petard, who located the masters in 1999 and released them as Souvenirs on his Art and Soul label the following year. Rhino subsequently reissued the album in 2006 under the original Child of the Seventies title, including four Atlantic singles and a handful of unreleased material.

Despite the hardship and woes she's had to endure, LaVette is truly honored to finally be having her moment in the sun. At age 64, she's as dynamic, energetic, and fully charged as ever:

"If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die on stage. If I’m sick in the dressing room, get me on the stage so I can die out there."

Word, Ms. LaVette. If that's not the imperturbable swagger of an authentic soul survivor, I don't know what is...

So much about
Bettye to know and love, soul children: dig deeper

This is a clip of LaVette's jaw-dropping tribute to The Who at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors. The performance made
Pete cry, had Barbra snappin' her neck (although, was she listening to a different song?), and ultimately served as the inspiration behind the Great Lady's Interpretations LP. Also...for those who may be's my understanding that Roger Daltrey had that sharp stick removed from his ass shortly after the show:

"Now"---Numaads (LimeLinx)
"Now"---Numaads (YSI)

Numaads is the brilliant fusion of two radiant stars who hail from the Netherlands. The duo's Now EP dropped a few short weeks before summer officially started, and its slow-burning vibe has provided a near-perfect complement to the sultry evening air these past few weeks. Esperenzah's enchanting vocals are as haunting as they are curiously inviting, while SENSE's multi-dimensional production enriches the atmosphere of their sound with layers of sampled and organic instrumentation.

One could easily rattle off an exhaustive list of probable influences, but what makes this record fresh is that the duo yields a uniquely beautiful creation from the diverse elements they incorporate into the mix. In that sense, listening to Now is analogous to being in a dream state: components of reality are certainly present, but they're colorfully enhanced by otherworldly illusions, fabrications, and textures.

Haha...I know some of you thugs prolly think I've lost what's left of my fuckin' marbles, but trust me. Smoke a bowl, assume a lotus position, fix your eyes on the velvet Jesus painting on your living room wall...whatever. Look for the open spaces in the structure of these songs, explore them, and ultimately create your own domain. It's a magnificent sonic landscape to suddenly find yourself hopelessly lost...

Dig deeper: Esperanzah; SENSE

This video highlights Robert Koch's remix of "Now" (a lush redux by
J. Rawls appears on the EP as well):

Skeletons (LimeLinx)
Skeletons (YSI)

I admit to having a markedly unusual fascination with imaginary bands that are essentially the handiwork of a lone knob twiddler (I see you,
Madlib). Okay...I inadvertently made that sound dirty...but actually it can be quite exciting when left in wildly creative and fully capable hands. { matter how I phrase this, it appears to bear some unintentional sexual overtones, so I think I'll tap the enter key and make a more wholesome attempt at my next paragraph...}

Benedic Lamdin is a musician, producer, label boss and engineer who is perhaps best known to music lovers as the mastermind and ringleader of Nostalgia 77. Although I know that some of you will opine that such an undertaking is shady as fuck, Lamdin was commissioned some time ago to play forgeries and pastiches of African jazz for a library music company. Numerous musicians passed through his house to play during the sessions, but evidently they were never in the same place at the same time.
Lamdin compiled various fragments of sound that were left behind, merged them with his own creative musings, and the highly infectious Skeletons project was born.

The politics of forgery get complicated to say the very least, but in an overall sense, I genuinely respect
Lamdin's contributions to music culture. He's an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, one hell of a slick producer, and the material he and his compadres issue on their Impossible Ark label tends to be pretty freakin' amazing. Unlike artists who pilfer the archives of their musical ancestors without so much as a casual nod towards their inspiration, Lamdin maintains credibility by being forthcoming and giving credit where it's due. As just one example of this transparency, the song "Mulatu" on Smile outrightly pays homage to the great Mulatu Astatke, the father of Ethiopian jazz and a profound influence on Lambin's work.

When I first heard this album, I had no background information or contextual cues to base my opinion on, and my instinctual reaction was to bust some heartfelt (and perhaps humiliating) dance moves. Uhhh-ohhh, though...that means you should prolly forget all that shit I just talked so you can get loose without over-thinking it (I mean... no lie...even my own moms has to tell me to shut the fuck up sometimes). Strike my remarks from the record and proceed to get your undisturbed groove on, soul babies! Haha...

Dig deeper...

"Baby"---The Phenomenal Handclap Band (LimeLinx)
"Baby"---The Phenomenal Handclap Band (YSI)

I should have written about The Phenomenal Handclap Band a while ago, but the very lifeblood of
Souled On is the staggering volume of past, present, and future records that demand their turn in the rotation. It's kinda obvious at this stage that I'm routinely grappling with thoughts of retirement, but nawwww...there's no feasible exit strategy as long as the crates keep stacking themselves to infinity and beyond. So much for chillin' on the couch in a diaper with a cocktail of Centrum Silver....I can't quit you, babies!

Anyway, PHB is comprised of a collective of musicians and artists primarily from Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. Fathered by DJ/producers Daniel Collás (the Witch Doctor) and Sean Marquand (The Medicine Man), the idea for the group began to materialize as they ventured into writing their own material. Enlisting the help of a diverse cast of characters they'd formed relationships with along the way, they assembled a bad-ass supergroup whose sound refuses to be contained within the confines of any particular genre. While I appreciate PHB's tendency to wander off down seemingly disparate musical pathways, I took an instant liking to the straight-forward soul vibe they went for on "Baby". It sounds like a nostalgic recording that was unearthed and remastered, which must be celebrated as an invaluable find in the proverbial haystack of contemporary music.

PHB rolls eight members deep for touring purposes, but friends such as The Lady Tigre, John Spencer, and TV on the Radio's Jaleel Bunton frequently stop by the studio to make a musical contribution or lend their support. The group is currently on a world tour that includes gigs in Sweden, Spain, Portugal, and the UK. I've read nothing but wildly favorable reviews of their live performances, so you might want to hit up one of their shows if the opportunity ever presents itself...and as always, dig deeper.

"Tristess"---Dutch (LimeLinx)
"Tristess"---Dutch (YSI)

Dutch is the stunning result of a collaborative effort between Liz Fullerton and Jedi Mind Tricks' prodigious beatsmith, Stoupe. The two Philadelphia residents originally conceived of doing an album together many moons ago, and they actively worked on the project for a few years prior to Bright Cold Day's release last month. Music that's cultivated under the pretenses of intense forethought often loses its luster and spontaneity over time (Chinese Democracy, anyone?), but this eloquent recording is a breath of fresh air in every sense imaginable.

Born in California and raised in Mexico, Fullerton lived a nomadic lifestyle as a young adult, traveling the United States and accumulating life experiences that she would later transform into a lyrical medley of emotions and ideas. Her official breakthrough came when she relocated to Philly and laid down vocals on a
Jedi Mind Tricks joint in Stoupe's apartment, but the ethereal songstress was still an apprehensive neophyte when the duo began sinking their teeth into their full-length creative endeavor. You wouldn't know it by the way Fullerton confidently rips through most of the tracks on the LP, but she unabashedly admits to having felt anxiety about everything from her lack of professional training to her tendency to express overwhelming sadness through her songs. After one of her first shows in Philly, an audience member reportedly asked her why she didn't just pass out razor blades. Say what you will about her melancholy nature, but Fullerton is easily one of the most sultry and mesmerizing fledgling vocalists to emerge on the scene in recent memory.

It's no small wonder that
Stoupe's dark, atmospheric production style integrates so exquisitely with his partner's deeply cathartic musings. For those who are unfamiliar with Jedi Mind Tricks, suffice it to say that violent, brooding, and apocalyptic would all function as suitable adjectives to describe their overall aesthetic. Stoupe has always come across as sort of a strange motherfucker, infrequently consenting to interviews and almost always refusing to show his face. People have hated on his shadowy persona for as long as I can remember, but I come from the perspective that dude is probably weird because he's a genius. His beats are perhaps best described as lavish orchestrations, and few producers parallel his ability to make a living, breathing entity from the obscurest of sample sources.

I've been a longtime fan of
JMT's work primarily on the strength of Stoupe's beat wizardry, because...if I may be honest...Vinnie Paz's lyrics are often too aggressive/disturbing/deranged to make for everyday listening. My favorite Tricks records will probably have to be pried from my cold, dead hands (I still don't like you, Charlton Heston)...but I'm beyond pleased to hear Stoupe spreading his expansive wings on this project, running with a sound more along the lines of Portishead or Bjork. JMT fans shouldn't despair, though~ I'm sure that Stoupe and Paz will reunite long before all of their cataclysmic prophecies come true.

Dig deeper...

"Too Much Pain"---Eugene Evans (LimeLinx)
"Too Much Pain"---Eugene Evans (YSI)

King's Serious Soul: Too Much Pain compilation has turned out to be one of my favorite recent discoveries. It was released nearly six years ago, but I never checked into it until one of the soul kids brought it to my attention a couple of months ago. As the title might suggest, there are a host of gritty southern soul offerings on this LP, the majority of which are rare recordings by relatively obscure artists.

I had honestly never heard of Eugene Evans prior to copping Serious Soul, and I was disappointed to eventually learn that he only cut a couple of sides throughout the entirety of his career. Both singles were originally issued on Hollywood Records, and may have even been recorded during the same studio session.

Evans himself is credited as the songwriter on "Too Much Pain", but the James Brown influence is palpable, emulating the Godfather's more tormented and highly emotive material. I'm not the least bit mad at the fact that this track borders on being derivative~ its familiar essence fits as comfortably as a worn pair of kicks. Never, ever hesitate to get up on your good foot, soul bambinos!

Word From Your Moms:

"Blessed are the dumbfucks."

"There's a fine edge to new grief, it severs nerves, disconnects reality--there's mercy in a sharp blade. Only with time, as the edge wears, does the real ache begin."

"Not unlike the toaster, I control darkness."

"The problem with being nuts, she thought, is that you don't always feel as if you're nuts. Sometimes, in fact, you feel perfectly sane, and there just happens to be a trailer-shaped dragon crouching in the lot next door."

Above quotes courtesy of Christopher Moore

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'll Gather Melodies From Birdies That Fly And Compose You A Tune...

Awww hell...I know. Only a few entries deep, and I've already gone back to relying on my mega-posting superpowers to capture your attention for the next 4 1/2 hours. I still plan to make a swift return to brevity and am working through the challenges of economizing my expression, but I took an unplanned hiatus that I thought worthy of a herculean virtual comeback. I apologize for the weight...and the wait...but I'm hoping you'll pass through more than once if necessary to cop grooves, gain knowledge, and shake your head in dismay at my ridiculous banter. I promise that next time, I won't do this crazy shit again...

Meanwhile~ be easy, soul bambinos...Scholar

"I'll Try Something New"---The Temptations & The Supremes (LimeLinx)
"I'll Try Something New"---The Temptations & The Supremes (YSI)

Even if you're not a fanatical Motown enthusiast, you're probably still aware that The Supremes and The Temptations frequently joined forces, appearing together on television specials and collaborating on both studio and live material. It was obviously an ingenious marketing strategy to unite a couple of top-selling supergroups for various collective projects, but these two entities were cosmically entangled long before Berry Gordy was positioned to exploit the seemingly endless potential of their harmonious fusion.

In the late fifties, following several changes in name, line-up, and location, a doo-wop trio called The Primes began making some noise in and around Detroit. It was the third city where they'd attempted to launch their career, and it seemed they were finally on the right track as their extraordinary performances were becoming the cornerstone of their regional popularity. Eddie Kendricks was emerging as the trio's superstar, and Paul Williams' powerful baritone resounded with a mysterious depth that was remarkably atypical of a vocalist his age. The third member, Kel Osbourne, had been singing with Williams and Kendricks since they'd formed The Cavaliers in their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Primes had landed in Motor City in a move that was orchestrated by their manager, Milton Jenkins. Shortly after they arrived, Jenkins decided to launch a sister group called The Primettes, comprised of four talented girls from the Brewster-Douglass Housing Project in Detroit: Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Betty McGlown.

The two groups became good friends and practiced together frequently, but contrary to popular belief, they never actually performed together onstage. As it turns out, The Primettes were in greater demand, laying down backing vocals on countless records issued by Detroit-based record labels. From this point onward, the two groups weathered various changes and took very different paths in pursuit of stardom. However, as you know, they both would ultimately sign contracts with Motown, reborn as The Temptations and The Supremes. By 1964, both of them were enjoying chart success~ The Temptations with "My Girl" and "The Way You Do the Things You Do"; The Supremes with their #1 hit "Where Did Our Love Go" (a track that they personally hated and were coerced into recording, by the way).

Fast forward to the late 1960s, and Motown was expanding, churning out successful singles, and widening their market to reach audiences overseas. However, the label certainly wasn't without its woes, and in some respects, 1968-1969 marked a highly critical turning point in its historic timeline. Their top songwriting team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, had departed following a dispute over royalties. David Ruffin had been fired from The Temptations, and was crashing gigs as well as engaging in a contractual dispute of his own. Florence Ballard had parted ways with The Supremes in 1967, and fans were seemingly less enthusiastic about her replacement, Cindy Birdsong. To say that the label was in trouble would perhaps be an overstatement, but certainly their far-reaching successes could no longer be taken for granted.

In this rapidly shifting climate, what better way was there to ensure a favorable outcome than reuniting The Primes and Primettes? Besides the fact that pairing the two groups was a sure win in terms of sales, racial politics certainly played into the marketing ploy as well. While The Supremes had been highly successful in appealing to white audiences, The Temptations hadn't crossed over in terms of their core constituency. Gordy saw the collaboration of the groups on both television and wax as an opportunity to make The Temptations more commercially viable.

The chart performance of their first studio recording, Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations, proves that the formula was least if you define achievement in terms of sales. The album reached #2 on the Billboard 200 and spawned a couple of hit singles in the US, not to mention that their cover of "I Second That Emotion" reached the Top 20 in the UK.

From a quality standpoint, the results were slightly less impressive. For aforementioned reasons, the scales are decidedly tipped towards The Temptations in terms of the focal point~ which isn't entirely a bad thing, but who orders a combo platter expecting one lousy ass piece of shrimp? It often feels like The Supremes are primarily playing a supporting role in the mix, and Diana Ross is the only one who has any solo parts on the album. Additionally, all the tracks on the LP are cover versions, which doesn't bode well overall since their interpretations frequently pale in comparison to the originals. To sum it up neatly, the record certainly isn't without merit, but minus the superstar effect, this offering isn't particularly compelling or extraordinary.

In all fairness, their rendition of "The Impossible Dream" is probably the most impressive, but I've always personally been partial to "I'll Try Something New" (the second single from the album). A lesser-known song from Smokey Robinson's repertoire, this particular version features an impeccable arrangement by the almighty Gene Page. Eddie Kendricks and Diana Ross sound lovely together on this joint, and of course only a blood-thirsty psychopath could front on lyrics this adorable! Flyin' birdies, castle-building, givin' love as warm as mama's's fuckin' beautiful, man...

Put your uzi down, pour a big glass of Ovaltine, and go hold hands with the one you love for a while. Then smile, children...'cause you know...sunshine is good for your teeth and shit.

Sampled On:

"Tower Of Ears"---MF Borat (LimeLinx)
"Tower Of Ears"---MF Borat (YSI)

*A remix of Doom's "Gazillion Ear" containing a sample of "I'll Try Something New"

For me, MF Borat is sort of like a collaboration between Osama bin Laden and the Tooth Fairy. Mf Doom (now just ominously rockin' Doom as his monikor) is, of course, the Osama bin Laden of the analogy. We think he's responsible for crafting some bomb ass shit, but rather than waiting around to receive punishment or propers, dude runs for the sand dunes like dust in the wind. Just when we figure he must be dead, he drops a mysterious tape on us, but so much conspiracy's involved, we never know if it's him or an imposter. Thusly, Sacha Baron Cohen's wildly popular Borat character is the Tooth Fairy, because legend has it that he possesses about 204 teeth, 3 of which are in his nose. Since that's just...fuckin' unnatural...the likely explanation is that he copped quite a few of those from under the pillows of unsuspecting, slumbering munchkins. Of course, this contention is also strongly supported by the fact that his character Bruno infamously descended on Eminem dressed in fairy wings and a thong... so...yeah.

As a result, I'm not going to treat the Doom + Borat collaboration as journalistic fact. Many writers are colossally failing to get the tongue-in-cheek element of the press release, but hey...if you believe that a based-out gypsy in Oakland is responsible for making this whole project fly, then please leave all your teeth under your pillow for me tonight. I know this chick from around the way named Polly Dent who'll front me a fortune for a bag of dentures, sun...

*If you dig this, you can snatch up other a few other free and legal MF Borat joints at the official spot (especially "So Good To Me" which simply shouldn't be missed, children)

"Don't Huzzle For Love"---The Apostles (LimeLinx)
"Don't Huzzle For Love"---The Apostles (YSI)

This is such a dope track, I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't share it sooner...

Not to be confused with Jesus' homeskillets or the myriad of other musical outfits who share the same name, these Apostles were a Nigerian folk/highlife/rock/pop/afrobeat/funk/gospel/reggae/kitchen sink outfit whose heyday was in the 1970s. Unfortunately, there's not a great deal of information readily available about these guys on the internet, but the almighty Discogs does have at least some of their releases and catalogue numbers listed. If anyone knows any firsthand information about them, please drop some knowledge in the box.

Up to this point, my broke ass hasn't managed to afford any of their albums on wax, but I have been able to gather a fairly impressive digital collection of their works with the help of my crate-digging cousins around the world. "Don't Huzzle for Love" kicks off their Black Is Beautiful LP, and it's one of those grooves I gravitate towards when I need a spontaneous burst of jubilation in my life. I've also found great satisfaction in attempting to utilize the word "huzzle" in a myriad of contexts, but...yeah...there's probably sort of a bold, geeks-only disclaimer written on that one...

"Back Home"---Yusef Lateef (LimeLinx)
"Back Home"---Yusef Lateef (YSI)

Yusef Lateef certainly deserves more fanfare than I have time or space to give him at this moment, so I'm gonna implore you to dig deeper until I get around to writing a more extensive commentary on his work. To the extent that I really only care to write about what's stirring in my soul at any given moment in time, I'm feelin' a genuine sense of urgency about passing along one of his many masterpieces to you today. I've probably listened to The Blue Yusef Lateef at least a hundred times over the years, but I swear I've just begun to really hear this album within the past couple of months.

Soul children who fiend for sampled ish are undoubtedly aware of at least one artist who's flipped Lateef's material~ The Beastie Boys, Pharcyde, MF Doom, Kool G Rap, Diamond D, Cormega, Aesop Rock and Sixtoo, just to name a few. You know that I'll be the last person to denounce sample-seeking as an avenue to musical discovery, but if you only cop a few selections from his discography, you're not only sleeping...we should keep it real and call that shit a coma.

Understanding that Lateef is a divinely supreme innovator of autophysiopsychic music (sounds emanating from one’s spiritual, physical and emotional being), it's hardly an overstatement to declare him one of the most essential artists in jazz/world music's illustrious history. In addition to being a greatly accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Lateef is also an educator, visual artist, author, philosopher, and composer.

While "Like It Is" tends to rightly be exalted as the standout track on The Blue Yusef Lateef (Atlantic/Wea, 1969), I love "Back Home" for a couple of different reasons. First of all, I have an affinity for his flirtations with blues music, which showcase how masterfully accomplished Lateef is at aurally exploring an incredibly rich tapestry of sounds. I actually consider this to be one of the more adventurous compositions of the bunch, and yet he manages to pull it off as flawlessly as if this style were his forte. Secondly, I make no apologies for my unabashed love of The Sweet Inspirations, who Lateef snagged to add backing vocals for this track and "Juba Juba".

Beautiful, mystifying stuff, children...

"Can't Get Used To Those"---Dimlite (LimeLinx)
"Can't Get Used To Those"---Dimlite (YSI)

Music lovers, feel me on this~ it's bittersweet falling in love with tracks that weigh in at a mere moment or two. It's impossible not to get greedy and just want...more!...but at the same time, you somehow realize that a degree of precision somehow preserves an integrity that often eludes longer compositions. Whatever...all that is essentially bullshit. I'm actually just tryin' to say that I'm enamored with this one minute and 31 seconds of sonic beauty from Dimlite's latest intriguing release, Prismic Tops.

When writers/critics/labels describe music as wonky, glitchy or blippy, I'm not particularly impressed. Those have become terms of endearment in the age of Flying Lotus, and if you're older than 12, perhaps you remember these same mechanically generated adjectives being hurled at the likes of Anti-Pop Consortium and Prefuse 73. Even if you thoroughly read the press release for Dimlite's album, you still can't honestly fathom what the fuck this guy's stuff is going to sound like (quote: "like John Cleese’s rubber face expressed as a post-modern work of musique concrete"). In fact, the only salient point made is that his music isn't likely to be canonized by The Source magazine, which at least lets us know that prismic tops aren't something people can use to pimp their ride. No disrespect to Stones Throw...because I am afraid of Peanut Butter Wolf...but is it even worth mentioning that their brand of hip hop isn't going to sit well alongside the drops and dimes that typically get covered in The Source???


A few rapid-fire facts you may actually want to know about Dimlite, aka Dimitri Grimm: 1) His first two 12"s were released in 2003~ "Sponsored By The Alphabet" got some attention via word-of-mouth and spins by Gilles Peterson 2) He grew up in rural Switzerland where the club scene was non-existent 3) He has several alter egos (isn't multiple personality disorder a prerequisite for being repped by Stones Throw?) and was part of a duo called The Slapped Eyeballers Are Dead 4) He has a quirky sense of humor: "Lullaby For Gastric Ulcer" is a choice title 5) He describes his sound as salty pop rocks.

There you have it, kids...go forth and be amazed that this joint sounds nothing like you'd imagined...

"You Had To Know"---Zulema (LimeLinx)
"You Had To Know"---Zulema (YSI)

My long-winded ass (somehow that sounds all wrong) is officially running short on time, but I have to close with this heartbreaker by Zulema...

The amazing Zulema Cusseaux started out singing with The Lovelles and Faith, Hope, And Charity before making her way as a solo artist. A powerhouse vocalist who could hold her own against the likes of Aretha and Chaka Khan, Zulema (meaning "peace" in Arabic) was a pioneering female artist who wrote and produced quite a bit of her own material. Couple this with the fact that she was a gifted multi-instrumentalist whose work was critically acclaimed, and it makes no damn sense whatsoever that she failed to crack the Billboard Pop 100 even once during her solo years.

"You Had To Know" is a torch song from her 1975 R.S.V.P. album, and constitutes a perfect way to end the relationship we started on the first track of the post...when we were still innocent, in love, and trying something new. Now it's all over and you're holding your shredded heart in your hands~ but you can't quite get over how much you loved that person in the beginning. No worries, was prolly just the Ovaltine...

Dig deeper...

Word From Your Moms

“I believe that today more than ever a book should be sought after even if it has only one great page in it. We must search for fragments, splinters, toenails, anything that has ore in it, anything that is capable of resuscitating the body and the soul.”

“I must tell you that I was always afraid of the fury with which I loved you. It overwhelmed me. I thought it beyond comprehension, therefore my silence.”

“Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on.”

~Above quotes by Henry Rollins

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Souled On Samples: Above The Clouds Edition

Peace soul babies~ comment allez-vous?

There's nothing I dislike more as a writer than attempting to eulogize a musician I admire who's passed into the great beyond. It's difficult enough to generate the proper flow when reminiscing about a session player that no one's ever heard of, but when iconic artists take their last breath, the odds of uttering anything unique or original are savagely diminished.

Such was the case when
Guru transitioned into the fourth dimension early last week. Even websites and publications that typically have no regard for hip hop were comin' through with articles chronicling the MC's life and death. After a while, the media saturation and sensationalism became too much to bear. I didn't want to heap one more useless commentary onto the literary junk pile, but children...this man's work has been a staple in my life for 20 long years. It seemed unconscionable not to present something in the way of a tribute, so I eventually sat down on the front stoop with a pen and pad.

What emerged wasn't exactly what I had expected. I quickly rejected the comforts of writing a third-person narrative, and started drafting a letter to the man himself. As I was writing, a barrage of Guru-related song/album titles started rushing to the forefront of my imagination. Instead of relegating them to my subconscious, I started integrating them into the framework of my letter. For those who may be less familiar with his material, I highlighted the titles in bold.

The process certainly wasn't without its stumbling blocks (never did figure out how the hell to work "Dwyck" into the equation), but I have to say it was a cathartic endeavor regardless. I tried to keep things as open and honest as I would if I had been writing to a friend. As such, I hope you won't judge the letter by literary standards~ it's more of a soul-driven freestyle than an exercise in cerebral gymnastics.

I'm punctuating the post with a few of my favorite Guru/Gang Starr samples for your digging pleasure. I've posted a few of them over the years, but good music always bears repeating.

Until next time, easy and live life to the fullest...Scholar

Peace, brother Guru~ these humble words are for you...

It's been a little over a week since black Monday, the day you departed the planet and took a transit ride to the flip side of conscious reality. Trust me, man...those you left behind are struggling to bring some positivity to the situation of your death, rendering respectful dedications and looking through the darkness for guidance as we collectively grieve the loss of one of the illest brothers to ever bless the microphone.

Your absence is still beyond comprehension~ it's 2 deep to contend with the reality of how hastily our loved ones can be here today, gone tomorrow. Even those equipped with mad knowledge of self, who understand that the cycle of life is a never ending saga, struggle to be stoic in the face of death. Many of us have been listening to your records since we were babies, so now that you're gone it's hard not to take it personal. Living in this world is never more hectic than when we lose family, friends, and those who inspire us to rise above everyday circumstances. Our hearts are heavy, my brother, and your signature question endures...who's gonna take the weight?

It's impossible to explain to the unknowing how deeply your fans feel the music, and why our oath to respect the architect has formed such an unyielding common bond. With you travelling 2 steps ahead of rival MCs and DJ Premier in deep concentration, Gang Starr steadily rose through the ranks to become undisputed hip hop royalty. Most historians of the genre concur that Premier and the Guru dropped one classic album after another, making a mockery of silly scam artists who did it all 4 tha ca$h or just to get a rep. Because the two of you had skills and so much heart, you were able to step into the arena and achieve a level of credibility and mass appeal that is ridiculously hard to earn.

The words I manifest in this eulogy signify nothing if not gratitude and the utmost respect, but an uncomfortable moment of truth does seem to be in order. I'm not sure whether or not this is how you see things from the sky, but check it...your man Solar has officially become the Yoko fuckin' Ono of hip hop. There's no shame in my game and I'm not afraid to say it~ dude has been instrumental in every ill-advised personal and work-related decision you've rendered these past few years. Right up to the point of your departure from Earth, it seems as though there's been some sort of sabotage, betrayal, or behind-the-scenes conspiracy involved.

The deathbed letter that Solar is peddling to the masses understandably has us vexed, hexed and deeply perplexed. Unlike the lyrics you spit that we internalized and committed to memory, the words you allegedly wrote in your final days don't seem to be resonating with your audience in the least. Maybe we're deluding ourselves out of loyalty to your remembrance, but from the ground, it appears that Yoko may have single-handedly authored that entire soliloquy of chaos without your knowledge or consent.

I can't begin to fathom what powers are held from beyond the grave, but damn...for the sake of all things holy in hip hop...can you please execute a way to flip the script or brainstorm a game plan for getting this brother to take a rest? It may require shutting down the entire Solar system, but now is the time for him to honor your loved ones and fans by removing his opportunistic ass from the spotlight. His silence would enable us to keep our focus where it should be: on celebrating and upholding the legacy of Guru the Great.

For the infinite blessings you've bestowed upon your audience, it will forever be all love. I'm zonin' out on one of your tapes right now (yes, know my steez), and it only reaffirms my admiration for you as both an artist and human being. You'll certainly be missed, but we can always look to the sun to find you~ keeping our eyes fixed miles above the clouds.

In Memory Of Keith Elam aka Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal

Souled On Samples:

"T Plays It Cool"---Marvin Gaye (LimeLinx)
"T Plays It Cool"---Marvin Gaye (YSI)

*Flipped on "Take a Rest"

"The Message From The Soul Sisters Parts 1 & 2"---Vicki Anderson (LimeLinx)
"The Message From The Soul Sisters Parts 1 & 2"---Vicki Anderson (YSI)

*Flipped by on "No More Mr. Nice Guy"

"Coffee Cold"---Galt MacDermot (LimeLinx)
"Coffee Cold"---Galt MacDermot (YSI)

*Flipped on "Werdz From The Ghetto Child"

"White Lightning (Imean Moonshine)"---James Brown (LimeLinx)
"White Lightning (Imean Moonshine)"---James Brown (YSI)

*Flipped on "I'm the Man"

"Ain't There Something Money Can't Buy"---Young-Holt Unlimited (LimeLinx)
"Ain't There Something Money Can't Buy"---Young-Holt Unlimited (YSI)

*Flipped on "Lovesick"

"Blind Alley"---The Emotions (LimeLinx)
"Blind Alley"---The Emotions (YSI)

*Flipped on "Comin' for Datazz"

"It's A New Day"---The Skull Snaps (LimeLinx)
"It's A New Day"---The Skull Snaps (YSI)

*Flipped on "Take It Personal"

Fundamental Supplemental:

My favorite Gang Starr videos are many...I don't wanna crash your browser, sun...but this is unquestionably a Top 10 contender:

Word From Your Moms:

"Guru, God and Self are one."~ Ramana Maharshi

Friday, April 16, 2010

It Felt Complex (But It's Really That Bass-ic)

What up, soul kids?!

It's a scorcher on the block where my shell-toe Adidas hit the street~ all the freaks and geeks who've been hiding in their houses these past few months are live and in full effect this afternoon. The sun is casting its glorious, cosmic rays onto the golden grill of Buck-Toothed Bobby; Jack-Ass Jimmy is holdin' down the corner where he religiously shakes down the locals for spare change; and Loretta the Loudmouth is hollerin' some unintelligible nonsense as she throws all her dude's shit onto the lawn in a fit of not-so-temporary insanity. Like an earthbound butterfly bursting out of its concrete cocoon, this is how things typically unfold when the funky citizens of my hometown begin to collectively celebrate their reverence for the sun. The ultra-colorful scenery is perhaps best described as a twilight zone of dysfunction, but can't help but love the many splendors of spring!

My original intention was to upload a handful of soul ballads/slow jams today, but the atmosphere in my neighborhood completely rearranged my vibe. I decided to go with some tracks that you can at least snap your neck guess is that most of us have a little bit of baby fat to work off this time of the year anyway. Holla if you hear me, Sizable Stan!

Peace, my dearly beloveds...

"Fair Skin Man"---The Afro-American Ensemble (LimeLinx)
"Fair Skin Man"---The Afro-American Ensemble (YSI)

*"Fair Skin Man" is a killer funk joint that made an everlasting impression on me the very first time I heard it. It took me a while to gather some facts about its history, but it was worth every ounce of effort as there's a really interesting story behind the song.

"Fair Skin Man" was first released as one of a few singles issued by a loose collective of Philly musicians recording under the alias of The Broad Street Gang. After achieving a degree of success on the R&B charts, some of the key players subsequently became involved in the recording of a "black rock opera" called Free The Black Man's Chains. Mitchell Rowe, the project's producer/arranger, claims that Ray Charles & The Raelettes, Daryl Hall, and Bobby Eli (founding member of MFSB) were all in attendance during the recording sessions, but none of them appear to be officially credited for their input. The Broad Street Gang's material was revisited for the ambitious project, and several new cuts were also recorded to round out the composition of the album (GSF,1972).

The underlying tale of the soul/gospel/funk opera surrounds the story of Julian Green, a man whose struggles with racism are examined in both a personal and socio-political context. The content stems from a conversation Green has with his son, who has returned from school asking his father some heavy-ass questions about slavery. Green relates the experience of moving north from the slums of Macon, Georgia to what he believed to be the Promised Land. When he arrived, his struggles with poverty persisted, but he greatly altered the course of his destiny by devoting himself to receiving an education. Having specialized in law during his collegiate years, Green utilized his knowledge and hard-won status to uplift people living in impoverished neighborhoods. Writing grants to build homes, establish schools, and found recreation/rehabilitation centers, he ultimately became a prominent figure in the black community. This led to him winning a seat in Congress, and finally, Green becomes the first African-American president of the United States. There are obviously some elements of this fictitious tale which now ring true, making this project as prophetic as it is brilliant.

A final word for all my crate diggers in the house~ if you run across this on vinyl in your lifetime, I can assure you there's no sane reason to deliberate. Snatch that sucka up with a sense of urgency...and tell 'em Scholar sent you!

"Vibration"---IV the Polymath (LimeLinx)
"Vibration"---IV the Polymath (YSI)

*The instrumentals on IV the Polymath's Never Sleep II were all created between the hours of midnight and 6 am. As a fellow insomniac, I can assure you that's when things get really funky. This Brooklyn native has an infectious sound that becomes more addictive with each successive listen, so I'd definitely encourage you to check into the sonic output of this "one-man musical energy". With the exception of the aforementioned release, his projects can be copped for free via his MySpace page.

"Taxi"--Ski Beatz ft. Mos Def/Whosane (LimeLinx)
"Taxi"--Ski Beatz ft. Mos Def/Whosane (YSI)

The snippet for this joint was released in November of last year, and if I'm lyin', I'm dyin' literally felt like an eternity before the full version hit the internets in mid-March.

David Willis (aka Ski Beatz) has enjoyed a rather industrious career in hip hop, beginning with his involvement in Original Flavor and The Bizzie Boyz during the 1980s. Going on to produce insane beats for the likes of Jay-Z and Camp Lo, Ski established a reputation for being one of the most talented, yet criminally under-appreciated, beatsmiths in the game. After spending a few years in his hometown of Greensboro, NC, he headed back to NYC to pursue new business ventures and further cement his legacy by releasing some of his finest production work to date. Many tracks from his upcoming 24 Hour Karate School mixtape (including "Taxi") have leaked onto the internets, and for the most part the reception has been exceedingly positive.

A bit of controversy about "Taxi" was sparked when Smiley The Ghetto Child claimed that he built this track with Ski for his joint "Love And Hate". I can't imagine that the two sides of the story on this will ever be reconciled, but meanwhile, there's no denying that Mos Def put a killing on this beat. Without a doubt, the music industry is hella grimy, but...sorry, man...this track still turned out to be all kinds of lovely.


If you watch TV as infrequently as I do, you may never have seen this...

"New York Is Killing Me (Remix)"---Gil Scott-Heron ft. Nas (LimeLinx)
"New York Is Killing Me (Remix)"---Gil Scott-Heron ft. Nas (YSI)

I don't know about you, but I'm still madly in love with Gil Scott-Heron's latest album, I'm New Here. I've already far exceeded my intended word count for this post, so I can only hope you've been around here long enough to realize that I have nothing but the utmost reverence for the songwriter/griot/poet/godfather of rap/vocalist/the black Bob Dylan/musician/author that is the almighty GSH. Anyone who knows the hardships this man has endured with cocaine abuse and prison stints in the past decade should understand why we expected to spot him in an alley next to a trap house waaaaaaay before the new release rack at Best Buy. Due in some part to my dismay, I actually paid hard-earned money for this LP...and you should, too. As long as I don't find out that dude blew all the proceeds on crack, Gil and I will be cool people until death do us part.

I have ambivalent feelings about this remix with Nas, but I know that many of you will definitely be down with it. I personally wish that Nasir had come slightly harder with his verses, but all things considered, this joint is still pretty hot. Shout out to Spine Magazine for the blessing.


A couple of GSH videos to promote I'm New Here:

Word From Your Moms:

“When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat.”---Nelson Mandela