Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Souled On Samples: The Reflection/Rebirth Edition

How we feelin' out there, brothers and sisters? I sincerely hope that life on the big blue marble is tranquil, composed, and free of unnecessary strife. As for myself, my spirits have ascended into the exosphere (I submit to being a nerd, but c'mon...that's 5th grade science, sun). I'm mainly hyped because today's post is one of transformation, marking the next phase in Souled On's ongoing evolutionary process...

I've been planning to do some rebuilding around this curiosity shop for quite some time, but fucking Woodrow Wilson spoke to me several times (in a rather surrealistic dream series), chanting: "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Last night, for whatever reason, I was finally ready for his ass. As soon as he appeared, I cussed him out for suppressing the anti-war movement, behaving like a racist douchebag, and enacting the first federal drug prohibition. Before I could manage to utter any further choice words, Wilson mysteriously disappeared in a storybook cloud of smoke. When the air finally cleared, Confucius was sitting at the end of my bed in a lotus position, tugging absent-mindedly on a jumbo-sized joint. I'm pretty sure it was the real dude, too, cuz homie didn't look a damn thing like Chow Yun-Fat. Regardless, all he said before easing on back into the fourth dimension was this:

"A scholar who loves comfort is not fit to be called a scholar. "

Perhaps he was too high to say anything else...or there was a triple pack of Twinkies waiting for him on the Other Side...who knows? All that matters is that what he said was as profound as it was concise. The time has come for change...and if Obama doesn't bring it...fuck it...I will.

Anyway, it's my solemn vow that nothing is going to change in terms of content. I'm still the same crazy ass individual you've come to know and...love??? The major difference is that the days of the mega-post are over for now, children. From now on, the updates will be shorter, but far more frequent. I'm gonna pack a powerful one-two punch and get my ass out of the ring before I catch a Tyson-inspired word salad/speech impediment. I know that sometimes change comes hard, but I sincerely hope you're still dooooooooowwwwn.

"In This World"---Reflection Eternal (LimeLinx)
"In This World"---Reflection Eternal (YSI)

Moving ever so swiftly into the selections of the day, I'd like to show some love to a track by Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli + Hi-Tek) called "In This World". I'm sure that many of you have heard it by now, but it bears repeating for those who haven't yet had the pleasure.

I'm known to occasionally be overexuberant about music that I love, and before I have a chance to fully process what's happenin', I've attached a wicked string of superlatives to a track that's comparatively insignificant to everyone else. Blogging by its very nature implies a form of underlying narcissism I've lamented in previous posts. However, setting aside all delusions of taste-making and grandeur, the interests of my beloved readers should essentially outweigh even the most tempting rewards of self-indulgence. What I mean is that even if I've been vibin' on Miley Cyrus' emoto-tween pop (I accidentally typed poop the first time, but...ehhh...you be the judge), it's only right for me to simply keep those...ahem..tender moments to myself.

I guess the conclusion I'm haphazardly attempting to draw is that after much deliberation, I've decided that this joint is objectively dope...and far better than anything I've heard from Hannah Montana since she was conceived via the wild cowboy loins of Billy Ray Cyrus. Since that's probably not saying much, I'll put it like this...the Second Coming of Reflection Eternal might just be an epic, life-sustaining ordeal for hip hop. Their upcoming Revolutions Per Minute LP isn't going to sell more copies than (insert name of random lame-ass rapper here), but from what I've heard so far, Hi-Tek is in his zone and Kweli isn't lookin' to give up his position on the list of the greatest MCs alive. My hope is that the album will deliver on its potential to be one of the first classic releases of the decade.

"In This World" is lyrically tight from beginning to end, and Hi-Tek brought the noise with an obscure soul sample that heads were scrambling to identify the moment the track hit the internets (you know I'm getting ready to go there...hang on just a sec). He also managed to work Jay-Z's now-famous shout from "Moment Of Clarity" into the mix:

"If skills sold truth be told I'd prolly be/lyrically, Talib Kweli"

I was reading some forum posts about "In This World" the other day, and the track was getting mad love from around the globe...but...one particular human of the hater persuasion was arguing that Jay's line was an underhanded diss that the duo should have left alone. That line has always struck me as pathetically brilliant...it's a cleverly self-deprecating admission of sorts, but at the same time it's mind-boggling that Jigga casually admits to selling his fans a bunch of shit in pursuit of the almighty dollar. It also might be some sort of ego defense mechanism that Jay kicked into gear to justify his frequently lackluster abilities on the mic (yes, I'm a fan...but I ain't hardly scared of the truth). Regardless of where Hov was going with the analogy, the only MC he potentially ethered with that line was himself. Kweli already came with a snappy, albeit respectful, retort on "Ghetto Show" in 2004: "If lyrics sold then truth be told/I'd probably be just as rich and famous as Jay-Z."

For the record, if Kweli's gonna rap about life's struggles, he may as well acknowledge that, despite a co-sign from one of the most popular kids in school, his artistic integrity has seemingly relegated him to permanent placement in the underground sector. I'm sure the irony of the situation's not lost on him...there generally isn't a whole lot of glory associated with being your-favorite-rapper's-favorite-rapper. Dude knows he can't afford to kiss Hi-Tek on the mouth, wear expensive feminine sandals or piss Christal off the side of his yacht like the majors. Actions such as those are the exclusive domain of shit-peddling rappers who flip seven-digit SoundScan numbers with ease. Talib simply doesn't have the luxury of slipping up, because even though he generally stays on point, his street credibility and commercial viability continue to weigh in at approximately zero.

As per usual, Kweli spits a string of hip hop quotables on the track, coming in with some prototypical heavyweight verses right from the start:

Welcome to my longitude and latitude
My attitude is shaped by my surroundings
Skyscrapers, public housing
The sheep is running from the sun
The wolves is howling at the moon
It's tragic how you in the street
Cuz you ain't got no avenues

The rest of the track is just as nice, going straight for the jugular, and sometimes the heart:

There's a recession
What recession, dawg?
We been stressin'
Shit been a mess
And we been dealin' with this depression
Since way back

Kweli asserts an inarguable truth in these lyrics~ socioeconomic status is a huge determining factor in one's perception of an economic crisis. While this notion isn't particularly groundbreaking, hip hop's power in the universe tends to be most viable when confronting society with a much-needed reality check. If you don't think we need one, riddle me this~ why are there so many people who believe that hardship and sacrifice is all about downgrading from Starbucks to Folgers? For the more privileged, the plight of those who've never had a 401K plan or property to lose is often greatly misunderstood and quite frankly, not on their radar. Kweli's rhymes break down generational poverty into the simplest of terms, giving utterance to the fact that many of our brothers and sisters (and hell...me!) have been financially fucked since the beginning of time.

The rest of the joint knocks just as hard~ the reflection on everyday struggles is tempered by the inspirational/motivational vibe of the track as a whole. Spinning his own translation of Darwinian logic as a means of empowerment for the masses, Kweli spits:

Fight to the death/ Only the greatest left (in this world)

It sounds hella crazy, but the notion of being among the surviving fittest somehow engenders feelings of unity and strength...and even if Talib's John Malkovich reference throws a few...ummm...less evolved heads for a loop, by the end of the track we've all landed back on Earth, diggin' just how deeply rooted we are in the humanitree (pass the joint to the left, sun!). All sarcasm aside, it's no small feat to create music or pen lyrics this momentous and universally affecting. While comparisons to their Train Of Thought LP will undoubtedly ensue, I'm not expecting the same exact vibe so much as another round of quality output from the dynamic duo. Material of this caliber proves that Reflection Eternal has the capacity to return from a decade-long hiatus and blow our collective mind with the same impassioned energy they unleashed at the turn of millenium. To that I say amen, hallelujah...and a bunch of other enthusiastic expletives...

Don't let me philosophize about this into infinity~ I have to cut you loose sooner or later to give this ill track a run through your speakers! As my man Confucius might say, this joint is bananas...


"What In This World's Happening To Love"---Kimberley Briggs (LimeLinx)
"What In This World's Happening To Love"---Kimberely Briggs (YSI)

I don't care what anyone says, Hi-Tek is the bizness for blowing the dust off of this crazy-ass Kimberley Briggs track from her Passing Clouds LP. Most of the soul enthusiasts I've talked to about this track either had never heard it, or were a bit turned off by the rock overtones that make the song (and most of the selections on Passing Clouds) a genre-bending foray into somewhat experimental territory. Either way, Hi-Tek is obviously one of very few people who hasn't been sleepin' on this cut.

What can I say, children...this really is a weird track, but I certainly ain't mad at it for defying categorization. The track features some really unusual elements, like when the choir starts bustin' an interpolation of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in the middle of the song. There is perhaps no better way to describe it than a circus of sounds. The ending features a cacophony of screeching noises that makes perfect sense of why people who dig the smooth harmonies of say...The Delfonics...may not have as much affection for the happenings on this particular record. Different strokes, baby...but I'm one of those different folks who gets down with music that exists on the very fringe of whatever the established parameters may be. You don't have to call it soul music if you don't want to (although I unequivocally would), but give it a spin because it's definitely worth a listen.

A brief note about Kimberley Briggs~ some of you may know her as Kim Tolliver or remember when she recorded under the Big Ella alias. Although her name changed and her sound evolved quite a bit throughout the span of her career, she was always a supreme vocalist whose incredibly impassioned delivery was a consistent feature of her repertoire. In addition to her magnificent pipes, Briggs wrote much of her own material, and her compositions were also recorded by contemporaries such as Margie Joseph.

Tolliver's first recordings were issued as 7" singles on the Sure Shot and Rojac labels. After marrying Freddy Briggs, the couple rooted themselves in both Cleveland and Memphis, and Kimberley began releasing tracks on Superheavy and General American Records.

Passing Clouds was actually her first full-length LP, but she initially released the album as Who’s Kimberley? on her own Kimbrig label. When Fantasy picked the release up for distribution the following year, the LP was renamed Passing Clouds. In 1973 Chess released her second album, Come And Get Me I’m Ready.

Neither Fantasy nor Chess released any of the album cuts as singles...perhaps sensing that they didn't comfortably fit in the context of contemporary soul. As a direct consequence, both of these albums have languished in obscurity. I don't even own a vinyl copy of Passing Clouds~ I was just fortunate enough to score a digital version from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend some time ago. It's a pretty unique album, and I would definitely snap it up if you ever have the opportunity. Meanwhile, you can check out her biography and download more of her tracks via the almighty Sir Shambling.

Needless to say, Hi-Tek gets mad props for unearthing this treasure. For sample-based producers, finding extraordinary source material is as critical to the process as comin' with a fresh style and using ill techniques. The fact that Hi-Tek regularly demonstrates proficiency on all three measures makes him an unbeatable hip hop heavyweight...in this world...and far beyond.

One last thing to get you hyped about Revolutions Per Minute~ a fairly recent interview with Reflection Eternal courtesy of Okayplayer TV:

Word From Your Moms:

“In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.”-Frantz Fanon


Anonymous said...

beautiful commentary, homie - nothin un-mega about it. thanks much for the kim briggs: cuh-razy, but i actually LOVE it (though i think listening to it in the morning on a sunny day is the ONLY way you can do it if not assisted by deity dose doobies, and even or especially then, you'll prolly need same said deity to hold you and tell you it'll be alright when the crazy goes rogue).

onward and upward, chale! the approach is fresh-fresh and leaves lots of space to explore. hip-hop loves a remix. we will def stay true.

Gregor said...

Ay Scholar. I was tryin to find out that sample for awhile now. Thx man.

Barbara said...

Great Video Dogg had to watch it twice...great great great job.

Täsh said...

A pleasure, as always, sir. Great read.
Thank you once again!

Raggedy said...

Yes, Kim Tolliver's Passing Clouds is an album that puts you on a bumpy road. But I love it. And there is no other female voice that touches me so, so deeply as Kim's.
Thanks for posting her music.
My personal favorites by her are "He's Still On My Mind," "Let Them Talk," and "Get Myself Together." When she hits the high notes, I feel as if I shared in the loss she's singing about. (You'll find the tracks here: http://raggedy-soundofsoul.blogspot.com/search?q=Kim+Tolliver )

chrome said...

respect scholar, nice post. no doubt this joint left me feenin' for RPM when I heard it in on the Union Mixtape. d/ling Kimberley for my "souled on" winamp playlist

... and here I was about to give you dap on bare bones blog minimalism only to find your other blog bits floating at the bottom of the page (browsing with Google Chrome).

give http://draft.blogger.com/ a try, not to bad the new templates

Scholar said...

Anon~ I'm humbled. I think it may be safe for you to be on a first name posting basis now that kuh-ray-z isn't here to bring any noise, but there's no mistaking your voice either way. much love

Gregor~ You're welcome, sir.

Barbara~ I really dig the video, too. Truly appreciate your kindness.

Täsh~ Gratitude. I'm never sure how many people actually read the content. It means a lot.

Raggedy~ Thanks for sharing more of Kim's tracks with everyone here. I need to link your blog on the sidebar...sorry for the oversight.

chrome~ Ohhhh...thank you, family...help me stay on point! I use Chrome, too...did a quick edit in IE that screwed everything up momentarily. Hopefully there are no more blog bits now...haha.

Hope you've been well, sir.

Travis said...

If that was the condensed version, I'd hate to see the long play. Excellent commentary as usual, the song is one of the better ones I've heard this year and the sample is crazy. Good looks as always my mello my man....

paul said...

We've only just begun...

Peace, and much love to you.

Barbara said...

Hey Dogg you must remember Chow Yun Fat ..from movie The Killer I gave you . Subliminal mind control Ha Ha...like the Confucius too.

Damian said...

thanks so much for this post, scholar. been following for some time, and always love the selections, but don't always have time to give each artist the time they deserve, so this is a great format for me.
that RE track was just what i needed to hear as well - very inspirational. can't wait for the album to drop.

SoulKlap said...

Scholar I just wanna let you know...you did it for me again!! I flipped another SouledOn sample! "i Owe You Love" by The Bright Side of Darkness. It's called, "iOweYou." I hope you enjoy this!!! Thanks again for such a wonderful blog!!

"iOweYou" SoulKlap_Produced by SoulKlap http://usershare.net/dh8k54okybej

www.muebles-en-soria.com said...

This can't work in reality, that's what I think.

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