Tuesday was Mardi Gras, which inspired me to pull a bunch of New Orleans soul and funk records I hadn't listened to in a while. I never noticed before how good these two Allen Toussaint productions sound together.
I haven't posted a radio mix in a while, which is a shame because I don't really play any dance music on my show outside of that. Even though I record these live it ends up being a huge time-suck due to editing curses, dealing with bouncing out of ProTools, etc. However, this week I got motivated to because a couple friends of mine just came out with records and I'm hyped on both.
First, my homeboy Trackademicks's debut single FINALLY came out on Fool's Gold. He's a super-talented dude and it's about time the world found out about him and his crew, the Honor Roll. I put the Sammy Bananas mix on here, but my favorite track from the single is "Topsidin'", which I've been running ever since The [Re]Mixtape Vol. 2 hit my sweaty hands. Go buy the whole EP here or just about any place music is sold online.
The other is the new Pleasure & Pressure Vol. 1 EP, which my dude White Girl Lust put out on his label, Solid Bump. I admired the two previous Solid Bump EPs, which were like a lightly glitchy electro take on the stuff that fed 90s West Coast rap (Zapp, P-Funk, etc.), but this time out the sound is a little sexier. I've included WGL's "Blackout!", but I like all four tracks on the EP, including Laberge's and DreDay's.
DJ Sega: "Colours" N.A.S.A.: "Gifted" feat. Santogold & Kanye West (Jim Sharp Re-Shuffle) Trackademicks: "Enjoy What You Do" (Sammy Bananas RMX) White Girl Lust: "Blackout!" BladeRunners: "Disco Juice" Busta Rhymes: "Don't Touch Me" (U-Term RMX) Lykke Li: "Breaking It Up" (Punks Jump Up RMX) Tepr: "Minuit Jacuzzi" (dATA RMX) Treasure Fingers: "Come True Tonight" (dub) Blaqstarr: "Get Off" Do or Die: "Po Pimp (Do You Wanna Ride)" feat. Twista Da Organization: "Can't Stop No Player"
For those parked near a radio or a computer from 3 to 5:30 today, my radio show airs on KALX Berkeley 90.7 FM and streams here.
The production on this track is so other-worldly-- spooky, but also just strange.
The first time I heard it, it took a minute to register that the main sample was the first three words of the theme song from the Monkees. I can halfway rationalize the WTF?-ness of it by recalling that the Monkees had a huge revival at about the time this was released, but still there's the way the sample is used-- manually played, echoing in and out, virtually unrecognizable, the words murmured and indistinguishable, the mood totally at odds with that of the original. I don't know if he had a hand in the production, but Marley Marl is credited with the mix.
I'm not sure if Double Image was a Philly or an NYC group; they recorded in both cities and the credits on this and their other release include a mix of names from both. I have a nagging feeling they made additional records under another name but maybe it's just because they sound so much like Hostyle.
I'm kind of kicking myself for not using the last two weeks to celebrate Black History Month by posting nothing but 80s-era Black nationalist rap since that micro-genre is super-near to my heart and it's not like I get to play a lot of, say, Unique & Dashan in the club. This is probably my favorite song in that style that's not (a) by Public Enemy or (b) funny in an over-the-top reverse-racist kinda way.
Def Jef was a Delicious Vinyl second-stringer who cut two solid but not terribly distinctive records for the label. He rips this but it's hard for me not to focus on the production on this remix.
A lot of people spazz about the creativeness and eclecticness of the sampling on the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique but, great as that album is, this remix is my favorite production from Matt Dike. Like the beats on Paul's Boutique, this combines Ultimate Breaks & Beats staples (Melvin Bliss's "Substitution"), slightly-ahead-of-the-curve rarities (Clemon Smith's "Brother Man, Sister Ann"), common records you wouldn't expect to hear in a rap song but that sound great there (the Rolling Stones' "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)") and unexpected little parts that sneak up on you (Ramsey Lewis's "Hot Dawgit"). All the pieces fit together so damn well.
Back in the 1980s the song also appeared on a Charly comp of Allen Toussaint/Marshall Sehorn productions called Sehorn's Soul Farm Vol. 2. The version of the song on that comp featured a radically different vocal-- I suspect they inadvertently pulled the wrong master tape. I actually prefer it to the 45 version, but maybe just because it's the one I got to know first:
Tomorrow night Willie Maze and I will sexy up our weekly Crazy from the Heat party with a little more love music than usual and some cupcakes (for real, I'm baking 'em!).
In preparation, I spent part of today ripping 90s-era slow jams, including some old favorites ("Cupid"! "Ask of You"!) and a recent one:
Co-Ed: "Roll Wit Me" RMX feat. T.I.P. (Universal, 2000)
As far as I can tell, "Roll Wit Me" was a hit in the South but never really happened anywhere else. (It probably didn't help that Universal never serviced the original, just two much crunker remix 12"s with Big Gipp and the Ying Yang Twins.) I would have posted the mp3, but it's available on iTunes and Amazon and it's really, really worth your 89 or 99 cents.
If you've ever heard his Love Break CDs, you know his mixes in this vein are soulful, funky and top-notch. (If you missed out on either of those the first time, it's worth a visit here.)
The track list on the new one is this:
The Friends Of Distinction "Circles" Aretha Franklin "Call Me" Donny Hathaway "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" Rick James "Fire & Desire" feat. Teena Marie Curtis Mayfield "Sweet Exorcist" James Brown "That's My Desire" Otis Redding "That's How Strong My Love Is" Sam Cooke "Bring It On Home To Me" Irma Thomas "Ruler Of My Heart" Al Green "Simply Beautiful" The Isley Brothers "Voyage To Atlantis" George Harrison "I'll Take You Anytime" Stevie Wonder "I Believe (When I Fall In Love)" Patrice Rushen "Settle For My Love" Prince "Adore" Quincy Jones "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" Rene & Angela "Your Smile" (12" Version) The Isley Brothers "Fire And Rain" The Smith Connection "Rainy Days And Mondays" Darondo "Listen To My Song" The Beach Boys "Forever" Rita Wright "I Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You" Black Ivory "Got To Be There" Brenda Russell "So Good, So Right" Bonnie Pointer "More And More" David Bowie "Can You Hear Me" Earth, Wind And Fire "Can't Hide Love" The Rolling Stones "Let It Loose" East Of Underground "I Love You For All Seasons" Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell "If This World Were Mine" The Delfonics "Walk Right Up To The Sun" New Birth "You Are What I'm All About" Steely Dan "Any Major Dude" Bill Withers "Can We Pretend"
Big shout to Cos for including the best Rolling Stones song there is (the first time I rode in his car I spotted a store-bought cassette of Exile on Main Street and it cemented my respect for him as a real music dude). Also, big shout to Mrs. Tova Rockwell for inspiring things!
Questlove is frequently quoted to the effect that rap music is better when Republicans are in office. Stated like that, it's a simple, elegant theory that's a fairly useful predictor of overall musical quality in a given year, although it can't explain, say, the shittiness that was rap in 2008.
What Questlove actually said in this interview in The Believer is a little more nuanced:
My theory is that nine times out of ten, if there’s a depression, more a social depression than anything, it brings out the best art in black people. The best example is, Reagan and Bush gave us the best years of hiphop.... No matter how far back in time people wanna go it works. Start with King Oliver or Ma Rainey or Louis Armstrong. The worse the social conditions, the better the black music. I’m not sayin strictly, a Republican has to be in office. Social depression, financial depression, and an overall hopelessness brings the best of art. Gospel starts in slavery. The blues start around the Depression. Jazz starts in the post-Depression period. At the beginning of the civil rights movement you had doo-wop, rock ’n’ roll, and soul. The glue that held that together was a spiritual bond. That’s what’s missing from today. That’s what made hiphop great in the eighties. Now, with Bush in office and the war and al-Qaeda and everything goin on we should be seeing the best music.
I'm not a particularly big fan of the Roots-- although I like some of theirrecords-- but as someone who spends way too much time thinking about rap music history, I think Questlove's formulation is pretty much genius.
Anyhow, I was moved to track the quote down because I've been feeling like rap music is about to get good again and I think the economy being in the toilet has something to do with it. I've got no problem with escapist bullshit per se-- the first time I heard a broke rapper boast about owning a jet I probably chuckled at the audacity-- but repetitive bullshit is another story and I'm glad the economy has given rappers something to rap about besides having money, clothes, strippers, guns, drugs and rapping.
I think credit for kicking off the trend has to go to Young Jeezy, who back in the summer had the foresight to name his album The Recession and to call the election months before either was a sure thing. (Maybe there's room for him on Obama's Council of Economic Advisers; no wait, I hear Commerce Secretary is open-- birds in every kitchen!) Since then, it's begun to snowball-- so we're treated to things like a formerly pretend-rich rapper racing to get out in front of it:
Cam'ron: "I Hate My Job" (Asylum, 2009)
And weirder things, like one of the few rappers who seems to be genuinely paid chasing the trend. (I do love the way he flips one of his own classic lines ["it was all good just a week ago/now I'm wearing the same clothes a week in a row"].)
Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth: "Specialize" feat. Scatter Black a/k/a Kenny from the YG'z & some rent-a-toaster (Elektra Japan, 1996)
This is a track that was only released in Japan and, unlike most Japan-only rap releases by NYC artists (hey DITC!), doesn't suck.
Back in 1995 or so, my homeboy Tim Wallen had a mean mixtape game and he put a slightly different version of this song on one of his tapes. I think I must have rewound it to hear "Specialize" about 200 times.
Dedicated to Fifi who got ran over by a Pathfinder with loud music
In the late 80s/early 90s there was a generation of NY house producers who dabbled in rap music. The most obvious is Kenny Dope, who produced a couple obscure but now much-sweated rap releases (Kaos's Court's In Session, N.M.C. & A.D.J.'s 12") before he had house hits and has intermittently done rap-related production ever since. Another is Todd Terry.
Big shout to my boys the International Hip House Gangsters.
At about the same time, Royal House released an album entitled Can You Party? ("Yes I can!", someone wrote on my copy; this post's title is from the credits of that release). The album was an odd mix of house and sample-heavy rap instrumentals that sound like some of Mantronix's production of that era ("Listen to the Bass of Get Stupid Fresh Part II, "King of the Beats", etc.):
I had an itch to hear the Irene Scott record and the Jimmy Radcliffe single just happened to bookend the other side of a shoebox of 45s; when I listened to the lyrics they seemed to complement each other. Kinda.
Irene Scott was from Chicago; I presume she was related to the Scott Brothers, who appear in the credits and recorded quite a few singles of their own.
The Steve Karmen Big Band feat. Jimmy Radcliffe: "Breakaway" (UA, 196?)
Steve Karmen may have been king of the jingles but this one is all Jimmy Radcliffe-- his delivery of the spoken part is so great it keeps this from going off the rails and over a cliff of kitsch. Radcliffe also cut this classic.
A few weeks ago I was shopping at Amoeba and came across a relatively recent Sundazed reissue of the Animated Egg's self-titled LP.
The Animated Egg was a band name invented by the Alshire label to package a bunch of psych instrumentals cut by an anonymous group of studio musicians. Alshire was a '60s-era budget label that sold cheaply recorded music packaged to appeal to the most uninformed impulse buyers-- LPs of hack cover versions and muzak that were sold in liquor stores, grocery stores and the like. Although most of the output of Alshire and related labels like Custom, Wyncote and Contessa is pretty useless, the Animated Egg recordings are wild, funky and thoroughly groovy. For years psych and funk collectors puzzled over who created the music, since the credits on the Alshire release reveal nothing.
The new reissue has liner notes that unravel the story of the recordings and reveal the guy behind the Animated Egg, a session guitarist named Jerry Cole. During the '60s, Cole played on records by the Beach Boys, the Byrds and countless other acts that recorded in L.A. He also led a group called the Id, who cut one fuzzy, psychedelic LP for RCA in 1967. At about the same time he recorded an album's worth of instrumental jams which somehow found their way into the hands of the Alshire/Custom/Contessa family of budget labels.
These recordings, together with some alternate versions of material from the Id album, were released not only as the Animated Egg album, but also repackaged (sometimes with overdubs) on a dizzying number of releases including the 101 Strings' Astro Sounds from Beyond the Year 2000, The Black Diamonds' A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Haircuts & the Impossibles' Call It Soul, the Projection Company's Give Me Some Lovin, T. Swift & The Electric Bag's Are You Experienced? and the Associated Soul Group's Top Hits of Today.
During the '90s, many of the releases were rediscovered by psych folks, sample hunters and kitsch fans, particularly after Astro Sounds was prominently featured in a Re:Search book and bootlegged on CD. Apparently Cole was unaware of the fuss or even of many of the budget label releases containing his music until relatively recently. He passed away last year, shortly before the Sundazed reissue.
My favorite song from the reissue is "Sock It My Way"; this is an alternate version with awesomely eerie string overdubs: