Monday, February 28, 2011

Q: What's better than

The Ascots: "She's So Indifferent to Me Now" (Crazy Cajun, 19??)?

A: Nothing.

Or at least nothing that's occurring to me this second.

The Ascots were a trio made up of Talmadge Armstrong, A.C. Gillory and James Kelly Duhon. Their lone LP, 1978's Color Me Soul, seems to have been cobbled together from recordings that were years old-- two of its tracks were released in the early 1970s on a single on Huey Meaux's Jetstream label and others sound like they date at least that far back.

Duhon and Armstrong each also released a number of solo singles on Port Arthur, TX labels in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I think mid-decade Armstrong moved to LA, dropped part of his first name and recorded some very sought-after modern soul. This is probably my favorite of those, although this is good, too.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Dream day

Yesterday marked the 11th anniversary of the murder of Mike "Dream" Francisco, one of the most beloved and respected figures in Bay Area graffiti.

My friend Willie Maze has put together an event tomorrow night to celebrate Dream's legacy and to raise money for Dream's son, Akil. I'm on the bill along with some of the Bay's best DJs including Fuze, Sake One, Shortkut, Myke One, Qbert and Willie Maze himself. There'll be live performances by Bored Stiff, Boots Riley with my homie Roberto Miguel, and Hobo Junction, among others.

Doors open at 6 for an art show by Dream's crew, TDK. The party starts at 9 and goes until late.

I'll probably be playing at least one of these unless someone beats me to it:

Plan Bee: "Quest 4 Survival" feat. Saafir & Pooh Man (One Hundred 20, 1994)

Plan Bee: "Grindin' RMX" (One Hundred 20, 1994)

Saafir: "Runnin' from 5-0" (One Hundred 20, 1994)

Plan Bee was a member of Hobo Junction who was senselessly murdered in 1992. Mike Dream was a close friend of his and he pressed up some of Plan Bee's raps as a tribute. Many people sweat the EP because it featured Saafir's first solo appearance, but Plan Bee was a pretty fair rapper himself. Dream himself later appeared on Saafir's Boxcar Sessions, doing one of the spoken pieces that dot that album.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Late night February 17th

I'm obsessed with Big Ghost Chronicles, a blog devoted to the wisdom and teaching of Ghostface Killah. Only not actually written by Ghostface Killah.

Just in the last week Big Ghost has offered god lessons on why you should choose a girl before your fifth Long Island, DJ Khaled's quest to market the same song 5,000 times, the only part of Lil Kim that hasn't been surgically altered, as well as the umpteenth post on the supreme softhandedness of Drake.

Thank god there are antidotes like this:

Ghostface Killah: "Wildflower" (radio edit) (Epic, 1996)

"Wildflower" is the greatest Ghostface song ever and some days I think it's the best rap song period. Back when I used to do a broadcast radio show and relied mostly on vinyl, this 12" was invaluable since playing "Wildflower" either means a lot of fast editing or FCC beef.

Ghostface Killah: "Untitled (Good Times)" feat. Superb & Raekwon (Epic, 2001)

When I was looking for my "Wildflower" 12" I ran across this, which is one of many songs that didn't make it on to Bulletproof Wallets, presumably due to sample clearance. I believe that album had a budget of approximately $37 and 36 of them went to pay for Carl Thomas features.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All city all the way

As a follow-on to the interview with Joe Quixx I posted yesterday, here are some things that came up in our conversation or relate to it.

Grandmaster Flash: "Wild Style Routine" (Original Version)

Joe cites this routine as a huge inspiration and something that he regularly revisits to this day. Because Bob James wouldn't clear use of "Take Me to the Mardi Gras", the version of Wild Style that's available on DVD features different music dubbed over this sequence. Ripped from the VHS version by Noz; I lifted this from his non-secrete Tumblr site. Thank you based Noz.

King Tech & MC Sway & Michael Erickson & Alexander Mejia: "Truly Funky" (Wild Style, 1989)

This track begins with some conversation between Michael Erickson and Alexander Mejia, two mix DJs who were established presences on KMEL before the Wake Up Show got there. Although both played hip hop, they came from a different generation and the lead-in to this track dramatizes that well-- Erickson and Mejia sound very smooth and adult compared with Sway and Tech. This is probably my favorite track from the All City Productions crew.

And now for something that doesn't feature "God Made Me Funky":

Flynamic Force: "We Want to Rock You" (All City, 1988)

This was Sway and Tech's first single and while I'm not really wild about the rapping or the track, the tape edits and scratching are so hardbody. The track also appears on an otherwise lame 12" by a King Tech-produced R&B group, New Kraze.

All City Productions: "Bust Your Rhymes" (All City, 1992)

This Joe Quixx-produced posse cut is the A-side of "Unsolved Mysterme" but it was never as popular. Aside from the intro, it sounds better than I remembered.

For those who want to hear more All City stuff, Ministry of Information has a rip of the Full Resistance 12", which is pretty good.

Milk: "Get Off My Log" (Joe Quixx & King Tech's Jazzyfatwoody RMX) (American, 1994)

I love the original version and this remix doesn't really fit with Milk's obnoxious adenoidal thing, but it's an interesting curiosity. It was always really hard to find on wax although it appears on some pressings of Milk's Never Dated CD.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2 Busy Saying Yeah - Real Talk: Joe Quixx

This installment of 2 Busy Saying Yeah is something completely different-- it's an entire episode devoted to a conversation with a key figure in the Bay Area hip hop scene, Joe Quixx.

Joe Quixx began DJing as a high-schooler in Hayward in the mid-1980s. After making a name for himself, he joined up with a crew that revolutionized the sound of radio in the Bay Area and beyond. As the primary DJ for the Wake-Up Show and the 10 O’Clock bomb, Joe broke records and introduced a generation of listeners to uncut hip hop and to digging in the crates. As a producer, Joe created a number of underground classics. His style influenced a generation of listeners and he continues to inspire other DJs with his uncompromising, eclectic sound.

In the interview Joe talks about the formative influences that shaped his DJing, how the Wake Up Show came together and his classic productions for the B.U.M.S., Mysterme and others.

Me and Joe Quixx at the Bay Area Hip Hop Coalition First (and Last?) Annual BBQ, 1998

I first met Joe in 1992 or so when my homeboy Beni B started taking me up to the Wake Up Show, bringing Joe Quixx beats and samples to play on the radio. Joe and I quickly hit it off and for a number of years would frequently dig for records. Over the years we did a few residencies together and were even roommates for a while. He is one of my favorite DJs and has been a big influence on me. This interview is hopefully the first in a series of conversations with important figures in Bay Area rap.

I'm experimenting by making the interview available in two ways. One is as a single file available through my regular host, Podomatic. The other is as a series of chapters available through Soundcloud. Unfortunately, due to the length of the clips, I wasn't able to make all five of the chapters available through a single free Soundcloud account, so I may try and host these elsewhere.

The entire interview:

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Four (out of five) easy pieces:

Joe Quixx Interview Pt. 1 - How it all began

Joe talks about losing his first battle, the routine that inspired his style and the Bay scene in the mid-1980s.

Joe Quixx Interview Pt. 2 - The Wake Up Show

Joe talks about how he and his crew created the Wake Up Show.

Joe Quixx Interview Pt. 4 - Productions

We discuss a few of his landmark productions.

Joe Quixx Interview Pt. 5 - DJing

Joe talks about his love of DJing. I found his excitement about DJing really inspiring.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Just in time for Valentine's Day

I don't think I've ever posted a slow jam like this before but two days before Valentine's Day seems like an appropriate time. I happened to snag this a few months ago on the strength of the cover and was quickly won over by its LeVert-style smooveness.

Ver-Sa-Tyl: "I Don't Know What True Love Is" (Rim, 1989)

Ver-Sa-Tyl hailed from Tulsa and although they were singers, the group's members had great budget rap names: M.C. Mooski, M.C. Sex-E, D.J. Steadyrock & M.C. Wilroque.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

2 Busy Saying Yeah - D.J. Rogers

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This episode of 2 Busy Saying Yeah is a mix devoted to one of the most overlooked figures in soul music, D.J. Rogers.[1]

I wouldn't argue that he's a talent on the order of contemporaries like Sly Stone, Al Green or Marvin Gaye, only that he deserves better than he gets. Rogers is a phenomenal singer who wrote and arranged some great soul songs. His music deserves a wider audience.

Rogers released eight LPs of inspirational soul music between 1973 and 1982. While only one of those albums was explicitly a gospel LP, all of them are steeped in the spirit, with lyrics about faith and perseverance. It's some of the most uplifting music I know.

This mix draws heavily on Rogers's It's Good to Be Alive album, which for my money is probably the most neglected major-label soul LP of the 1970s and which I've long hoped would experience an Inspiration Information-style rediscovery. I first heard it years ago during what was a pretty rough time in my life and even if it didn't dispel my pain, it did remind me of what it might feel like to be happy again. It sounds like what Sly Stone's Fresh would sound like if it had been made by someone blissed out on life, his lady and his newborn son.[2]

The rest of Rogers's discography is hit or miss. Hope Songs Vol. 1 is a great album and both Rogers's self-titled debut and Love Brought Me Back contain more than a couple of really good songs. Trust Me, The Message Is Still the Same and On the Road Again each contain a couple of really good songs. Love, Music & Life does not contain any good songs. The mix includes most of my favorites:

1. Bailout
2. It's Good to Be Alive
3. Love Will See You Through
4. Listen to the Message
5. Living Is All That Matters
6. Pressin' On
7. Will You Remember Me?
8. Love You Forever
9. (It's Alright Now) Think I'll Make It Anyhow
10. Love Brought Me Back
11. I'm Sold on You
12. He'll Be Your All and All
13. Hold On, Be Strong
14. One More Day
15. Celebration
16. Trust Me
17. Love Can Be Found
18. If You Didn't Love Me (Don't Go Away)
19. Faithful to the End
20. Say You Love Me
21. Overcome
22. Coming Back
23. Jesus Chant
24. Coming Back [Reprise]

For what it's worth, I probably should have included Patrice Rushen's "Givin' It Up Is Givin' Up", but I kind of spaced on it initially and then after the fact decided it didn't really fit in the mix anywhere. Plus he's more or less a back-up singer on there. Great song though. The Coup and Pimp C both used it well but I'll always associate it with this.

[1] Which is not to say that he's been completely overlooked. Kanye West sampled one of his songs on the last Common Sense album that I made it all the way through. His tracks have also found their way onto a Questlove comp and into mix CDs by discerning DJs like Monk One, Muro and Om/Breakself. If I remember right, "Bailout" also caught a shout from the Beastie Boys in Grand Royal long ago.

[2] Rather than someone quickly destroying his talent and himself. The newborn son, D.J. Rogers, Jr., went on to sing, too. He's best known for "Doggie Style", a very R.Kelly/Jodeci-style song on Suge Knight's Above the Rim soundtrack.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The buddy that I like

The Beat Electric blog is hosting a mix of very nice 70s soul and funk obscurities by Deejay Om & Breakself that's well worth a listen.

Om is a San Francisco guy I've known for years; although I've never met Breakself, the folks I know who have all seem to adore him. Apparently he's facing some pretty serious medical issues, so Om was moved to put together a mix of Breakself's records and his own to raise some funds to defray bills. You can hear the mix and read the story behind it here; if it moves you, you might want to donate.

There are a lot of great selections on their mix, some of which were new to me. One of the tracks in there that I don't hear often enough is this:

Johnnie Walker: "Love at First Taste Pt. 2" (New Detroit, 197?)

Keb Darge put the very similar "Love at First Taste Pt. 1" on a compilation years ago. I think this version uses the same backing track but with some different and slightly wiggier overdubs. Either way, it's some uniquely spaced-out late-night funk.

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