Monday, February 27, 2012

Leftover hate

Over at the Stay Hatin' tumblr site, I just posted a new episode of the rap talk podcast I do with SergDun and Soft Money.

It's probably the most amateurish podcast we've done to date but maybe also my favorite. I like about 90% of the selections and the conversation felt great this time. I also edited this show a little differently, leaving in some of the in-studio back and forth where we hash out what we want to play-- it's an excellent window into how he we put these shows together.

Unfortunately we made a mistake with the mic levels so much of my talking and Serg's talking is painfully distorted. If you can deal with some distortion and care at all about new rap music, I recommend it. Here's a direct link to download it.

If you care at all about new rap music but can't deal with distortion, you might want to head over to the tumblr anyway so you can check out the songs we selected and some cool things we linked to (Too $hort talking to DJ Vlad about white people and the N-word, Too $hort sounding more humbled and apologetic than I ever would have imagined in Ebony, Noz's TDE profile from The Fader, Andre 3000's conversation with GQ).

Here are two things I mentioned over there with a little more context:

Messy Marv: "Intro" (Scalen, 2012)

Messy Marv is a San Francisco rapper famous for playing with his nose, beefing with other Bay rappers and releasing like one album per month. He's also dope.

This skit is the first track from his latest CD, Da New Frank Lukas Dat Neva Wore Da Mink Coat, a record that's enjoyable but bizarre on multiple levels, starting with the title. Frank Lucas was the drug kingpin turned snitch who was played by Denzel Washington in American Gangster. Marv is vehemently anti-snitch-- for example, he ignited a nasty beef with his cousin San Quinn, another rapper from the Fillmore with whom Marv has recorded multiple albums, after San Quinn allegedly IDed another rapper as the person who killed Fat Tone, the person who allegedly killed Mac Dre-- so it's weird that he not only names his album after a famous snitch but begins it with a skit in which he pretends to snitch on JT the Bigga Figga, another Fillmore rapper, for snitching on him.

The convoluted snitching-on-a-snitch premise is funny in itself but the details Marv inserts (caps on JT's lips, talking about his cold nipples, etc.) make this the funniest Messy Marv track I've heard since this:

Messy Marv: "Don't You Say That" (Scalen, 2005)

Last week DMX did a great interview on New York's Power 105. I'm not a huge fan of his music but hearing him talk about a lot of the crazy stuff he's been through in the last 10 years is fascinating. Also, his take on the current state of rap music (the source of the .gif below) is awesome.


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Go to these parties

I don't generally post much about my gigs but here are two worth mentioning.

I recently started doing a party at the Oakland Layover on the first Thursday of every month called HIGH LIFE. Over the past few years I've struggled to find a night and venue that's a good fit for the music I want to play. I've mostly ping-ponged between weekend parties that cracked but where I was held hostage by crowds who only wanted to hear current radio stuff and under-attended parties on off-nights where I could play whatever I liked for too few people.

Thus far, the two HIGH LIFE parties I've done have been a perfect balance. The Layover is a really unpretentious bar and when it jumps it has the feel of a great house party-- you know, sweaty windows, no attitude, people down for whatever. The two I've done so far have not only jumped, they've given me to play a huge cross-section of stuff I love but don't always get to play together: new raps, disco, old soul, house, dancehall, funk, salsa, etc. etc. (When Dave Chappelle and Donnell Rawlings showed up to hang out at the last one, I knew I was on to something.)

So, to recap: first Thursday of the month, at the Layover (1517 Franklin St. in Oakland), 10 pm to close, no cover. Good times.

Next Saturday, March 10th, I'm doing a one-off at Milk with Mr. Len of Company Flow, DJ B.Cause and Eddie K. This is special for a bunch of reasons: Mr. Len almost never plays out in the Bay, B.Cause and I very seldom get to DJ together, I don't play in SF all that often and, lastly and most importantly, it's a 50th birthday party for my friend DJ Stef.

Although I've known DJ Stef since the early 1990s, I can't even begin to describe all of the things she's done to contribute to the music scene, from creating the Vinyl Exchange fanzine (which was the first place I ever published writing about rap music), to hosting and DJing parties, to being there at just about any cool event over the years and enthusiastically supporting other DJs and people trying to do cool stuff. Any time I've got a question about a party or a venue or a dance step from back in the day, she's about the first person I go to! Also for me she's a model of how to age without turning into an old person.

A few years ago, I had the honor of DJing her all 45-themed 45th birthday party with Mr. Supreme, B.Cause and many others and it was a blast. I'm very excited to be participating in this one.

Details: Saturday, March 10th, Milk Bar (1840 Haight St., SF), 10 to close, $5.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Darling Dears and Funky Heavy

A few years ago I received a mix of obscure teen soul ballads from my friend David Griffiths, a New York record dealer and obsessive who has curated some fine reissues on labels like Daptone and Kay-Dee. The selections in the mix were excellent and almost all were new to me.

Two tracks particularly grabbed me. Both featured an unusual pairing of airy female harmonies set against a wall of sludgy funk and heavy drums. One track was a snapshot of new love in bloom, the other a despairing slice of heartbreak. Both had a rawness and a purity that was totally transporting.

When I hit up David for details about those tracks, he explained they were taken from two sides of a phenomenal (and phenomenally rare) 7" single on the Flower City label by the Darling Dears & Funky Heavy (I had to ask twice to be sure I heard him right; the name just seemed too awesome to exist in real life). He told me how he had begun searching for the single after stumbling across a mention of it in Jeffrey Beckman's reference book, Soul Harmony Singles 1960-1990.

David's a native of Rochester a/k/a Flower City, so the label name piqued his curiosity and led him to uncover the story of how a teenage female quartet from Rochester, the Darling Dears, came to record with Funky Heavy, a local instrumental combo who roamed the area in a bus they called the Funky Skunk. Funky Heavy had often backed the Darling Dears during their rehearsals and live performances, so it was natural that they should go into a local studio together.

A thousand copies of their collaboration were pressed, but despite some local airplay the release was soon lost to posterity. The Darling Dears dropped out of the business, while Funky Heavy stuck it out, later morphing into High Voltage and then the Voltage Brothers. Under the latter name the group cut three well-distributed LPs and continue to perform to this day.

Over the years, the Darling Dears and Funky Heavy single became a holy grail for both sweet soul and funk collectors. For a time, only a handful of copies were known and the release reached stratospheric prices on eBay.

In 2008, David managed to track down the members of Funky Heavy, securing the masters and licensing the single for reissue. It is now the first release on his new label, Orivious, and it's been beautifully pressed and packaged. Orivious's distributor, Now-Again, is hosting a free download of "And I Love You" and selling copies of the 7" reissue.*

As a bonus, here's the original version of "I Don't Think I'll Ever Love Another", which was recorded by a male group, Rock Candy:

Rock Candy: "I Don't Think I'll Ever Love Another" (Dontee, 1971)

Rock Candy was a Baltimore group that also recorded as the Contemplations. This is a solid outing and quite similar to the Darling Dears' later version, but somehow it's nowhere near as transcendent.

*As I was preparing this post, I learned of a competing reissue of the single on the Cultures of Soul label. From what I can tell, both labels made a good faith effort to license the release, Orivious from Funky Heavy, Cultures of Soul from the record's producer, Alvin Lofton. I don't know who has the right of it, but I'm glad that someone is making these amazing songs more widely available.

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