Friday, July 27, 2012

Hai guys, please listen to my awesome "mash-ups"!

[Editor's note: this post was recently found among a cache of lost I Wish You Would posts that appear to have been written in 2005. As a result, the content may seem very slightly dated. Moreover, discerning readers may also note that the writing style differs very slightly from the one regular I Wish You Would readers (both of you) have grown accustomed to.]

Hey, have you heard about this new craze called "mash-ups"? It's the hottest thing in the DJ world! All the really happening new DJs do this thing where they like take part of one awesome song and put it with part of another awesome song to make an even more awesome song! (They like "mash" the two songs together, get it?) And then, best of all, the DJ makes a clever name for the "mash-up" that has parts of the names of the original song!

For example, a DJ could take like the instrumental from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and put the vocals from Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious" on top of it and call it "Smells Like Teen Booty"! Don't believe me? Well tough, because somebody already did that! Why if the technology only existed, I would totally prove it to you with like an interwebz link so you could experience it yourself! [Editor's note: this post was apparently written before youtube. Here is such a link.]

If you are unfamiliar with "mash-ups", trust me it is totally the thing now. Crowds love it! Promoters pay you lots of money to play nothing but these "mash-ups" in things called "ultra lounges"! (An "ultra lounge" is like a way better nightclub with bottle service and a lot of white couches.) It's like, why would anybody want to party to music that is unmashed?! That would be like going to a restaurant and ordering beer and pizza and soup and chocolate cake and then they brought them to you in four separate dishes instead of letting you enjoy them at the same time!

Anyhoo, since I'm never one to let a bandwagon pass unmolested, I decided to get in on the action by making my own "mash-ups"! Of course you know me, I had to be different, so I decided to make some "mash-ups" from some older songs! I chose two super-famous classic funk songs, James Brown's "Cold Sweat" and the Third Guitar's "Baby Don't You Cry". [Editor's note: this and this are links to videos of the original songs.]

I worked really hard to choose a concept for the "mash-ups" that made sense and get the "mash-ups" in the proper key. (JK, bros! Nobody cares about that stuff, LOL!) I thought it would be really cool if I took the acapellas of these really old songs and made them sound even older by adding some slow sad old man music! Cool idea, right?! But wait until you hear the "mash-ups"! I even made artwork to make them look like actual old records so I could fool people who don't know how about "mash-ups" into thinking these are old original records! Pretty clever, right?! Shhh, don't tell anybody, bro!

James Brown: "I Don't Care" (King, 1964)

The Soul Pleasers: "Baby Don't Cry" (Living Legend, 196?)

If you like these "mash-ups" please show me love on my Myspace! K thanx, bai!

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

More ecstasy

Recently I realized that when I DJ I don't play the Ohio Players' "Ecstasy" nearly enough. Although it's one of the most joyous records I know, it's not really a prime time sort of record and yet at 2:27 it's also too damn short for early or late in the night.

So I edited it.

I added no extra drums, no quantizing and not even a mixable intro. As a DJ, all of those things can be nice conveniences, but in my view there are some classics you can only fuck up and "Ecstasy" is one of them. Instead, I just made it a little longer and tried to do so in the least obtrusive way possible.

The Ohio Players: "Ecstasy [Matthew Africa extended edit]" (Westbound, 1973)

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Deep space

I've been meaning to write something about Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984 for a while now. At first I held off until the vinyl came out and then I decided to bag it altogether because someone else had already written way more thoughtfully and attentively about it than I could hope to.

Personal Space was compiled by Dante Carfagna, a Chicago based record collector/writer/DJ whose knowledge of obscure soul and funk releases from 1970s completely humbles my own. I suspect he mined this vein for a long time before assembling the compilation. The selections, which are uniformly deep and often great, illustrate how new home recording technology in the 1970s liberated artists to make music without outside help and how this isolation bred sounds that were unique and often, perhaps inadvertently, totally alien.

This is one of the more conventional songs on Personal Space, but also a favorite:

Guitar Red: "Disco From a Space Show" (Mod-Art, 1976)

If I have one complaint about Personal Space, it's that the liner notes are a bit spartan. In conversation, Dante is prolix, endlessly informed and ready to spill gossipy anecdotes about seemingly every release, so I was a little surprised by the restraint he shows here. There's a paragraph that outlines the compilation's theme and each release garners a few sentences that add biographical detail and context, but I hoped for a little more.

So James Cavicchia's essay about Personal Space over on O-Dub's soul-sides blog is a lovely complement. He surveys audio clips of many of the selections and adds observations like this, which threw the compilation into sharp relief for me: "[F]rom this reduced reliance on humans comes also a reduced invocation of them. There is the inescapable sense that without the technology we would never have been able to hear such personal work, but that this same hand of technology has created within the work an alienating distance." (For another great recent piece by James, see his personal, very discursive take on Aretha Franklin's 80s-era recordings, rediscovery and authenticity.)

While fishing through a cache of things I'd ripped to post here eventually I rediscovered this, which seemed like an apt complement to the music on Personal Space:

Leon Ware: "Tamed to Be Wild" (UA, 1972)

Although Ware's classic stepper "Why I Came to California" still gets some run, he's best-known for his work with Motown artists. In the 1970s he wrote or co-wrote hits like Michael Jackson's "I Wanna Be Where You Are" and Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" (Ware also produced and arranged the latter) as well as releasing a handful of solo LPs.

"Tamed to Be Wild" closes out Ware's self-titled first LP and has an unusually weird vibe for a major label soul track. While a female vocal lets you know we're not completely gone into loner territory, everything else points towards desperation and damage-- Ware's mumble-to-a-shout vocal, the wandering, sinister mini-moog line and especially the drums. It's hard to tell what's what's going on with the percussion-- I think there's both a drum machine and a tape loop of live drums-- but the pattern is so stiff and awkward it creates a bizarre kind of propulsion. Who this side of J-Dilla has ever made 4/4 sound so damn unnatural?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stay Hatin' x J-Zone

Last week J-Zone was in town to play DJ Platurn's 45 Sessions party and me and the Stay Hatin' gang were lucky enough to lure him into the studio to tape an episode of the podcast with us. It seemed like a natural fit-- we're all fans of his work (and, to my surprise, had all read his book!) and we knew that he's drawn to a lot of the same ridiculous, over-the-top rap we are. (You can download the episode here and see a playlist and links here.)

I spoke with Jay in advance and he warned me he doesn't follow current rap that closely but I reassured him we'd work it out. Initially, we toyed with changing up the format to make him feel a little more at home, perhaps by devoting the entire show to weird '80s and '90s era raps. Ultimately we decided not to because J-Zone is just so damn good at selecting and showcasing that stuff all by himself.

I follow his eogtrip blog pretty closely, where he regularly compiles tributes to overlooked, flagrantly offensive raps, and was a huge fan of his Ign'ant mix CD, which I will forever love for introducing me to the Poison Clan. Until recently, though, I had never heard any of his Gator$-N-Fur$ mixshows.

There are 17 (and counting, hopefully) Gator$-N-Fur$ mixes, all of which are available free here. J-Zone describes the premise thus: "Each month, the show's music is centered around a different theme (police brutality, relationships, politics, sex, jail, kids, mothers, drugs, school, etc.) The theme approach allowed Chief and I to somehow fit everyone from Kool and the Gang to Gangksta Nip; Paris to Kwame; Steely Dan to Intelligent Hoodlum; Paula Abdul to St. Ides commercials; Tim Dog, Tweedy Bird Loc, Guns 'N' Roses, Suga Free, James Brown, Poison Clan - all in the same play list. Additionally, there's a shit load of comedic debauchery, political incorrectness, and balls-to-the-wall insanity in each show."

His most recent is a show devoted to safe and unsafe sex songs. Like the others I've heard in the series, it seems like it must have taken a crazy amount of work, from selections to mixing to the vocal interludes between him and Chief Chinchilla (pictured above).

Here's one track I wish he'd included. It's one of the silliest rap records I know but also a reminder that the Fat Boys weren't just the corny novelty act they're mostly remembered as. (For a nice antidote, see Dave Tompkins's recent affectionate story about them for Slate. Also see this great interview with Fat Boys svengali Charlie Stettler from the Village Voice.)

The Fat Boys: "Protect Yourself/My Nuts" (Tin Pan Apple, 1987)

All the recent press around the Fat Boys relates to a new pizza box-encased reissue of their debut album. If you've never heard it, it's a classic that never, ever went out of style in the Bay judging from the requests I've gotten over the years and the many rap remakes.

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