Archive for the ‘Madlib’ Category

Order restored

May 31, 2008

With the addition of a new network card, via a new computer, and the inclusion of an Apple Time Machine to my world, I’ve finally restored some normalcy to my own WWW. No more manipulating the rabbit ears to check my email.

My inconsistent WWW over the previous month has left me feeling a bit out of the loop. I’m not sure how accurate my own perception is, however. I’ve still managed to procure Tanya Morgan’s The Bridge, Kidz in the Hall’s, The In Crowd, Al Green’s Lay It Down, Jackson Conti’s Sujinho, and most recently, Common Market’s Black Patch War. I’d say that’s a pretty good yield for a month. Isn’t it interesting that there’s an apparent correlation between my WWW access and music acquisition? I can’t say I saw this coming in 1998, when I was still racing to Music in Your Ear on Thayer St. with my boy Skillz to cop Blackstar and The Love Movement.

Thanks to WTR for throwing that Common Markets track out there. I’ve been listening to Black Patch War for literally 24 straight hours. Sabzi’s production is a subtle throwback. Kind of reminds me of late 1990′s Shawn J. Period, employing lots of floating horns, flutes, scratches, etc. And RA Scion makes me think of Talib Kweli without the nasal congestion. Feel of album is akin to the contemporary-old school-feel goodness that has been coming out of the Pacific NW, see Blue Scholars & Ohmega W-W-Watts, Watts. (Note: I’ve also added Common Market, conveniently located on the WWW too).

Al Green’s Lay It Down. Talk about a throwback. Maybe I’m an ageist, but I usually don’t get too amped when old school cats come out with new albums. It’s a long story I suppose, but in short, it has something to do with the given, now-aged artist, attempting to contemporize their style in a new context. It’s a tough task. Or…maybe I am just an ageist…(or maybe I just have the bad tastes of Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige in mind). Whatever the case, Lay It Down exudes the familiar Al Green of I’m Still In Love With You…30+ years later. Much of this credit of course is due to the man himself. His voice is as smooth as ever. Green’s adlibs are fresh. The man is soulful. The title track, featuring Anthony Hamilton, has Green all over the musical scale, but it works just as it did on “Call Me.” On the production side, The Randy Watson Experience (James Poyser & Questlove) continue to make amazing music. The backdrop they provide Lay It Down preserves Al Green’s soulful crooning. Some how they manage to capture soul of Green’s early days within a 2008 context. At points through Lay It Down, it’s difficult to date the song. That’s the definition of timeless.

Sujinho brings together Madlib and Brazillian drummer/percussionist Mamao, as Jackson Conti (their respective last names). Sujinho is Madlib doing his homework. This isn’t him simply diggin’ through some crates and putting a YNQ spin on some old standard, or concealing some 1964 drumline in some far-out, Quasimoto-Monk Hughes amalgamation. This is Madlib, as Otis Jackson, being the music fan and doing his homework; traveling to South America; eating local cuisine; and kickin’ with an old-school drummer. The result plays like a jam session. Sure, it’s got that now-classic YNQ style to it – the indiscrete shifts in tracks, the occasionally discordance of sounds – but this time, you can hear that more than one person and his imaginary friends are playing together. Madlib and Mamao have made what I presume all jazz-fusion albums of the 60′s and 70′s were like. A few dudes getting together and trading industry secrets, and experimenting. This is nicely demonstrated on “Brazillian Sugar.” Honestly, I’m still digesting the final product. While I’m not a music theorist and cannot dissect the the technicalities, I can judge feelings sounds provide; the overall sound is dynamic, feel-good, & is a perfect Spring-Summer soundtrack.

The Economics of Sampling…

March 20, 2008

This is certainly an interesting issue, politically speaking, because there’s no big bad villain on either side for people to rally against and take sides. It’s fan vs. his favorite musician; techie-information-ager vs. the anti-establishment artist that supplies the soundtrack to his web-surfing and blogging.

So, to follow up on Pete’s post, here’s my take:

In my reading of Madlib’s comments, he was basically saying, “If you like our music, stop posting those samples, because we’re going to get hit with lawsuits and have to stop making this type of music.”

Every Google-able blog post incrementally increases the chances that an enterprising lawyer or corporate research department latches on to an uncleared sample, and files suit. Sure, the information is all discoverable on the net, but that’s why this is the information age and people pay money for other people to organize all that information into an easily-digestible format. The organization of this information is vital (and ironically, copyright-able, as well). These blog posts are doing that work for free.

Whether you pay up front by clearing the sample, or at the back-end by settling a lawsuit, sampling can be expensive for artists like Madlib, and indeed cost-prohibitive.

That is the simple economics of this game, from what I understand. If these artists complied with the strict letter of the law, they couldn’t afford to make those beats.

Ivan actually concedes this point, and ultimately agrees to cease the behavior that Madlib complained about:

Point #5: Should Underground Artists Get Leniency on Copyright Laws?

I mentioned this argument before, and I think it’s one of the the most grounded and fair-minded of them all. Here’s a board member who expressed it quite wisely:

Well if you don’t want to hear anymore classic underground albums come out in the future then keep doing what you’re doing. Realistically there is no way they could have cleared all the samples on Madvillainy, and Lib is obviously trying to prevent any lawsuits now that would both effect him financially, and potential listeners aurally as the album would be withdrawn from stores. You state that you believe all samples should be cleared, but if that was the case 90% of the great underground albums wouldn’t exist.

This leads me to the conclusion that I will now no longer complete sample sets of albums by underground artists such as Madlib. Fair enough people? See? I can be reasonable!…

Now, he goes on to address the various other (sometimes immature) comments made on his blog, and engages many of the faces of this issue as moral and legal matter, but I wanted to highlight the above passage, just so that it does not get lost in cacophony of unrest. It’s understandable to want to defend one’s self under these circumstances, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the issue: assuming he meant what I said above, Madlib was probably right.

In point #5 Ivan expresses an entirely rational position that I actually share. I think it acknowledges that, whatever one thinks about the morality of Madlib’s behavior vis a vis the original artist, and the appropriateness of a fan’s ability to discuss that sampling, as fans, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would make it no longer economically feasible for Madlib to make his music. That risk is real, and the decision on the part of the fan is cold, and rational. So, if you value Madlib’s contribution to the art form over the satisfaction that you get as a fan from public discussion of sample credits, you realize that these blog posts might not be a good idea.

After so many words have been written on the topic, Ivan may be disappointed to see such an binary explanation, but I really think that the issue forces these writers to choose what is most important to them: their sample heavy blog posts or Madlib’s music.

I don’t think that Ivan’s work is wrong in any moral sense. Far from it–it’s excellent. After thinking about the issue for a while, I just think it’s unwise, in light of the above.

The real culprit is the law (“Redirect the anger against politicians and judges, very clever, Kyle!” –Ed.). But until the law changes, the hip-hop community has to get by, and we need good music like Madlib’s to keep the art alive.

For what it’s worth, I think that an enterprising lawyer from our generation will one day convince a judge that sampling is form of “fair use”, making permission from the copyright holder unnecessary. I’m sure this has been argued unsuccessfully in the past (I haven’t done the research), but I’m hoping that as the hip-hop generation populates the legal culture, our attitudes might change, and make this argument more palatable. This might actually become a research project for me.

But if it happens, it is going to be intelligent, articulate folks like Ivan that make a difference… and this discussion is only priming the pump for that future endeavor. Let’s make it happen.

PS: Many of my references to Ivan and Madlib were merely shorthand, as this debate involves many other similarly-situated parties; pardon my laziness, Ivan.

It is Erykah’s Amerykah

February 29, 2008

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War), 2008

I’ve had New Amerykah on blast all week. I’ll say this about Erykah: so damn consistent. I was thinking tonight as I drove home from happy hour with some co-workers, bumpin’ “Me,” a sign of Erykah’s consistency is that I cannot decide which of her albums I like best. Baduizm. Mama’s Gun. Worldwide Underground. New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War). All strong from front to back, that it’s tough to find anything that would separate one from the other. Baduizm has a soulful, fresh vibe to it. Mama’s Gun features an acoustic, jazz influence. Worldwide Underground has Erykah extending her boundaries a bit. And New Amerykah is an amalgam of them all.

Admittedly, with Erykah I always remind myself that some of her subtle themes may take a while to catch onto, e.g. “So I salute you Farrakhan, cause you are me/before I end this dream, before I take one for the team.” I don’t doubt this is the case with NA. But sonically, this album is incredible. Upon my first few listens, I thought it was extended interludes, punctuated with songs. But, Erykah and her musically-blessed production team are on some next $hit here. Several of the tracks feature more than one arrangement, with songs such as “Master Teacher” and “The Hump” switching up while in progress. I’ve always been a fan of that – it reminds me of a free associative jam session. And a quick note regarding the artists she had working on this: ingenious on her part. Madlib; Karriem Riggins, Roy Hargrove, Sa-Ra, Questlove; James Poyser; 9th Wonder; Roy Ayers; Georgia Anne Muldrow (or as I like to call, the female Madlib). As individuals, they obviously had the albums collective sound in mind. As many different arrangements flow in and out of the album, its sound is seamless.

“The Healer,” hip hop anthem of sorts, implicating the wide appeal that hip hop cradles within its hands; akin to the binding nature of religion, but Erykah recognizes that hip hop span across religions. Madlib. Check. Madlib also does up “My People” as Erykah hips up the now famous Eddie Kendricks chant. As previously noted, “Soldier” is one of my favorite tracks. That flute melody is hypnotic (and reminds me of the flute on Hi-Tek’s “Music for Life” from Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip). Conveys similar mood.

“Me” has been coming on strong over the past few days. This reminds me of something that would have been on Mama’s Gun. I love the clapping percussion; bassline is jazz, undeniably; and the horns. I’m a huge advocate of horns, and the way Hargrove dances them within the beat is great. Substance wise, “Me” may have garnered the most attention, due to Erykah’s open nod to Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, (whom has recently been rejected and denounced by Senator Obama) but as this article, from the Dallas Morning News suggests, she’s got “me” in mind for her dubious dinner guest. Politics aside, the music backing “Me” is quite a treat.

“Master Teacher” is one of the most interesting compositions on NA. Speculation was abound that Erykah and Georgia Anne Muldrow would be a dynamic duo (check “Fly Away” from Sa-Ra’s The Hollywood Recordings. And I think this Georgia produced track proves that. With the premise centered on the knowledge that nobody knows everything, Georgia’s convoluted melody and thumpin’ drums are ideal for both her and Erykah’s unique deliveries. About half way through the track, a soulful bassline takes over and Erykah gets contemplative, dreamily singing of sleeping babies, sunsets, and lovers.

The Questlove and James Poyser contribution, “The Hump” is Erykah’s vocal zenith of NA. Vocally, I think this is reminiscent of Baduizm‘s “Next Life Time,” or Mama’s Gun ‘s “Kiss Me on My Neck.” Initially, it sounds like an “I Want You” sequel, but turns out to be a commentary on the relationship between a user and her drugs. It’s almost arranged like “Green Eyes” (MG), broken into steps toward drug abuse recovery – she thinks about what’ll it be like if she can get off and how the drug rules her world; then spends a few bars rationalizing her use, “I never dun dope to cope/only smoke a joint or two…I know people do it day and night, night and day…”; finally, she throws up her hands, and wants to be done, “Lord knows I’m tired of this dope.” Classic Badu tale. “Telephone” continues the contemplative vibe, with Erykah singing a nod to those who’ve passed on. I’m not sure how accurate they are, but the internet is swarming with stories that this song is based on Dilla’s mom telling Erykah that during Dilla’s final days, he would be in a sort of hallucinogenic state, talking to ODB about giving him directions to heaven. I’ve read nothing to substantiate this, but it’s a cool concept nonetheless.

It’s been five long years between Erykah releases, but as usual, the wait is well worth it. And with her indicating that she has NA, Pt. 2 set for a release later this year, 2008 is looking bright for soul (don’t forget to check Coultrain). New Amerykah continues the consistency that we’ve come to expect from Badu. As I stated earlier, you can never discount her substance, e.g. “The Hump,” and Erykah’s dynamic interpretation of her world through her music. In my opinion, she remains one of the few artists who can pack so much depth into a commercially viable album. Musically, this album is on par with Mama’s Gun, which, in turn, I held in the same esteem as D’Angelo’s widely acclaimed Voodoo. Kyle, I think our soul music veggies have found their irrigation.

Review: Guilty Simpson – “Ode to the Ghetto”

January 28, 2008


Guilty Simpson – “Ode to the Ghetto”
Stones Throw Records 2008

In a word: boring…

I’ve listened to the album about 10 times or so now, and I remain unconvinced that Guilty can hold down an album on his own–even one with an all-star production lineup like this. I won’t mince words because I like Stones Throw or Madlib or Dilla or Detroit: Guilty got exposed on Ode to the Ghetto.

I initially thought that this LP had the potential to bring us back to the golden era where an album featuring sub-par emcees could still be a banger because of a ridiculous production lineup. I was wrong. I don’t know if it was an attempt to match Guilty’s lazy delivery, but even some of the producers come weak on Ode.

First, the good part.

“American Dream” is indeed dope. Pete makes the proper reference to Madlib’s Beat Konducta in India project, and that Bollywood/Near Eastern influence he’s been getting out of his system. This beat is vivid, multi-layered, and it changes frequently–necessary busy-ness when Guilty Simpson is involved. Guilty’s deadpan, baritone delivery works well here, if only as an additional layer to an otherwise stellar Madlib beat (in other words, a rapper like Phonte or Blu might not sound as great on this beat). Then again, this is a familiar formula for many of my other favorable Guilty Simpson experiences. Though I’d ultimately be disappointed, this track got me excited for the rest of the album. It was well placed.

The title track “Ode to the Ghetto” also works well, with Madlib’s kid brother Oh No lacing an old-schoolish drum loop over some more Near Eastern vocal samples. There are also some significant changes here, and Guilty probably writes his best hook on the album. Again, the verdict is that Guilty Simpson is only tolerable on a well-crafted, complex sort of beat. Anything less exposes his weakness as an emcee, as I’ll get into below.

“Getting B*****” is one of the last highlights from this offering. I must admit that Denaun Porter has become one of my favorite producers in the last six months or so. His beats are so crisp and loud, yet manage retain the critical amount of grime that keeps them street-worthy. His works also possess a soulful quality that is hard to describe–though it is undoubtedly aided by Mr. Porter’s unique, falsetto singing voice that finds its way onto his tracks. Guilty is dope here. This beat provides the busy, noisy, and dirty playground that Guilty Simpson needs. All of the above might as well apply to “Pigs” as well.

But that’s the extent of it…

Guilty Simpson is too often reliant on his image as a product of the streets, and lacks the lyrical skills to repackage that image into something more novel. Like many commercial rappers, he is peddling swagger, and not much else. That swagger works here and there (see tracks listed above; also see entries in my music library from Yo Gotti, Lil’ Wayne, T.I. and others), but ulitmately, the popcicle-stick-and-bubble-gum foundation of pure swag is far too weak to sustain a full-length album worthy of any critcal praise. I could see some of these tracks turning into a solid 12″, and maybe an EP, but not much else.

“Kinda Live” is a track that I think Mr. Porter should have saved for a more versatile artist (it reminds one of Jay Electronica’s “Hard to Get”); Guilty just sounds uncomfortable switching up his flow for this unorthodox arrangement. I wanted to like this track, and I’ve probably listened to it more than any other on the album, but in the end I was left with the same feeling that one gets when watching George W. Bush squirm when he’s answering a question that his aides didn’t prepare him for. This is dope track but it was not cut out for Guilty. This is not to mention the subject matter, which, now that I have mentioned it, doesn’t work here either.

“Kill Em” and “Almighty Dreadnaughtz” are the two single worst beats I’ve heard from a Stones Throw offering in a while. This wouldn’t make some myspace artist’s mixtapes. That shit was just lazy. If Mark Jackson was writing this, I’m confident he would add a, “Come on, Peanut Butter Wolf, ya better than that!

“Several of the other Madlib and Dilla beats take on that wackier tone reminiscent of some of the Jaylib material, with a more stripped down construction, which has the effect of exposing Guilty for the sub-par emcee he really is. Simple “cat, bat, hat” rhymes proliferate, and with a subtle beat, you have no choice but to focus on the lyrics. Songs like “Robbery”, “Yikes”, and “I Must Love You” take special emcees to make them work. Frankly, sometimes I think these tracks might only work with Lord Quas on the track.

“My Moment” is an interesting, synthy direction for its producer, Black Milk; yet the result is the same, Guilty’s lyrics are in the forefront, and they just put you to sleep. He ain’t talking about anything, and this truth is painfully clear when you’re forced to listen, and not distracted by a loud, multi-layer Madlib or Oh No concoction.

“Footwork” and “My Moment” kinda knock, but they’re not really my style. I’ll give Guilty the benefit of the doubt on these, but I’m not sure that this is anywhere near enough to tilt the scales for the album as a hole. Oh No did lace “Footwork” on that long outro (but you’ll note that the best part of the track is the part where Guilty ain’t rapping).

Given the high regard that many of us hold for Guilty Simpson’s friend and mentor J Dilla, Dilla’s infamous blessing upon Guilty as his “favorite emcee” made all of us stop and take notice of this guy’s career. I’ve often wondered what it was that Dilla saw in Guilty, and I listened intently for it. I guess I’ll have to keep listening–it just won’t be Ode to the Ghetto.

RATING: 2 of 5 tapes.

Way back when…in 2007…

January 3, 2008

Aight, it’s January 3 and neither myself nor Kyle have shared any thoughts on the year in music that was 2007 (looking at our last post, looks like we’ve been hibernating). But, I’ve been listening to music incessantly, and been reading some fine wrap ups on some of the blogs I frequent however, and don’t feel it necessary to cut and paste some of the great albums and tracks that others have recollected, e.g. Ohmega Watts’ Watts Happening over at WTR. (“Model Citizen” still sits atop as my favorite, along with “Dedicated” & “Eyes & Ears.”) Sure, I really dug (or digged) Pharoah’s Desire, Hov’s American Gangster, Kweli’s Ear Drum (Madlib dressed “Everything Man” & “Eat to Live” smartly), and other top choices for top 5-10 albums of the year. There are a few albums that I felt didn’t get represented as well as they should have in others’ top 10 lists.

For example, one of my early favorites of the year was Black Milk’s Popular Demand, shown some love early in ’07. “Sound the Alarm” with Guilty Simpson has to be in the top five for gully of 2007. Through 2007, Black Milk lent some really dope production to a range of artists (not including how he laced up his own work, e.g. “So Gone” & “Take It There,” both from Popular Demand). If you haven’t, be sure to check his work on Wildchild’s Jack of All Trades. “Love at 1st Mic” is so Detroit, so Dilla, you have to love it, featuring the classic cut and stuttering soul sample. This beat could have easily been on Popular Demand. I really like the drums on “Ox to tha D,” but Frank-N-Dank don’t really do it for me, nor does the chorus…but the beat is still pretty hot. Black Milk also killed “Danger,” (shown love at WYDU, #81) from Phat Kat’s Carte Blanche; this track was also featured on BM’s EP, Broken Wax, but in my opinion, the highlight of that project was “U’s a Freak”: Classic tale of dude calling out a girl who’s a lady in the street but freak behind doors (very Slum Village-esque theme), but that beat is ridiculous.

Jneiro Jarel also put out, what I consider, and excellent album in 2007, in the form of his Shape of Broad Minds project, which is to Jneiro Jarel what Yesterday’s New Quintet is to Madlib: includes Jneiro Jarel, Jawwaad, Rocque Won, Dr. Who Dat?, and the only non-Jneiro creation, Panama Black. Craft of the Lost Art (digital version here) features the rare soul/funk samples of Madlib, drum arrangements of Dilla, non-self-absorbed lyrics of Ohmega Watts, and the free wheelin’ style of a Count Bass D release. Four elements that make for a great album. Led by the single “Let’s Go” featuring MF Doom working as a tribute to Dilla (whom I would guess Jarel was a student), Craft of the Lost Art is packed front to back with diversity, but manages to sound coherent in one listen. While tracks like “Let’s Go” & “Light Years Away” back the bangers, I really like when Jarel sculpts some more surreal backgrounds, as heard in “Changes,” which features a rolling sample that makes the track float, “Electric Blue,” one of my faves on the album, and “Lullabanger,” the latter very Madlib-esque in the use of rising tones, and, what sounds like a maraca. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the jazz tribute, “It Ain’t Dead!!” reminding us all that jazz still contributes greatly to hip hop music. Unfortunately, when I was in Philly and tried to check out Zanzibar Blue, I found it to be closed.

Other honorable mentions include:
100dbs & Ryan O’neal’s The Adventures of the One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard – a long-winded title, sure, but it’s certainly worth checking out for 100dbs’s production. Sample-heavy it is, but as I always say, the ability to find an ill sample nearly precludes sculpting the sample into a track. 100dbs digs some good ones. Highlights include “She Got a Body,” “Get Down!” & “One Hand Bandit.”

Waajeed’s Waajeed Presents: The War LP – Again, here we go with Detroit. Waajeed’s production is on point throughout this “compilation,” which is comprised of both vocal and instrumental tracks. The instrumentals are worth it, but you throw in some excellent tracks from Ta’Raach, a few Dilla instrumentals, and 3 solid Tiombe Lockhart songs, and this album gets better and better, culminating with its final two tracks: “Escape from Stinktown” and the instrumental, “Tron.”

I first learned of Uncut Raw’s First Toke over at When They Reminisce. This was certainly a surprise banger for me, and due to this element of surprise, probably is in my top 5 for the year. Both Selfish & Fluent are capable emcees but for me, the production is definitely the selling point – the samples could hardly be more perfect, including so-soulful and funk, and it sounds like it was recorded in a dark basement; it’s got that dusty sound that made (or, makes) Wu-Tang’s Enter the 36 Chambers so appealing. “The Flying” may be in my top 10 tracks for the year, and is quite Dilla-esque if you ask me.

Sa-Ra’s Hollywood Recordings continues the Detroit ambiance and restores some contemporary Prince vibes to the ’07.

And last, but surely not least is Panacea’s The Scenic Route, which you can (or may have already) read about right here. I still maintain that Raw P is one of the premier story tellers out right now.

Here’s to 2007 – an excellent year, imo, for music. Both the underground and not-so underground came with some really solid albums; while I will occasionally get into a funk when I hear an awful hip hop song on the radio, or see some sloppy video on television, I cannot really complain about what came out in 2007. I’m optimistic enough to be quite interested in 2008′s releases.

Hip Hop, rock, rock on and…

Where’s the Soul?

October 8, 2007

Yeah, other than Jill Scott & Musiq (along with Angie Stone, and Eric Roberson), the soul scene has been relatively quiet. There has been quite a bit of noise about possible 2007 releases, including at least one Erykah Badu album (my “I’m holding my breath” button is my kitchen’s utility draw…far back), and a new Al Green album, produced by The Randy Watson Experience. Those are the only leads I have. I think 2008 is probably more realistic for both projects.

I’m not sure what label goes around 4hero, but their Playing With the Changes may be considered a “soul” release; pretty solid listen highlighted by a cover of Stevie’s “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You?)” featuring Terry Devos, as well as tracks with Jack Davey, Darien Brockington, & Phonte. (Speaking of Phonte, I think we can expect a new Foreign Exchange in 2008!)

It’s been a pretty stellar year for hip hop, particularly underground. It started with Madlib & Kweli’s (Kwelib?) Liberation, to which Kyle & I commented to each other, something to this effect: “Damn good start to 2007′s music.” That was my first “2007″ album, added to my library 1/1/2007 as per my iTunes. If I recall, Kyle called me on my way home from New Year’s events and told me he had copped it, and the link was waiting for me when I got home (it was a free release).

It’s much too soon to do a year in review. Nuff said.

Dem Damb Jacksons & September 18th

September 11, 2007

Two thoughts firing between my synapses:

1) Be sure to head over to Rappers I Know and peep Dem Damb Jacksons (Oh No & Kay) with some The ARE. Peruse the site and you can grab a handful of tracks…love the MJ sampling. More on this later.

2) Besides being my brother’s birthday on September 18th, it’s also a Tuesday. As has been well documented right here on this very blog, albums come out on Tuesday. Now, while my brother can certainly not be confused for a fan of hip hop (although he did borrow, enjoy, and subsequently lose my It Was Written), he can sit proudly around any hip hop table knowing that Percee P’s Perseverance is dropping that day. I’ve slowly, and quite mysteriously I assure you, been getting track-by-track glimpses of the album and am looking forward to this…more so than I was/am for today’s album releases. (Has a winner been announced yet?)

A few Madlib beats have been heard before through various releases, but he really provides Percee with some killer beats. Perseverance is chock-a-block of old “jazz singer” samples, dirty guitar riffs, horns, and horns, and some crazy drums! (Don’t forget about the video game sample – anyone identify that game yet…I had guessed Contra). This album sounds like it could be a beat fiends dream, but those looking for a lyricist are going to be just as enamored with Percee P. I know it’s a very general, or superficial, “preview” but more will be sure to come when the album is released.

More Stones Throw goodness…

August 1, 2007

Keeping the Madlib train moving, we also have Percee P’s album to look forward to. As far as I know, Madlib produces it from front to back. Admittedly, I wasn’t put on to Percee until he started appearing on Wildchild & Jaylib releases, but his older stuff is bonafied fire. Not sure why he has never had a full length LP: he’s worked with DITC, Big Daddy Kane, and Pharoahe Monch, to name but a few. Check out Percee slaughtering the beat on “Lung Collapsing Lyrics.” (Track 5) For me, hearing MC Percee P on Jaylib’s “The Exclusive” was a wrap – one of my favorite tracks on that album (which is chock full of classic joints). From previews I’ve heard thus far, Madlib layers a lot of sounds in the album’s production: funky percussions & guitar licks, synthy keys, and soulful samples, on top of it all – he even takes a page from Oh No’s book and samples a video game (I think it’s Contra, but I could be wrong) for “2 Brothers from the Gutter,” which features Diamond D – all in classic Madlib form: predictably unpredictable. “Legendary Lyricist” samples (as far as I can tell) the same Jake Wade & The Soul Searchers song (“Searching For Soul, Pt.1″) that powered Beyonce’s “Suga Mama,” from B-Day, one of the few quality tracks on there. I can only assume that the synthesized “Percee P, Promo” that spots the previews will be absent from the final release.

What can I say? I love the moves Stones Throw makes…truly a record label for the people, by the people. An MLB GM would trade a limb to have the roster Stones Throw has: deep, talented, and varied. Madlib has to be one of the hardest workers in the business – according to this Philadelphia Weekly article, photograhers Eric Coleman & B+ own nearly 40 GBs of unreleased Madlib material! Fourty gigs! My quick calculation puts that at roughly 30 days of music!

In addtion to this Percee P project (slated for a Sept. 18th release), as well as the Beat Konducta in India album, Madlib also has a project with Erykah Badu in the mix, as per Questlove on last week’s Gilles Peterson Worldwide. This brief tidbit made this music listener very happy. Quest also mentioned a project with EB that involved Sa-Ra!

Albums that are going to come out on a Tuesday…

July 31, 2007

Today is Tuesday. Albums come out on Tuesdays; and rather than discussing albums that drop today (like Common’s Finding Forever), I’m going to look toward future Tuesdays. And in the future, albums from Madlib, Oh No, & M.I.A. can be expected. Now, a brief review of those three artists may make it clear why two are in the same posts – you may think it would make sense to include brothers Madlib & Oh No in the same post. Same mother. Same record label. Both releasing albums in August. Both albums are instrumental. Both albums draw heavily on exotic samples. In the case of Madlib’s, well, he raids cast off Bollywood soundtracks. Younger brother’s Dr. No’s Oxperiment broadens his digging and includes the chopped sounds of Lebanon, Turkey, & Greece. You sense a theme here?

This is where M.I.A. comes in. She too has an album dropping in August. And if you’re familiar with her Arular, you may have guessed the link between her and the Jackson brother releases. M.I.A.’s KALA, much like its predecessor, incorporates sounds that span the globe: Sri Lankan, African, Indian, and Turkish, (I think I hear bag pipes in there too). Looking at the tracklisting, it appears the only Timbaland contribution is “Come Around,” the bonus track that closed out his Timbaland Presents Shock Value. At any rate, this appears to be a truly global endeavor. In addition to the great sounds, M.I.A. also offers thoughts on her world. For example, the lead single seeks to find out “how many boyz are raw/how many no money boyz are rowdy/how many boyz start a war?” Similiar to Arular, it appears KALA is draped in class and ideology clashes, which is given substance when paralleled with the fact that she spent a portion of her childhood in Sri Lanka during civil war. (According to an interview with Rolling Stone, her father was a revolutionary figher in Sri Lanka nicknamed, Arular). Admittedly, I’m not an expert in M.I.A. or her music, but I thought highly of Arular, and am looking forward to her newest offering. Needless to say, I love the amalgamation of seeming discordant sounds.

My realization is there is a seemingly unlimited source of sounds out there [points out the window] and it’s great to see hip hop artists tap into it. Sure, neither Madlib nor Oh No are the first to do so. But they manage to find some exotic $h!t and chop, flip, and arrange it into hip hop. If nothing else, their projects may make other “wordly” sounds more palatable to hip hop ears. Once again, Stonesthrow has reminded me that they’re not afraid of much. In relation to M.I.A., it may be that American hip hop and the international scene are coming full circle. The way I see, the more sounds available, the more potential to make some hot $h!t.

With that, I say bring on the August releases. This has been a pretty fruitful music year and I am looking forward to finishing it out. Hey, don’t forget to get your Finding Forever, need to support the less cacophonous too.

UPDATE: “Come Around” was one of my favorite tracks on Timbaland’s Shock Value, but it comes off as boring along side some of the other tracks on KALA.

RE: “Talent”

April 30, 2007

Not only does Madlib make crazy beats (plenty of hot beats out there) but his willingness to experiment – to take an accepted sound, and totally flip it around, interpolating seemingly incongruent samples with synths, and singers who can’t really sing – some how, through Madlib’s ears, sounds colorful and deep.

Kyle’s certainly right in that Madlib isn’t easily digested to all listeners. But I think across his discography, his respect and knowledge of music are evident – and I think it’s those qualities that make this project, and others, e.g. Quas, YNQ, brilliant. When I listen to much of his work, I don’t hear arrogance; but I do hear somebody who has the freedom to do as he wishes with his sound, and it is refreshing to hear an artist utilize the full spectrum of his artistic freedom. As it is, Dudley Perkins is a nice fit for Madlib’s production because his sound and style are as incongruent as some of the other ingredients Madlib uses…

You won’t find too many bigger Madlib advocates than me. He’s one of those rare contemporary musicians that is timeless, in that, you could take him and place him in any decade be it 20′s, 40′s, or 60′s (or anywhere in between) and he’d make hot shit. He’s got that ear and desire to push music boundaries, a la John Coltrane. Some jazz critics (back late 50′s) suggested that Coltrane was too unbridled and his sound was incongruent; he was constantly experimenting with sounds, e.g. trying different reeds, biting on them, etc.

In the words of Miles Davis (of John Coltrane), Madlib’s also a “bad mother fucker.”

Really Feeling “Solitude”

April 27, 2007

I’ve been singing DP’s “Solitude” to myself all week:

“Do you know… the way to my home?”

“Lost and I’m all alone… Lost and I’m all alone…”

“Home is where the heart is… Home is where the heart is…”

The track has a cinematic quality to it, and I really like what Madlib did with it musically. Like many Madlib samples, it’s really hard to figure out where he got the sample, but it sounds like the main sample could be from a kung-fu movie. And there’s these horn samples punching in and out in a subtle way, but enough to preserve their blaxploitation film sound. Lots of movie-ness here.

Like many other places on the album, DP’s vocals are really unstructured, and I like it. He starts out just talking, then slowly and seemingly spontaneously breaks into song (I would go as far as to call it “impromptu“). I also like the chant-like quality of the song; it’s consonant with themes of spirituality he hits on at the beginning of the track. The chanting just adds to its catchy-ness. You’ll be humming it all day. Good track.

PS: I suppose that the lyrics have extra resonance for me, given my current move back home for the summer. The shit is catchy nonetheless, peep it.

“Talent”

April 26, 2007

Dudley Perkins can’t sing.

With that being said, the fact that he even endeavored to make an R&B album I think is worthy of some discussion discussion here.

It’s my view that singing talent isn’t a prerequisite to making great music. Disclaimer: the farther we get from my genre of choice–hip hop–my expertise dwindles. But nevertheless, I suspect that like most people of my generation, I listen to many different types of music.

That brings me to Bob Dylan. Dylan was an artist of many talents, but clearly, he did not possess what is traditionally considered a great singing voice. His talents were elsewhere. He had an amazing ability to convey a mood through the timbre of his voice and content of his lyrics, and the capacity to use that voice achieve these unorthodox, compelling melodies. Maybe this isn’t a perfect example, because Dylan could hold a note, but nevertheless, my point is simply that Dylan was able to make great music without what is the popular conception of a great singing voice.

Enter Dudley Perkins. Clearly, A Lil’ Light is not trying to be the next What’s Going On. DP and Madlib appear to intend their work together as a light-hearted musical experiment, one where Madlib can showcase his beats. DP is definitely able to achieve some unorthodox things with his falsetto, crackling, junkie voice.

If that characterization reminds you of another Madlib project–Quasimoto–you’re not alone. What the DP and Quas projects have in common with Dylan is that they are all trying to achieve some alternate musical goals; goals that are more aesthetic, and more tangential to the traditional goals of their respective genres.

The purposefully provocative question I pose to Pete is whether this approach by Madlib could be called arrogant. That is, I ask do these projects suggest that Mablib thinks his shit is so dope that he can make even the worst singer sound good?

Or does Mablib just not take his music seriously enough to think about these kinds of things? You get the impression that he genuinely does it for the fun of it; and if DP comes into the studio on some clownin’ shit, and Mablib’s feeling it, they’ll throw it on wax. Is there something wrong with that?

While I find this aspect of Madlib’s approach very interesting, I know that this lack of seriousness can turn off more traditional hip-hop heads.

Moreover, at one time or another, all of us express a wish that a favorite artist would do something differently or stop doing something else. So for my second question, I ask whether any fan is justified in asking why Madlib would waste his time and some crazy-ass beats with the Dudley Perkins projects?

DP’s “Money”

April 14, 2007

Classic Madlib production: funky bassline, simple drums, and lots of interpolating. I’m not sure who is directing this, but Stones Throw videos are becoming as recognizable as a Madlib beat…

Speaking of Madib…if you head over to here, you can read about Madlib & Karriem Riggins teaming up to form The Supreme Team; their track “Volta Por Cima” is featured on the elusive Stones Throw Hella International box set, as is the dope, dope Madlib remix to Dilla’s “The $,” which you can download for free from Stones Throw here.

Dudley Perkins – “A Lil’ Light”

April 7, 2007

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Dudley Perkins – A Lil’ Light
Stones Throw (2003)

Reflecting on some of the points that Kyle & I have made about hip hop since TT’s inception, I think Dudley Perkin’s A Lil’ Light is a good follow up; at the very least, it works as an effective contrast to some of the points we made about hip hop as an increasingly image-oriented genre. Hence, I chose A Lil’ Light for a few reasons:

1) Madlib production – Other than Dilla, there a few producers I respect more than Madlib. His sound is hard to sum up – funk & jazz samples; crazy drums; synth-[insert instrument]; and just when you think you figured him out, he’s using live instruments, simultaneously with samples. For some, his sound is an acquired taste (e.g. YNQ); while projects like Lootpack’s Soundpieces: Da Antidote! are palatable upon one listen. Needless to say, Madlib (and his numerous aliases) know music.

2) Dudley Perkins – I got into DP/Declaime only within the previous 2 or so years. I got to the point where I needed as much Madlib as I could get so as I worked my way through his production credits (in no particular order), I got to Declaime’s Andsoitisaid (which I almost picked for this selection). Declaime (Dudley’s emcee alias) is unorthodox, but it’s this quality that makes him perfect for Madlib beats. His voice quality reminds me of Ol’ Dirty Bastard if he could carry a note (which isn’t saying much because Dudley can’t really carry a note himself). It’s his seeming stream-of-consciousness flow that really catches my ear and compliments Madlib’s equally free association-esque production.

3) The marriage of Madlib’s production and Dudley’s delivery and subject matter – On the surface, it sounds like Dudley is as times piecing random thoughts together (a la MF Doom). Enhanced with the production, the album dips into cacophonous abstraction: with synthesized voices; interrupted falsetto chords; talks of prophesy. But then it starts to sound normal…


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