Archive for April, 2007

Run-DMC

April 30, 2007

Squire, let me first say that I inevitably agree with you RE: Madlib and DP.  I just don’t get how popular Run-DMC is on this blog… is this some web crawler activity, or some sort of Run-DMC revival. I mean, I’m as a big of a fan as anybody, but I’m just confused.

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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?

Workin

April 25, 2007

Kyle & I have been pluggin’ away here (admittedly, more Kyle as my semester is over tomorrow). TT will be back with more tapes for y(our) ears. It’s difficult to find time to pull some words together on the recent pick, DP’s A Lil’ Light, as my listening has been punctuated by school-related reading & work-related…work. Furthermore, the dialogue that Kyle & I have been sharing has been focused on all the publicity that hip hop has been receiving in the shadow of Don Imus’ comment/firing. While the comment was idiotic, the aftermath, in my opinion, has been productive. There have been numerous conversations across all media outlets on the message(s) that spew forth from popular hip hop music. Kyle & I have been on top of this before Imus and as a hip hop fan, I’m encouraged by the all the discussion (from blogs, to radio, to Oprah and news outlets). The opinions have varied but the discussion is necessary to address the real problem, which I think is the fact that an entire community has gone beyond complacency, and is advocating a culture that is violent, misogynistic, and teaches its young to devalue education, authority, and women. The time of displacing responsibility has passed. It is time for the hip hop community to look at this problem introspectively. I’m pleased to see influential people like Rev. Al & Russell speaking out on this important issue.

In addition to the news, my music listening has also changed gears a bit as I’ve delved into the jazz scene. I am currently reading Ashley Kahn’s A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album. While not a fluid read (it reads kind of like a journal), it provides an excellent account of the background and context that birthed Coltrane’s masterpiece. I’m not all that well versed in music theory or technical jazz terms, but Kahn does a good job of breaking the music down and I’ve really begun to listen to and appreciate the tracks all that much more. As I read Kahn’s description of 1959 jazz releases, I couldn’t help but conceptualize that period as akin to the early 90’s Golden Era, or vice versa. The work that came out in the late 50’s, by most jazz standards, is considered some of the best. I’ve been exposed to some great albums (currently listening to Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um and loving it). Through my blog travels, I came across this the other day and thought it was appropriate to what I was thinking. Needless to say, Coltrane’s A Love Supreme has been ascending my list of favorite albums for a few years now and Kahn’s breakdown facilitates this progress – “Acknowledgment” amazes me and for me, is great as a late night track, or an early morning one. (Admittedly, I’m still partial to “Say It (Over & Over Again)” from Ballads but “Acknowledgment” is making it’s way up the list fast). I’ve been a peripheral jazz fan for a few years now but really become more focused on it over the last few months. Coincidentally or not, I’ve enjoyed the escape from the pop hip hop scene and Coltrane, Mingus, & Colemen have been a comfortable immersion.

With that said, I assure you that Kyle & I will be talkin’ hip hop shortly. My spidey sense tells me that Sa Ra’s The Hollywood Recordings may be in Trading Tapes future. I have copped it and through two listens am really diggin’ the fresh vibe. “Hey Love” & “Sweet Sour You,” with Bilal are the standouts early on…as is the renewed “So Special.”

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.

“Sometimes all you need to get by is a girlie…”

April 10, 2007

Great advice from Dudley Perkins on “Washedbrainsyndrome;” and the album is full of similar life lessons (to be taken lightly I assure you). This track is a good representative of A Lil Light’s sound – casually paced (reminds me of a Dr. Dre beat in slow motion), interesting takes on recycled hip hop topics, and catchy hooks (or lack thereof, I haven’t figured it out yet). “Washedbrainsyndrome” is the classic tale of being brainwashed by a girl; and while I’m not a weed smoker, I’m sure it doubles as a classic tale of being brainwashed by weed – and the troubles that girls (or weed) will get a guy into (similar to Mobb Deep’s “Drink Away the Pain”).

I really like DP’s casual, conversational, and introspective style. This is particularly seen on tracks like “Falling,” “Little Black Boy,” & “Solitude.” The former was included on the Stones Throw: 10 Years compilation and works as a Dudley’s eye- & mind-view of the world around him, physical and abstract. It’s tracks like this that give the impression that Madlib would conjure up a beat and play it while DP connected thoughts together; very impromptu.

“Solitude” is kind of like “Falling” Part II: He ponders knowledge and God, two themes that are seen later in the album (“Forevaendless” & “Lord’s Prayer”) as well on his 2006 follow-up, Expressions (2012 A.U.).

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…

New Selection Coming Soon…

April 6, 2007

It’s been a minute, but with Easter break beginning, and school-related work at a whisper (if at least for only a week), I will be throwing up a new album for discussion this weekend. In the mean times, head over to Stones Throw and check out the Dilla Interview series…particularly the most recently posted Part 5.

I’ll never forget when I bought Jeru’s “Wrath of the Math,” and unknowingly copped the edited version. I thought I was hoodwinked, thinking that the album was less because there was no cussing (I was 17). But, that album got lots of spins, and I learned to like the edit, especially on tracks like “The Bullshit;” the edits seem a purposefully construct of the track’s message.

The reason I bring edits up is because I love the edited version of Dilla’s “Fuck the Police” (see link above). The release of the single (the week after 9/11) notwithstanding, this is one of my favorite Dilla beats and is a track that brings me back to my Aunt’s house (where I was living the first time I heard it) and the dichotomous message: in light of the support the NYPD, PAPD, FDNY, etc. were receiving during and shortly after 9/11, Dilla’s “Fuck the Police” was highlighting the corruption of police, particularly in in his city. (The personal story behind Dilla doing the track was unknown to me until I just peeped the video at Stones Throw). For what it’s worth, I think the release date was just that, a release date; the contrast between the track and the feeling in the country and world at that time was coincidental, a product of the historical events of the previous week.

The edited version is great because unless you heard the original, you wouldn’t know it was edited; Dilla’s stop & go flow on the track matches perfectly to create a seamless edit…

Click here to purchase at UndergroundHipHop.com!
Jay Dee – Fuck The Police/ Move

Swamped…

April 2, 2007

It’s a funny coincidence that the both of us find ourselves swamped with schoolwork. Once Wednesday hits and the Easter season kicks in, I’ll have much more time to bring all my thoughts on Black Milk together and post a full review.

Until then…