Archive for May, 2007

Black Milk on point… again.

May 18, 2007

Not to get too far astray, but back in March while Pete and I were discussing Black Milk’s “Shut It Down”, I asked the question:

How is this not the hottest hip-hop record in New York right now?

Well it appears that this week Milk acted upon the sage advice of this lowly and irrelevant blogger (feel free to laugh now), and decided to drop this track as his next sing-lay. The “Sound the Alarm” remix is off the hook, with a grimey-ass new beat and a guest shot from Royce 5’9″.

This is sort of left-fieldish, but I have a feeling that if Funkmaster Flex can get his hands on this record, he might take to it and let it blow.  We’ll see…

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Sa-Ra Creative Partners – “The Hollywood Recordings”

May 17, 2007


Sa-Ra Creative Partners – The Hollywood Recordings
Babygrande Records (2007)

The next tape is a real banger… this week is going to be fun. 

If I had to describe Sa-Ra’s sound, I’d say its Dr. Dre, J Dilla and Pharrell meet Prince and Parliament. Even though none of Sa-Ra’s members are from Detroit, the group has harnessed a sound that is decidedly modern Motown.  It’s that robo-soul, with drunk unquantized drum patterns, deep basslines, and synthy soul melodies. 

I first heard about this three-man group in 2005, courtesy of Waajeed and Saadiq’s Platinum Pied Pipers LP.  However tongue in cheek the “Platinum” modifer was, Waajeed‘s intention was indeed to act as a pied piper of sorts, presenting a huge group of new talent to the hip-hop disapora.  And he hit the ball out of the park. While most of the featured artists were Detroit-based (Waajeed himself, Dilla, Ta’Raach, Tiombe Lockhart, et al.), Sa-Ra also made an appearance on the cut, “Deep Inside.” The Detroit techno influence was evident from the start.  “Deep Inside” was a pulsating, funky track with these very interesting choral-like vocals.  At this point, Sa-Ra was, at least in my mind, riding in on the buzz associated with this new Detroit sound and had also garned a good amount of industry buzz when they got signed to Kanye’s GOOD Music label. In short, by 2005 you knew things were going to happen for these guys.

In the ensuing three years, Sa-Ra released several singles and mixtape before they hit label drama and rumors that they might disband.  The Double Dutch / Death of a Star 12″ appeared on Ubiquity in 2004. Then in 2005, iTunes mysteriously published a self-titled “partial album”, also on Ubiquity, but the full album itself never surfaced (BTW, this “album” contains a great rendition of Sly’s “Just Like a Baby” worth copping). 2005 also saw Sa-Ra drop The Second Time Around EP–with more rave reviews.  Release after release, their stuff just banged. It was consistently dope, and left you waiting for the LP to drop.

Well, they finally managed to drop the Hollywood Recordings on Koch’s Babygrande Records in April of 2007.  While most of it is new material, several of the older songs appear, and when the title is taken into consideration, you get the impression that Sa-Ra saw this album as a means of cataloging this 2004-2007 period of their work (if they were more accomplished artists, you could almost see “2004-2007” printed on the cover, next to the title).

Getting back to their sound, here’s what Sa-Ra has to say about itself:

“[I]f Sa-Ra’s music is too advanced, too spiritual, too heavy, don’t worry.  It makes sense.  It is a continuation of the work of music’s most significant artists.
 
‘You look at James Brown, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Parliament — all of the originals, the Gs of whatever they did — people didn’t get it at first,’ Shafiq says.  ‘It wasn’t until they made it cool.  Then, when they made it cool, everybody was doing it.  Our job is to make history, not to entertain.  Our job is to change, add and contribute to what the greats have already contributed.'”

Nah, but what do you really think Shafiq? I guess modesty isn’t their game…

What I find most interesting about the album so far is that Sa-Ra somehow manages to release an a startlingly unique LP that, at the same time, reminds you of a million other artists. They are one of a kind, but all of a kind. It is sure to give us lots to yap about.

Enjoy.

And to wet the TT whistle, here’s the artsy-fartsy new video to the first single off the album, “Feel the Bass” (feat. Talib Kweli):

PS: I vow to not use the relatively hollow word “unique” ever again when describing Sa-Ra. That’s word.

Erykah, where for art thou?

May 14, 2007

Had to throw this up on TT because I think it’s fly as hell…

Spring Soul

May 13, 2007

It always seem to happen that about this time of year I find a soul album that I spin the hell out of; something about the salubrious change in weather, coupled with a retro sound and soulful, amorous vocals…yeah, it gets me every spring. Last year it was Darondo’s Let My People Go (or here).

Much thanks to NPR & Soul Sides for shining the light where it need be pointed. “Didn’t I” has fast become one of my favorite soul songs of all time; really, at brief 9 tracks, Let My People Go is a gem from front to back.

Soul Sides is also where I was introduced to Joe Bataan; his track, “Average Guy” was featured on Soul Sides, Vol. 1. At any rate, this spring’s album which has been on constant play is Joe Bataan’s Riot, yet another 9-track spring soundtrack. Classifying sound isn’t my forte, but for the sake of describing Riot’s sound, I’d venture to say it was Latin Soul. It features a full lineup of incredible songs, including “Pa Monte” & “What Good Is A Castle,” the latter a 7+ minute foray into paradoxes of love & life, “What good is a heart/after it’s torn apart?” Actually, this may be a soul precursor to ATCQ’s “What?” Half-way through the track, the tempo changes (love them horns) and what was once a lamentation on unfulfilled expectations, transforms into a celebration of unexpected fulfillment. I love this song. Also, a different version of “Ordinary Guy” (compared to the Soul Sides version) closes out Riot.

Regardless of the season, this is a great album; it features an inviting soundscape from front to back. Bataan, whose sound comes from the boogaloo & salsa traditions, presents a sound that masterfully joins those two worlds with soul; the rolling transition from more traditional soul to Latin sound is seamless. Currently, I am not sure how hands on Bataan was with the production but if anyone has more information on the album, please forward it my way.

UPDATE: I found this article, authored by Soul Sides Oliver Wang, which provides a good, albeit brief, background to Bataan.