Archive for August, 2007

Whoa.

August 31, 2007

Caption?

Review: Q-Tip – “Work It Out” Single

August 30, 2007

As the record industry tries to get over its hip-hop hangover and looks for the next genre to exploit into cliche-ville, few artists have been sacrificed to the suits as publicly and regretfully as Q-Tip. Ever the industry observer, on Tip’s new single for Universal/Motown Records titled “Work It Out”, he takes notice:

“ONE-HITS / they do they little do / for just a day or two / but then they never last.

“RING-TONES / the labels cashin’ in / they think they gonna win / from this phe-nom-menon”

It’s been nearly eight years since Tip dropped his last solo LP, Amplified. While initially facing criticism because the tunes were (gasp!) dance-able, the album is now pretty much considered a classic–with J Dilla showing off what he can do with major label support.

But Q-Tip hasn’t spent the last 8 years blowing all that ATCQ dough and getting fat. He actually recorded 3 entire LPs that most fans have probably never heard. All of them (2002’s Kamaal the Abstract, 2004’s Open, and 2005’s Live at the Rennaissance) thankfully leaked to the internet before those mensa boys at the record labels decided to kill these various projects. The albums quickly developed a cult following (there is even an online petition to get the Kamaal the Abstract LP formally released).

Tip had clearly taken a different direction with his sound–opting for more instrumentation and self-sung hooks. Moreover, the tracks were anything but formulaic–often running into 7 minutes, with long instrumental solos. In my opinion, the results of this gutsy reinvention were brilliant. Tracks like “That’s Sexy” with Andre3000 of Outkast and “Barely in Love” showed off a new versatility for an already versatile artist, and a distinct Roy Ayers and Sly and the Family Stone influence. Some of Tip’s singing was lackluster, but overall it worked quite well.

Which brings us to the new single, “Work it Out.” That distinct new Q-Tip sound is certainly there and can serve as an introduction for those uninitiated to the prior leaked material.

This is an energetic track–the kind of song that you put at the top of a playlist; the kind of song that can change the trajectory of an otherwise boring morning commute.

The music is primarily driven by live drums and a simple, yet funky guitar lick that has come to be associated with Q-Tip’s new sound. A similarly simple, three-note piano melody compliments the track’s rhythm quite nicely, in a metronome-esque kinda way, that sounds like it’s actually being punched in on a sampler.

Ultimately, the song has that down-to-earth realness that makes Tip so endearing, and able to cross over to so many different audiences. His message is positive, the music is simple and happy. Perhaps listeners have already branded Q-Tip as the feel-good emcee, but there’s something about him that just oozes everyday-guy. It’s unpretentious and accessible.

The hook works well I think–though I can’t tell if it is Tip’s voice harmonized at various pitches or just some other female vocalist. Lyrically, there’s nothing special here, as he uses that “dictionary rap” style that will remind you of Tribe’s “Word Play” where the artist starts a line by throwing out a word, then elaborating on the its definition (see quotes above). Arguably, Tip has simpllified his rhymes since his Tribe days, but I haven’t really sat down to test that hypothesis, nor do I care much–it still does the trick. Again, it’s Tip’s message and aesthetics that make the music, not necessarily his lyrical gymnastics.

The track is now available on iTunes (go to the hip-hop section), and I highly recommend that you go check it out, if you can spare the 99 cents. 2007 has already seen yet another delay on Tip’s Motown project, but after hearing this you’ll be just as eagerly awaiting its final release as I will. History would suggest that I’m setting y’all up for disappointment by wetting the appetite here, but for some reason this time seems for real.

EWF & Raheem Devaughn

August 30, 2007

Getting a few soul joints in before bed and I realized that I had forgot to bring the Bilal/EWF/Raheem Devaughn thoughts full circle. DeVaughn’s “Guess Who Loves You More” uses the bassline and drums from EWF’s “Can’t Hide Love.” A conspicuous omission on my part but it slipped my mind – until a few minutes ago. That bassline is excellent.

Also, Kyle made a great point: that song is great because he sings like he’s having a conversation with a female…this isn’t isolated to this track and his delivery is the reason I like his album…

Soul is good for your health

August 29, 2007

I’m trying to get my RDA of soul, not that I need it – I’ve been bumpin’ Stevie, Curtis, & Dwele for about 72 hours – but capitalizing on it’s salubrious sound nonetheless. Soul is great, because unlike, say, chocolate, too much is never bad for you; but similar to chocolate, it’s condusive to remarkable tastes, perpetual good moods, and in the right context, amorous exploits.

While I’m a huge Dwele fan, and have been pushing (at least to myself) to get a Dwele post on TT, I need to pay some respect to Bilal. Remember him? Him & Raphael Saadiq freaked us with “Soul Sista,” and he even was nice enough show up on Common’s LWFC, including what I consider one of the smoothest, illest interludes in the history of music, which coincidentally closed out one of my favorite Dilla beats, “Funky For You.” Not to take away from that song (excellent track!), but I used to fast forward to about the 4:32 mark so I can get a quick listen to Bilal pleading with somebody that it was “going to be okay” right before I walked into class. Brilliant voice!

Earlier tonight I was dyin’ for something smooth (duh). I found a cover of EWF’s “Can’t Hide Love,” featured on Interpretations: Celebrating The Music of Earth, Wind, & Fire, revisited by The Randy Watson Experience (Quest & James Poyser), and featuring Bilal. A few thoughts: first, I love Quest’s perspective on music (definitely aware of that ill “something” that makes classic soul so f*cking cool), and I love the prospects of him and Poyser producing an entire album under the Experience. I could be wrong, but I think Poyser also joined Quest on Pharrel’s Out Of My Mind, which really is a great listening experience.

Anyway, so I’ve been bumpin’ the most recent incarnation of “Can’t Hide Love” with Bilal teasing the listener: I’ve never heard anyone say he couldn’t sing. To me, Bilal is the quintessential soul/jazz singer. At one minute, he’s voice is smooth and dips down into the “holy crap this sounds amazing” part of the body. And then a few moments later, he can stir that same part of the body into an uncomfortable, yet intriguing, frenzy dancing between various tones/harmonies/[insert appropriate musical theory term here]. Whether you’re a music expert or not, you know what I’m talking about when it happens, and Bilal is a master at it. (Refer back to 1st Born Second’s “Love Poems” versus “Second Child,” and compare how he conveys two contradictory moods with his voice. Note: “Slyde” is one of my favorite tracks – “I’ve been eyein’ you for a long time, and I don’t think you really understand, that I’m just so fucking in love with you…” Amazing.)

Besides knowing that there are label issues floating around Bilal, I don’t know the specifics about the delay of his supposed sophomore album, Love For Sale. What I do know is that whenever I see his name as a featured guest, I am sure to grab the track(s). On Sa-Ra’s The Hollywood Recordings, the Bilal featured “Sweet & Sour” is one of my favorite tracks: Sa-Ra’s synth production really is a great match for Bilal’s unpredictable delivery.

So, in a roundabout sort of way, that’s what I’ve been listening to for most of this evening. RWE’s “Can’t Hide Love,” EWF’s “Can’t Hide Love (always love hearing the contrast, regardless how subtle they may be…it’s worth noting that the horn section that closes out the Randy Watson Experience version is simply amazing (starts around the 3′ mark).

Other tracks that have been on steady play today include Dwele’s “Weekend Love,” from Some Kinda… (the trombone in the beginning IS soul as far as I’m concerned), and Raheem DeVaughn’s “Guess Who Loves You More.” If you’re not familiar with it, Raheem (probably best known for his cameos on Jazzy Jeff projects, e.g. “Love Savior” from The Magnificent) has a classic falsetto sound, and his casual delivery on that song IS also soul.

World Lee

August 27, 2007

Brief: Just wanted to add to my recent post regarding the flush of international flavor in this summer’s releases (e.g. M.I.A. & Madlib’s latest Beat Konducta) – I highly recommend swinging over to Rappers I Know and downloading Progress: An Audio Tribute to the Cambodian People by Rob Viktum. As per the artist, it features beats crafted sampling authentic Cambodian vinyl given to him…beats are really dope. I haven’t decided if the following comparison is odd, or makes sense, but some of the beats have a very RZA-esque sound to them.

Album features one of my favorite hip hop heads, Von Pea, along with Strange Fruit Project, etc.

Congrats to Common…

August 20, 2007

While I was away, Finding Forever found itself #1 on the US Billboard 200! I wonder how much of that was influenced by the huge success of BE; still glad to see it up there.

I tell you one thing, I was itching to hear that album upon my return. “Start The Show” been on my mind’s ear on the regular. I still listen to “I Want You” with indifference, however.

I’ve also had time to read some other reviews now that the albums been out for a few weeks. I haven’t really read anything too surprising – interesting how most reviews seem warm in temperature but all conclude that it’s a dope album. Kyle made a great point regarding its sequencing that definitely works for me, although I didn’t realize it until he mentioned it: the juxtaposition between bangers and more laid-back joints definitely gives the albums sound a distinctive shape; overall, the bangers are minimal, but the sonically, you can hear the change as the album progresses. As Kyle said, you’re kind of lulled by “U, Black Maybe,” then “The Game” hits hard.

I’m currently bumpin’ the itunes (& UK) bonus track, “Play Your Cards Right,” with Bilal. I love the original track, “Under The Street Light” by Joe Bataan, who has made an appearance on TT. In addition to that horn sample, you know Karriem Riggins had to throw that Detroit bang into it.

Common & Patrice Rushen & Joe Henderson

August 20, 2007

  My roomie from college is a jazz man. And as such, he’s been a valuable source of information over the previous few years as I’ve delved deeper into that genre (Went to my first jazz show with him in 1998, Joshua Redman…also went with his then girlfriend and future wife). Anyway, a while back, maybe in 2004, John put me onto Joe Henderson, whose Page One as become one of my favorite albums (“Out Of The Night” is ridiculous).

Fastforward to the other day – I get back from a trip and instead of unpacking, I get caught in one of my zones where I need to research an individual’s discography, including random contributions credited to him or her. Joe Henderson was my target. (I couldn’t get “Blue Bossa” out of my head on the return trip). Lo & behold, my trek some how brought up a familar name: Patrice Rushen. Now honestly, the only thing I really know about her is she is an R&B singer/songwriter, whose credits include 1982’s “Remind Me,” which Ynot sampled for Common’s 1997, “Reminding Me (Of Self).” With me so far?

To my surprise, it turns out that Patrice Rushen broke into the music industry as a jazz musician, handling the piano and keyboards; she put out three albums (all on Prestige) as leader before breaking into R&B/Soul with Elektra.

The tie with Joe Henderson, you may have guessed, is that he was on saxophone for her debut album, Preclusion, in 1974. I’ve yet to get into the album but I’m pretty excited to hear it.

Found “Finding Forever” & Stevie

August 2, 2007

I’d be remissed to let this week pass without dedicating a few thoughts to Common’s Finding Forever, or as I conceptualize it, “Be, the extended version.” (I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner). Really, after listening to this several times through (the beauty of a brief album), it flows from the sound of Be nearly seamlessly. In reading the thoughts of other bloggers, some have intimated that Finding Forever contains throwaway joints from Be; I assume they mean that with a deprecating tinge. I wouldn’t go that far.

The things I love about Finding Forever:

First, I love Common’s optimism. This seems to be a characteristic that’s always been thumping in his chest, but really took off on Like Water For Chocolate – at least in the sense that it was readily tangible to his listeners. Again, I love his optimism. Not only for his perpetuation of love between people, respect for women and children; but also how he lets that conspiculously shine through his music. Secondly, I love Pops. Damn, Pops is always droppin’ knowledge.

I really like “Start the Show.” Are those steal drums?

I love “Break My Heart.” Admittedly, I think “And your clothes are tight, but you don’t seem gay/I said nah, that’s dude from N’Sync-ay” is cheesy…(Did he just call JT out?) But, that sample, as simple as it is, is brilliant. I don’t know its source…anybody? That sample = instant smile. Besides, it reminds of something Michael Jackson would be on.

Finally, I really dig “The People” (We need to get a Dwele post on here) and “Misunderstood.” I am usually skeptical when a producer attempts to sample a song as popular, and classic, as Nina’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood;” it usually comes off as cheesy or tacky. However, dude does a great job of using that, especially at the end.

Okay, a few points of contention. One, I’m still on the fence with “I Want You.” While the hook is great, the rest of the track nearly bores me, sonically and lyrically. When I see Will.I.Am on a track, I always think “Like That,” which he geeked down…but his stuff is hot and cold for me. This track is warm… Also, I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about “Drivin’ Me Wild.” I really like Lily Allen on the hook. I hear this is set to be the album’s next single, and I think it fulfills the successful single formula. In the end, I’m going to end up liking this song.

Overall, and I’ll keep this short: I really like the album. If you peruse my ‘likes’ versus potential down sides, mathemetically it’s clear that it’s a good album (# of likes > # of points of contention). While it may sound similar to Be, it’s not…it’s Finding Forever. If anything, I interpret the comparison positively. Common & Kanye demonstrate consistency…and in the shoes of such a great album, consistency is an absolute compliment. And let’s be honest, those “points of contention” are minor, and within the context of the entire album, they’re less than conspicuous. They certainly aren’t skipped over…I am easily able to listen go to stop. Like its predecessor, it maintains a continious sound, and it packages it in a succinct, pleasant package to boot. As long as Common keeps producing quality like this, I’ll keep finding him…forever?

Okay, real brief. I listened to Stevie’s Where I’m Coming From today and damn man, “Think of Me As Your Soldier” is killer! Stevie knew how to make a love song! That’s actually a great album, front to back. (See: “If You Really Love Me” & “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer,” nice way to tie this in with Common, no? Check One Day It’ll All Make Sense and it’ll all make sense. If “Think of Me As Your Soldier” renders the heart weightless, “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” drops it right back into your stomach like a boulder. Still beautiful).

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!