Archive for September, 2007

The ARE & Dem Damb Jacksons

September 28, 2007

Another afternoon of unwinding. Today’s soundtrack includes The ARE’s featuring Dem Damb Jacksons (with Oh No & Kay [of the Foundation]). The ARE, to my knowledge half of the group K-Otix, has released a few free albums (mainly instrumental) through RappersIKnow. Other than them, my only experience has been random tracks from various albums, e.g. there is a K-Otix track on the second Superrappin volume, a cameo on the wholly underrated Art of OneMind (Illmind & S1), and a slew of production credits, i.e. “So Perfect” from Sivion’s Spring of the Songbird. (If anyone can identify the sample of the latter, it’d be much appreciated).

The ARE’s sound is quite reminiscent of Nicolay, and while I usually try to avoid the “if you like ‘x’ you’ll like ‘y’ ” I feel confident in suggesting that if you dig Nicolay’s bouncy-jazzy-synthy sound, you’ll be able to get into The ARE. Many of his beats are lined with distinct drums and you can count on an ill soul sample.

On Featuring Dem Damb Jacksons, so many things are going right I don’t know where to start. A brief synopsis may go something like this: Oh No & Kay both share the same last name of Jackson. The ARE does not. Oh No & Kay handle much of the writing and rhyming, hence the “Dem Damb Jacksons.” For The ARE’s role, he samples heavily from some other famous Jacksons, focusing mainly on The Jacksons/Jackson 5, but thankfully, on “Oh” using Michael’s “Baby Be Mine.” As with Kanye’s “Good Life” (and SWV’s “Right Here”), I’m always an instant fan when MJ is sampled. So, you roll Oh No, Kay, & The ARE out and what you have is a brief (@ 30 mins) listen which is soulful & hip-hop from 0:00 to 30:06 (the end).

Despite being a big Jacksons/MJ fan, the samples used aren’t easily identified. The ARE’s cutting is on point; he incorporates several synthy guitars, and heavy bass..at least on “Keep Trying,” one of my favorite tracks, which features D-Rose (also of the Foundation) and Donwill (of Ilwill & Tanya Morgan fame). On it, Donwill echos the sentiments of many hip hops fans (I know Kyle & I have admitted this several times): “Rap is a hell of drug/you can’t stop, won’t stop…” The track essentially works as a motivational, “this is the shit I had to go through” song.

Listening to this makes me want to listen to my entire The Jacksons collection. The sampling at times is so inconspicuous that I’ve been replaying over and over again trying to pinpoint the exact song. “So Far” is a perfect example – drifty melody backed by bangin’ drums, with MJ dancing in between it all. “I Want You Gone” uses The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” a track that has been sampled several times, yet The ARE’s use is subtle enough that it doesn’t jump out at you.

Another great aspect of the album is it’s free. That’s right. Just like I did, you can head over to RappersIKnow right now and download it (along with the instrumental version). And while your there, be sure to search The ARE and d/l his Still Climbing EP, which features a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks…including the dope “Hip Hop” with Strange Fruit Project.

Track to look out for…”Believer”

September 21, 2007

As usual, my brand of quick look-see: “Believer” from Pete Philly & Perquisite’s Mystery Repeats, is also ruminating through my auditory cortex. Guitar, bass, drums, piano – a nice, rolling collaboration with Pete Philly pulling his Mos Def (on “Umi Says”) card (he also makes references to his mother saying something) and does a more than commendable job dancing over the instrumental. Positive message for the young kids…just when you think the track needs something else (ahem, a horn), you get a relaxed sax (a relaxophone?) at the end…AND the track closes with applause…enough said…

Brown Co. “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood”

September 21, 2007

Fridays are good enough. But today I was on a mission to come home from work and bump some tunes…Tuesdays may be new music releases, but Fridays are typically the days I like to unwind and bump the new joints. Today I’ve been spinning the new Pete Philly & Perquisite, Mystery Repeats and even newer, Brown Co.’s Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood. The latter I’ve gotten into quite quickly.

Brown Co. follows a pretty standard hip hop formula. It consists of emcees Haji P & Dundee (North Carolina) and production featuring DJ MF Shalem & Rezo. It all appears to be pretty standard hip hop, and in a way, their approach to music is as well…which is what I’m really feelin’. Tracks like “Ready on The Left” features some classic hip hop references (“We double, b-b-bubblin’ hot”). Brown Co. definitely approaches hip hop from a perspective in which the music is primary. “Who’s that” sounds like it may tap into the same sample used by Beyonce on “Upgrade You” (if that is indeed the track name) but for Brown Co. works like a light, party track, again imbuing some old school love, using Tribe’s “Who’s that?!…Brown…” from “Scenario” in the hook. But these guys really hit the jack pot on in sample selection on “Saturday Night,” using Q-Tip’s “Saturday” from De La’s “A Roller Skate Joint Named ‘Saturday'”. And while these two samples I’ve highlighted are used minimally, simply comprising parts of the hook, their selection means more to me than how their utilized.

Overall, Haji P & Dundee keep the album pretty light and enjoyable. There is no perpetuation of drugs, sex, money or violence. And save for tracks like “Eat At Whitey’s,” the subject matter does not get too abstact either – they find a medium that makes for an enjoyable album without sounding dumbed down. It’s worth noting, “Eat At Whitey’s” reminds me of something off “3 Feet High & Rising.” As does the track that follows, “I’m Brown,” a light foray into the color of their skin. This track sort of works like a more fun companion to Mos & Kweli’s “Astronomy (8th Light)”:

I’m brown like the leaves in fall season/when it’s convenient I’m brown for all the right reasons/affirmative action, equal opportunity, with any nationality, it mix together beautifully…I’m not afraid of the ultraviolet rays, cause I’m brown enough to fight it

One of my favorite parts of the albums comes at the end, where Haji P is having a phone conversation with his mom; when he asks her to say that he’s gangster, she replies: “But you’re not.” Hilarious.

It’s always nice to listen to an album that lacks the pretention and image-heavy packaging that hip hop tends to perpetuate. That’s my piece for right now…enjoy.

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.

Panacea – “Walk In The Park”

September 6, 2007

I’ve just nearly made my way through Panacea’s The Scenic Route for the second time. Although early, my original thought it that is sounds similar to the first album (not in a bad way). I think K-Murdock (producer) & MC Raw Poetic were on some brilliant shit on their debut Ink Is My Drink, so I’m glad to hear them keep it movin’ through the second release – sends a clear message that these dudes have a characteristic sound.

While “Walk In The Park” isn’t even my favorite track on the new album, I was really intrigued by the title. Before I even listened to it, the title conjured images of a breezy melody, and something that could be enjoyed with a female…much like a walk in the park.

Lo & behold, a breezy beat is exactly what we have here. When the track first hits, it sounds like vinyl cracking (great effect, but not all that original). What it turns out to be is the sound of outside, presumably in a quite urban/suburban setting (I think bus breaks can be heard if you listen carefully). It sounds like a walk through a quiet park…in my head during the spring. It also features a Sound Providers-esque guitar lick. Breezy melody – check.

Floating through the breezy track are some equally light, lyrics:

Fine as she wanna be from close up or a distance/irregular heartbeat, challenges persistence/I just wanna see ya so I speak through trees…

Hypnotized, her body booty swayin’/Eye contact, is what I keep on makin’/It may be, a chance that’s worth the takin’/nature is to love what God is to creation

I love the parallel between watching a tree blow in the wind and watching a female walk down the street.

While its title had me thinking somewhat along the right lines, it turns out to be an ode to a relationship, highlighting the whimsical breeze of a park walk, “I walk through a park on a lover’s quest.”

Re Thoughts (on Tip’s “Work It Out”)

September 6, 2007

I have deja vu with this track, but I’ve gone through all my Q-Tip material and cannot lasso it. To my ears, it’s reminiscent of “The Frog,” from Sergio Mendes’ Timeless.

Q-Tip’s so consistent on the mic, and beyond his lyrics, one thing I love about him is his ear for good music. I can’t recall being disappointed with any track he’s either produced or picked to rhyme/sing on; same can be said about this beat. Good call on Kyle’s part RE his [Q-Tip’s] “Word Play”-esque rhyme style.

Kanye Quotes

September 2, 2007

In anticipation of more Kanye-related banter up on here, I thought I’d post my two favorite quotes from the album so far:

“I know people wouldn’t usually rap this / but I got the facts to back this / just last year Chicago had over 600 caskets / …man killin’s some wack shit / oh I forgot, except when n***as is rappin…”

Then there’s Kanye’s, shall we say, lighter side:

“I’m like the fly Malcolm X / buy any jeans necessary”

And there you have Kanye’s internal conflict–a theme I plan to develop in an upcoming, in-depth review of Graduation.

Thoughts?

September 1, 2007

Squire: Any thoughts on the new Q-Tip single? Good, bad? Am I just too excited for this album to finally drop?