Archive for October, 2007

Ohmega Watts: “Jason Kidd & Vince Carter of this Hip Hop”

October 27, 2007

I’ve finally had some time to dedicate a good sit-down to take in Watts Happening in its entiriety. As previously noted, I’ve been anticipating more from Ohmega Watts ever since I was smitten with his “solo” debut, The Find, in 2005. Early listens had me excited: Watts has continued the eclectic sounds that painted much of The Find – his use of breakbeats leads to an undeniable hip hop record; however, between tracks, it transitions between soul and/or Brazilian groove with both drums and horns dominating several tracks.

Watts Happening begins with “What It Worth,” driven by a classic drum break and very reminiscent of some of his earlier work on his debut & Lightheaded’s The Wrong Way (2006). While it’s difficult to generalize a theme to all Watts Happening‘s tracks, I think his creative use of drums may be the closest to such a generalization, particularly across the first few tracks.

As has been previously noted, the albums first highlight is “Model Citizen,” a mellow, positivity-perpetuating track in which Ohmega Watts opens his arms to being a “guiding light” to others. Despite his laidback rhymes, his point is obvious – and this contributes to another theme that can be heard throughout the album: Ohmega Watts’ unpretentious and accessible demeanor. (It’s nice to see others are also feelin’ this track).

One my favorite tracks on the album is “Eyes & Ears,” with Jneiro Jarel. As soon as I saw this colloboration on the track listing, I knew this was going to be dope. Ohmega Watts & Jneiro Jarel have a vibe that reminds of the Madlib & MF Doom collab – just these two cats vibin’ to some tunes, worrying not of perpetuating some manufactured image…again, accessibility adds an intangibility to the music.

“Roc The Bells,” with Watts’ Lightheaded compatriots, Braille & Othello, works as another great collaboration, although I’m not really feeling the hook – kind of annoying after several times through the album. Still, I really like how the guests (and certainly most guests throughout Watts Happening) blend in, and Lightheaded demonstrates that chemistry that made their two releases so enjoyable.

After “Roc The Bells,” the album takes a few obvious turns in sound. Both “Adaptacao,” with Tita Lima, and “Saywhayusay” have a distinct samba feel. Immediately after, “Are You Satisfied” hits with a funky break, and a great guest spot by Sugarpie Desanto; I have no knowledge of who Sugarpie is to be honest, but I love this track…reminds me of some 70’s soul we might hear from Darondo or Lee Fields.

Overall, Watts Happening‘s appeal lies in its diversity and certainly Ohmega Watts’ ability to utilize a broad palette of sounds. More & more, I find myself drawn to albums like this whose sound is less easily categorized. (also see majority of Madlib projects, and Jneiro Jarel’s Three Piece Puzzle & his recent Shapes of Broad Minds project). Also, Ohmega Watts’ lyrics, while not mind-blowing, compliment the production, seamlessly lying within the beat. They also paint a portrait of him as a laidback emcee/producer who doesn’t need to rely on cheap, “ringtone rapper” hooks/lyrics – for me, his unassuming style speaks louder than the sharpest tongue.

And let me not forget the instrumental disc. Kyle made a great point: you listen to the first 18 tracks of the album, and develop a rapport with it. Then you check the instrumentals and totally add to the original 18. I feel comfortable saying that the instrumental tracks play just as well as albums like Oh No’s Dr. No’s Oxperiment & some of the Madlib instrumentals…you truly are getting 2 albums for the price of…well, for the price of 1…

Related sounds worthy of consideration: Diverse’s One A.M.; Dr. Who Dat’s Beat Journey

2nd Chance for “I Want You”?

October 22, 2007

Squire: just wondering if the video that comes out this week might change your opinion… it’s just too good of a song for you to sit on the sidelines for much longer.

T.I., “Stupid” Choices, and Guns

October 22, 2007

Timely wisdom, from one of my favorite people in hip-hop: Jay Smooth. There’s not much else one could add to his insightful commentary (background on the T.I. controversy can be found here). Enjoy:
[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/10/PID_012847/Podtech_machineguns_and_stupidity.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/4396/machine-guns-and-stupidity&totalTime=283000&breadcrumb=85dbbc7dee1d4d979597f1524f196257]
If you haven’t peeped it already, Jay Smooth’s video blog, Ill Doctrine, is easily one of the best on the internet; don’t sleep…

RE Reaching Outside the Box…

October 15, 2007

I’ve been looking forward to an “official” J’Davey project for a minute now – there’s actually a “mixtape” that was available a month or so ago, Land of the Lost; I thought it was available for download on their myspace (or from Fader Magazine), but I can’t find it. You’re on your own to locate it, but I definitely recommend it. I don’t think Jack Davey has a great voice. But I really like her mic disposition and willingness (or natural inclination) to be “experimental;” very attractive quality, artistically speaking. (see “Lalaland” on aforementioned mixtape). I can see the connection Kyle made between J’Davey and Steve Spacek’s sound – spacey, synthy, Prince-y. I tend to compartmentalize J’Davey with Sa-Ra and Platinum Pied Pipers – all are on level just beyond our holy ozone.

Update:
Kyle, where did you find Steve Spacek’s mug shot?

Reaching Outside the Box…

October 15, 2007

For me, one of the collateral effects of 2007’s hip-hop explosion has been an increased desire to reach outside the genre in the hope that I find some new soul music bubbling beneath the surface. That is, the quality of recent albums has had me listening to hip-hop all day long–and that’s a good thing. It’s not that I’m not always looking for newer, more diverse types of music, but lately I’ve been casting a larger net.

Well, I haven’t been terribly lucky. I previewed Angie Stone’s and Jill Scott’s new LPs, but wasn’t impressed. Even though the dearth of soul music in 2007 has been discussed here, for the sake of argument, I’m willing to think that maybe it’s just me and a desire for something less conventional.

Enter Steve Spacek and J. Davey. Spacek last released an album in 2005 and I believe J. Davey’s label issues are keeping their stuff away from a formal release. So I took a different angle: I came across some recent radio appearances by both artists.

Listening to DJ sets by familiar artists can often provide a unique window into their influences… and artists like Spacek and Jack Davey, who have a relatively eclectic taste in music, can make the exercise even more interesting–that is, when you’re looking for a departure from the usual.

The first link I offer is to Steve Spacek’s appearance on the Red Bull Music Academy’s new radio service. I always like to keep an ear to what dem Brits are bumpin. Here’s the playlist:

Sepalot – Touch Too Much – Eskapaden
George Mc Crae – I Get Lifted (Tangoterje Remix) – Supreme
Saian Supa Crew – Blow – Source
Main Concept – Was Geht`n – Buback
The Meters Vs Angie Stone – My Man – Scenario
Belleruche – The Itch – Hippoflex
The Katzenjammers – Cars – Red Hook
Gerardo Frisina – Conqart – Afro Art
Boozoo Bajou – Killer – !K7
Legends Of The Underground – Cafira (Seiji Mix) – K.Spirits
James Brown – Furtherout (Re-Edit) – CDR
Charlie Dark – Unknown – Ninja Tune
Small World – Develop A Style – Red Hook
A Tribe Called Quest – Love – Jive
Daz I-Kue – Get Down – Soundincolor
Tangoterje – High Jack – Supreme
Jumbonics – Baxophone – Tru Thoughts
Gumdrop – Sinking Feeling – Altered Vibes
Steve Spacek – Dollar – Soundincolor

The second link is from a J.Davey performance on the incomparable Chocolate City radio show. No playlist here, but rest assured, there’s some punk, some Prince, and a lot more to keep your attention–not to mention a discussion of their outlook and label politics. Click the picture for the audio link.

UPDATE:
In all fairness to Jilly from Philly, I just heard the full-length version for a couple tracks off her new album on Gilles Peterson’s most recent show, and both “Crown Royale” and “Insomnia” were excellent. On second thought, I might have to cop that album.

My Commencement Speech at Kanye’s Graduation

October 13, 2007

They’re ain’t nothing more bitter than the fire spit by a blogger chillin’ at home on a Friday night (by choice, but you probably don’t believe me), so I’ll try to tone this rant down.

I’ve finally had it with Kanye West. I know. It took me longer than most to come to the same inevitable conclusion that dude is just plain obnoxious–to the point where it can eventually inhibit your ability to mindlessly enjoy his music.

When he first presented himself to the masses on The College Dropout (I remember DJ Sam Figueroa playing “Through the Wire” on WRSU, or rather what he called “that new single from the guy that produced H-to-the-Izzo” and me asking “oh, he raps?”), Kanye stood before the various sects of the hip-hop community as an exceedingly compelling and dynamic personality. To the “conscious” crowd, he was… eh… self-conscious; on “All Falls Down”, he called out his own materialism, but at the same time the hip-hop culture we all love. He was human–he knew wrong from right, but admitted to not always great at acting upon that.

Kanye continued his self-loathing in “Diamonds…”, the “Diamonds…” Remix, and “Addiction” from his sophomore LP, Late Registration. Musically speaking, Kanye’s sound matured on this album, and despite his grating self-absorption, you kept listening.

But it’s now four years or so since “Through the Wire”, and in 2007 Kanye is still apologizing for his obnoxious, self-absorbed behavior on Graduation–yet he apparently hasn’t done anything to change. This is akin to the abusive husband that apologizes profusely for his conduct, goes to the meetings, buys his wife flowers, but then beats her all over again, one week later. If you actually listen to the lyrics on this new album, aside from being some of his weakest he’s ever dared to spit, it’s nothing but an exercise in navel-gazing, of the most petty variety.

I get it: you went from nothing to something. No one believed in you. You had to work in retail. Now you are rich and famous, with rich and famous people’s problems: buying too much jewelry, drunk and hot girls, paparazzi following you and your girl around, flashbulbs, and then to top it off, the disappointment of finding out that you didn’t get free tickets to a Jay-Z concert at MSG. And you wonder why heads at the barber shops talk shit about you?

If Kanye was my boy and we were bullshitting over a beer, I’d listen and pretend to care, then slap him and try to put things into perspective–“people right outside this bar can’t afford food, dunny. Food!” But Kanye ain’t my boy, and I don’t care to hear about his pathetic non-problems–not when he himself has the perception to note much larger problems in the world, like the fact that his very own Chi-City, and many others just like it, are falling apart from poverty, drugs and violence.

Part of me finds 50 Cent‘s aloof, anti-social outlook easier to tolerate. There’s an amoral humility to it. 50 never claimed to be very self-aware, so you can’t hold him to any standard. He’s just a product of the streets, he’ll tell you. It’s unfortunate, but for some reason it’s easier to ignore 50 as a “lost one” and just bang the beats and hyper-masculine posturing. It’s perhaps a metaphor for how our society is aloof to the extreme poverty and crime that occurs in our inner-cities: the cities are “lost” and thus we feel little moral responsibility for anything that goes on there.

Now that I got that out of my system, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed Kanye’s album before I started listening to the lyrics. “Good Morning” had me amped to start the show. “Champion” got me inspired in that “Touch the Sky” kinda way. “I Wonder” has some ridiculous drums, and “Everything I Am” sounds great. Oh, and Dwele’s presence is a great touch on “Flashing Lights” with those pulsating, Paul Oakenfold-esque keys. The passion in Kanye’s delivery is perhaps unmatched amongst emcees in the game today.

It’s just that just that his message is passionately petty, and I can’t get past it.

Ohmega Watts – “Just think…”

October 11, 2007

…what if you can just be a, kid again, and waste the day, never worry about life or tooth decay… – from “Model Citizen”

Yeah, I’m know it’s already been out for 3 days & I’ve yet to comment on it, but I’m working on (that is, just started bumpin’ it). Ohmega’s Watts Happening may be the most anticipated album for me this year (right up there with Jneiro Jarel’s Shape of Broad Minds project…and we’ll see if LB’s Get Back ever gets released in 2007). I was completely enamored with The Find; a genre-melding cornucopia of sounds, upbeat lyrics & production. That album definitely highlighted what I love about hip hip and I’ve been anxious to hear the new album.

Admittedly, I just got into it yesterday – it’s been a busy music week & I wanted to make sure I had some time to sit down and listen. Already, I’m really feeling “Model Citizen,” a laid back PSA on the role of adults (particularly fathers) in the lives of our children. Sorry, I couldn’t find a less corny way to describe it, but if you’ve read anything on here (specifically earlier posts of TT), you know I am wary of hip hop that has seemingly slipped into an acquisitive irresponsibility. Avoiding the soap box, “Model Citizen” is a thoughtful reflection on parent, media, and celebrity influence on kids; Ohmega also inconspicuously speaks on family dynamics, setting up a message that builds up the role of fathers, which is sorely needed – just the opinion of a long time hip hip listener.

He proves that it’s not unhip hop to be empathic:

A lot of kids can’t even say they love someone, cause nobody ever cared, but I stand correct, cause I’m somebody right here…

Offering himself as guide:

Cause here I am, a young man, with only hope to share, at one point & time, see I truly didn’t care, now I be the same light like the one that guided me

On “artists” (hip hop community and beyond perhaps?):

These artists neglect you, sayin’ they don’t give a what, they’re more concerned with making a buck

Just a feel good song that demonstrates that some in the hip hop community care. Interestingly, Ohmega Watts’s music is right up there with Jneiro & Madlib (among many) in stylistic experimentation; certainly moreso than some of these other “artists” who claim their artistic priority tops any community responsibility, e.g. “Yo, I’m just expressing myself through my art.” (Not hating, just highlighting a disparity.)

Certainly more to come on Watts Happening…stay tuned…

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.

Why the Soul Music Drought In ’07?

October 8, 2007

After getting finished listening to Ohmega Watts’ newest offering, Watts Happening, I continue to be flabbergasted by the quality hip-hop that we’ve heard in 2007–and we’re only three quarters of the way in, with LPs from Jay-Z (curious) and The Roots (egh…) on the way.

This is surely something to appreciate, but at the same time, I can’t think of a good R&B/Soul album that has dropped this year. I put this out there to get the brain-trust thinking: am I overlooking someone?

I’m an admitted will.i.am stan right now, and I’m really feeling his newest LP, Songs About Girls. But I refuse to put a producer who really ain’t a singer in this list–especially if he is only making the list by default. That album is fresh, in my opinion; but I’d like some more choices.

Squire?