“On behalf of the great state of Illinois, the land of Lincoln…”

April 1, 2008 by

Word on the street is there is an “Obama for President” mixtape in the works. Word?

I wonder if this will be the authorized mixtape.

Might this be on it?

UPDATE: Ivan, as usual, is already up on this.


Tanya Morgan is a rap group

March 31, 2008 by

I really enjoy perusing hip hop blogs to see what everyone is listening to; who likes that album, track, beat, emcee, etc. Since the Tanya Morgan/DJ Soul mixtape, Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group, has hit the web, I’ve been surprised at the little I’ve read on it. I’m still spinnin’ New Ameryah, and of late, have been going through my De La discography; but Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group has really been a speaker hog. Their full length, Moonlighting, was certainly in my top 5 of 2006. And, while this mixtape is an amalgam of sorts, representing old TM, random tracks/cameos, and presumably some tastes of TM to come, I think it’s one of the better listens out right now. I know I don’t live in a vacuum – hence, my suprise at the little blog space I’ve found sharing thoughts on TM. I’ve read quite a bit on Guilty and eMC (since the latter’s official release, even more so). I’ve had two questions:

First, is Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group kind of overlooked because it is a mixtape, and not an “official” release? I can see this happening (or, are listens too wrapped up in Ode and The Show to notice?) I tend to categorize mixtapes differently than LPs; but, I think TMRP is just that dope! Secondly, are people turned off of TM because they’re seen as “hipsters?” I never thought about this, but I have seen some bloggers express that they’re turned off by the “hipster movement.” I was 10 when 3 Feet High & Rising came out, so I wasn’t privy to real-time discussions on that album; But, as afterthoughts years later, I do recall a similar critique of De La Soul. De La responded by titling their sophomore release, De La Soul is Dead, as a humorous answer to the hype around 3 Feet. Hence, I guess this contemplation has spawned a other questions:

Is there a “hipster movement?” If so, does it have a definitive shelf life? If TM are hipsters, who joints them in their movement? (they need allies, no?) Are they trying to take over the world? Or are they trying to save the world? Are they entwined in a rivalry? Perhaps hipsters are affiliated with backpackers? How do hipsters feel about the rising gas prices? Do they not rhyme about watches and cars because they can’t afford them? Will they have their own video game? Who would play Von Pea in a movie? Just because Illyas got locks, does it mean he’s Jamaican? Who’s more likely to back their movement: Obama or Hillary?

I know, I’ve given you a lot to consider. It will help you if you put your Tanya Morgan playlist on; be sure to include any Von Pea you can get.


Getting Riches…

March 29, 2008 by

About two months ago, I had the following to say about Guilty Simpson’s “Getting B***ches”:

“Getting B*****” is one of the last highlights from this offering. I must admit that Denaun Porter has become one of my favorite producers in the last six months or so. His beats are so crisp and loud, yet manage retain the critical amount of grime that keeps them street-worthy. His works also possess a soulful quality that is hard to describe–though it is undoubtedly aided by Mr. Porter’s unique, falsetto singing voice that finds its way onto his tracks. Guilty is dope here. This beat provides the busy, noisy, and dirty playground that Guilty Simpson needs…

Two months later, this is still one of my favorite tracks off an otherwise underwhelming LP. I’ll say it again: I think it captures Guilty and Mr. Porter at their respective best. Denaun Porter is one of the dopest in the game right now. I had thought that this track would make a good single, and it still might; but it wasn’t on the first 12″ ; however, they did release a video for “Getting B***ches” last week. Peep it:

The Economics of Sampling…

March 20, 2008 by

This is certainly an interesting issue, politically speaking, because there’s no big bad villain on either side for people to rally against and take sides. It’s fan vs. his favorite musician; techie-information-ager vs. the anti-establishment artist that supplies the soundtrack to his web-surfing and blogging.

So, to follow up on Pete’s post, here’s my take:

In my reading of Madlib’s comments, he was basically saying, “If you like our music, stop posting those samples, because we’re going to get hit with lawsuits and have to stop making this type of music.”

Every Google-able blog post incrementally increases the chances that an enterprising lawyer or corporate research department latches on to an uncleared sample, and files suit. Sure, the information is all discoverable on the net, but that’s why this is the information age and people pay money for other people to organize all that information into an easily-digestible format. The organization of this information is vital (and ironically, copyright-able, as well). These blog posts are doing that work for free.

Whether you pay up front by clearing the sample, or at the back-end by settling a lawsuit, sampling can be expensive for artists like Madlib, and indeed cost-prohibitive.

That is the simple economics of this game, from what I understand. If these artists complied with the strict letter of the law, they couldn’t afford to make those beats.

Ivan actually concedes this point, and ultimately agrees to cease the behavior that Madlib complained about:

Point #5: Should Underground Artists Get Leniency on Copyright Laws?

I mentioned this argument before, and I think it’s one of the the most grounded and fair-minded of them all. Here’s a board member who expressed it quite wisely:

Well if you don’t want to hear anymore classic underground albums come out in the future then keep doing what you’re doing. Realistically there is no way they could have cleared all the samples on Madvillainy, and Lib is obviously trying to prevent any lawsuits now that would both effect him financially, and potential listeners aurally as the album would be withdrawn from stores. You state that you believe all samples should be cleared, but if that was the case 90% of the great underground albums wouldn’t exist.

This leads me to the conclusion that I will now no longer complete sample sets of albums by underground artists such as Madlib. Fair enough people? See? I can be reasonable!…

Now, he goes on to address the various other (sometimes immature) comments made on his blog, and engages many of the faces of this issue as moral and legal matter, but I wanted to highlight the above passage, just so that it does not get lost in cacophony of unrest. It’s understandable to want to defend one’s self under these circumstances, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the issue: assuming he meant what I said above, Madlib was probably right.

In point #5 Ivan expresses an entirely rational position that I actually share. I think it acknowledges that, whatever one thinks about the morality of Madlib’s behavior vis a vis the original artist, and the appropriateness of a fan’s ability to discuss that sampling, as fans, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would make it no longer economically feasible for Madlib to make his music. That risk is real, and the decision on the part of the fan is cold, and rational. So, if you value Madlib’s contribution to the art form over the satisfaction that you get as a fan from public discussion of sample credits, you realize that these blog posts might not be a good idea.

After so many words have been written on the topic, Ivan may be disappointed to see such an binary explanation, but I really think that the issue forces these writers to choose what is most important to them: their sample heavy blog posts or Madlib’s music.

I don’t think that Ivan’s work is wrong in any moral sense. Far from it–it’s excellent. After thinking about the issue for a while, I just think it’s unwise, in light of the above.

The real culprit is the law (“Redirect the anger against politicians and judges, very clever, Kyle!” –Ed.). But until the law changes, the hip-hop community has to get by, and we need good music like Madlib’s to keep the art alive.

For what it’s worth, I think that an enterprising lawyer from our generation will one day convince a judge that sampling is form of “fair use”, making permission from the copyright holder unnecessary. I’m sure this has been argued unsuccessfully in the past (I haven’t done the research), but I’m hoping that as the hip-hop generation populates the legal culture, our attitudes might change, and make this argument more palatable. This might actually become a research project for me.

But if it happens, it is going to be intelligent, articulate folks like Ivan that make a difference… and this discussion is only priming the pump for that future endeavor. Let’s make it happen.

PS: Many of my references to Ivan and Madlib were merely shorthand, as this debate involves many other similarly-situated parties; pardon my laziness, Ivan.

Killa Tape Interlude…

March 20, 2008 by

Pete, did you peep the “Killa Tape Interlude” on the new Tanya Morgan mixtape (track 8)?

That’s why I have love for these guys. They make the music that we would make if we could make music.


March 20, 2008 by

I think some fellow bloggers have done a good job of elucidating the sampling debate given some shine by Lord Quas’s apparent request for the removal of a compilation of original samples for Madvillainy. Hiphopisread has been on the story like Fox News on a car chase in Los Angeles; I’ve enjoyed perusing it during my morning blogroll. (Side note: some of the “blogger” comments he imbedded in his post are quite funny). Being as Kyle and I have often had this discussion in the past, and also employed the oft-quoted Primo, “…that’s some greedy ass, fake bull$hit…” I wanted to add my nickels.

The researcher in me accepts most of the sentiments shared by Ivan and some of his readers. There are few experiences that get me more amped than listening to a track and having that “A-Ha” moment that links a track to some dusty song from three decades ago. I’ve often, in my excitement, dropped some of my friends an email, something to the effect: “Yo, check [Track Title] by [Artist]; you hear that vocal sample/bassline/etc.? Yadda yadda yadda…”

As such, my interest in compilations such as the aforementioned Madvillainy samples, or websites that curtail my research, e.g. SampleSpot, certainly peak my interest and have serviced me well. And I have sought out sites that provide information on tracks; I own several compilation albums, e.g. (and perhaps ironically) DJ Premier Salutes James Brown, which features original James Brown tracks on one disc, with Disc 2 featuring hip hop songs that sampled said tracks…mixed by Primo by the way (as per my sources).

In short, the hip hop fan in me appreciates the access to sampling information, whether it’s in the album’s credits or not.

With that said, I can also align with the ideas that Lord Quas, or Madlib, or whoever else may posit regarding the act of posting/promulgating sample origins. Hear me out.

Hip hop producers have managed to make great music AND clear/cite their samples. Both activities can coexist in a “financially perpendicular” relationship. ha

However, I can understand, from an artist’s perspective, why they’d prefer to have the samples remain obscure…or at least not available in a collective union. It MAY challenge the freedom they have in making the beats we love so much. I understand the gist of sample clearance. From that, I can derive a sense of what an artist must go through when conceptualizing a track/beat/album – it can be quite daunting I imagine. And while I mean no disrespect to the sampled artists, I don’t think clearance should be a hindrance to the creation of an amazing album, say…for consistency sake, Madvillainy.

I know, it’s really an argument one can hardly push through too easily.

Okay, the grand finale.

From an artist’s perspective, I can certainly understand Lord Quas’s request (the manner and reason of his request are another thing). While I don’t wholly agree that identifying samples hurts hip hop, I think it walks the fence of hip hop capitulating to “the Man,” or sample clearance regulations. As such, it almost defies the spirit of what backs the revolutionary history of hip hop. Despite the Souljah Boys and Rick Ross’s of the world, I still see hip hop as the music of the people; the unity, soul, and creative threads that tie its listeners together. (Sorry, I’ve been distracted by Duke winning…talk about snitches…) In a way, I see sampling as aligning with that notion, and allowing artists to spin some sonic yarn that I, in NJ, can feel, as well as dude in Texas, L.A., Chicago.

NOTE: The above are the thoughts of me, and do not necessarily, or in its entirety, reflect the thoughts of other Trading Tapes contributors. But, if Kyle agrees with what I’ve shared, he damn well better cite me.

UPDATE: Check hiphopisread for an update on the debate, and another insightful perspective.


March 18, 2008 by

I know, it’s been a while. I’m still bumpin’ New Amerykah and The Adventures of Seymour Liberty – always important, for me at least, when an album still has spins after the first few weeks. Usually, when I get an album I’m diggin’, I’ll play the crap out of it for a week or two; then, via natural selection, the album will get sorted into the proper hierarchy. For example, Mobb Deep’s Infamous received hella spins when I first got it…and it has pretty strong replay value to this day. Similarly, Common’s Like Water For Chocolate still has spinning influence, or spinfluence, 8 years later (or 7.5 years); compare this with Com’s follow-up, Electric Circus, which I gave plenty of spins when I first got it – now, usually I’ll pick-and-play tracks intermittently.

Market experts predict that EB’s NA will have strong spinfluence – I’m still bumpin’ “Me,” “The Hump,” and “Soldier on the regular. Similar with Coultrain’s ASL (album’s tempo and arrangement reminds me of Dwele’s Some Kinda…)

When I posted my big review of Erykah’s New Amerykah, I think I may have overestimated the commercial appeal. Perhaps it’s the influence of reading others’ reviews, but I think this album may be too layered for commercial staying power. Listen, Erykah’s no Nitchze, but some may not be patient enough to listen to Erykah’s stream of consciousness, dream-like flow. I was glad to see New Amerykah in the top 10 (debuted and peaked at #2; currently #6) after her first week nonetheless. I tend try not to measure an album by sales, but naturally, I support artists I like getting paid.

In addition to the previously noted, I’ve also been bumpin’ my BDP discography. Big ups to hiphopisread for his sample-related posts; listening to BDP is very similar – is KRS-ONE the most cited emcee in hip hop? Or Rakim? Anyone do that research? “Stop the Violence” off By All Means Necessary is where it’s at – relevant 20 years later. And how contemporary does “Necessary” sound? Relativism and racism under the scope; “Yeah, I’m making some money; he’s making some money/but none of these are necessity/what I find to be a necessity is/controlling a positive destiny.”

And finally, I just grabbed the new Tanya Morgan mixtape, Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group, here. I’m a big Tanya Morgan & Von Pea guy so I’m pretty excited to peep this. Anyone check it yet? Thoughts?



March 3, 2008 by

I was perusing this New York Times article centered on Badu and NA, and this inset picture is so bad ass, I had to post it. BadAss.

It is Erykah’s Amerykah

February 29, 2008 by

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War), 2008

I’ve had New Amerykah on blast all week. I’ll say this about Erykah: so damn consistent. I was thinking tonight as I drove home from happy hour with some co-workers, bumpin’ “Me,” a sign of Erykah’s consistency is that I cannot decide which of her albums I like best. Baduizm. Mama’s Gun. Worldwide Underground. New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War). All strong from front to back, that it’s tough to find anything that would separate one from the other. Baduizm has a soulful, fresh vibe to it. Mama’s Gun features an acoustic, jazz influence. Worldwide Underground has Erykah extending her boundaries a bit. And New Amerykah is an amalgam of them all.

Admittedly, with Erykah I always remind myself that some of her subtle themes may take a while to catch onto, e.g. “So I salute you Farrakhan, cause you are me/before I end this dream, before I take one for the team.” I don’t doubt this is the case with NA. But sonically, this album is incredible. Upon my first few listens, I thought it was extended interludes, punctuated with songs. But, Erykah and her musically-blessed production team are on some next $hit here. Several of the tracks feature more than one arrangement, with songs such as “Master Teacher” and “The Hump” switching up while in progress. I’ve always been a fan of that – it reminds me of a free associative jam session. And a quick note regarding the artists she had working on this: ingenious on her part. Madlib; Karriem Riggins, Roy Hargrove, Sa-Ra, Questlove; James Poyser; 9th Wonder; Roy Ayers; Georgia Anne Muldrow (or as I like to call, the female Madlib). As individuals, they obviously had the albums collective sound in mind. As many different arrangements flow in and out of the album, its sound is seamless.

“The Healer,” hip hop anthem of sorts, implicating the wide appeal that hip hop cradles within its hands; akin to the binding nature of religion, but Erykah recognizes that hip hop span across religions. Madlib. Check. Madlib also does up “My People” as Erykah hips up the now famous Eddie Kendricks chant. As previously noted, “Soldier” is one of my favorite tracks. That flute melody is hypnotic (and reminds me of the flute on Hi-Tek’s “Music for Life” from Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip). Conveys similar mood.

“Me” has been coming on strong over the past few days. This reminds me of something that would have been on Mama’s Gun. I love the clapping percussion; bassline is jazz, undeniably; and the horns. I’m a huge advocate of horns, and the way Hargrove dances them within the beat is great. Substance wise, “Me” may have garnered the most attention, due to Erykah’s open nod to Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, (whom has recently been rejected and denounced by Senator Obama) but as this article, from the Dallas Morning News suggests, she’s got “me” in mind for her dubious dinner guest. Politics aside, the music backing “Me” is quite a treat.

“Master Teacher” is one of the most interesting compositions on NA. Speculation was abound that Erykah and Georgia Anne Muldrow would be a dynamic duo (check “Fly Away” from Sa-Ra’s The Hollywood Recordings. And I think this Georgia produced track proves that. With the premise centered on the knowledge that nobody knows everything, Georgia’s convoluted melody and thumpin’ drums are ideal for both her and Erykah’s unique deliveries. About half way through the track, a soulful bassline takes over and Erykah gets contemplative, dreamily singing of sleeping babies, sunsets, and lovers.

The Questlove and James Poyser contribution, “The Hump” is Erykah’s vocal zenith of NA. Vocally, I think this is reminiscent of Baduizm‘s “Next Life Time,” or Mama’s Gun ‘s “Kiss Me on My Neck.” Initially, it sounds like an “I Want You” sequel, but turns out to be a commentary on the relationship between a user and her drugs. It’s almost arranged like “Green Eyes” (MG), broken into steps toward drug abuse recovery – she thinks about what’ll it be like if she can get off and how the drug rules her world; then spends a few bars rationalizing her use, “I never dun dope to cope/only smoke a joint or two…I know people do it day and night, night and day…”; finally, she throws up her hands, and wants to be done, “Lord knows I’m tired of this dope.” Classic Badu tale. “Telephone” continues the contemplative vibe, with Erykah singing a nod to those who’ve passed on. I’m not sure how accurate they are, but the internet is swarming with stories that this song is based on Dilla’s mom telling Erykah that during Dilla’s final days, he would be in a sort of hallucinogenic state, talking to ODB about giving him directions to heaven. I’ve read nothing to substantiate this, but it’s a cool concept nonetheless.

It’s been five long years between Erykah releases, but as usual, the wait is well worth it. And with her indicating that she has NA, Pt. 2 set for a release later this year, 2008 is looking bright for soul (don’t forget to check Coultrain). New Amerykah continues the consistency that we’ve come to expect from Badu. As I stated earlier, you can never discount her substance, e.g. “The Hump,” and Erykah’s dynamic interpretation of her world through her music. In my opinion, she remains one of the few artists who can pack so much depth into a commercially viable album. Musically, this album is on par with Mama’s Gun, which, in turn, I held in the same esteem as D’Angelo’s widely acclaimed Voodoo. Kyle, I think our soul music veggies have found their irrigation.

Revisiting Guilty

February 29, 2008 by

In January, I had this to say from leaked bits of Guilty’s Ode to the Ghetto (Stonesthrow, due out 03/25):

Lyrically, I think a Guilty album is what I need to get into his style. Thus far, he’s been a cameo guy who has impressed me at times…

It’s tough to think how Guilty will be on an entire album after mainly knowing him from verse to verse. It was very similar to Percee P – the guy went 20 or so years with random tracks and a number of cameos, and then boom, has entire album. I think it worked, although I think his potency waned as the album progressed. Guilty certainly has Percee’s grit; does he have anything else? I’m interested to see if Guilty’s rhymes/style have LP endurance.

It’s been a month, and we still have another month before Ode sees its official release, but I’m starting to see more and more “previews” on the net. I suppose it’s not surprising that the sentiments have varied. I’ve read some pretty impressive thoughts on it, and others that feel Stonesthrow has dropped the ball on this project. The world of the blogs.

The good news. You may attribute it to the axiom – familiarity breeds content – but I’ve remained warm to most of the production on Ode. But, even this has a glass-half-empty interpretation, I suppose. I think of it this way: when I first saw the production credits, I straightened my glasses and let out an “ooh wee.” But at best, from book end to book end, Ode to the Ghetto’s production is just as I felt, warm. With Dilla, Madlib, and Black Milk, it should be hot; that’s what the “ooh wee” anticipated at least. Some of my favorites include: “American Dream,” “She Won’t Stay At Home,” and “My Moment.” I agree with Kyle Re. “Kinda Live” too. I alluded to it in January: “Lately, it seems to me that Madlib’s beats are becoming a bit more formulaic,” and to a certain degree, I think that extends to most of Ode. I give the production a B-.

The not bad, but not good news. I asked myself how Guilty’s cameo grit would pulse throughout an entire album (see above). Lyrically, I get the impression that Guilty isn’t comfortable when changing roles, e.g. going from grit to for ladies. Listen, most of the cameos or random solo joints he’s had over the past 4 years, I’ve loved. When given a knockin’ drumline, he can sting like bee with the best, e.g. “My Moment” & “Footwork”; but I don’t think he can float like a butterfly, e.g. “I Must Love You,” which beat I really like, but Guilty comes off flat (imo). Over the course of an entire album, Guilty doesn’t provide (me with) enough fire, and he melts when not over a bangin’ beat.

On the one hand, part of me doesn’t want to come off as a finicky blogger who unnecessarily breaks an album down, kind of like token sex or violence in a movie. The other part of me thinks that if it’s striking me as such, I should speak my mind. After all, that’s why I blog. I commented to Kyle when he made his original “review” of Ode to the Ghetto that he shared much of what I thought, while I lacked the cojones to say it. So be it. I’m not afraid to concede that.

Ode to the Ghetto is still going to have its place in my Stonesthrow discog. It just won’t be up with Champion Sound, Charizma & PB Wolf’s Big Shots, Madvillainy or the UNQ albums; it’ll fit nicely with MED, Roc C, and Wildchild.

Breaking News: Erykah’s Amerykah

February 22, 2008 by

Check it. I have a few moments here – but will try and get a lengthier post up later – to follow a scoop on Erykah Badu’s new LP, New Amerykah, Part 1: 4th World War. Word on the street is that it has indeed hit the interweb. Dead ends are abound. But, I HAVE been able to check a few tracks, in addition to “The Healer” & “Honey,” the latter of which has grown on me. So, I’m bumpin’ “Soldier” right now, produced by Karriem Riggins. Heat. Got Erykah on some positive thought of mind – strong, measured drums, floating flute (?) – Riggins punctuating the track with his “Yeah,” “Ha,” & variations of “Ugh;” I listened for a “Let’s Go,” but alas, there is none. Erykah’s got a movement in mind for this: “We goin’ keep marchin’ on, until you hear that freedom song/and if you think about turnin’ back, I got that shotgun on your back…everyone knows what this songs about…” I’m feelin’ this for sure. And it also reminds me that Riggins is on Stonesthrow. Just a bit a foreshadowing.

Valentine’s Day/Coultrain

February 14, 2008 by

I was inspired when Peanut Butter Wolf put together a Valentine’s Day mix last year, which featured some real classics, e.g. Bobby Womack’s “How Could You Break My Heart,” and The Jacksons, “Blues Away.” Despite the expectations days like this hold, I choose to honor the underlying sentiment: the feelings of admiration and affection (insert studio audience, “Awww.”) So, that’s what I plan; a few choice selections that are great for days like today.

– Michael Jackson, “Lady In My Life”/Thriller – I know, an album full of #1’s, but often the least mentioned track off that album, in my opinion; this song is what the 90’s New Jack Swingers and current sap singers strive(d) to be like. “Lady In My Life” has it all: the bridge, the break down, the vocals…Michael takes no prisoners on this track, and whether he used this track to his advantage or not, there is no denying this song is a romancer. “I want you to stay with me…” It’s a wrap.

– Duke Ellington, “In A Sentimental Mood”/Duke Ellington & John Coltrane – I first heard this song when I was about 12 on The Cosby Show (I know I’m not the only who heard it from Bill first). Back then, I thought jazz was “grown up” business, and wanted nothing to do with it…I just went back to bumpin’ BDK. However, over the years, I’ve become quite fond of this track, particularly as the jazz part of my brain matured. Ellington’s piano is melodic, and Coltrane on sax is too slick. Slick as a fox.

– The Isley Brothers, “Don’t Say Good Night”/Go All The Way – Come on now, it’s The Isley Brothers, true pioneers of my theory that if you can sing it, you can say whatever you want, e.g. “I want to see what you’re like in bed.” (See also: R. Kelly). I sense there is no need to fortify it’s Valentine’s Day value, but hey, ya’ll need something to bump after dinner.

– Curtis Mayfield, “Now You’re Gone”/Roots – Curtis was always great for the scorned/lost love tracks, and this is my favorite of the bunch. Mayfield’s Roots was chock full of drums heard here, save for maybe “Love To Keep You In My Mind,” but the horns, drums, bass – all accentuate Mayfield’s sorrow/relief here. Of course, the emotional lead weighing on Mayfield’s heart was made famous by 9th Wonder, (check “H.U.S.T.L.E.” from Murs’s 3:16 The 9th Edition) but this track is certainly worth more than a 3-second sample.

– Dwele, “My Lova/Movement”/Some Kinda… – Love them maracas. The trombone. Guitar. Let’s be real, Dwele kills this. The highlight for me is the end, which find Dwele in quite a bind: his other girl calls, while is other girl is makin’ him breakfast. Singing won’t get you out this, my friend.

– Stevie Wonder, “I Was Made To Love Her”/I Was Made To Love Her – I know, I’ve included this in a list previously, but this song can’t be touched.

– Coultrain, “Green”/The Adventures of Seymour Liberty – I actually just recently picked this album up ($6.99 + S&H), but have been bumpin’ incessantly for the past week. I actually meant to do a post on the album yesterday, but well, I had no electricity due to snow/ice. So this serves as my segue. “Green” is actually characteristic of the sound of The Adventures of Seymour Liberty – a taste of the old school soul; if you ask me, this song IS everything Stevie Wonder IS. I’m convinced he used a Stevie track for this, but as yet, my research as turned up very little. I really dig the color analogy, “And if another voice catches your ear, you know I’m green…because no other is for you, you’re the yellow to my blue, together we make green.”

I tried my best to my homework on this guy/album. Other than the fact that he’s going to be the featured artist on the upcoming Platinum Pied Pipers album, not much is out there. Usually, the blogs are a good place to pick up on new artists, particularly ones not signed to a major. So, if TT is your first scoop on Coultrain, allow me to highly recommend…Seymour Liberty. First, it’s a great album because it matches his voice with production extremely well. Similar to guys like Anthony Hamilton and Raheem Devaughn, Coultrain has a “throwback” voice; he mends well with the older sounds that back most of the album. Contrast this with Devaughn for example, who’s voice I think is great, but I don’t always like the generic R&B beats he’s on. Songs like the aforementioned “Green,” and “Lost in Translation” make his sound difficult to place in time. Is it contemporary? More akin to Stevie’s 70’s albums? Even a ballad like “Lilac Tree” has a subtle Frank Sinatra feel to it, like Dwele’s “Some Kinda,” or Sinatra cover, “Kick Out Of You.”

“Endangered Species,” a reflective look at the role of black men in society, continues the old soul feel, borrowing the guitar and drums from the blaxpoitation era. It’s obvious Coultrain is a student of music and his sound interprets the styles laid out before him.

Back in October, Kyle and I lamented the lack of new soul, or rather the stale soul music of 2007. Coultrain’s The Adventures of Seymour Liberty is a positive sign that the groundhog has not seen its shadow, and fresh soul music is abound in 2008. (Erykah in 2 weeks, btw). I think it’s a must have. Hear for yourself at his myspace.


February 11, 2008 by

Dilla dates have come and gone – I’ve spent a good amount of time perusing different accounts and write-ups over the WWW. I think this one (at Metal Lungies) is the most comprehensive, and really does a good job of putting Dilla’s role in hip hop into perspective; reader/listener accounts are great.

For me, I was enjoying Dilla beats before I knew they were Dilla beats. Admittedly, it wasn’t until Kyle gave me a mixtape (Kyle used to make the illest mixes…On cassette…Trading Tapes anyone?) the summer of 2000 with SV’s “2U4U,” that I was “officially” introduced to Dilla…or Jay Dee. Once that connection was made, past music, e.g. ATCQ, Pharcyde, Busta Rhymes, all made more sense. The drum patterns, the sampling. Stylistically unique. Sonically threaded throughout his work. Then came Common’s Like Water For Chocolate, which for many, myself included, represented a “new” Dilla sound; the same way I felt when I heard EB’s “Didn’t Cha Know.”

Back to “2U4U” – the simplicity of that beat was so new to me; I fell hard for that song – the stop-and-go flow (featured throughout Fantastic Vol. 2) was so on point for that track. Let’s face it, that album completely changed my perception of hip hop music. I had a cassette player in my ’89 Ford Escort, and due to incessant rewind-play of that song, the cassette eventually got stuck in the player. It stayed there until I sold that car. To a large man with a large beard.

One of the “reflections” shared in that post from Metal Lungies indicated that the author wasn’t into Dilla lyrically (initially). Personally, I think he was the best lyricist for his beats. I guess it makes sense – Dilla was intimately involved with every nuisance of his beats, and at times, it sounded like he was less interested in “rapping,” and more considerate of adding more depth to the beat through his rhymes/delivery.

My Dilla discography is probably the prize possession of my music collection. It’s varied enough to match virtually any mood/situation. And seeming unique to Dilla, his beats are rarely dated. Bangin’ a track from 1996 is just as fresh in 2008.

Funny anecdote – I remember when the light went off in my head that SV’s Jay Dee was the “J. Yancy” all over Tribe’s Beats, Rhymes, & Life credits, I thought, “Wait, isn’t this the guy thought to have ruined Tribe?”

I never believed it.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Phife’s, “Slum Village gold still danglin’ in your ear,” from “Butter” was sampled by Dilla on FV2. (also sampled by Peanut Butter Wolf for Charizma’s “Jack the Mack,” from Big Shots…Just sayin’ is all.

BTW – I love(d) BR&L.

“Yes We Can”

February 3, 2008 by

More “More Nostalgic Videos”

January 31, 2008 by

Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones Pt. II,” 1995

In addition to being one of my favorite songs since 1995, this video has several indicators of how sick this track/video is:

a) that car (although it looks like it could be a Mercedes)
b) Prodigy goes to make a call at a pay phone
c) that video could be made with a cell phone nowadays

Seriously, shortly after that album came out, up through the release of Hell On Earth (1999), I thought Prodigy was on his way to being one of the better known story tellers in hip hop. All his rhymes on The Infamous were on point, had depth, and were multisyllabic. You could really pick any track on that album and both he and Havoc (boards and lyrically) are tight. Randomly, I choose “Temperature’s Rising;” my mind drifts back to my Ford Escort, as I wait in a line of traffic leaving high school. “Right Back At You,” dope verses from Rae, Ghost, & Big Noyd; and who could forget Nas and Rae on “Eye for An Eye.”

In hindsight, it makes it even more difficult to listen to Prodigy’s rhymes these days. Multisyllabic they were, I swear – have a listen for yourself.

Appreciation Post: Blu & Exile “Below the Heavens”

January 31, 2008 by

photo.jpgSometimes this view gets me all sentimental, especially after a long walk around town. That walk gave me time to bump some albums on the iPod that I had put aside for a while. That’s why I want to bring it way back to 2007 and show some TT love to Blu and Exile’s LP “Below the Heavens”, my favorite album from 2007–and maybe the last 3 years or so.

It’s been a while since we’ve had an emcee with the package that Blu brings to the table. He mixes an accessible personality with excellent flow, clear delivery, and some clever rhymes. I ain’t crowning him the next Jigga, but he is an emcee that many should envy. More importantly, he has the “stamina”, if you will, to lace an entire 15-track album with solid rhymes. Stamina is perhaps an inexact word, because Blu also manages to avoid the fatal flaw of many emcees: over-extending one’s self. You gotta know your limits, and this guy does.

And Exile’s beats? I’ve struggled to describe his style to other beat heads, and why they should feel his shit. Without playing his music, it hasn’t worked well. I’ve tried a few metaphors that ultimately don’t work. Suffice it to say that he’s able take some of the production methods and elements that we appreciate, yet still sound authentic, instead of genre-driven.  Make no mistake, I’m cognizant of the fact that my tastes here can often fall into an identifiable market niche. My more mainstream-oriented friends are quick to remind me of this fact. But Exile is able to tweak his beats in a way that retains the elements I like, while keeping it interesting. For instance, I like the way he syncopates the high-hats on a lot of his beats. His snares have authentic sound to them. They don’t blow out your ear drums like Black Milk’s or Just Blaze’s perhaps; no matter how great of a snare it is, it just kind of plays along with all of the other elements, in a very egalitarian way. On top of all this, Exile isn’t afraid to let a beat ride out at the end of a track, or to incorporate some changes halfway into the beat. In short, Exile is an excellent producer.

Together, Blue & Exile gave us what had to be one of the most coherent LPs from 2007. No track stood out as the “single” track, or the “b-side” track, or anything like that. “Below the Heavens” was a throwback to an earlier time when an album didn’t have to be all things to all people. It wasn’t an iTunes a la carte, cocktail-hour hors devours platter. It was momma-style, home cooked meal with the veggies, meat and starch all working together; from start to finish.

Blu rhymes his ass off on some serious shit here. Whether it’s about insecurity (“Dancing in the Rain”), striving for morality (“Narrow Path”), love & fidelity (“Greater Love”), upward mobility (“Good Life”), and personal humility (“Blue Collar Worker”). But he ain’t preachy–a delicate balancing act for anyone in today’s hip-hop culture which generally frowns upon serious introspection (not to be confused with Kanye’s navel-gazing, and whining on Graduation, which I discuss here). This is no small feat.

And Exile chops up a beat in way that evokes Dilla’s Donuts stuff. It’s always unpredictable, and retains the soulfulness of the original track in a way that is satisfying to the trained ear of any fan of soul music (See: “Blu Collar Worker” and my favorite track “Below the Heavens Pt. I”).

I’d like to get into more tracks at a later date, I just needed to take some time out to express my appreciation for this album. Last year was a great year for hip-hop at many levels of the industry food chain. But “Below the Heavens” stands apart from even that distinguished pack as an album worthy of comparison to my mom’s home cooking–no small compliment.


More on album covers (courtesy of Erykah’s “Honey”)

January 30, 2008 by

That Eric B. & Rakim album cover (Paid in Full) is awesome; of course, one of the better known album covers (right up there with Nas’s Illmatic & BDP’s By All Means Necessary…which itself is a nod to a notable Malcom X image). However dated it may be, it’s not nearly as much as 1988’s Follow the Leader & 1992’s Don’t Sweat the Technique (I don’t remember what the first single was, but “Causalities of War” and “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” watch out now!) Look at those jackets on FTL – looks like some Milli Vanilli type wardrobe faux paux; And Don’t Sweat the Technique…I think I’ve seen somebody align that with C+C Music Factory.

Just for my own curiosity, that bass on “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” did Gangstarr use that somewhere along the line? Sure sounds it, but I can’t put my finger on it.

More Nostalgic Videos

January 30, 2008 by

Whenever I watch Consequence’s new video for “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”…

…Fat Joe’s “Shit is Real” video is the first one that comes to mind for some reason:

Joey Cottage Cheese! If Consequence just added a slow-mo beat down renactment scene it would have been perfect.

Group Home’s “Superstar” is another golden era video that immediately came to mind:

Snarkier persons than I might call this 90’s fetishism, but I’m not taking that bait. Call me a nostalgia-monger. I like what Consequence did with this video, and I’m sucker for any chance to relive the unsupervised moments of my childhood in which Yo! MTV Raps was that shit.

Any other suggestions Pete?

Kyle beats me to it…

January 29, 2008 by

Pete and I have talked about this 9th Wonder track being a bit bland; but this video made me forget all that, and just enjoy the music. Couldn’t have said in any better, unless you substitute “Kyle” for “Pete.”

I saw this video last night, but the quality was poor, so I gave up half way through it. I finally saw it in its entirety not more than an hour ago. The throwback ambiance certainly adds to the track – and all of a sudden this 9th Wonder beat is alive and well. Originally, when I was moved to post after seeing this video, it was in response to her rendering of the Ohio Players’ Honey cover (1975)…Erykah looks great. I know Ohio Players were renowned for their “racy” album covers, but Honey is my favorite of theirs. However, I’ve discovered tonight that the full cover has been hidden. To the right, you see the Honey cover we’ve all known and respected. However, here is a fuller image; I assume this is the pull out cover unfolded. In the words of Inspector Gadget, “Wowzer!”

I also love the De La cover rendition; and the nod to Andre’s “Hey Ya” is pretty slick. As per Okayplayer.com, that song featured in that interlude is NOT expected to appear on Amerykah. Harumph.

Video for Erykah’s “Honey”

January 29, 2008 by

…a video that helps you remember that music can be fun (which isn’t necessarily obvious to the Guilty Simpson’s of the world); see if you recognize all of the album covers, and feel free to drop some artist – album title info in the comments. Some are painfully obvious, while others are not.

Hat tip to Kanye on this one… I’ve certainly moved on from the record store scene (and think digital delivery–done properly–is superior), but this video still leaves me nostalgic for the old days.

Pete and I have talked about this 9th Wonder track being a bit bland; but this video made me forget all that, and just enjoy the music.