Mon, 30 December 2013
"Salute, pay homage, pay your respects"
With the truly great Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela returning to the essence this month, I decided to dedicate this episode to him. Not every song is necessarily directly relevant, but hopefully the overall arc works.
Rest In Power Madiba. Amandla!
Soweto Gospel Choir : Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika
A short (only the first verse), and different kind of start to this month's episode - and really, the only song I could have started with. Composed in 1897 by Ernest Sontonga in the Xhosa language, this song was the offical anthem of the African National Congress during the Apartheid era and parts of it have now been incorporated into the current South African national anthem. Recorded many times as you might expect, this beautiful acappella version comes from the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir, and they do it justice.
Prince Far I : Royal Palace
Was going to blend this with the song above, but decided against. The late Jamaican deejay Prince Far I was no stranger to politically-themed work, and this comes from his final album, entitled "Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear Of The Nation)," named after the ANC's military wing, founded in 1961. Subtly dubbed-out, nice warm-up before launching into something much more energetic...
Public Enemy : Prophets Of Rage
The mentions of Mandela and Thatcher (who also died this year, and who decried him as a "terrorist") get this one included! Once again, the "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" album gives us a quality tune for the show. This is very much an album cut rather than a single, and showcases the Bomb Squad production style - samples upon samples :)
X Clan : A Day Of Outrage, Operation Snatchback
Super-hard track from the classic "To The East Blackwards" LP, incorporating the Billy Squier "Big Beat" drums that the younger listeners might recognise from their use by Dizzee Rascal. Lyrically, this track is specifically based around the "Day Of Outrage" protest in Brooklyn in 1989, when demonstrators occupied the Brooklyn Bridge after the murders of Yusuf Hawkins in New York and the Black Panthers co-founder Huey P. Newton in Oakland. Professor X of X-Clan (Lumumba Carson) is the son of Sonny Carson, who was one of the organisers of the protest, so there's very much a direct connection.
Brand Nubian : All For One
Title track from the debut Brand Nubian album - gets the nod mostly on the title and the pedigree of the group more so than for the overall content, though they do quietly drop some knowledge in there! This track was early enough that Sadat X was still going by the name "Derek X," but even at this stage he was already standing out as my favourite MC from the crew. They handled their own production on this one, based around a nice little James Brown sample.
Jasiri X : Mandela (Listen To What The Drums Say)
Jasiri X is often the first off the mark with a track capturing the mood of the moment, and he doesn't disappoint here with his personal tribute released the very next day after Mandela's passing. Freely available on Bandcamp, and produced by London's Agent Of Change, based on the sonics it could easily be called "Listen To What The Bass Says" - very active at the low end!
Damu The Fudgemunk : Rather Unique 2
One for my Washington DC listeners! This is an instrumental I've had hanging around for a little while and thought might work well! In the "hook" (so far as it exists), it's based on Pete Rock's production on AZ's "Rather Unique," but then takes on an entirely different character in the "verse" sections. Nice production from Damu, who is obviously nice on the MPC but is also the DJ for Panacea, so clearly gets busy on the cuts too! You can get this on the 2008 "Spare Time" mixtape, though I understand this beat was a few years old even then.
Jeru The Damaja ft. Afu-Ra : Mental Stamina
The title was what got this one the nod this month - surviving 27 years inside under that kind of pressure would require an awesome amount of mental stamina. This is an album cut from Jeru's debut "The Sun Rises In The East," and he goes back and forth with his protege Afu-Ra just kicking lyrics. The DJ Premier beat is the kind of head-nodding but unconventional in the foreground thing he was doing a lot of around this time; and pay attention to the drums - chopped up from Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean!"
Life & Nappa : Soldiers
Life is definitely one of my favourite UK MCs and he lights up the mic here atop the production of fellow Phi Life Cypher member Nappa, with an anthem for everyone who fights in their own sphere. Picked this up on a digging mission in London the other day on DJ Skitz' "Homegrown Vol.1" release - made it worth the effort!
The Mouse Outfit ft. Sparkz & Bedos : Revolution
Something local! From their "Check Your Pulse" EP, this one musically revolves around the bass and that flute on the chorus, with everything else slotting seamlessly around. As with Mouse Outfit stuff in general, the MC lineup shifts around and on this one we have Sparkz leading it off and the big man Bedos of In The Loop giving us a verse in French (his first language). A few of you might be able to appreciate both verses equally...I might need to chase up Bedos so I can catch the content as well as his flow!
dead prez : Together
Not a well known dead prez track, so that makes it perfect for me to include! Shouting out American political prisoners, M-1 and Stic.man speak on the themes of collective resistance and solidarity. I notice that the kids on the hook, thankfully, arent totally accurate on the call-and-response ;) The Ghetto Pros (V.I.C and Mike Heron) are on production with some acoustic guitar-led flavour, and this track comes from their little-known "Ghetto Pros Presents..." LP, which is worth seeking out if you like that no-nonsense NY style. You can also find this on a 12", but I've only ever seen it online. These guys are coming to Manchester on February 10th, and I'd recommend trying to get down there!
Apple Juice Kid : Transition
Low-key instrumental inspired by a different revolution, the Egyptian one. Apple Juice Kid might be a North Carolina native but he conjures up a hint of the North African vibes on this one, then adds a little extra weight. His "Beats Of A Revolution" soundtrack has plenty more like this, so you know what to do if you want more...
Rakim : Madiba
Brand new track from one of the greatest to ever do it, released as part of the promo effort for the Mandela biopic "Long Walk To Freedom." Interesting writing process on this one; Complex mag invited fans to contribute lyrics, which Rakim then weaved in amongst his own - so very much a collective effort. As far as can be done in under five minutes, it's pretty comprehensive; but take it as a spur for some reading homework if there's anything that sounds unfamiliar!
Junior Reid : One Blood
If you're not familiar with this track, you may well know the Wu-Tang track "One Blood Under W" which interpolates it, and actually features Junior himself. A song of unity, starting at the Jamaican level and then going all the way worldwide, it was a perfect track to put in this month. Junior Reid was the lead singer of the crucial reggae group Black Uhuru, but he goes it alone on this 1989 hit; I've heard that this is a remix, but it's not labelled as such. However, check that bassline, a replay of the killer on Dennis Edwards/Siedah Garrett's "Don't Look Any Further." Good choice.
Bus ft. MC Soom-T : Keep Life Right (Dabrye Remix)
I'd be willing to bet most people I know who "know" this tune actually never heard this vocal version! The instrumental made some noise in the Manchester underground with it's appearance on the Dabrye "Additional Productions Vol.1" EP, and it was several years later before I heard the track it was from properly. As such, I know a lot more about Dabrye than Bus or Soom-T, but with a bit of research, it seems that Soom-T has a fairly deep discography, and the original of this track was on the 2003 Bus & Soom-T album "Middle Of The Road." This remix is serious business though, a real speaker mover - if you have access to a big system, try it out...
Pharoahe Monch ft. Showtyme, MeLa Machinko, Tower Of Power : Push
Some upliftment and encouragement here to persevere through those tough times on this first single from the "Desire" album. I thought this was a bit of an odd choice for a single as it's not "catchy" in the classic sense, and Pharoahe isn't melting down the mic on it either - but that's not to say I don't enjoy it! He self-produces this one, but pulls a blinder getting the veterans Tower Of Power in to play the horns; that's production in the traditional sense, knowing what you need and getting the personnel in to execute your plan.
Patrick O'Hearn : Crossing The Divide
It was at this time last year I first played Patrick O'Hearn on the podcast, and here he is again with another incredible instrumental - I think this might have been the first track of his I'd ever heard. Second track on his 1996 "Metaphor" album, I just love the swelling keyboards over the acoustic backing.
Ice-T : Prepared To Die
When I decided to do this episode, this along with "Prophets Of Rage" were the first two Hip-Hop tracks that immediately sprang to mind. This short spoken word piece came from Ice-T's 1991 "O.G Original Gangster" album, released fifteen months after Mandela walked out of Victor Verster prison. He did eventually get that Nobel prize mentioned here - while he had to share it with De Klerk...everyone knows the deal.
Please remember to support the artists you like! The purpose of putting the podcast out and providing the full tracklist is to try and give some light, so do use the songs on each episode as a starting point to search out more material. If you have Spotify in your country it's a great way to explore, but otherwise there's always Youtube and the like. Seeing your favourite artists live is the best way to put money in their pockets, and buy the vinyl/CDs/downloads of the stuff you like the most!