May 31, 2015
"It's all for you."
- Ronnie Laws
A good amount of this month's listening for me has been a mix of 80s stuff on a Miami Vice vibe and 80s soul, along with all my Hip-Hop, so that's the kind of flavour I've tried to bring to this episode, coming at it from a variety of angles. I'm really into this selection and I hope you feel the same!
Thanks to everyone who has left 5* reviews for the show on iTunes - I've given you a shout out on the show! It only takes a minute to leave a review but really helps the show, which did make it into "New & Noteworthy" on the UK store this month!
Dedicating this one to my man Juma, who passed away at the start of the month. He will never be forgotten.
Camp Lo : Bright Lights
One of the first singles from the brand new Lo LP "Ragtime Hightimes," which features Ski on production for the whole album for the first time since their debut "Uptown Saturday Night." Sounds like Ski broke out the live guitar, to name just one element - the stuttering keyboards, the snare hit every couple of bars with the panned delay on it, a little electric piano...it all comes together into a gleaming final product. With the rhymes...Sonny Cheeba & Geechi Suede are doing what they always do, which is why I love it and as good a reason as any to give this record the opening spot for the month.
K-Murdock : Star Stories
Whether you know him for his solo projects, his production for Mega Ran, or his work as part of Panacea, you know K-Murdock is always going to do something interesting on the beats. This was a beautiful little track from his "Soundscapes, Vol.1" album, the first in a series that will be making previously-unreleased Panacea instrumentals available for the first time! The main sample in this is also present in a classic mid-90s unreleased single...nice to hear it again.
Ras Kass : Miami Life
Going back to Ras' debut "Soul On Ice" to lead off the first four-song mix of the show, and he's an MC that's always going to give you the business on the mic - this time out it's the street hustle, with Crockett & Tubbs references and all. A lot of people fronted on the production on this album but I think it's much better than often claimed - this particular track is a collaboration between Ras Kass & Michael Barber, and it's a winner.
Above The Law : Extasy
That spelling just kills me. I can never find the track when I need to look it up. Anyway, this quasi X-rated selection from the "Sex, Money, & Music" album makes it on for two main reasons. Firstly, the sonics; there's just something about Cold 187's production here that makes you just want to rock back and groove to it, most of that comes from the interplay between the high and low parts of the synth work. The drums are slightly unusual, check the handclap on the two of each bar but then having snare only on the four - only picked up on that after a bunch of listens. Second reason is the voice of KMG (RIP) on this cut - he just sounds so good, regardless of what he's saying! This digital-only album may not have been their finest, but it was their final release before KMG passed.
Compton's Most Wanted : It's A Compton Thang
The obvious move to play a track with this sample would be to go with AZ's "Sugar Hill," so of course I didn't do it :) Instead, we go with the title track from the very first CMW album, released all the way back in 1990. MC Eiht had settled into his voice even then, but you can hear that his flow wasn't as developed as it would become later; also, this track is *almost* completely radio friendly! On the beats, DJ Slip and Unknown load up all the 80s samples for this one - not going to expose any of them though ;)
Zion I ft. Goapele : Boom Bip
Many moons ago, when I might at times acquire the odd record before release via unofficial digital channels, I knew this as a track from the "Deep Water Slang" LP labelled as "We Staying" - which certainly fit the chorus. A while later, I picked up a Zion I 12" which included a track called "Boom Bip" which turned out to be this...but with a Goapele-less hook. It was not an upgrade. Thankfully, the official album version on "Deep Water Slang v2.0" has all the flavour of the original but with the new (?) name. Amp Live's beats really don't sound like anyone else's, and he's versatile with the styles - liable to be wildly different from track to track, and he's a master of working the synth sounds into something with the right amount of bump and thump. On the lyrics, MC Zion isn't going to hit you with the slick one-liners or the mixtape punchlines, but thoughtful lyrics and a willingness to rock over pretty much any type of beat. Zion I records are always an interesting listen, and if you've not heard this album then it is very much worth buying!
Jasper Byrne : Miami
As I mentioned in last month's notes, I've actually been playing a few video games lately and recently picked up "Hotline Miami." After my first game ended, I heard this tune playing and after my brain melted a little bit, searched Google to find out if I could buy it anywhere! For a kid raised in the 80s and into the synth styles, this simple/subtle track is incredible. Unmistakeably video-game music (in the best way), somewhere between Out Run and Miami Vice, with that crime thriller feel...dope. Nice low-end to it too. Jasper Byrne is a D&B producer by trade, working under several aliases, but he switched his style impeccably here. Find this one and more on the Hotline Miami EP.
Natural Elements : Paper Chase
From one of the original 12 inch releases from this fierce crew of NYC mic-melters, NE exemplify the adage "B-Side Wins Again" here on the flip of "Bust Mine". Mr.Voodoo conjours up a few "Scarface"-esque visions on the first verse, with the song overall talking about trying to come up after spending years paying dues. Charlemagne does a great job on production though, slowing and chopping an 80s sample to haunting effect.
Kidz In The Hall : Make It Last
Got a little fancy with the mix on this one - looped up a section from the end to use as an extended intro (as there was no open instrumental area on the preceding track) and then used it again to fade out of the vocals during the second verse. Truth be told, I thought the end of that verse got kind of slack and seeing as I'd always created a way to mix out...apart from that though, I think this track is heavy - can't go wrong with that Keith Sweat sample. Check the "Geniuses Need Love Too" mixtape, where these Chicago boys do their thing over a selection of dope beats mostly constructed from 80s/early 90s tracks.
T Gaston : Anita Baker Remix
Found this one on SoundCloud and have been caning it with plays all month - great instrumental cut from this NY producer, who you should definitely check out if you want some work doing! He's got the sample stuttering crazy and some seriously tight drum programming here - a little gem.
Reks : Winners & Survivors
Out of Lawrence, Massachussetts (same hometown as Termanology), Reks has quietly fashioned an eight-album career to date, and this is from his seventh release "Revolution Cocktail." Befitting an industry veteran, the topic of the day is trying to stay afloat and relevant in the music industry. Seattle's DeliBeatz supplies the production, which with its particular flavour is what made it an inclusion for this episode!
Onra : Hold Tight
Onra has been on the 80s sampling tip for a while, reanimating some of those old slow jams into modern instrumental(-ish) bangers. The swing/timekeeping on this one flips all over the place, which you can hear in some of the drum rolls. This version is on the 2012 "Deep In The Night" EP, but apparently there was an unreleased version with rhymes from Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids - available free!
Tony Bullard : Don't Hurt Me, Jan Hammer!
There's no shame in not knowing this one - found it during an internet scouring mission! Tony Bullard is a musician and developer out of Atlanta who, on discovering that there was a whole underground niche of people doing retro synth music, threw his hat into the ring with this cut which could easily have fit into the world of Crockett & Tubbs. The track name reflects this, while also being a little nod to MC Hammer, I assume! Most of his Soundcloud is on more of a metal vibe, so this was a bit of a departure - but a welcome one.
MF DOOM : The Finest
I know many people who are much more into DOOM than me, but I loved his post-KMD debut album "Operation: Doomsday" - just sounded like someone lashing together beats in their bedroom and then rhyming on an old beat-up mic, proper underground tape style. Onto a cassette. One that had previously been used. A lot. This track is probably still my favourite; I don't think it's any secret at this point that DOOM took "The Finest" by the SOS Band. He correctly worked out it didn't need much doing to it, and just jumped on the mic alongside Tommy Gunn to just go back and forth in 100% raw style. Fire.
Loose Ends : Hanging On A String
Now this is an 80s classic. It might surprise some of the younger ones of you out there to know that UK soul was actually popular and influential in the US, and London's Loose Ends were one of those groups who definitely got love out there. This is a big tune from their second album ("So Where Are You?") which reached the top of the US R&B chart and went into the UK top 20 as well. As it happens, the drum programming on this track is a pretty straight borrow from the SOS Band, but a lot of the rest is done by group member Carl McIntosh on multiple instruments - check his interview at RBMA!
DJ Quik : Tonite
I first heard this on Pete Tong's Rap Selection (here's a different episode) on Radio 1 back in 1991, when it was the brand-new second single from Quik's debut LP "Quik Is The Name". It seems in retrospect that non only did he have to censor it (in the pre-digital editing age) for language, but also for content - with the curses and the drug references cut round, it was a bit of a bizarre listen! It was years later that I finally heard the whole thing, and it makes a lot more sense. That said, I can't personally relate to the story of drinking too much, but I know quite a few of you can :) The production was top-notch too, with Quik working in Kleeer's "Tonight" and a few other bits alongside some extra keyboard and guitar work. I was actually planning to mix out during that great breakdown after the second verse, but keeping the third verse for the humour won the day!
Ronnie Laws : All For You
Taking things in a jazz fusion direction with the opening track from the 1978 "Flame" LP, well worth picking up if you see a copy; this is from the vinyl but I hear the CD availability has been pretty wavy over the years. I've heard pure jazz fans front on Ronnie Laws a little, but I always pick up his stuff when I see it on a digging mission. "Tidal Wave" basically gives him a lifetime pass to my record collection.
Jan Hammer : Too Much To Lose
The don, the composer and performer of all those great Miami Vice tunes! Great instrumental track, a cover version of one of his older tunes from the "Melodies" album which originally featured vocals and Jan getting busy on the Minimoog. This version, I heard somewhere, is an outing on the now-vintage (and always incredibly expensive) Fairlight sampling synth where he handles all the playing himself. This one from "Snapshots" fit best here, but you can't go wrong with either.
Stezo : It's My Turn
"I'm putting dancers to the maximum test." Damn right! Stezo came out of New Haven, CT back in 1989 with his debut release on Sleeping Bag Records and once again, when it came to the lead single...that B-Side kills it. "To The Max" is dope no question, but this track on the flip is a monster - at least two classic 80s samples which a lot of heads will recognise, and one of the illest drum breaks of all time. Only one complaint; "anthenem" is not a word ;) That said, if Dickens can make up words, I'm giving my man here a pass :)
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!