Nov 30, 2016
"I've seen the streets... you're walking down."
"Power to the people and the beats"
- Chuck D
What a month. The result of the US Presidential election has the world in turmoil, and legions of hateful people now feel emboldened to act out in public - it feels like the Brexit result turned up way past 10. On a personal note, I had to relocate the whole podcast studio and music library, but committed to getting an episode out on time and have just about managed it; this month of all months, I couldn't let things go by without a musical comment.
RIP Sharon Jones and David Mancuso... all love.
Intelligent Hoodlum : Arrest The President
You didn't think I was going to let the events of this month go by without comment, did you? Taking it all the way back to 1990 for this hyped-up anthem from Intelligent Hoodlum's eponymous debut album. Marley Marl provides the uptempo soundtrack for the young Queensbridge native (just 19) to spray over. His own life was rough and you can easily feel that the content of the lyrics could come from witnessing these situations first-hand.
Strange Angel : La Chanteuse
A little number from a local group who've since gone on to do other things, most notably as the KJs - a lovely moody instrumental with atmospheric vocal accents from the artist now known as Vieka.
Brand Nubian : Concerto In X Minor
Another 1990 album for this cut, the Brand Nubian debut "One For All". Derek X (now Sadat X) comes to the fore to man the mic solo for this one; sadly, the content is as relevant today as it was back them. The names may change, but the shame remains the same. On the sonic side, listen for DJ Alamo's occasional scratched contributions during the verses, completing Derek's phrases or adding a co-sign - more of that would be welcome in the present day!
Janelle Monae : Locked Inside
If you just let this one drift by you, you might confuse it for a standard love song, but listen carefully to the lyrics and you'll appreciate how well it fits into the theme for the month. Musicially, I love the change-up that you first hear twenty-four bars in and then later on in the track. Get this one on the "The ArchAndroid" album.
Clear Soul Forces : Solar Heat
Rarely do you hear MCs flowing at these kinds of speeds nowadays, but these Detroit boys are up to the challenge! I had to give it up and buy the "Gold PP7s" album after hearing this, because the skills are just undeniable. Ilajide has you thinking at first you're getting some jazzy lounge music before hitting you in the face repeatedly with the kick drum that drives the beat below the ridiculous verses. If you think there's no good Hip-Hop these days, you aren't paying attention :)
Twenty One Pilots : Fairly Local
The lead single from the 2015 album "Blurryface", my first experience with this track was a few seconds played on Bomani Jones' "The Right Time" podcast coming back from an ad break. I can't remember if I searched the lyrics or used Soundhound, but I just had to find out what it was! Ohio's Twenty One Pilots are a duo who are pretty fluid genre-wise but definitely have some Hip-Hop influence. The lead vocalist, Tyler Joseph, has an interesting tone and I think it's the combination of that on the hook and the cold, angular beat that makes for a winning combination.
Zero 7 : All Of Us
Probably the last time we go to the "Yeah Ghost" album, this was just an instrumental I realised lined up really well with the previous track; the slow build makes for a nice long blend - despite the differing time signatures.
A Tribe Called Quest : Dis Generation
After eighteen years, A Tribe Called Quest return with a new LP "We got it drom Here...Thank You 4 Your service" - and sadly, their last, with Phife passing away before this was completed. This album is no poor relation though, and it's absolutely one of the releases of the year. I could have chosen any number of tracks to be included here, but this was my early favourite so I decided to stay with it. It features all the original members of Tribe, including Jarobi, and features Busta Rhymes, who broke out all those years ago on "Scenario" and comes back with fire in the belly on this album. Extra points for the sample of Musical Youth's "Pass The Dutchie" for the hook!
Common ft. Bilal : Letter To The Free
I actually wanted to play this last month, as it's played at the end of Ava DuVernay's masterful documentary "13th", but I just couldn't find a copy anywhere. As it turns out, it's on Common's new "Black America Again" album, and with the events of the last month I think it's just as apt here; Trump and his campaign slogan get an explicit mention in the second verse. Bilal contributes vocals to the chorus, and the piano work on the Karriem Riggins production is courtesy of Robert Glasper. The whole team did a great live performance of this at The White House - worth listening to. I did notice that not only did they have to take out the one curse, but also the names of an ex-president and the one to come...
Robert Glasper Experiment : This Is Not Fear
This song from the excellent new "ArtScience" album starts off with a high-energy jazz workout, so we join in about halfway through to bridge to the next track; I love the head-nod vibe though, so it's worth playing in its own right even though it's so short.
A Tribe Called Quest : Can I Kick It?
With some of the new Tribe on this month's show, I thought it might be worth playing the track that most of us first heard them on! This was actually the third single from their debut "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm", but it was the first to break out on the charts to such an extent that I heard it on UK radio. That bassline sample from Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" is the most recognisable element of the track, but also the one responsible for Tribe not seeing a penny from it to this day!
Jay-Z : 22 Twos
Let me just get this out of the way; it should really be "22 Toos". Actually, I think there was a "to" in there, so "21 Toos and a To".
I couldn't pass up the chance to blend the start of this track into the end of "Can I Kick It?" :) We go all the way back to Jay-Z's debut "Reasonable Doubt" for a street lyrical workout over a beat from Ski.
[Alchemist] Mobb Deep, Big Noyd, Bars N Hooks, & Don Alon : More Like Us (Instrumental)
Disco flavour on this Queensbridge 12" - you could probably get away with playing this Alchemist instrumental as a dance or bar with no-one having an inkling of the street origin of the main record. I may or may not have done this :)
Slick Rick : I Own America (Part 1)
I somehow managed to forget about this one even though it was a favourite when "The Art Of Storytelling" was released! DJ Clark Kent and Ty Fyffe keep it basic and still danceable on the beat and Rick is 100% on his "The Ruler" persona with the lyrics - so much so, that if you look closely at the album cover, you can see that the words he's writing are some of those from this track. "Even your kids tell you that you ain't sh!t to Slick Rick"? Oooh... One thing he hopefully won't have to worry about is deportation - after years of legal trouble, he finally got his US citizenship this year!
Public Enemy : Hazy Shade Of Criminal
"Take a piece of America back, but who had it first?" Just one of the on-point lines from Chuck D on this under-appreciated but quality single from "Greatest Misses" (Chuck didn't want to do a "greatest hits" collection, as he felt it signalled falling off/retirement)! This is a solid and still-relevant piece on how wealth and race can be the deciding factors on whether your conduct is considered to be criminal, and it's pleasantly close in sound to their sample-heavy heyday, with the Ultramagnetic-sampling beat being the kind of thing only Chuck could dominate.
Wu-Tang Clan : Uzi (Pinky Ring)
I remember when this came out ahead of the "Iron Flag" album, some critics had negative stuff to say. Those people were wrong. The Wu go back to basics with everyone (except ODB) jumping on this banging track, and as it was in the beginning (on "Protect Ya Neck"), GZA comes in at the end to clean up.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings : What Have You Done For Me Lately?
It would be very easy to lead you wrong here for the laughs, but I'll do no such thing :) This classic-sounding funky soul record is in fact a relatively recent recording from Sharon Jones' 2002 debut "Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings", and as such is actually a cover of Janet Jackson's track of the same name! Sharon Jones, who sadly passed away this month at just 60, spent years working at hard jobs and doing session vocals on the side until finally getting her break and releasing her first solo record at the age of 40. She was an electric performer who some of us in Manchester were lucky enough to see grace the city with one of her legendary shows - she threw down like the soul greats of many years before her! May she rest peacefully.
J-Zone : Clubba Lang (Instrumental)
From J's "Fish-N-Grits" LP, you get an instrumental towards the end that speaks to both his recorded origins as a sampling wizard (and bassist) and his later work as a man that can get busy on the drums in a major way. It's great to see him recording again.
Earth, Wind, & Fire : That's The Way Of The World
Entering the three-song selection for David Mancuso with the title track from EWF's sixth album (and in fact, the soundtrack to a film of the same name which they were in!) Despite this, it's probably not one of their best-known tracks but it's a nice laid-back number to start things off.
Stevie Wonder : As
One of the classic Stevie songs, an ode to everlasting love, from one of the greatest albums of all time, "Songs In The Key Of Life". That's a record you absolutely must have in your collection; the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress agree with me on that one!
Ashford & Simpson : Stay Free
We finish with a record that was not just big at The Loft but also at the legendary Paradise Garage club (the one from which the term "garage music" comes). Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson were red-hot songwriters for Motown who wrote classics like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "You're All I Need To Get By" and many more before striking out as artists themselves (oh, and marrying). This 1979 album title track has some of the disco vibe to it, but in the good way, the soulful way. A beautiful track and message to end the month.
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!