Sep 29, 2016
"We're an ice machine."
- Grace Jones
A combination of the tail end of summer and the recent upgrade of my car audio has prompted me to put together something I've been wanting to do for a long while - a low-tempo mix to ride slow to! The obvious thing would have been to go heavy on the Houston, Screwed Up Click style, but there's actually only one tune here that really fits that description; overall it's a very varied selection which will hopefully keep you entertained and impressed all the way through!
(I don't have the car in the cover art anymore, but I just had to use this photo. Check that colour coordination.)
Ski & Camp Lo : Back Uptown
It's always good to open up strong and this just bangs. Ski disrespects your speakers early with this seriously aggressive production and then laces it with the Bronx slick talk legends Camp Lo, who handle it as adeptly as any of the smoother tracks you might know them for. Ski's "24 Hour Karate School" has this and plenty more for you.
Alchemist : Smoke Break (Instrumental)
We've had the vocal version of this "Covert Coup" track with Curren$y on the show (Episode 29) but I just love the beat and after playing about with various things getting ready for this episode, this turned out to be a great fit. Alchemist does a top job with a well-known drum sample, which I didn't spot right away - but you might!
Slim Thug, Z-Ro, and Paul Wall : Pokin Out
I've been saving this one for ages, knowing I wanted to do an episode like this! The interpolation of the old Joe Jackson "Steppin' Out" sample by Scoop DeVille has an amazingly triumphant, celebratory feel, amplified by the (maybe just slightly?) off-key chorus. This is just a straight-out balling track about rolling on deluxe wheels with no apology - all the verses are solid, but I think Z-Ro on the second absolutely steals the show.
GQ : Think Of Me
Going back to GQ's debut album, "Rated Oakland", we catch him as he skips his flow over the Madonna-sampled beat by Eric G, letting you know that negative opinions - or any, in fact - don't concern him. He did record a whole song about it, mind, but the point is taken ;)
Oddisee : Wouldn't Be Surprised
Only short, but a perfect bridge here as we revisit the "AlWasta" EP, just talking about staying focused on the money in his professional life. One verse says it all.
Grace Jones : Nightclubbing
A vintage piece I only really got up on recently, immediately recognising that it was used to great effect on Shyne's "Bad Boyz". It's the title track to her fifth album, the outcome of her work with masters like Sly & Robbie at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. Very much going with her Jamaican roots, the reggae influence is heavy and just sounds great. Another interesting point is that this is a cover version - Iggy Pop did the original, in collaboration with David Bowie. This version just destroys it though :)
Dr. Yen Lo : Day 811
Mysterious, no? I completely missed this album when it came out last year, but once I heard the first three songs this month I bought the whole thing. Dr Yen Lo (named for the character in "The Manchurian Candidate") is a project by the expert pensman and emcee Ka from Brownsville, and the producer Preservation (of Sonic Sum, and also Yasiin Bey's tour DJ), and the "Days With Dr. Yen Lo" LP is made up of twelve tracks, all named for a particular numbered day. Preservation nails the low-key production throughout, with a vibe that will be familiar to those who've checked for Ka albums like the capsule masterpiece "Grief Pedigree" - but when he does go a little louder, like the second part here, he makes it work.
Cutterz : Flip It In, Turn It Out
From Manchester's Taste The Diff'rence crew, Cutterz has been doing his thing on the turntables for a good while - now, we hear how he gets down on the beats. He sent this beat through a few months ago for me to hear and I knew that this would be the episode to save it for! The timing is so relaxed it barely made it onto the track, and it slumps along nicely with some deep bass buried in there.
Boldy James ft. Peechie Green : 50 Foot Razor Blade
Going more than a little dark here, as Detroit's Boldy James gives you a one-verse treatment on pain, before letting his man Peechie get on the second verse. Boldy is unquestionably stronger on this track, and he fits the vibe of the Harry Fraud-produced beat.
Ernie Gaines : When The Gun Gets Drawn
From the extremely hard-to-buy (thanks to T.S. Jones from Moonchyld's Entertainment blog for sourcing this one!) Prodigy-helmed soundtrack from "A Talent For Trouble" comes this bluesily-sung track with a very interesting mix of textures on the production side. Notice how that even though the track is essentially an acoustic number lead by the guitar, the electronic drums with those little rolls are a total contrast. That hi-hat on the hook is spitting like hot grease too. Ernie Gaines is a man not afraid to mix styles, which makes for an interesting listen. Check his new "Lost In Time" album to hear how he's built from 2009 to now.
Tall Black Guy : The Motor Is Running
Another one I'd been saving for this episode! Gorgeous instrumental from TBG, with his Rhodes work and warm bass notes mixing with backwards keyboards and some crisp drums which periodically break out into some very busy programming - then he brings a load more seasoning to the party. Top notch selection from the "8 Miles To Moenart" album.
The System : Don't Disturb This Groove (Redux)
Only discovered this remix this month, and after the third rewind I knew a home had to be found for it here. The System are one of those acts you probably won't know unless you were around at the time; previously working with Kleeer as keyboardist and road manager, they got their own recording deal around 1983. The original version of this cut was a #1 hit and title track from their fourth album, but this mix is taken from their 2013 "System Overload" project, bringing the sound bang up-to-date with a bassy and spacey vibe.
Onra : Tape This
All the way into the word of warping and distortion with this number from Onra's heavily 80s-influenced "Long Distance" LP. I really need to convert my vinyl of this to MP3, since Spotify don't have it at all...
Freddie Old Soul : Shopping In My Mind
Coming out of Chicago, this MC shows her very solid pen game on this lullaby-with-boom beat. Right now Soundcloud is the place to go to check out her work, but with any luck we'll get an album!
Sophie Barker : Say Goodbye (The Beauty Room Remix)
You may know Sophie Barker as one of the writers and vocalists who worked with Zero 7 on their first two albums, whether it be on the hook of the brilliant single "Destiny" or the beautiful "Passing By" to name but two appearances. She also has her own career separate from the group, and this remix is on a single released from her "Seagull" LP. The electronic vibe and (much) heavier drums and bass here are provided by The Beauty Room, a combination of the techno producer Kirk Degiorgio and the vocalist Jinadu. The original is very nice, but for my listening taste this is a great interpretation.
PJ : I'm Good
Anyone who says there isn't good music coming out these days just isn't paying attention. North Carolina's PJ is a singer-songwriter whose soulful new album "Rare" is definitely worth checking, and this tune is a great illustration of why. She mixes her rhyming and singing side nicely and the production sways between just dreamlike and low-key D&B. While PJ may not have wanted to be an artist at first, she shows here that it was just meant to be.
Unkle : U.N.K.L.E. Main Title Theme
This has been a four-star pick on my iPods for a long time, and this is finally the perfect place to include it! Unkle (sometimes U.N.K.L.E) is a project which has had many personnel changes over the years, but which has always been headed up by James Lavelle of Mo' Wax. At the time of the "Psyence Fiction" album on which this track appears, DJ Shadow was the lead collaborator and you can absolutely hear it all the way through here. Can't get enough of that lead guitar line!
Harry Fraud : Phoenix (Instrumental)
This is something I could imagine The Diplomats on! However, this is a beat Harry Fraud did for the New Jersey MC Eddie B's "The Johnny Utah Story" mixtape. Definitely worth listening to the vocal version - Eddie takes on the beat by following the hi-hat pattern for a rapid-fire flow with great control on the opening verse.
Natural Elements : Turning Tables
It's nice to hear some love for the DJs! The highly-respected NE crew take some time to respect the foundation on this track from their "NEp", with Charlemagne slowing things down on the piano-based, bass-augmented beat. I was wondering who they had singing on the hook, and then realised it was a sample that I wouldn't have expected - some of you might know it, but I'm saying nothing else ;)
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!