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Archive for February, 2005

To Be Young, Gifted And Black
Nina Simone

To Be Young, Gifted And Black
Donny Hathaway
Everything Is Everything, 1970

Young, Gifted And Black
Big Daddy Kane
It’s a Big Daddy Thing, 1989

“Being Black” theme songs Part II:

I, of course, heard Big Daddy Kane’s take on “Young Gifted and Black” before I heard any others. I remember thinking it was such a bold declaration but as I listen to it now, the whole song seems a little funny and more than a little unfocused. He rhymes for 2:10 straight with no chorus, dissing “the competition” (they’re “petty, confetti and not ready to rock steady” in case you were wondering) and the artists that he (and marley marl, in this case) sample for beats, a bold move I might add:

we sample beats you sue and try to fight us?
man, you’d still be home with arthritis
if we didn’t revive and bring back old beats
that we appreciated, you wouldn’t survive
you’d be another memory to us
ashes to ashes and dust to dust

he then passes quickly over diet, for one of my favorite food lines ever:
i got gold teeth and the don’t chew beef
no pork on my fork, strictly fish on my dish

and returns to dissing MCs to round out the song:

rappers are raggin’ and taggin’ and snaggin’ and braggin’ to be on the bandwagon, but i’m the last dragon, with the knack to attract the pack so just GET BACK, I’m young gifted and black!!

right…so aren’t you talking to black MCs in that sentence? it’s just a question…

The Nina Simone version of “To Be Young Gifted and Black” is the original. She wrote the song with the late Weldon Irvine as a tribute to her friend Lorraine Hansberry who had recently died of cancer at the age of 34. The version that I posted below isn’t actually from the album cover above. The Black Gold album has a really cool 10 minute live version of the song but my copy is really crackly (and it has a 2+ minute spoken intro, so I decided to just post the version that I got off the Black Power: Music of a Revolution compilation that came out last year.

I actually greatly prefer Donny Hathaway’s version to Nina’s, his is straight church (church as an adjective), but I wanted to include both as her’s is the jump-off (if you will).

Some witty banter from Nina’s live version:

now, [this song] is not addressed, primarily to white people, though it does not put you down in any way, it simply ignores you (laughter). for my people need all the inspiration and love that they can get, so…(cheers)

>> songs are available for two weeks [4.0 MB]
>> songs are available for two weeks [9.2 MB]
>> songs are available for two weeks [4.5 MB]

Be Real Black For Me Roberta Flack & Donny Hathawa…

Be Real Black For Me
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, 1972

My friend Cliff suggested I throw a few pro-black tracks up in honor of black history month. Why didn’t I think of that? As soon as he said it, this track came to mind. I’ve been playing it a lot recently and I actually put on my “at home / ipod ::” list a few weeks back.

It’s such a simple and straight-foward song but when you think about things like the billion-dollar industry dedicated to straightening black hair, it’s really powerful.

I could find the lyrics online but here is my stab at them:

Our time, short and precious
Your lips, warm and lucious
You don’t have to wear false charms
Cause when i wrap you in my hungry arms
Be real black for me
Be real black for me

Your hair, soft and crinkly
Your body, strong and stately
You don’t have to search and roam
Cause I got your love at home
Be real black for me
Be real black for me

In my head i’m only half together
If i lose you i’d be ruined forever
Darling, take my hand and hold me
Hold me (x4)

You know how much i need you
To have you, really feel you

You don’t have to change a thing
No one knows the love you bring
Be real black for me
Be real black for me
(repeat and fade with adlibs)

>> songs are available for two weeks [4.9 MB]

now playing

i went to see Norman Jay at APT last night and it was…interesting. first of all, i haven’t been to APT in a while and i had it in my head that they had a great sound system. i am not sure where that came from because the sound was thoroughly ‘muddy’ and unspectacular. i came in between 12:30 and 1:00 and it was totally packed. he was playing “(a roller skating jam) named saturdays” by de la soul and the place was definitely moving to it. i had never heard him spin before and i expected that he was going to going all over the map based on the spectrum of tracks on his Good Times compilations but i don’t think i was ready for what happened. he mix and beat-matched a couple songs here and there but more often then not the tempos and genres of the tracks he picked varied wildly. i wasn’t sure if this was “his thing” and people were used to it or not. the answer came when the place started to thin out not that long after I got there, around 1:30-2:00 which is still ‘prime party time’, especially on a saturday night. it was a little sad, actually. i wasn’t there to dance, i just wanted to hear good music but the transitions even started to get to me after a while.

not to paint too bleak of a picture – he played some slammin’ tracks, which brings me to an ongoing frustration of mine. i love hearing good dj’s and love hearing good (new) music but i hate being out and hearing several great tracks and not having any idea who the artists are. i don’t mind going up to a DJ and asking what something is once…maybe even twice but 7 times is just not an option! then there’s the shows where the DJs are literally on stage and you can’t even ask once. i am still trying to find out a track that Jazzanova played at Irving Plaza in like 2002 or 2003. i’ve ascertained that it may have been “forss” or something like that; if anyone was there and knows the answer, please put me on!! it was the second song they played and it was chopped-up, syncopated heaven. so, i am not trying to ruin the mystique and all but can some DJ start a trend where they have a “now playing” screen so everyone can put a name with their musical crush and maybe even go buy some under-exposed music?

the picture below is from last night, although it’s misleading as to how full/empty the place was. it was taken around 3:00 AM and it’s pointed towards the back corner. there was a core of about 40 people that stayed that late but i couldn’t get a them to actually show up in a picture without using my flash…and i was being shy. i always loved the walls in the basement there; they’re backlit wood-patterned paper but they look like front-lit real wood…its quite confusing the first time around.

“T” Stands For Trouble
Marvin Gaye
Trouble Man Soundtrack, 1972

The title song from Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man Soundtrack is widely known through its inclusion on many of his Greatest Hits compilations. The rest of the album is known to beat diggers/records collectors mainly through “T” Plays it Cool which has been sampled several times. The song that I am surprised that I don’t hear more people talking about is “T” Stands For Trouble.

I first heard “T” Stands For Trouble on my iPod, on shuffle. When I’m listening to new (new to me) music, I’ll often not look at my screen to find out who is singing or performing the song, even if I am dying to know, because I find myself coming up with a lot of justifications and/or second-guesses once I find out who it is. So, I was diggin’ the mirky, dramatic intro but when that first hand clap dropped @ 1:04, I experienced a confusion that is pretty rare for me. I couldn’t tell if the song was actually from the 70′s or if Rjd2 or someone had made it in the last couple of years and made it with an amalgamation of 70′s samples. The handclaps are so crispy (and consistent) that I could hardly believe that they were live (they would make Jay Dee blush). I’ve been playing it every couple of days ever since.

>> songs are available for two weeks [6.6 MB]

I Don’t Know Why I Love You
Jackson 5
ABC, 1970

This seems to be a very slept-on song from the Jackson 5 catalogue. As always seemed to be the case, Lil’ Mike had an ability to emote that was FAR beyond his years. As of this recording he was 12 years old and I would still swear he’d been through it.

I Don’t Know Why I Love You was actually co-written by Stevie Wonder. Stevie did a version of the song that came out on the B-Side of his My Cherie Amour 45 two years earlier (it’s not on the My Cherie Amour album for some reason). Stevie was, although a 6-year industry vet at that point, only the tender age of 18 himself. If you listen for it, you can pick up the Stevie influence immediately. When I first heard Michael drop his voice down the octave on the second “why i love you” (0:19) my eyebrow went up immediately (with S. Wonder recognition).

It’s very rare that anyone outperforms Stevie…especially on a song he wrote but Mike and crew take the prize on this one, hands down.

>> songs are available for two weeks [5.2 MB]

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