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Archive for February, 2006

Underdog
If This Room Could Talk
Sly & The Family Stone
A Whole New Thing, 1967

Apparently Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the scene with their sound fully formed, or at least that is how it would appear after listening to the gargantuan opening track to their little-known 1967 debut. After listening backwards (chronologically) through their catalogue and seeing their material get (to make a conscious generalization) somewhat lighter, I expected to arrive at the debut and find something with less…teeth (and something a little less quirky).

Not so; after an 8-bar, minor-key rendition of Frere Jacques “Underdog” launches into a verse which consists of a repeating pattern of (three bars) of vocals over choppy syncopated horns which come to a sudden stop for an acapella and very hip-hop sounding (4th bar) “yea-yeaaah!” It’s a thing of beauty. It gives the track a herky-jerky feeling that may not be perfect for the dance floor but I am still surprised that I have never heard anyone give it a try (maybe I don’t get out enough).

“If This Room Could Talk” is a more traditional song overall but is still uniquely S. & T.F.S., including seemingly out-of-place off-beat horn hits every bar, some nice, if unruly, falsetto from Sly and a fairly out-there song concept. It seems to be about cheating as Sly “made a mistake in this room” but “wishes [he] was dreaming” so “he could wake up and love [you].” The chorus follows with “If this room could talk, you would know that I love you.” But as we get into the second verse things get a little more abstract with “I know you don’t expect me to call you, if this room won’t give me a hand.” It’s all we’ve learned to love (and not question) about Sly.

Also found on A Whole New Thing is the Questlove-DJ-set-favorite and “Mama Said Knock You Out” sample-source “Trip To Your Heart.”

Surprisingly, this album has been available on CD for 11 years. I would recommend checking it out if you are a Sly fan and have not heard it.

>> songs are available for two weeks [5.6 MB]
>> songs are available for two weeks [4.6 MB]

R.I.P. J Dilla / Jay Dee


Runnin’
The Pharcyde
12″ Single, 1995

I was looking through Bedroom Rockers (.pdf), a book of photos of DJs home set-ups along with short Q&A’s, a few weeks ago and one of the questions was, “What is the most precious record in your collection?” I thought about that for myself and couldn’t come up with anything. I knew it would have more to do with sentimentality than rarity but I still drew a blank until last night when I was flipping through my collection and passed my Pharcyde “Runnin’” 12″. In fairness, I couldn’t say this is my most precious record but it is definitely up near the top of the list.

This record has a special place in my heart because it was one of my first 25 or so records. Whenever I see my initials on a record (oops, I don’t do that anymore!), I know I’ve had it for a long time. [I'm slightly ashamed to say that I think I stole this record from WAMH, my college radio station; I hope they are not reading this.]

For me, it’s also the most personal, if obvious, tribute to the life of J Dilla and his incredible production style. I’ll refrain from detailing all the instrumental layers of the track but somewhere between the Stan Getz bossa nova guitar sample, the drum pattern and “1,2…2 listen here…there comes a time in every man’s life when he has to handle sh*t up on his own” this track dug deep roots in my timid 19-year-old mind.

After reading the above-linked discography I realized that J Dilla had his hands in more of the music that I love than I even knew (D’Angelo’s Voodoo, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun…). I am definitely one who can get annoyed by over-eulogizing but J Dilla deserves all of the praise that he is getting and he deserved more while he was alive.

[The "94" on the label is the BPM not the year.]

>> songs are available for two weeks [7.0 MB]
>> songs are available for two weeks [7.0 MB]

Believe (The New Mastersounds Remix)
Soldiers of Twilight
12″ Single, 2005

If you plan on downloading this song, please indulge me: download the track, listen to it all the way through and then continue reading.

Did you listen to it?….all the way through?

Crazy, right!? What is this slice of heaven, you ask? A prime candidate for the next city-specific “Lost Soul” compilation (minus the decade-spanning transition at the end of the song)? No ma’am, no sir, as the end of the song belies, this is a remix of house track that came out last year.

This came to me digitally and although the person who sent it to me told me that it was a remix of a house vocal, I couldn’t get it out of my head that it was a new backing track for an old soul vocal, although the talking at the end of the song sort of gives it away. And sure enough when I was entering the info into my iTunes, I realized that I already had the “King Britt Funky Mix” via DJ Subs Planet.3 mix cd.

This is one of the most unique songs I’ve heard in a long time. It seems to be in line with the New Mastersounds’ sound, or at least what I can glean about it from reading their website but I still find it uncanny how well they were able to put the ’68 dusty basement studio vibe on that vocal in such an utterly convincing way.

>> songs are available for two weeks [8.4 MB]

how not to request a song – part 4

this is from moe’s on friday around 1:00 am, i was switching off between some current funk, classic funk and a few live-sounding hip hop cuts. the dude in question has been walking around the spot offering people lollipops out of two brown paper bags for like…2 hours. my friend todd was prompted to ask me if he worked for moe’s…i of course had to let him know that it was as sketchy as it looked, and that he was, let’s say, “self-employed.”

dude: want some candy?
me: no thanks
dude yo! can you play “drop it like its hot”?
me: yeeah, probably not
dude: yo! you gotta hit him with “drop it like its hot”
me: …
dude: you gotta hit ‘em!
me: right…um, i have instructions to not play commercial music
dude: yo! you gotttta hit ‘em!
me: um…i’m happy i have those instructions, you know what i mean?
dude: you gotta hit ‘em…yo, trust me!
me: trust you?
dude: TRUST ME…trust me
me: ….
dude: wanna come to my superbowl party?
me: um, thanks but no
dude: want some candy?
me : you offered earlier and i graciously declined
dude: you gonna hit ‘em?
me: no
dude: TRUST ME
me: thanks for coming by
dude: trust me
me: thanks for coming by
dude: (nodding, smiling and starting to walk away)…you’re gonna hit ‘em
me: i’ma…talk to my man now…thanks…for coming…by(e)
(“my man” was kareem who was standing next to me and is on this email list. he promptly shouted “installment 4!”)

The Black Monolith
GB
Soundtrack For Sunrise, 2005

This track is pretty hard to classify but it falls somewhere between the instrumental hip hop of Rjd2 and (West London) Broken Beat. But who cares, when it’s good music it’s good music. It takes a minute to get going but when he brings in the horn samples (1:11) and starts to stutter the snare hits (1:14) (oh, the snares!) this track really soars. He stacks layer upon layer of percussion, synth organ lines, sound effects, a few vocals snatches, and some bagpipe for good measure. At 3:51 the bagpipe which has been slowly moving from the background to the foreground over the last two or three minutes (and has sounded like a live instrument up until that point), goes into a transformer scratch pattern that makes me curious about the entire creative process of the track.

Make sure you hear this on non-computer speakers to appreciate the interplay of the high and low ends.

[Also, there is an jarring interlude at the end that you may not want to hear repeatedly, or at all. If you are using iTunes, choose "get info," click on the "options" tab and set the end time as 5:25.]

>> songs are available for two weeks [9.7 MB]

how not to request a song – part 3

(it was about 15 degrees out and little slow and i’m was playing “little ghetto boy” by dr. dre)
her: what album is that on?
me: the chronic
her: i just lost a bet…
her: are you the type of dj that doesn’t like requests? you’ll like this one though!
me: go ahead
her: “twisted” by mobb deep
me: umm, probably not
her: what?!? that’s the shit!
me: …ok
her: there’s like ten people in here and you won’t play it?!
me: it was on the radio a ton and i usually don’t play tracks like that
her: i’m from the west coast!! they didn’t play it on the west coast!!
me: …we’re on the….east coast..right now
her: (looking at me as if i must not have really understood that she is from the west coast) ok, but that david byrne and esthero you played was tight!
[it was the talking heads following by res]
me: thanks, but i didn’t play esthero
her: yes_you_did
me: what was the song title?
her: you_played_esthero!
(then she turns to some people how happened to be my friends at the bar and said…)
her: do you know this fool!?!?

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