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Archive for March, 2009

You Never Knew
Third Eye Vision, 1998 (iTunes)

SwapaCD has been very kind to me recently. Over the last few weeks, I picked up Verve Remixed 3 and cds by A Band of Bees, Joi, Amy Winehouse, MC Solaar, Richie Havens, Citizen Cope, Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson as well as this CD. I’m sure Third Eye Vision is, at a minimum, a Bay Area classic and probably an across the board hip hop classic on some level. RikRok played this song at the Sucia party at Madame X a while back and I was caught unawares. I asked what it was and I, of course, felt like I “should have known” when I heard the answer.

I once heard Bobbito say, “It’s not how many records you have but how well you know your records.” Sometimes I feel like to actually know all of the (whole) albums that are considered classics (and yes, that is an extremely relative term) would paradoxically make me an authority on an obscurity. To that end, I’ve recently been concentrating my ongoing iTunes 1-5 rating process on my 2200 “golden era” hip hop songs and I’ve found some gems that I was totally unaware of. I don’t post a lot of hip hop on this blog because I assume people already know it but maybe I’ll rethink that a little.

Songs are available for two weeks.

how not to request a song – part 13

saturday night at soho house:

him: hey – you got “day & night” and “infinity”?

me: who’s the artist?
him: oh come “day & night”…?
me: (staring blankly)
him: look it up!
me: (shaking my head)
him: (singing one his requests for me)
me: (rolling my eyes)
him: hey it’s my birthday!
me: happy birthday
him: i’m 35 and i never kissed a guy.
me: …um, no time like the present? (assuming he wasn’t referring to me)
him: huh? oh, i’m into girls. in two hours time i’ll be 35…and i never kissed a guy (throws his hands up as if it’s still strangely unexplainable)
me: (would have loved to see the uninviting look on my face)
him: (starts dancing in a slight night-at-the-roxbury style, no irony intended, to the song he’s still singing in his head and then walks away)

You Need A Change Of Mind
Brooklyn Express
12″ Single, 1982
BC Records

This is one of those mysterious New York club classics. I had always thought it was just a re-edited version of Eddie Kendrick’s “Girl You Need A Change Of Mind” (that came out 10 years earlier) under a different name but it appears that I was wrong.

I’m just researching this for the first time right now and apparently a Yugoslavian guy named Began Cekic was behind Brooklyn Express and BC Records. He worked with Tee Scott and there is one short interview with Scott that seems to be everyone’s reference point on the web. Scott indicates the records were of dubious legality but says “Of course he did cover records, really because he didn’t sample anybody else’s records – it wasn’t possible then, he just did things that sounded close to them.” As discussed in this post, I’m pretty sure re-edits were happening at that point but it sounds like Cekic wasn’t doing them.

“You Need A Change of Mind” is the B-Side of this 12 inch. The A-Side is “Back In Time” which is a starts out sounding just like the B-Side but eventually morphs into what sounds like The Fatback Band’s “Do The Bus Stop” and then into some combination of the two with the bass line from “Bra” by Cymande. That side is definitely re-played and not just a reconstruction of pre-existing records, supporting what Scott said.

That leaves me to wonder who his musicians were and who’s singing on this record. Does anyone know more about this?

Songs are available for two weeks.

how not to request a song – part 12

some women had a 30th birthday party upstairs at madame x last night. apparently, they budgeted for strippers but didn’t budget for their own dj and had my music sent upstairs. it was slow downstairs so i tried to meet them halfway. this conversation, the fourth in a series, happened while i was playing “i can” by nas.

she: my friends want to know if you can play better music.
me: better?
she: yeah.
me: can you be more specific?
she: um (scratching her head)…i went to a britney spears concert recently.
me: britney spears?
she: yeah, um, nelly fertado? not this, what the hell is this!?
me: nas.
she: nas? yeah, not nas. um, pussycat dolls? we want to shake our a$$es.
me: i don’t have that stuff. sorry, i don’t know what to tell you.
she: i don’t know what to tell you.
me: you don’t need to tell me anything.
she: (staring off into space)…i like this song (yes, she’s referring the nas song)…i don’t know, if the music doesn’t get better i’ll…i’ll just leave early.
me: ok.
she: i have that laptop, i can do that same sh#t!
me: it’s time for you to go back upstairs now.
she: ok.

Protection (Sirius Mo Remix)
Ben Mono
Universal Unit – EP, 2004 (on iTunes)
Compost Records

Warning: this post gets a little technical but I would love to hear some feedback.

I was pretty staunchly against buying music from iTunes for a long time. The music was too controlled, the “digital rights management” (copy protection) not only meant it was a pain to move the music around, it also didn’t work with serato (the program I dj with). On top of that the quality was way too low. In iTunes, you can transfer music from CD at qualities that range from 16 kb per second to 320 kb per second. 16 to 96 sound like varying degrees of listening to the song on a broken speaker in an elevator. The folks at iTunes picked the quality level that just gets out of the broken speaker arena (128 kb per second) but would still sound awful if played through large speakers at a concert.

Recently, Apple and the major labels reached an agreement which allows Apple to remove the copy protection from all songs it sells on the iTunes store (and also upgrades the quality of those songs to 256 kbps). The songs also work with Serato now. It definitely makes it harder to rail against them.

I say all that to say that, I bought this song on iTunes after I got hooked on it when my friend Geraldine from the Bay sent me a lower quality version. I’m a little trepidatious about posting it because my name is embedded in the file as the purchaser (and therefore the sharer) but the tide seems to be moving in the direction of less (or no) random prosecution of individuals and some sort of attempt at giving people music when and where they want it in an attempt to rebuild some kind of consumer loyalty, so I think I’m in the clear.

Still, I have to ask, where is this fast moving negotiation of policy and quality going to end up? Download speeds are only getting faster and hard drives are only getting cheaper. This paragraph from the Times article is emblematic of the entire digital music quandry as far as I’m concerned:

Apple said customers would be able to pay a one-time fee to strip copying restrictions from music they have already bought on iTunes, at 30 cents a song or 30 percent of the album price. ITunes customers can achieve the same effect by burning all of their music to a CD and then reimporting the music into the iTunes software, although this reduces sound quality somewhat.

Hmmm, so let me get this straight, I can re-buy the mp3s I already bought (in some cases, to replace my CDs which were replacements for my…cassettes…records) at a discount and then in 3 years you’re going to announce that you are selling 512 kbps mp3s (or the “lossless” format of the day)? Can I pay again then? How about when you announce full CD-quality 16-bit AIFF files in 2015? Those must go for a premium! And my mouth is just watering to pay again for the 24-bit and 32-bit remastered recordings of 2020!

And through it all, I can’t help but feel that we are guaranteeing the eventual extinction of recordings that don’t get widespread distribution. The opposite argument could easily be made – the chances of obtaining the song are better if it’s on 10 computers than if there are 10 hard copies strewn around the world but what’s missing in that argument is that someone has to be looking for that song/album/artist by name. If no one knows the name after 10 years then no one will be looking. No one will “come across” that recording in 40 years and be surprised at how good it is.

Any thoughts?

By the way, the vocals on this song are by Bajka, the same woman who performed on this song that I posted in September ’06. She and Ben Mono are both based in Munich.

Songs are available for two weeks.

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