HERE’S WHAT $40 GETS YOU AT PARK BLVD RECORDS

Today I made my first pilgrimage to Oakland’s newest and already greatest music store.  Here’s what I walked away with.


Kilo Ali – Organized Bass (LP)

Bootsy Collins – Ultra Wave (LP)

The Mossie – Break Bad (feat. E-40 & Levitti)

E-40 – Big Ballin’ With My Homies / Earl, That’s Yo Life (Test Pressing!)

DJ U-Neek – California Streets / Eastsider / Doctor Doctor

Funkadelic – Uncle Jam Wants You (LP)

Suga Free – You Know My Name

Jungle Brothers – Straight Out The Jungle (LP)

Eloise Carey – Channel of God’s Love (LP)

Paramahansa Yogananda – Chants and Prayers (LP)

Don’t worry there are still other good records (and tapes and CDs) there.

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YES HOMO!

Years & Years – Memo

When those government people finally decided that the gays could file their taxes together in this great country I wanted to post a song to celebrate but then I remembered that rap is still mostly on the wrong side of that particular issue.  IM GAY is a little obvious (and he’s isn’t), Zebra Katz and Le1f and Big Freedia are kinda fun I guess but don’t really express what I’m feeling about all this, and just posting some vaguely/accidentally homoerotic rap song seems a bit juvenile for this momentous occasion.

Instead I’ll post this because it’s about uncertainty and secret love and I’m happy that every child born after today in America won’t have to know a world where you can’t marry the person you love just because you have matching genitalia.  Hopefully this decision will help “lift this curse” that’s hung over too many lives for too long.

[Shouts out to David Drake for turning me onto this because I never would have listened to these people if a rap journalist hadn’t recommended it.]

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STUCK FOR DAYS

When I wrote about Tree & Chris Crack leading the rap vanguard over the cliff into formlessness I didn’t really think the era of rap’s version of free jazz (“free rap” sounds too much like a cheap poster board sign I’d see at the mall around Christmas… “Chaos Rap”?  “Loose Rap“?  “Disarrap”?) was truly at hand.  Justiiice and Satchel Stokes are causing me to reconsider.  It’s a shame Ornette won’t be around to see it happen, if it does.

Justiiice – Coldest Summer’s Mine (feat. Satchel Stokes)

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JUST LIKE A SUPER HERO

I think Bloody Jay is tryna troll me from the not-so-distant past right now – while time travelin’ through his back catalog after The Dark Night surprised me so pleasantly I found out he’s not only has his own entry in the Blood, Sweat, Tears” rap canon, but he beat both Looni and Thugga to the “Up, up, and away!” rap lyric by a long shot.

Bloody Jay – Blood, Sweat, N Tears

Bloody Jay – Super Hero

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DAY 81

For real if you don’t have this album yet, you’re slippin.

Dr. Yen Lo – Day 81

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I REMEMBER

Maybe this is in bad taste for a Father’s Day post, especially since my own father deserves nothing but the highest praise for the work he’s put in (and continues to put in) for me and my sister, but I just had a real deep conversation with a dude about his dad who did some truly unspeakable shit to him and other members of his family, and I was recently moved by this Tim Smooth song where he eviscerates his own father for his multitudinous failings and I thought to myself “Maybe everybody who’s father was a piece of shit deserves a song on Father’s Day too!”

Unfortunately, Tim Smooth is not well represented on YouTube (or anywhere else for that matter) and I guess I’m not allowed to upload mp3s on WordPress (?) so the only stream I could find of “I Remember” is some sketchy MP3Clan link that might be broken by the time I post this but if you need this song in your life (you’ll know if you do), then seek it out because it makes “Papa Was A Rolling Stone (which “I Remember” appropriately references in its opening bars) sound downright merciful.

Tim Smooth & Too Cool – I Remember

As I said before, my own pops doesn’t deserve a single line from that Tim Smooth track so I gotta put something up to honor him and all the other dads out there doing their job right.  This way people with shitty and great dads will all have a song they can relate and vibe to on Father’s Day.  This might not be the best song in honor of paternity in rap (I already covered that one last month), but as a blues devotee, singer, and mean-ass harp player, my pops would probably appreciate this one the most.  Love you, Dad.

Nas – Bridging the Gap (feat. Olu Dara)

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BARE MINIMUM PART SEVEN – I AIN’T GON’ FORGET MY WORDS

I know I threw y’all for a loop on the last BARE MINIMUM what with the convergence of two different series’ in a single Audio Two song+video, so this one should be a little more straightforward. If you’ve been keepin’ up with this series so far, “IHOP” will hearken back to PART FIVE except Gates isn’t known for this kind of stripped-down delivery like the Don is, which makes it even more notable.  There’s an immediacy that single-take rap songs have that cannot be denied, and there aren’t many rappers around that would attempt one, much less pull it off as masterfully as Kevin does here.

Kevin Gates – IHOP (True Story)

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REST IN “PEACE”

Somebody once told me that Ornette wrote “Peace” for a friend of his who’d recently passed.  I was surprised and honestly a little skeptical when I heard this, the song always struck me as more playful than mournful, its loosened harmonies still leaning much more toward major tonalities than minor, its tempo, while more subdued than many of his numbers, is certainly no dirge.

Ornette Coleman – Peace

I’ve never been able to confirm or deny this claim, but either way it was a formative experience in my understanding of music.  The act of considering “Peace” to be about death forced me to consider that identical emotions can spring from different souls and sound unrecognizable to each other; which was in invaluable lesson about music and life that has served me well whether or not Ornette was thinking of his deceased friend when he composed this now classic piece.  I have to admit, now that Mr. Coleman himself has passed on, “Peace” does sound a bit more melancholy than it once did.  I just wonder who’s going to play at his funeral.

Ornette Coleman – Holiday for a Graveyard (recorded live at John Coltrane’s funeral, 1967)

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YOU AIN’T GRINDIN’ TILL YOU TIRED

There are a lot of things to love about Starlito’s newest tape (like the realest relationship-rap song in recent memory), but one reference in particular caught my attention on first listen.

Starlio – I Get Tired

The Game – My Life (feat. Lil’ Wayne)

When “My Life” came out it quickly became my go-to Exhibit A for defending auto-tune to all those mid ’00s haters who still took their rap cues from Jay-Z and hungrily grasped at any opportunity to dismiss an innovation or new direction in rap.  I liked T-Pain a lot too but that was a hopeless position to take toward anyone who I’d be having this debate with, but Wayne’s auto-tune use was harder to dismiss, especially on such an emotionally deep and vulnerable song.  Cher (or, more accurately, one of Cher’s producers) introduced it to the world, T-Pain built an entire style on it and made it a household name, but I think Wayne deserves a lot of credit for paving the way for a less-gimmicky and more expressive use of the infamous Auto-Tune.  It’s his work that set the stage for Future, Chief Keef, and Young Thug to make some of the most interesting emotionally powerful music of the past decade, and I think “My Life” is a prime and often overlooked example of this.  This reaches beyond rap too, if Wayne hadn’t taken Auto-Tune’s use as an expressive tool to the next level and it had simply out of fashion when T-Pain did, would Bon Iver have made “Woods“?  Doubtful.

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RAP JOURNEY #25 – FROM JAMES BROWN TO CEE-LO

King Heroin” came on the shuffle today and I felt a distinct stirring in my soul that I was sure I’d felt before.

James Brown – King Heroin

Of course Madlib, Dilla, and Knxwledge in their compulsive soul music chopping have processed the original through their respective beatmaking apparatus, but that’s way too easy an explanation and true of almost any James Brown song ever recorded.  BJ the Chicago Kid pulled off a much more listen-worthy reinterpretation last year, but if that was it I would have remembered at least because of its recency if not its quality.

BJ the Chicago Kid – Real Love Never Dies

Levert has a boring-ass tribute song called “Tribue Song” that uses the same loop BJ does, is full of embarassing mispronunciations (“Art Blakely”, “Paul Roberson”, “Betsy Smith”), and fails to shout out James Brown in a song about paying tribute to black entertainers of the past, but that is obviously not what I had in mind as I took in the Godfather of Soul’s recitation of some midtown NY deli worker’s addiction poem.  What I was looking for wasn’t a direct sample, reference, or interpolation, but more a spiritual successor, some other somber spoken word piece over a mournful 6/8 groove.  FInally it dawned on me.

Cee-Lo – Sometimes

I’m not claiming that Cee-Lo was trying to evoke “King Heroin” here, I’m sure he’s heard it and maybe there was some subconscious influence but I think both he and James Brown are just working in the same timeless tradition of talking over music found on pulpits, back porches, strip club stages, and campfires since time immemorial that has only recently been given the designation “rap”.  They just both happened upon the a remarkably similar and very effective stylistic vehicle for kicking some major knowledge.  It’s a good thing “Sometimes” never got popular or it could have gotten all Blurred Lines“-ey in Cee-Lo’s world.

It should be noted that both “King Heroin” and “Sometimes” are much better experienced in the contexts of the albums they’re on (even though “King Heroin” was originally conceived as a single and was only later placed on a full-length), on their own I must admit their power is a bit diminished.  On …Is The Soul Machine, “Sometimes” it is sandwiched between two of Cee-Lo’s best solo works, and the tragedy of “King Heroin” is all the more potent when you’re just coming off the high of the opening (and title) track of There It IsAdmittedly, jolting into the the rude awakening of “I’m a Greedy Man” afterward feels a bit clumsy at first but if you don’t like sharp juxtapositions of emotional torment and light-hearted innuendo, what are you doing reading a rap blog?

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