Quasimoto – Catchin’ the Vibe
Freddie Gibbs has a real knack for teaming up with really unexpected people and making it sound unquestionably good. It’s been that way from the beginning; when Matt first turned me on to Midwestgangstaboxframecadicallmuzik and The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs, some of the first songs I got really into of his were the couple tracks he did with Devin the Dude, a rapper from a very different place with a very different aesthetic, mood, and style than what Freddie is most comfortable doing.
Freddie Gibbs – Something You Should Know (feat. Devin the Dude)
Freddie Gibbs – Stray (feat. Devin the Dude)
Then after signing to Young Jeezy‘s label, a much more obvious pairing, out of nowhere he starts releasing songs with Madlib, another dude from an even more dissimilar place, background and style. But once again, the pairing worked out surprisingly nice. Maybe he can just make great songs with anyone as long as they love weed as much as he does.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Thuggin’
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Shame
Now Freddie is officially leaving Jeezy’s CTE label and some of his most recent work has been with LA’s flagship Ratchet artist YG, another dude who I never imagined I’d hear rapping alongside Freddie’s rapid-fire midwest syncopation, but once again, I find myself quite impressed by how well these styles comingle.
Freddie Gibbs – Every City (feat. YG)
Lil’ Sodi – Do It (feat. Freddie Gibbs & YG)
Now we just need to wait for the Freddie Gibbs / Lil’ B collaboration that’ll just blow everyone’s mind.
It’s been while since I heard anything from Kanye where it was in any way apparent that J Dilla was one of his foundational influences.
Kanye West – Mercy (feat. Big Sean, Pusha T, & 2 Chainz)
You gotta hand it to Kanye, regardless of how you feel about his music, he’s put out some really cool-looking videos lately. It was real crazy to hear sounds that I’m used to experiencing in the outro of this track on mainstream rap radio.
Jaylib – Champion Sound
Kalyanji Anandji – Dharmatma Theme Music (Sad)
I’ve had the idea for this post bouncing around in my head for a couple weeks now, and I last night I had a real good conversation with my good friend Arsenios about our mutual awe of Jaylib, so I figured now would be a good time to get this one out there since it features one of my favorite songs of theirs.
The idea first came to me when I first heard this MJG (of 8Ball & MJG fame) solo track that features one of the most lyrical bass drum parts I’ve ever heard, and the best part is that MJG raps right in time with it every time it gets to that signature pattern in the third bar of the phrase.
MJG – Good Damn Man
When I listen to that song, it completely captures my full attention because every time a new phrase starts, I’m just giddy with anticipation for when it gets to that third bar to see what words he’s going to fit into that rhythmic pattern this time! First it’s
Sent. three. tricks-up; to backwoods river.
Kick. the. shit-out; yo’ ass quite nicely.
And he just goes on and on, perfectly sculpting every turn of phrase to fit into that beautifully unusual but captivating kick drum. The only song I can think of that possibly surpasses that level of rhythmic matching is in this track during J Dilla’s verses.
Jaylib – McNasty Filth (feat. Frank-N-Dank)
In this song, Dilla is rapping in rhythmic unison with a much longer and more complex pattern: the extremely syncopated high hat part that Madlib no doubt tapped out by hand on the pads of his sampler when he composed this beat. Frank and Dank both rap in that in-your-face Detroit style they always do, which is no complaint, but Dilla really takes it to the next level when it’s his turn, making it probably the most technically impressive feat of rapping of his entire career. I find myself waiting with the same anticipation I had for every third bar of “Good Damn Man” for the next time Dilla’s verse comes around.
Frank Dank Dilla, chasin’ paper, blazin up in this bitch to raise up the stakes a little
bit and shut. shit. down.
And so forth. It’s a shame that the musicality of these examples is probably completely ignored by most of the people that would appreciate it just because of the content of the lyrics. I won’t go into another tirade about policing “explicit” language in our music or the stereotypes put on black musicians in our culture, but I do feel like there are a lot of people who would sit in awe of a guitar solo or orchestra performance that wouldn’t give a moment’s time to hearing these MJG or Jaylib songs with any kind of respect or appreciation.
This song brings up another point with respect to J Dilla and how he is perceived today that I’d like to touch on for just a moment. A lot of what I love about this song is what I love about J Dilla in general, and I think it’s something about him that gets glossed over a lot. Dilla’s legacy, like so many hip hop artists of his time, rarely exists outside the shadow cast by his untimely death. In our culture, when people die, especially when people die young, there’s this feeling that is pumped through us that persuades us to imagine this lost person in a kind of slow motion montage with clouds floating by and rays of light shining around them with wind sounds and distant harps strumming in the background. It’s an understandable feeling, we feel the loss of a valuable person, the fear of our own mortality, and possibly the feeling that maybe we didn’t value these people enough when they were around, and as a result this reverence culture forms around their legacy and those bright, sunshiny moments of their life and career become amplified while the less innocent traits they have are downplayed. I’m not trying to say anyone is dumb for feeling this way and doing this, and in many ways I do the same thing with people like Dilla, and he has a lot of sweet, heartfelt, honest music that really tugs on your heart, especially when you know he made it in his hospital bed while dying of Lupus.
But to only remember these moments of his career would be doing him a disservice because one of the greatest things about him was his ability to balance the light and the dark sides of the world in his music. He wasn’t a new age artist, he was a rap artist, and in the midst of all the “J Dilla Changed My Life” (and he did) prostrating we forget that he rapped about jewelry, money, drugs, cars, promiscuity, violence, and everything else that the textbook J Dilla fan would say is “wrong with hip-hop today”. I’m glad people appreciate Dilla’s legacy and are making his music more well known, but I wish we had a more balanced view of it. We shouldn’t forget those times when he shot videos in strip clubs, or spit lines like “It’s plain to see you can’t change me cuz I’mma be this nigga wit ice”. He wasn’t an angel, and just because he’s dead now doesn’t mean we have to see him as one now. He wasn’t amazing because he abstained from talking about anything negative or taboo, he was amazing because he could talk about those things with the kind of honesty and virtuosity that makes any speaker of words compelling.
Rap producers constantly amaze me with how much they can do with so little. I remember in music school, professors always professed that “economy of materials” was one of the most admirable traits of a good composition. In western classical music, it’s important to constantly develop and vary these basic materials, but the core of the idea is starting with something very minute and creating a constantly interesting piece of music from those ultra-simple materials. Hip-hop producers aren’t generally interested in development in the classical sense, but they definitely share a respect for starting out with an extremely limited set of materials and creating a constantly engaging, interesting composition with it. Those professors mentioned above would probably look down on music that didn’t vary and develop those ideas in the course of the composition, but to me, finding a tiny piece of musical material that you can just loop over and over again and it still is interesting four minutes in — that’s just as impressive in my mind.
Here’s what got me thinkin’ about this idea, I heard this song today and it reminded me of a couple other songs that I love that use the same kind of single-guitar-note-repeated-constantly technique to great effect.
The Alchemist – Flight Confirmation (feat. Danny Brown & Schoolboy Q)
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Thuggin’
Jaylib – The Red
There’s such an unshakable determination in beats like these, that single unrelenting note just drills into your very being, getting deeper and deeper in your brain the more you listen. There’s a trance-like quality to tunes like these, and I’m constantly amazed that these dudes can make such an absurdly simple musical figure so captivating for a full song. Let me know of any other songs with the same shit goin’ on, I love these kinda beats.
What a weekend! After spending the past month or so in quiet semi-seclusion, the onslaught of activity and interaction that happened over the past few days was almost too much for me to handle. As many of you all know, I spent the past weekend saying my official goodbyes to Norman, Oklahoma in a variety of ways. There were meals shared, conversations had, music premiered, CDs sold, kind words exhanged, and more hugs than I’ve ever had in such a small period of time. It was hard in a lot of ways, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked with anyone, and there were some people I didn’t get a chance to see at all. But I’ll remember the whole experience forever I’m sure, and the enthusiasm and love that I received from all of the people I love in that great town will not be forgotten either. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in any way during the past 8 years in that wonderful town, all this is because of you.
I am also aware that many readers of this blog don’t live in Norman, and so I don’t want you all to feel left out on the love either! Most of the new music I’ve put out in the past week has been in physical form only, so there are all of these big releases happening but only a few people actually have access to this music. That’s one reason why I put out the Main Character EP last week, but just one EP isn’t enough, in my opinion, for all of the people that live outside this little circle of people in Oklahoma, so I want to dedicate this next mixtape release to all of you beautiful supporters who don’t live in close proximity to me! I’ve mentioned this latest release several times before, but it’s finally complete and ready for the public, and I want to share this little preview video with you all that I made for it, it’s very much in the style of the video trailer I made when I remixed Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma.
DJ RED Lite – Conversations with Dudley (Chopped & Screwed) PREVIEW
It’s a complete remix of Declaime’s 2004 album, which I’ve always had a super soft spot for, and I feel translates to a slowed-down version very nicely. You can find the download link in the video description on YouTube, on the ALBUMS/MIXTAPES page of this site, or right here – LINK! And if you don’t know who Declaime/Dudley Perkins is, here is a really interesting documentary about him from last year:
Interplanetary Peace Talks (2012 A.U.)
Big thanks to Sarah Warmker for making the album art for this mixtape, it turned out exactly how I hoped it would! I hope everybody’s been enjoying all this new music that’s been happening, it’s definitely a huge relief for me to get it out there to you all. Drop me a line anytime if you have any impressions you’d like to share with me, I’d be curious to know any perspective you all have about any of my stuff.
Those of you that are on the REDLiteDJ email list (just send an email to REDLiteDJ@gmail.com to join!) already heard that I joined Twitter a couple days ago. I have to say that so far, it’s been a very positive experience. I’m reconnecting with some people I haven’t talked to in a while, and I’m connecting on a new level to people I see regularly as well. Awesome.
The other cool thing that’s happening is that I’m getting nice little updates from artists I’m interested in, especially those that don’t get much press buzz around them every time they do anything. For instance, I started following DâM-FunK, and I quickly learned that he has a Tumblr page that he runs called Galactic Funk Federation, and on that page I found this crazy little 4 song mix that some dude named Damon Swindell made where he took some DâM-FunK instrumentals and put some Gucci Mane acapellas over the top. It’s called Gucci Funk, and it’s free, so I snatched it up and listened to it immediately.
The only real complaints that I have are that he uses censored acapellas (probably that’s all that was available, but it’s still kind of a bummer to listen to Gucci Mane without cursing) and the way the vocals sound doesn’t particularly blend with how the beats sound (only in a mixing capacity, and most likely that’s just how the acapellas he was using sounded to begin with, I’m not talkin’ shit on the man’s work). But the rhythm of Gucci’s flow works pretty well over some real synthy, west-coast style funk, so it was still a very nice listen. My favorite is probably this one, where he mixes Gucci Mane & Shawnna‘s “Pillz” with DâM-FunK’s “10 West“.
I wish more really dissimilar artists would collaborate on stuff like this. I know Gucci and DâM didn’t actually get together to do this, it was mixed by a third party, but I think this proves that there’s some definite potential for the meeting of these two dudes’ styles. I feel like artists get pigeonholed by their labels, fans, and probably themselves at times into this subgenre or that, but I feel like there are constant reminders that dudes and ladies from different zones can really get together to do some cool shit if they put their minds to it. I remember first hearing about the Freddie Gibbs/Madlib team-up that’s happening right now and thinking “Whoa, I have no idea what this is going to sound like, but I know it’s gonna be awesome”, and so far it is. Another good example is the cLOUDLIFE EP that came out recently with members of cLOUDDEAD and Main Attrakionz. That shit came out of nowhere, to me at least.
I feel like it might even be pretty marketable too, I could see some Gucci Mane fans really warming up to DâM-FunK’s style if they got introduced to it through a collaboration between the two, and vice versa. What do I know though? Maybe it’s easier to sell records if people stay in their own lanes, I don’t pretend to be an expert on how to make money with music. But I do know a thing or two about what sounds badass, and in that spirit, I’m gonna continue to be on the lookout for cool, unexpected collaborations in the future. Let me know in the comments if you know of any that I didn’t mention.
I thought of this in the shower today, I was feelin real rested and carefree cuz I haven’t had to go to work in a while, and this little loop was just spinnin’ around in my head cuz it fit just right with how I was feeling. It’s one of the most laid back, start-of-a-good-day-feelin loops around, and playing it in my mind to myself while I was gettin’ soaped up made me want to find out where it came from. I first heard it way back in the day on this Rakim song from his first solo album.
Rakim – Remember That
A few years later, when I was getting more into southern rap, I came across this track that actually predates that Rakim song by about 3 years.
UGK – It’s Supposed To Bubble
It’s cool to hear a Houstonian and a New Yorker flip the same sample but treat it slightly different because of how the sound in their area is, I really feel like those two songs have a surprisingly different feel to them even though the meat of the instrumental is totally the same.
When I started trying to track down the common ancestor to both those songs, I discovered quite a few other tracks that also came from that same song, some of which even predate one or both of the previous rap versions. Crazy.
Big Daddy Kane – Give It To Me
Then this one that came out around the same time that UGK version happened.
Main Source – Only the Real Survive
Pleasure – Thoughts of Old Flames
And here’s this Guilty Simpson song, that seems to be unrelated sample-wise but is called the same thing pretty much. I dunno.
Damn, stars must be aligned in the Madlib galaxy this past week, cuz I just stumbled across ANOTHER little nugget from a Madlib production. This one’s just a little snippet, but totally unmistakeable. I had no idea where that vocal sample came from at the beginning of this track, or even what the words being said were.
Madvillain – Supervillain Theme
Now I know both!
Just-Ice – Cold Gettin’ Dumb
Just-Ice – Latoya
There are actually even more notable moments from that same Just-Ice album that I wanna talk about, but I’m gonna hit you with ‘em in another installment, I feel like that’s enough for one day’s worth. Stay tuned!
Dang, I’ve been writing about Madlib a lot lately, so seems appropriate that I should share this one with you all now. I actually wrote this a little while ago, but I don’t like to have too many Rap Journeys right in a row, seems better to spread em out a little. So here ya go!
I’m sure you can imagine my excitement writing this post after how giddy I was about figuring out a Madlib sample back in this post. This one’s even more crazy and involved than that one was, and I’m pretty pumped about bringing it to y’all.
This is one I’ve been curious about for a while, and it took a little encouragement from ol’ Mike Allen to get my off my ass and actually figure this shit out, and I’m glad he did. See we’re both real big Madlib fans, and so we’ve both put in plenty of time listening to the Beat Konducta series he’s put out over the years. I remember being at Amber’s house getting things set up for Trent and Sammi’s wedding and this album was playing while me and Mike (and like 15 other people) were doing God knows what trying get everything ready in time.
Madlib the Beat Konducta – Understanding (Comprehension)
Man, that beat feels so nice. But like most Malib stuff, I don’t hold out much hope of finding where that shit came from, that dude’s got records I could only dream of hearing, much less owning. But then two years later, this Q-Tip album came out, and besides being just an awesome album, it made me think that Understanding sample might be a little more attainable than I once thought.
Q-Tip – Gettin’ Up
But like I said, laziness and forgetfulness took hold of me and I never took the time to get to the bottom of this connection. I could tell Q-Tip didn’t just grab a chunk of that Madlib sample, Tip’s version of the sample is a little bit longer and just sounds different, so I figured he must have gone to the source to use it. Then when Mike heard this Wiz Khalifa track, he decided to hit me up and see if I knew where it came from cuz it was showing up all over the place now.
Black Ivory – You and I
It took 5 years of being lazy before I took just a few minutes to track down this sample, but I did it. Thanks for making it possible, Mike! Here’s a bonus for you to make up for my sluggish research pace on this, I checked out that Black Ivory album and found this track.
Black Ivory – I Keep Asking You Questions
Which, 23 years later, birthed this classic.
Raekwon – Criminology (feat. Ghostface Killah)