Monthly Archives: April 2012

RAP JOURNEY #17 – FROM ASAP ROCKY & MAIN ATTRAKIONZ TO THE ART OF NOISE AND UGK

The other day Reeve got ahold of me to ask if I’d checked out this song yet.

Main Attrakionz – UGK (feat. A$AP Rocky)

Somehow I hadn’t, even though there are three rappers I really like on this song AND it’s named after two rappers that I absolutely LOVE, so how this one slipped by me I’ll never know, but I’m very grateful for getting the late-but-not-too-late introduction to it.  I feel a responsibility to Pimp and Bun to let y’all know what UGK song the hook is taken from, but what really caught my attention was that simple sampler/keyboard part that opens that track up.  It’s got such a recognizable melody and tone, and it didn’t take me long to figure out at least one place where I’d heard that tune before.  It was a song by another duo that, coincidentally, Reeve turned me onto several years ago in their Bake Sale days.

The Cool Kids – Art of Noise

This is actually one of my favorite Cool Kids songs, it’s a little less silly and kitschy than a lot of their more popular stuff is, but it doesn’t sound forced at all, especially Chuck Inglish’s flow on that first verse, that shit just feels right.

I felt like that couldn’t be the only place that sample had been used though, I had this feeling like I’d heard it some other places.  Turns out I was very right, that same sample turns up in a LOT of rap songs from all over the place.  It shows up in the Memphis underground, in a classic 90s New York rap format, and in the ATL trap-rap scene, to name just a few.  But my favorite is probably this one, if for no other reason than the fact that it has three very different artists, one of which had been dead for over 10 years when this song came out, the surviving two coming from the same general region of the U.S. but definitely not sharing much time in the spotlight simultaneously, but they somehow all rap in basically the same style without any of them sounding like they’re reaching at all, it’s pretty amazing.

Lil’ Wayne – Nymphos (feat. 2pac & Ludacris)

OK, I know you might be tired of hearing it by now, but there’s no way I can not finish this up with the original.  It really is a nice listen, so if you’re sick of it now, come back tomorrow and take the time to hear the whole thing.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

The Art of Noise – Moments in Love

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YOU DON’T WANNA HEAR THE TRUTH, SO I’MMA LIE TO YA, MAKE IT SOUND FLY TO YA

When I put on Future‘s new album today while cruisin’ around T-Town, I had a few expectations going in.  Like I mentioned back in this Rap Journey, I first heard Future featured on the bubbly, triumphant hit from last year, “Racks” with YC, so I figured there would probably be a little of that.  Since then he’s also displayed some less pop-oriented, more aggressive flows on some mixtape tracks as well as snagged some pretty high-profile, well-established names for his singles leading up to the release of Pluto, so I knew there would be some tracks along those lines as well.

What I didn’t expect to see was a couple pretty prominent Dungeon Family references on the album, the first of which being the intro, which features the super-old-school ATL spoken word afficionado Big Rube.

Future – The Future Is Now (Intro) (feat. Big Rube)

Future’s not the first rapper to get Big Rube to set the mood for their album, and I can’t blame him in the slightest for grabbing Rube to perform this duty.  I can’t think of a voice I’d rather have setting the scene for an album I’d created.  But until now I’d really only heard him in more “alternative” rap contexts like OutKast’s “Liberation“, Cee-Lo’s “Scrap Metal” (before Cee-Lo was a household name), and on the intros to albums like Goodie Mob‘s One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show and Nappy Roots‘ newest project, Nappy Dot Org.  None of these albums strove for mainstream success like Pluto does, and all of these examples appear in the same family of Atlanta musicians, namely the Dungeon Family (Nappy Roots isn’t in Dungeon Family, but that particular album was entirely produced by Organized Noize, so I still consider that album to be Dungeon Family-related), of which Future is not a member.  The only time I’ve seen any relation between the two is on the “Ain’t No Way Around It” remix that features Big Boi for one verse.  So it’s interesting to see Future give a nod to his less mainstream predecessors on this very radio/club oriented album.

The other reference comes in the hook to this track at around the midpoint of the album.

Future – Truth Gonna Hurt You

Here’s yet another Dungeon Family nod, this time to the closing lines of this track from Goodie Mob’s Still Standing album.

Goodie Mob – The Experience

I’ve thought for a while now that Future is much more than your average, run of the mill, fame-seeking, mainstream rapper, and it’s nice to see him confirm that with some pretty blatant homages to the roots of Atlanta rap on his debut album (that also happens to feature appearances by R. Kelly, Drake, and Snoop Dogg).  Hopefully he won’t lose that respect as he gets more and more mainstream attention, I think it’ll serve him well.  Turn Up!

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WHETHER DENSE, WHETHER LENGTH, WHETHER STRENGTH, WHETHER WIDTH

I’ve mentioned before that one of the biggest things that allowed me to start getting interested in and accepting hip-hop was RZA‘s amazing Wu-Tang Manual.  It gave me insight not just into the music of the Wu-Tang Clan, but hip-hop in general, and allowed me to understand the environment those people came up in and the difficulties they faced.  That understanding of just how different their world was from mine made it possible for me to begin to accept the more superficially objectionable content of a lot of rap music.

I also just love RZA’s perspective and approach to life, he’s probably just as inspirational to me as a spiritual thinker as he is a musician.  So I was very excited to see this new interview with him where he discusses a lot of those topics that he deals with so well: spirituality, music, creativity, fear, life, and even more.  Very inspiring.

RZA 1-2-1 interview with Jeff Staple (parts 1 & 2)

Here is that song he is quoting from at the end of Part 2.  I was really excited to hear him reciting those lines, I’ve thought for a long time that this is my favorite RZA solo track.

RZA – A Day To God Is 1000 Years

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WHO’S AFRAID OF THE PUNK POLICE?

Hip-hop began with one DJ deciding to be bold enough to find what he felt was the best small chunk of a song he liked and (at that time, manually) repeat it over and over, and I will always be grateful to Kool Herc for this monumental discovery.  He singlehandedly brought the loop as a musical device into pop music and things have never been the same.  I’m a fan of people using loops in all kinds of music from its beginnings in experimental music to its modern-day prevalence, but no musical style other than hip-hop can claim that it is fundamentally founded on the idea of the sampled loop, and the power that that technique holds.

That’s why I’ve always loved songs like this that have that perfectly, expertly, geniusly chosen few seconds of music put on loop that never gets old, never loses its effectiveness, and in fact benefits from its constant repetition.  You get to really make friends with that few seconds of music as you listen, and it becomes wonderfully familiar to you over time, if you’re open to it.

2Pac – Where Do We Go From Here?

Then when you get to listen to the song it’s sampled from, it’s like you get to meet the whole family of that new friend you made in that loop from the hip-hop song.   You see the music that gives rise to that loop, and what music inevitably follows afterward.  It deepens your love and understanding for that loop, and you’re predisposed to love the entire song from which it came, much like the seemingly normal family of a close friend can take on an inexplicable endearing quality because or their relationship to your close companion.  I think it actually makes less sense to say that the sampled song is like the parent or progenitor of the sampling song, the loop in the hip-hop song is the music it was taken from, but removed from context and subject to extensive repetition, much like meeting a friend usually takes place out of context from their full familial lineage, and through repetition of interactions with that friend, your bond strengthens, and when you are introduced to those people who have made it possible for that friend to exist, and who that friend has had a contributing role in causing existence, you begin to understand why that friend has his or her unique characteristics, and you gain a deeper appreciation for not only you friend’s unique qualities, but the unique qualities of the people that surround him/her.

So on that note, here’s this song that came into my world today, as welcome as the family of my best friend.

Bootsy Collins – May The Force Be With You

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SINCE MY CASE I GOT ALL MY GUNS IN MY MAMA NAME

Before Sorry 4 the Wait came out, it had been a whole two years since we’d had an official Lil’ Wayne mixtape, and like many fans I was thirsty for some new Weezy.  One of the tapes that helped tide me over during that period was this unofficial one called Haemoglobin: My Flag Red, which I liked OK, it had a great opening track and it served its purpose of being some new Wayne to keep my interest until I could get something official, but I had this one big problem with it.  Possibly my favorite song on the whole tape was somehow mangled in the transfer to mixtape form, there were these little 1 or 2 second chunks of music missing, causing the song to inexplicably jump from one line to the middle of another, which really ruined the whole flow of the song for me.

Lil’ Wayne – That’s What They Call Me (feat. Gudda Gudda)

(mangled version)

I liked the song so much though that I actually still listened to it a bunch, and I just tried to grimace as little as possible at those missing pieces and savor the moments I did have on tape.  I even looked around on the internet at the time for an intact version I could download and replace on the mixtape I had, but every version I found was just the same.  Even YouTube versions had the same issue, and it was getting to the point where I was questioning myself on whether or not I was right about there being missing pieces of this song I loved or if it was just a really weird song or something, and eventually I just kinda gave up (or Sorry 4 the Wait came out and I stopped caring, one of the two), and I hadn’t really listened to the song since.

Then today, I was cruising through some Digital Dripped archives, looking for some singles to download, and I saw a version of “That’s What They Call Me” sitting there in my search results, and I figured “what the hell, I haven’t listened to this song in a while, it’ll be cool just to hear it again” and in the back of my mind I’m going “please please please please please be the full version please please…”  Well, I think you can guess the outcome, I wouldn’t be writing this post if the experience had ended in disappointment.  Behold!

Lil’ Wayne – That’s What They Call Me

(unmangled version)

For some reason this version doesn’t have the Gudda Gudda verse on it, but for me that’s a small price to pay to have Wayne’s uninterrupted flow on this song, it feels so good to have that resolved and to have my suspicion confirmed that the first version of the song I had was not how it was supposed to be.  I hope this song is as enjoyable to you all even though you probably didn’t get weirdly obsessed with the incorrect version a year or so ago like i did.

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CULTURE IS DERIVED FROM NECESSITY

Since I first heard about The Coup last year, I’ve gained more and more respect for Boots Riley the more I listen and learn about him.  Today he posted a very interesting article about racism and its economic underpinnings that I think does an excellent job of showing the true source of most of the inner city violence in the U.S.  I just recently finished reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and I think Boots points out a lot of similar problems Malcolm X does in his life story, one of which is that often times it’s the bourgeois black leaders that are misrepresenting the issue as much or more than the white ones, which I find very interesting, and unfortunate.

As an educated and aspiring socially aware citizen of this country, I have to admit that I have had (and still sometimes have) some reservations about the violent subject matter of a lot of rap music, but I think it’s reading and thinking about stuff like what Boots wrote in that article that has allowed me to be OK about the stuff that some rappers talk about in their music.  Boots never fully excuses the violence, and neither do I, but he does make those kinds of actions and decisions understandable, and helps me admit to myself that I can’t say with any certainty that I wouldn’t be involved in the same lifestyle if I was put in their situation.  It’s not admirable, in and of itself, to be violent towards your fellow human beings.  It is admirable to find a way to survive in a system that is stacked against you, and that’s the message and the lesson I get out of a lot of trap/thug/gangsta type music I listen to.  It’s a shame that some people just see the surface level of that message and emulate it, but like I said in this post, if the conditions weren’t already in place for a person to be influenced to commit violent acts by listening to music, then the music itself would be harmless.

We should also never forget that there are PLENTY of rappers that aren’t talking about that stuff all the time, and we should be thankful for them as well for offering their perspective.  Thanks for the enlightenment and inspiration, as always, Boots.

The Coup – Hip 2 Tha Skeme

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GOT ME SO BLIND I CAN’T SEE

I don’t think I’ve listened to the original version of “Black Magic Woman” since I was probably like 16, looking up guitar tabs on the internet to play on my little Fender acoustic my dad bought me for my birthday (thanks Dad).  There are, however, some pretty sweet and diverse re-interpretations out there that I’ve been much more interested in lately.

Dennis Brown – Black Magic Woman

LE$ – Mothership (feat. Bun B)

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RAP JOURNEY #16 – FROM VADO TO FRANÇOIS DE ROUBAIX

Matt hit me with a couple pretty hard-hitting rap questions the other day via email, and I attempted to tackle one of them in this post.  In another one, he mentioned the Big L song “Ebonics“, one of his (and my) favorites, which reminded him of this Vado song that samples a different Big L song that features two other artists tragically taken from this world before their time, 2Pac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

Vado – Large On The Streets

Big L – Deadly Combination (feat. 2Pac & The Notorious B.I.G.)

I’d never heard that Vado track before, and I hadn’t heard “Deadly Combination” in forever, so I was very thankful to get the introduction and re-introduction to each of those songs separately, as well as in connection to each other.  The other thing that caught my ear, however, was the instrumental sample in that Vado track, that shit sounded super familiar to me.  I knew I’d heard it here most recently.

Lil’ Wayne – President Carter

But that wasn’t the first time that those pensive harp plucks had inspired some more serious reflections from ol’ Weezy, there’s also this mixtape track from around the time Tha Carter III was getting recorded.

Lil’ Wayne – Outstanding

So where did these ethereal tones come from originally?  Oh, of course!  An obscure French soundtrack composer from the early 70s, duh.

François de Roubaix – Les Dunes D’Ostende

So I guess this is a song from a French vampire movie from 1971 called Les Levres Rouges, which directly translated is The Red Lips, but when released in the U.S., it got the title Daughters of Darkness.  Yes, it’s on Netflix.  Yes, I’m definitely going to watch it, even though I don’t do very well with movies that involve peoples blood being taken from them.  Let me know if you wanna get together and check it out with me, I could probably use a hand to hold during some parts.

Bonus track: there’s a Roc Marciano song that uses some of the more dissonant sections of that original Roubaix piece, if you’re interested.  Thanks for getting the ball rolling on this one, Matt!  Very juicy.

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I’M NOT AFRAID TO BE BEAUTIFUL

Man, I’m hesitant to hit you all with two super-long interviews in a row on here, but I just love ’em and I feel like this one’s just as necessary as that TI one was yesterday.

This is in keeping with the precedent I set a little while ago when my man Mondre from Main Attrakionz started following me back on Twitter, and I made an extra little dedication post for him to say thank you.  Yesterday, I got a message to let me know that DâM-FunK is now following me back on Twitter as well, and I think one of the best ways to get into DâM’s style (besides listening to a bunch of his music, of course) is to watch this interview he did around the time his Toeachizown album was coming out.  You will never hear a dude more dead serious about funk music, and I have so much respect for that.  He makes that point early on in the interview, that it’s good to be strong and really outspokenly stand for something.  That’s something I always strive to do, and it’s nice to see a dude with that philosophy getting some success and exposure in today’s music world.

I feel like I was guilty of not taking a lot of funk, especially 80s funk, very seriously because of how it gets portrayed a lot of times, but listening to DâM-FunK’s music over the past few years has really altered my perception of that music.  I remember when I bought the Toeachizown vinyl box set, I wasn’t even that familiar with DâM’s style, but I just had this feeling that it was something that might be good for me to give a solid chance to, and over time his sound really got inside me and I’ve grown to truly love it.  That seriousness and dedication really comes through in the music, and through his style I’ve been able to gain a better appreciation for a lot of the 80s funk he talks about in that interview.  One of my favorite things in the world is learning to like and appreciate new things, so I totally owe DâM-FunK everything in that regard, he opened my eyes.

Another mixtape that I’m hoping to finish up during this time I have in Tulsa is my tribute to DJ Screw which is a collection of songs that DJ Screw didn’t get to remix in his lifetime, but I feel would gain something from his basic technique.  I tried to emulate his technique as much as possible, mainly through the use of vinyl instead of digital sources for the remixing to get that, as DâM-FunK would say, warmer sound, and also to be able to change the speed more drastically without losing audio quality.  I say all this to let you all know that once that mixtape gets finalized and put out, the opening track is going to be a chopped & screwed version of this DâM-FunK song from Toeachizown.

DâM-FunK – 10 West

You’ll just have to use your imagination on how that will sound chopped & screwed until I get it all completed and released.

And one more bonus for you all, because it’s one of my favorite DâM-FunK moments, is this video which is an acoustic version of the song he talks about in that interview doing like 21 takes of to get it right.

DâM-FunK – I Wanna Thank U 4 Steppin’ Into My Life

Thanks for keepin’ the funk alive, DâM, and for always taking it to the next level.  Much love.

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I’LL WEATHER WHATEVER STORM, MAKE IT OUT WITHOUT A BRUISE

The Warner Sound just posted this old TI interview from the Paper Trail days, and I was excited to see that it was a full half hour long because so many interviews, especially with rappers, are just a couple minutes maybe, and it usually ends up being like when they interview the quarterback after a big game, there’s not enough time to actually say anything.  “Yep, I’m excited about this new single I just put out.”  “My new album drops next month, it’s gonna be hot!”  “Shouts out to            .”  They don’t get asked good questions so they can’t give good answers, it’s pretty pointless.  So I was excited that he put in this amount of time to provide some insight into this particular section of his career.  I really encourage all of you to watch this whole video, the things that he says are very interesting and very telling, and the way he says them are even moreso sometimes.

I say that because I feel like his whole demeanor in that interview say a lot about where he was at in that time of his life and career.  He says very openly that there are songs on Paper Trail that he made totally with the fans in mind, and that the stuff he’s saying in those songs isn’t necessarily anything he needs to get off his chest or anything, he’s just trying to appeal to a certain demographic.  And it worked.  Like I talked about in this post, that’s what it takes to get that solid mainstream success, you have to cater to the audience, and Paper Trail is still TI’s most successful album, that is if you measure “success” by how many records you sell.

But look at his body language, his facial expressions, and his tone of voice in this interview.  His voice is low and sluggish, his posture is tired and heavy, his smiles seem forced and his face seems to betray hints of embarrassment when talking about his “evolved” style.  He doesn’t look like a happy man, and the subjects he brings up don’t tend to be uplifting ones.  Here is the song they spend the most time talking about, and I think you can see a lot of the same kinds of things going on in this video.  The musical style is noticeably simpler and easy to understand, and he seems to be forcing himself into a format that just doesn’t fit who he really is.  Even the super-staged posse shots at the end don’t feel right, you can tell those aren’t his real friends he spends all his time with, they’re hand-selected and positioned by a big-time music video director.  I feel like I should let it be known that I don’t hate this song by any means, but I feel like it’s very clear that TI is trying to be something he’s really not in it.

TI – No Matter What

Now compare that interview and how he seems in it to this one, which is from last year and was his first interview he did after being released from prison.

Completely different.  His tone is relaxed, he brought his kids with him to the studio, he smiles a lot — really smiles, and he doesn’t seem as world-weary and burdened as in that first interview.  And this is him fresh out of the penitentiary feeling upbeat and youthful, unlike when he was making his most “successful” album to date and could barely seem to get excited about anything at all.  And he’s very real about what he’d been through lately and where he’s going and seems very optimistic about it.  He tells very clearly about how when things started going bad for him, all those people that were around him during the time of Paper Trail and afterward were the first people to turn their backs on him, and now he wants to go back to just making music for the people who’ve always been down with him and his style since day one.  And this is the track they debut on that radio show.

TI – I’m Flexin’ (feat. Big K.R.I.T.)

I think it’s undeniable that TI is much more comfortable and at home in this song and video than in “No Matter What“.  And his flow is almost unrecognizably different too, it sounds like the example he gave in that first interview of how he originally wrote some of the stuff in Paper Trail but modified it to be more easily grasped by the average listener.  I think this song is a beautiful example of someone shedding their perception of what others want them to be and just being truly and naturally themself, it’s really powerful especially after hearing those songs and seeing the videos from Paper Trail.  And like I said, it’s not like Paper Trail is a worthless album by any means, there are a lot of moments I genuinely like, but I think seeing what he’s doing now makes it crystal clear that he wasn’t really letting himself be himself on that album.

Just a couple days ago, TI released the first single for his upcoming album, and I think it’s another interesting page in this saga.  To my ears, it doesn’t sound 100% like “No Matter What” or “I’m Flexin“, I feel like it’s a new stage of development in his style.  There’s still definitely some of the pop sensibility from Paper Trail, but he doesn’t seem to be quite as consumed and limited by it.  There isn’t that forced feeling that I get from a lot of Paper Trail songs, it seems like he’s learned from that period, but he’s reintroducing his true self into it, and he might have now discovered a healthy middle ground in his music where he can still express himself honestly but not regress to an older style, to move forward and learn from it all and draw influence from it all.

TI – Love This Life

The King back!

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