Category Archives: RAP JOURNEY

RAP JOURNEY #27 – FROM STEADY B TO GETO BOYS

Today I was sitting listening to my $1 copy of Going Steady reading Steady B’s Wikipedia wondering how he’s serving life without parole for a murder he was only the getaway driver for when I heard a groovy little guitar lick that I recognized from my distant past.

Steady B – Anyway U Want It

It took me way too long to put it together, but eventually it came to me.  How could I forget!

The Notorious B.I.G. – Just Playin’ (Dreams)

I think it didn’t come immediately to mind because “Dreams” wasn’t an album cut and back in the day when I was listening to a lot of Biggie I wasn’t venturing too far outside of official album material, even from artists I really loved.  Despite this misguided tendency, I still acquired this single on wax at some point, probably as an add-on to save money on shipping for some other eBay record purchase, so it was a song I only heard when I played it out someplace, unlike the hours spent on Ready to Die and Life After Death.

Now you don’t have to be a prodigy-level sample spotter to guess that the original is probably some “Hot Pants“-era James Brown track, and you’d be right, but don’t stop the search there!  Dig a little deeper into those memory banks and and recall the man who beat both of these dudes to the “Blues and Pants” flip, and arguably out-raps them as well.

Geto Boys – Scarface

For a bonus, in case you’ve become hypnotized by 12 minutes of the same one-bar loop and are now having withdrawals, check out “Announcement“.  The video had me flashing back to the now thoroughly creepy Picture Pages in a big way, and with all the recent discussion of rap ghostwriting I can’t help but wonder if a certain Shawn Carter might have played a role in Pharrell’s verse… and if so, why didn’t Common do us all a favor and follow suit?

Common – Announcement (feat. Pharrell)

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RAP JOURNEY #26 – FROM EZSD TO Z-RO

After growing up in a place where the only active music scenes were Christian and hardcore (or hardcore Christian), it’s so refreshing to live in Oakland where the rap scene is not just currently active but has roots that are older than I am and split in all kinds of unexpected directions.  Sure, before moving here I knew the essentials: E-40, Too $hort, B-Legit, Spice 1, Lil’ B, and maybe a couple others, but living here for the past three years has exposed me to so many more and with each new discovery my desire to rep the Bay in any kind of rap discussion grows.  Thanks to The Martorialist I’m now heavy into Nef the Pharaoh, the Jacka’s untimely passing has caused me to delve deeper into his (and other lesser-known Bay Area artists’) music than I ever did before, Noz put me on Turf Talk last year, the list goes on and on.

Today I got another addition to that list when SergDun posted a photo of his copy of Game 2 Be Sold by the Fairfield duo E.Z.S.D.  I wasn’t sure if it was just an interesting Bay Area rap oddity (G Funk from Fairfield?) or if it was a truly solid album at first, but he assured me that it was “easily” better than Snoop’s album of nearly the same name (which is a really good album) so I had to see what the deal was.

Serg was not bullshittin’.  Besides having maybe the funkiest rap song ever recorded and some of the thickest bass of the 90s, there’s one unusually upbeat track with a prominent sample that made me want to dig a little deeper.

E.Z.S.D. – Money Makin’ Genius

Turns out it’s a flip of a moderately popular disco/funk track from 1980 by the group that arguably beat Sugarhill Gang to the first rap record spot.

Fatback – Gotta Get My Hands On Some (Money)

I admit it’s not the most mindblowing revelation to hear the original in relation to the sampled version, “Gotta Get My Hands On Some” isn’t exactly the deepest, rarest cut by any means and its treatment by E.Z.S.D. is great but nothing revolutionary.  The really interesting thing about it is its connection to a very different song that is primarily a masterful reworking of “Geto Boys and Girls” but also has a little sprinkle of Fatback as it turns out.

Z-Ro – Eyes On Paper

Add this to the list of corny 80s songs that you’d think Z-Ro would be embarrassed to be associated with; he did the same thing with “Cherish the Day” on “Respect My Mind“, with “True” on “Continue 2 Roll“, with “Holding Back the Years” on “Rollin“, with “Outstanding” on “Still Standing“, and the goofiest was when he turned “Ring My Bell” into “Bring My Mail“.  I’m glad I’ve got one more example of this strange penchant of Z-Ro’s for turning thirty-year-old cheeze into SLAB gold, and I’m glad I’ve got the Bay (and Serg) to thank for it.

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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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RAP JOURNEY #24 – FROM MISTAH FAB TO THE WHISPERS

I’m embarrassed, but not too afraid, to admit that I had little knowledge of The Jacka before his untimely passing last month.  Before February 2 he was just a name that I vaguely recalled being featured on a smattering of E-40 songs, but in the wave of tributes and conversation about Jacka’s contribution to Bay Area rap and music in general, I’ve had the opportunity to explore his catalog more deeply and begin to gain a true appreciation for his unique style and powerful messages.  It feels in poor taste to pay tribute to someone that you didn’t have a proper appreciation for while they were alive, so I won’t be that presumptuous here.  I’ll leave that to those more qualified.  I feel the best tribute to Jacka I can make is to be more thorough in educating myself about the lesser known artists I’m exposed to so I don’t make the same mistake I did with his music.  What better way to start than another name that I only vaguely recall from a smattering of E-40 songs?

Joe Blow – Million Dollar Dream (feat. Mistah F.A.B.)

I remembered Joe Blow from this mini Jacka tribute on Tumblin’ Erb, and Mistah F.A.B. was a name that I’d seen inside the parentheses of tracks like “In This Thang Breh” for the past few years, and I also remembered Jacka mentioning him in this interview as an example of the diversity of Bay Area rappers, so I made the extra effort of deliberately listening to this song I normally might have let slip past my attention.  My efforts were rewarded before I heard a syllable from either rapper.

Lil’ B – Silent President

Speaking of the diversity of Bay Area rappers.  If I spent the time to track down every sample in a Lil’ B song I liked, I wouldn’t have time to listen to Lil’ B anymore, so they usually remain obscure to me until moments like these when I’m given the occasion to chase down a particular one.  I’m so glad I did.

The Whispers – In the Mood

Bonus Beats

14KT – Step N2 the Shower

RIP Jacka

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RAP JOURNEY #23 – FROM RAEKWON AND TEENA MARIE TO THE FUGEES

Raekwon recently compiled the tracks from his recent Throwback Thursday series into a nice little mixtape called “We Wanna Thank You“.  It’s nothing revolutionary really but still a nice listen, it’s pretty much 20 songs that will remind you of “Holla” by Ghostface except not quite as good.  Still, it’s nice to hear how true to himself Raekwon has stayed after over 20 years of rapping, and, as you’ll discover, you might just learn a little important rap history too.

Raekwon – Ooh La La La

The original is basically intact in the Raekwon version, but just for completeness sake, here’s a sweet Soul Train lip-sync performance in its entirety.

Teena Marie – Ooh La La

If you’ve followed my blog for a while (or even if you haven’t) then you probably know where I’m going with this.  I’ve posted this song here twice already, and it’s a little embarrassing that I’m just now learning this missing link.

 The Fugees – Fu-Gee-La

Better late than never.  Hopefully I didn’t bore  you all with this one, maybe there’s at least one reader out there that hasn’t already connected these dots.  If not, then my apologies, I promise the next one will be better.

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RAP JOURNEY #22 – FROM STARLITO & DON TRIP TO ATLANTIC STARR

I could never be a hip-hop producer.  My culture’s ideas about “originality” are far too strict and entrenched in my artistic life to allow myself to to do what Lil’ Lody did here.

Starlito & Don Trip – Life

It’s silly once I think about it, because when I actually analyze this song, there’s no reason to see anything but a well-crafted beat that inspired some very talented rappers to say some beautiful, real things.  It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.  If I’d started to make that beat though, there’s no way I could have gone through with it after listening to this track the amount that I have.

Nate Dogg – Nobody Does It Better (feat. Warren G)

I would have told myself, “Warren G has made this perfect, beautiful instrumental, what makes you think you have the right to go back and make another version?”  It’s a good thing Warren G didn’t think that way though, because this more obscure, upbeat New York interpolation actually predates the G-Funk classic by about 2 years.

A+ – A+Z (feat. AZ)

This is a good lesson for me in creativity and the limitations we self-impose.  All of these songs are actually very different from each other, and none could be said to be any more or less “original” than the others.  Just because the foundation of a piece of art is the same as another doesn’t mean its essence is.  I’m glad the imaginations of all these producers aren’t as uptight as mine, or we’d never have had as much musical progress as we’ve had.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad though, as long as we could still vibe to this, the “original” track that inspired them all.  But then again, who inspired Atlantic Starr…?

Atlantic Starr – Let’s Get Closer

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RAP JOURNEY #21 – FROM BIG K.R.I.T. TO BILLY COBHAM

Wow I guess this is pretty old but it’s only just now crossing my path, probably because it’s doesn’t appear on any of his mixtapes.

Big K.R.I.T. – Somedayz

I think this might be the first time I’ve seen a rap video that takes place in the back of a moving pickup truck.  This also might be the first time I’ve heard K.R.I.T. rap over a beat he didn’t produce.  How do I know he didn’t produce it?  A couple reasons, first of all because it’s also on this mixtape that was at least a couple years before K.R.I.T.’s first big one.

Freddi Gibbs – How We Do

And in case that’s not enough evidence to convince you that this isn’t K.R.I.T.’s beat, here’s where the beat originated: in a song from when he was 7 years old.

Souls of Mischief – 93 ‘Til Infinity

If you’re like me though and need to know the deepest origins, they actually start coincidentally the same year that 3 of the 4 members of Souls of Mischief were born, 1974.

Billy Cobham – Heather

I know that one’s kinda subtle, but listen close a little after the 2:00 mark and you’ll hear it.  The sax part is from a little later, after the 3:15 mark or so.

I like ones like this that touch every part of the map.  You’ve got the original, which was recorded at Electric Lady in New York City, then sampled 20 years later by some kids all the way across the country in Oakland, and then picked up almost 20 more years after that by young rappers from Gary, Indiana and Meridian, Mississippi.  The dopeness lives on.

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RAP JOURNEY #20 – FROM ICE CUBE TO TWISTA & T-PAIN

Ice Cube – Hood Mentality

I could have made a post with just that track by itself and felt pretty OK about it, but why not throw in a little history?  I feel like anybody that appreciates that Ice Cube track will definitely appreciate this.

Eddie Kendricks – Can I

And anybody that appreciates musical continuity or T-Pain doing a sorta technical rap verse will have some love for this, too.

Twista – Creep Fast (feat. T-Pain)

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RAP JOURNEY #19 – FROM THE GAME TO ANITA BAKER

Check out these 5 pop rappers reviving some old Bone.

The Game – Celebration (feat. Chris Brown, Tyga, Lil’ Wayne, & Wiz Khalifa)

Just between you and me, I think those ladies were letting Tyga win that b-ball game.  Don’t you think?

Here’s a little context for those of you that have never heard me DJ a New Years’ party.

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – 1st of tha Month

It’s interesting how both Game and Tyga start out really trying to do their best Bone Thugs impressions, but both end up slipping into the same currently popular slow syncopated flow that everyone from Gunplay to Ab-Soul to 2 Chainz to Buddy to Jay Ant has sported in the past year.  Bone impressions and references pop up in some of the most unexpected places.  There are the high profile instances like Wayne’s sly nod at the end of “It’s Good” all the way back to Biggie’s famous “Notorious Thugs” verse, but sometimes you’ll hear a little Bone peeking out of some more unexpected corners.  It’s cool to hear such an obvious backpack-rap instrumental track that revolves primarily around an Aaliyah sample and a Bone Thugs sample.

Count Bass D – August 25, 2001

And if you’re like me and need to know where DJ U-Neek got the inspiration for this anthem of new beginnings, check the chorus of this tune.

Chapter 8 – I Just Wanna Be Your Girl (feat. Anita Baker)

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RAP JOURNEY #18 – FROM HALL & OATES TO B-LEGIT

This one’s been sittin’ on the sidelines for a while; I got tipped off on this Journey on the very day that I posted a different Rap Journey that prominently featured Main Attrakionz and UGK, so I figured it’d be a good idea to let this one sit out for a bit to not bore you all with the same artists over and over.  I couldn’t just let it slide by though, this one’s really good.

My good pal Sarah laid this one out for me (I love it when that happens), I put in no effort of my own into this whatsoever, so I gotta give credit where it’s due.  See she was working one day, and this track came on the stereo at work and she “FLIPPED OUT”, you’ll see why in a second.

Hall & Oates – Sara Smile

No, it’s not because the song title shares her own, it’s because of her love for Main Attrakionz (that you can tell I share if you follow this blog at all).

Main Attrakionz – Elevate Ya Name

Like a true lover of rap and sampling though, she didn’t let the discovery end there, she also unearthed some other really sweet tracks that use that same sample.  I’m surprised I never noticed that Main Attrakionz song and this one sharing the same sample, I’m a really big fan of the album this one’s from.  I guess I need to sharpen my focus a little better.

UGK – Feds In Town

There are some even more far out examples too, Vanilla Ice got ahold of it in ’94 and Soulja Boy rapped over a later section of that original Hall & Oates song just last year, but Sarah felt a special fondness for this one (that interestingly features Daryl Hall on the chorus), and I have to say I feel the same way.

B-Legit – Ghetto Smile

Thanks for the education, Sarah, it most definitely made me smile.

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