Tag Archives: 2Pac

ROUND 2 AT PARK BLVD RECORDS

My first visit to Park Blvd. Records was all over the genre map; Atlanta bass, Bay Area gospel, yogic chant.  On that first sojourn I made it a point put my hands and eyes on every record in the store to get the fullest picture of their offerings and purchased something from almost every bin.  This time I was with a friend who didn’t have hours to waste indulge “diggin’ in the crates” (as the kids don’t say anymore), so I confined myself to the rap bargain bin and came out maybe even better off than the first time.

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Gigolo Tony – Ice Cold (LP)

JT the Bigga Figga – The Mack Hand

Kurupt – Behind the Walls (feat. Nate Dogg)

Webbie – Savage Life (LP)

Mac Dre – It’s Rainin’ Game

2Pac – Who Do You Believe In?

Janet Jackson – All For You

The Click – Let’s Side (EP)

Jermaine Dupri – Money Ain’t A Thang (feat. Jay-Z)

T&A – Definitely Dope

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I’M TRYING TO TURN SOME HEADS

My favorite logical fallacy is the fallacy fallacy – which assumes the conclusion of an argument is false because the arguments used to support it are logically flawed, when in actuality a conclusion can be completely true even if all of the evidence and arguments that are given as support are wrong.  Allow me to illustrate with and ESG song.

ESG – Don’t Touch My Car

The argument goes like this:

Don’t Touch My Car” combines “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” and “The Message” in an attempt to make a good song.

Combining “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” and “The Message” is a terrible idea.

Therefore, “Don’t Touch My Car” is not a good song.

NOT TRUE!  Even though those songs have no business getting twisted up together like they do in this track, the result is somehow undeniably great.  Cedric raps his ass off on that grimy Daz ripoff beat, evoking both Scarface and Pimp C and even anticipating Boosie a little bit but still sounding perfectly like himself doing what ESG does best – keeping your attention through every verse with dexterous wordplay and enthralling delivery.  There’s even a weird Queen reference thrown into the mix midway through verse 2, another seemingly poor idea executed perfectly to dispel any lingering doubt that a piece of art could be more than the sum of its parts.  It’s a good thing no rapper will ever run a song concept by me before executing it because I would have scrapped “Don’t Touch My Car” before they even plugged in the drum machine.

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RAP JOURNEY #21 – FROM GUCCI MANE TO CURTIS MAYFIELD

If you haven’t picked up Gucci Mane‘s newest tape, “Trap God”, you probably should.  You can get it free from basically anywhere on the internet legitimately for free, or you can pay $9.99 on iTunes, I guess it just depends on how generous you’re feeling?  Or how important it is for you to own the one bonus track on the iTunes version?  I’m not quite sure what the strategy is there.  But putting all that aside, it really is a nice listen.  I feel like I actually hear some moments where Gucci is taking a little influence from Waka Flocka on his hooks, and Flocka himself appears several times on the tape prominently sporting the flow I mentioned back in this post.  The production is really interesting too, there’s considerably less ruckus and harshness in the tones used across the board than what I’ve grown accustomed to hearing from Gucci, and the tape as a whole comes off sounding more like a stream of fluid than a blast of hot sand, which some of his recent efforts have felt like to me (not necessarily in a bad way).

One song in particular caught my attention for purposes of this blog though since it’s got a pretty rich history that’s really worth tracing.  I definitely learned a few things following it.

Gucci Mane – That’s That (feat. Kevin McCall)

The first time I ever heard Jay Rock, another rapper who, like Gucci, isn’t usually found rapping over upbeat major key soul samples, it was on this song that should sound strikingly familiar after hearing “That’s That“.

Jay Rock – All My Life (feat. Lil’ Wayne & Will.I.Am)

While tracing the source of both of these surprising pairings, I came across this much older track from 2Pac‘s one-album group Thug Life that actually uses the same song that “That’s That” and “All My Life” use, but a different section and to a much different effect.

Thug Life – Stay True

So where did it all start?  I don’t think many sample-hunters will be shocked to find that this song springs from the same artist that so many other upbeat hip-hop samples have come from over the decades.

Curtis Mayfield – Just Want To Be With You

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CONSTANTLY READING EVERYTHING ABOUT MORPHOLOGY, C.R.E.A.M.!

Raise your hand if any of these mean anything to you: N.W.A., U.G.K., KRS-One,  D.I.T.C.,  TLC, Y.M.C.M.B., MondreM.A.N., E.P.M.D., O.F.W.G.K.T.A., Big K.R.I.T., M.J.G., RZA, GZA, M.O.P.?  If not, you better pay more attention when you read this blog.

When it comes to abbreviations for shit, rap’s got everybody beat.  I’ve always taken this phenomenon in hip-hop for granted, it never crossed my mind to examine it closely until I somehow stumbled across this explanation of where the word “O.K.” comes from.  If you think you know, you might be surprised, because apparently there are a lot of incorrect stories out there involving everything from ex-presidents to French seaport prostitutes, but the real explanation, though less colorful, actually makes a lot more sense.

The etymology of OK was masterfully explained by the distinguished Columbia University professor Allen Walker Read in a series of articles in the journal American Speech in 1963 and 1964. The letters, not to keep you guessing, stand for “oll korrect.” They’re the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s. Read buttressed his arguments with hundreds of citations from newspapers and other documents of the period. As far as I know his work has never been successfully challenged.

The abbreviation fad began in Boston in the summer of 1838 and spread to New York and New Orleans in 1839. The Boston newspapers began referring satirically to the local swells as OFM, “our first men,” and used expressions like NG, “no go,” GT, “gone to Texas,” and SP, “small potatoes.”

Many of the abbreviated expressions were exaggerated misspellings, a stock in trade of the humorists of the day. One predecessor of OK was OW, “oll wright,” and there was also KY, “know yuse,” KG, “know go,” and NS, “nuff said.”

This explanation brings up another interesting point too: intentional misspellings.  Just like in rap, sometimes words are misspelled in a way that reflects how they’re actually pronounced in that given time period and region; “nuff” instead of “enough”, “yuse” instead of “use”, “oll” instead of “all”.  Other times, a certain misspelling is chosen that actually confuses the meaning of the expression instead of clarifying its pronunciation such as “know” instead of “no”, “wright” instead of “right”, or “korrect” instead of “correct”.  This is also a very common device used in rap music.  Have you ever listened to Z-Ro before?  How about Suga Free or OutKast or Salt-n-Pepa?  Or Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire?  The list could go on indefinitely.  It’s interesting that in the 1830s version, they combined the two devices into one, first misspelling the words and then abbreviating them, while in rap it tends to be more one or the other, but both devices are still at work in both arenas, and rap has another interesting practice of taking existing words and acronym-izing them after the fact.  2Pac famously put the word “nigga” in a positive light in “Never Ignorant, Gettin’ Goals Accomplished“, while K.R.I.T. took on the negative form of that word to draw attention to the traps that he feels too many of his race fall into: becoming “another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism“.  Cee-Lo told us in ’94 about how “the GoodDie Mostly Over Bullshit“.  Killah Priest puts forth a pretty surprising evaluation of the Good Book given his chosen moniker in “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth“.  Once again, the list goes on.

But why would anybody want to do this?  Superficially speaking, it seems to create a barrier between writer and reader.  It takes words that everyone is familiar with and obscures them with confusing mangling and mutilation.  But where language purists see verbal disfigurement, rappers and writers see verbal hot-rodding.  Why does a car need to go 160 miles per hour, or have doors that open in every possible way except the normal way, or have 26” rims and a wood grain steering wheel?  Because it’s cool.  And I don’t mean “cool” in a diminutive way at all, in this case “cool” plays a very important social and cultural role that should not be scoffed at or underestimated.

In the case of the custom car world, any or all the modifications mentioned above could easily get in the way of the normal functioning of a car in the same way that all the transformations words go through in the hands of rappers might get in the way of someone immediately understanding what is being said.  The same thing can be said for rappers’ extensive use of slang.  But for people who use these linguistic devices, part of the message being conveyed goes way beyond the literal meanings of the words being used.  Part of their reason for rapping is to convey a certain access to a set of knowledge only available to a select group of people.  If you can’t decipher the message that’s being put out there, then it probably wasn’t for you in the first place.  To understand what is being said, you have to either be born (or at least raised) in the culture that gives rise to these word modifications, or study really hard and learn it as a second language of sorts.  Some might argue that this is an unfair and exclusionary practice that makes people feel left out, and under certain circumstances I might be inclined to object to these practices, but in this case I don’t, because I feel it’s aimed in the right direction.  This is not a case of powerful people of the world imposing an obscure coded language onto a lower class to marginalize those who can’t gain access to the cipher, it’s a tool used by people in positions of societal weakness to have something of their own that they can relate to each other about and gain some shred of power back from those who have more of a say over how their lives go than they’d like.  They might get lower wages, get put in jail more often, have more difficulty voting, and not get proper justice for crimes committed against them, but they can at least make you feel really “uncool” when you hear “bickin’ back, bein’ bool” or “MOB Piru Damu” for the first time and have no idea what they’re talking about.

Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.

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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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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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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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THEY HEART AND SOUL IS DIVIDED

I didn’t come back to California with many souvenirs, but I can never resist picking up a few bargain bin records when I come across them.  I snagged up a copy of Peter Tosh‘s Legalize It that turned out to be too warped to play except for the inner bands of each side (that one was free), and the other one was this, which I would have bought based on the cover alone, even if I had no idea who Minnie Ripperton was.

Minnie Ripperton – Inside My Love

I had some time to just sit back and listen to this record the other day and I was really feelin’ it, and then that break a little after the 3:00 mark came in and I got that aural double-take brain zap that I’m all too familiar with at this point.  This one was especially interesting because I could immediately think of two places where that almost identical sample were used, but I never put together that both of those songs came from the same place until I heard the original.

Busta Rhymes – You Can’t Hold the Torch (feat. Q-Tip)

Electric Wire Hustle – Perception

God I just want to be that bassline in “Perception”, I could just listen to that forever.  I’ve listened to both of these songs so many times, and yes, that Electric Wire Hustle track has the sample playing backwards, but it still seems super obvious now that I’ve heard where they came from.  I also never guessed that the super high-pitched sound that sustains almost all the way through both of these songs is actually Minnie Ripperton’s vocal, she can definitely hit them high notes.

A little deeper digging uncovered a wealth of songs that share this same inspiration as well.  Everybody from Freddie Gibbs to Aaliyah to A Tribe Called Quest to Pharcyde to Killah Priest to 2Pac to Slum Village has used this same little snippet.  Kind of amazing.  I had no idea I was picking up such a significant piece of rap history when I dropped that $0.99 at the Goodwill in Sausalito.  Crazy.

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LET THE BEAT BUILD #2 – Z-RO

That first Let The Beat Build installment was pretty lighthearted, this next one is not.

I think the first time I ever heard a pure, genuine sad rap song was Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts“, and it really blew me away.  It was when I was first getting into rap and I was still under the impression that rappers were 100% hard all the time and never showed any weakness or emotion, and then the first time I listened to Ready to Die all the way through I was amazed to hear the same dude that just rapped “Gimme the Loot” talk about how he’s not sure if his mother would cry over his own death.  Then Jay-Z followed suit, ending his first album with “Regrets“, which isn’t quite as extreme as Biggie’s album-ender, but definitely lets you in on some of the downsides of the lifestyle he depicts on the rest of that album.

But those dudes just threw in a somber one every now and then, there’s a dude I’ve spent a lot of time listening to that seems to be pretty much constantly in that zone, and that’s Z-Ro.  He’s got so many songs about being sad, it’s out of control.  In this song he professes that “ain’t a day go by I don’t wish I didn’t have to miss my momma”, which isn’t just super sad taken at face value, it’s also presented in the most negative way possible: with ain’t/don’t/didn’t all in a row.  Heavy.

But all these songs I’ve mentioned so far don’t have an instrumental that supports and intensifies that heavy, sad feeling as much as this one does, which I think makes it the saddest Z-Ro song to date, which is fuckin saying something.  I really encourage you to listen to every word of this song, it’s really amazingly written, in my opinion.

Z-Ro – Blast Myself

Whew.  I wish I could do somethin to help that dude out, for real.  I worry about him sometimes.

I want to show you the song that Z-Ro is quoting for the hook in that song, but it’s kind of a heavy one too so I almost don’t want to.  But I decided that it’d be cool as long as I post the version with the happier-sounding beat, cuz it really is an awesome song, and very relevant to that Z-Ro track.

2Pac – I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto

Thanks for going there with me, y’all.  Life ain’t all fun and games, you know?

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AND I STILL SMILE NIGGA

Whoa, this video is really far out.

Scarface – Smile (feat. 2Pac & Johnny P)

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