Tag Archives: Cee-Lo

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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GUEST POST: THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS – GURU OR TRICK DADDY?

this guest post written by Matt Hall (@mattisonherenow)

I was happy to see that the other day Rick answered the question I posed with my first post. Yes, I’ve got some other ideas in the bag, but to be totally honest, the past few weeks have had me thinking a little less about music, and a little more about one of my other favorite things: the NBA.

It’s been one of the most entertaining postseasons in recent memory, and with the OKC Thunder locking up the Western Conference on Wednesday night, all the focus in on the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.

I know this isn’t a sports blog, but when I was thinking about writing a quick post this morning, I thought it would be fun to look forward to Saturday’s big game seven through the (admittedly loose) guise of listening to some tracks from my favorite Boston and Miami MCs: Guru and Trick Daddy, respectively.

Guru – The Anthem

The late Guru is definitely best known as the MC counterpart to the legendary DJ Premier in Gang Starr, but his solo albums have some really standout tracks too, like this one, “The Anthem” from his 2001 LP Baldhead Slick & da Click, which samples one of my favorite Gang Starr tracks: “You Know My Steez” (which, if you’re interested, lifts its hook and title from GZA and Method Man’s “Shadowboxin’“).

Gang Starr – You Know My Steez

I know that because of his success with Gang Starr, Guru is often associated with New York City, but as any New England rap fan will tell you, he grew up in Boston. This year’s Celtics are one of the older, wiser, and more experienced NBA teams. They have some great players and have been one of the better teams from the East for a while now. The parallels to the latter part of Guru’s career just write themselves, but I’m not going any further down this sports nerd wormhole.

Just listen to my favorite track from Miami’s Trick Daddy, “In Da Wind”, open some windows if it’s as nice out where you are as it is here, and realize that it doesn’t matter that I just wrote and erased a whole ham-fisted paragraph comparing the Miami Heat’s big three of LeBron, D Wade, and Chris Bosh with the principle members of Trick Daddy’s group the Dunk Ryders.

Trick Daddy – In Da Wind

If you’re a basketball fan, enjoy the game. I’ll be back with some more serious posts. Or Maybe I’ll try to compare all the teams competing Euro 2012 with Wu-Tang Clan affiliates. Who knows.

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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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