Tag Archives: Matt Hall

GUEST POST: BEHOLD, THE BAYOU MAHARAJAH

this guest post written by Matt Hall (@mattisonherenow)

I’ll never forget the first time I visited New Orleans, Louisiana. I took a redeye to Houston, and landed in NOLA the early afternoon. I was met at Louis Armstrong Airport by one of my oldest friends, who is now a proud member of the NOFD. In those days he was a recent expat to New Orleans, part of a small group of people who had loved the city, and spent a significant amount of time there pre-Katrina. At that time folks there were dead set on just being in New Orleans, and encouraging others to come experience it to help the city through its long and hard resurgence.

I spent a week or so bumming around, off the standard tourist track of overpriced hurricanes on Bourbon Street, and checking out strange dives. I met a lot of the kind of offbeat characters that drove my friend to want to live there in the first place. New Orleans is unlike any other place I’ve ever visited. It can be rundown and terrifying and opulent and transcendent in the same minute. On my first day in town I had the longest and greatest meal of my life courtesy of a chef who owned the place down the block from my friend’s house. Two hours and three blocks later a kid who was barely a teenager flashed a Colt .45 and told me to keep walking as we went around the corner to check out another bar. This was all well before midnight on a Sunday evening. I’ve been back a few times since, and no matter what, every visit is punctuated by music and food. It’s cliché, I know, but goddamn, New Orleans does those two things better than anywhere I’ve had the fortune to spend time.

Now, traditional New Orleans jazz is obviously one of the most significant and influential styles of American music, and bounce continues to have a profound weight on rap even now, but on that first trip I was introduced to a style of soul music that exists in New Orleans that I was more or less unaware of before then. My favorite artist in that realm is James Booker. If you can imagine if Jimi Hendrix played the piano instead of the guitar, and could sing as well as James Brown, you would have James Booker.

Booker was a classically trained virtuoso, and as a young child he was as comfortable playing jazz standards as he was with Chopin and Bach. He had some fairly successful hits in the 60s, played in Jerry Garcia’s band and toured Europe pretty extensively during the 70s, and eventually came to settle back down in New Orleans as the house pianist at the Maple Leaf Bar in the Carrolton neighborhood. Throughout the decades, James was an addict. He abused alcohol, cocaine, and heroin to an extent that really fucked with his ability to preform with any consistent ability. Fortunately, some of his greatest shows at the Maple Leaf during the late 70s and early 80s were recorded, and when that dude was on he was fucking on.

He has some really solid studio recordings, and wrote some great songs, but to me, his greatest accomplishments are the two records that were recorded live at the Maple Leaf, Spiders on the Keys and The Resurrection of the Bayou Maharajah. They both feature a lot of standards, a lot of crowd noise, and some of the most honest and soulful singing and piano playing I’ve ever heard. The Resurrection of the Bayou Maharajah is genuinely one of the most awe-inspiring live recordings of any musician I’ve ever heard. It’s on a Band of Gypsies level of reverence for me. I’m only going to link one song on this post. The first track from that album is a medley of a handful of songs, including a couple of standards you’re no doubt familiar with. Even so, I can promise you’ve never heard them like this. I don’t know the specifics of this recording, but Booker is skating a fine line between brilliance and going totally off the rails. Fortunately, the combination of an amazing performance, a shit load of drugs, and receptive audience (who are very clearly heard clapping, singing, and yelling along throughout) is perfect on this one. Just sit back, and experience it. And yes, the whole album is this good.

James Booker – Medley: Slow Down/Bony Maronie/Knock on Wood/Grapevine/Classified

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GUEST POST: INFINITE SKILLS CREATE MIRACLES

this guest post written by Matt Hall (@mattisonherenow)

Those of you that know me probably know that I’m about to turn thirty. Thinking about that upcoming milestone has led me down more than a couple of retrospective paths, which more often than not end up focusing on the music that’s been important during different stages of my life. To be honest, I don’t remember the first time I drove a car, and no offense to the girl in question, but my first kiss is a total blur, but I can vividly remember the first punk rock show I saw, the first time I heard Illmatic, and the first time I landed a kickflip like it was yesterday.

Skateboarding hasn’t always been as super prevalent with both established and imminent young rappers as it has been in the past few years, but rap has certainly been integrated into skate culture for over 2 decades. I don’t know if you hung out with skateboard dudes at all when you were younger, but I was pretty into that whole scene, and it’s really the reason that I ever got into rap music. I got into punk rock pretty young, but it was really skate videos and magazines that made me more interested stuff like Gang Starr (who I wrote about in my previous post),

Gang Starr – Above the Clouds (feat. Inspectah Deck) [from Steve Olson in Fulfill the Dream]

early Wu-Tang solo cuts,

Method Man/Ghostface Freestyle [from Harold Hunter in Zoo York’s Mixtape no. 1]

and eventually even earlier videos with dudes like Fu-Schnickens.

Fu-Schnickens – La Schmoove [from Sean Sheffey in Plan B Questionable]

Anyway, my favorite skate video of all time is from a company called Girl. The video is Mouse. If you’re interested, you can watch it in its entirety here. I promise it’s worth it. [editor’s note: he’s right]

Mouse was directed by Spike Jonze back before anybody really knew who he was, and the soundtrack is amazing. As far as I know, it’s the only skate video ever that has a (mostly) soul/R&B soundtrack instead of punk rock and/or hip hop. I can remember going to the record store at the mall (that used to exist!) to order a Cymande CD when I was 14 because of this video.

Among skateboarders, it’s mostly remembered because it helped to usher in a new era of style-heavy technical skating, but I really like it because it made me interested in music that was totally unfamiliar to me at the time. Even if you don’t feel like watching the whole thing, at least check out the soundtrack, it’s a pretty solid collection top to bottom, and every track on it still makes me more than a little nostalgic.

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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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GUEST POST: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SINGLE WORD IN A RAP SONG EVER?

this guest post written by Matt Hall (@mattisonherenow)

First of all, I’d like to tip my hat to my good friend Rick/DJ REDLite for not only starting this blog (which is consistently every bit as real and honest as it is entertaining), but also believing that my silly-ass thoughts are worth consideration. My late night nonsensical emails to Rick about songs I’ve been thinking about have long predated this blog. I guess I’ve sent him so many YouTube links and asked him so many absurd questions that he had no choice but to ask me to write another late night note for all of you to read.

One of the most recent emails I sent him was to ask the question, “What is your favorite single word in any rap song ever?” I feel like this is a topic that is pretty solid for my first post here.

I can honestly remember the first time I ever heard “Verbal Intercourse” from Raekwon the Chef’s first solo record Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. I think it was the first Wu-Tang album I heard after Enter the 36 Chambers. Nas’s verse was the first time anyone from outside the Wu-Tang camp had rapped on one of their tracks, and in that era (almost 20 years ago!) that really meant something. Raekwon talks a little bit about recording that verse and his choice of bringing in Nas to feature on the track here.

Nas has the first verse, and he opens up with some of the best lines of his career, in my opinion, and when he gets the line

“Smoke a gold leaf I hold heat nonchalantly”

the way he delivers the word: “nonchalantly”; gets me every time. It’s got more syllables than anything else in the verse, and the way he says it, totally cool and unconcerned, is the very definition of the word itself. To me it is the gold standard in flow.

Raekwon – Verbal Intercourse (feat. Nas & Ghostface Killah)

I really love everything about the song though, Raekwon and Ghostface have excellent verses as well, and the RZA’s production was at its all-time peak in this era. The way he loops the, “but WHAT,” from The Emotions song “If You Think It You May As Well Do It,” is brilliant.

Interestingly enough, Nas didn’t write that verse specifically for the Raekwon track. It actually first showed up on a song called “Déjà Vu” on a demo recorded for his second album It Was Written.  Some rap fans at the time felt like that album was kind of a let down after the undisputed classic that is Illmatic, but I think it’s aged well. I’m not sure why “Déjà Vu” got left off. There’s
speculation that the label wanted Nas to go in a more radio-friendly direction, and that song definitely has a grittier feel. Either way, it’s a classic verse, and it features my favorite single word in any rap song ever.

Nas – Déjà Vu

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