Monthly Archives: November 2008

Music

Luda gets curatorial on Theater of the Mind

The New York Times ran an interesting article a couple of days ago assessing Ludacris’ decision to enlist DJ Premier for his newest album, Theater of the Mind.  Check out the opening couple of paragraphs:

In a video on the YouTube channel of Ludacris’s label, Disturbing tha Peace, he watches as DJ Premier, the primary architect of 1990s East Coast rap formalism, picks out a line from an old Ludacris song, “Stand Up,” and cues up his turntable. Casually the D.J. begins cutting the vocals immaculately into smaller and smaller bits while Ludacris reclines in a chair, pleased with the view.

So distant is the moment when artful D.J.ing was an essential part of hip-hop culture that watching DJ Premier is a little like regarding an exhibit at a folk-art museum — a hip-hop Colonial Williamsburg.

Consider Ludacris an enthusiastic re-enactor, then, and also the rare Southern rapper who considers working with DJ Premier — or time traveling, as it were — a feather in his cap. Accordingly, the smile on his face Tuesday night as he brought Premier onstage at the Highline Ballroom was wide and irrepressibly sincere. Premier produced “MVP,” a no-frills track from Ludacris’s sixth album, “Theater of the Mind” (D.T.P./Def Jam), for which this show was a release party.

Below is the video referred to in the first line:

I haven’t had a chance to listen to the whole album, and to be honest, I’ve never been the biggest Luda fan, but if he’s showin’ love to cats like Primo and LL Cool J then I’m down fo’ sho’.  

Bonus!

Mosey on over to From Da Bricks to hear two tracks from Theater: “MVP” and “I Do It For Hip-Hop” feat. Jay-Z and Nas.  

I’ve linked to both of them below, but Bricks is definitely a blog worth reading so I recommend you have a look.

Ludacris – MVP (Theater of the Mind, 2008)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ludacris – I Do It For Hip-Hop feat. Jay-Z and Nas (Theater of the Mind, 2008)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Music

New Ugly Duckling album is so-so

Ugly Duckling is a group that we here at 4080 have covered before.  In fact, I even went so far as to say this:

Ugly Duckling is one of the the dopest hip hop groups around. They definitely don’t get anywhere near enough credit, often being disregarded as “silly”. As three dudes from Long Beach who definitely don’t take themselves too seriously, I think they’re exactly what hip hop needs to appeal to a wider audience.

With all of that still being said, I must say with some trepdiation that the new UD album Audacity is not nearly as good as I hoped it would be.

For the most part, UD struggles to find good balance between the stellar production of Young Einstein and the lyrical styles of the emcees Andy Cat and Dizzy.  In previous albums, no matter how weird a concept they get into (Look up the whole Taste The Secret album), they still pull it off.

Not in this case.

They struggle and often fail in their quest to find this perfect balance.  However, it’s not all bad.  The track Falling Again is really reminiscent of their earlier days, and I won’t Let it Die is pretty good too.  I think without those two tracks, the album would be a flop.  Einstein Do It is a traditional scratch demonstration by Young Einstein so there’s definitely some old-school credit to it.  But it’s still not overly original.  Worse still, It Never Mattered is a cluttered track where the flow just never seems to find its balance.

But thats just my opinion, check out some samples of the tracks here and it may change your mind.

Music

100% Pure Poison: St. Germain, Pete Rock & J Dilla

In the early 1970s, nine American servicemen stationed in Germany formed a soul band.  They called themselves 100% Pure Poison (it was the seventies, after all). After sneaking in to a music industry conference and snagging a deal with British EMI, they released their first and only album, Coming Right At You.  According to All Music Guide, the album features vocal interplay “recalling the Temptations” and “a jazzy instrumental sophistication equal to the Blackbyrds.”  

While I can’t vouch for the whole thing, one track on Coming Right At You has found its way into the catalogue of three of my favourite artists – French acid-jazz producer St. Germain and  hip-hop legends and beat-makers extraordinaire Pete Rock and J Dilla.  All three have sampled the opening few bars of “Windy C,” the album’s sixth track, to great effect.  Lasting only about 10 seconds (from 0:11 to 0:21), the four bar sequence has a mellow, jazzy, slightly-uptempo groove to it that seems perfect for sampling.  Have a listen below (Youtube was the best I could do):

It’s dope, right?  Unfortunately, the opening bars are littered with the kind of clutter that drives beat makers absolutely nuts – ambient traffic sounds at the start of the loop and vocals at the end of it.  One way to get around this without resorting to intense chopping is to filter the sample like crazy.  In other words, instead of identifying, extracting and then reassembling the usable bits of the loop (a time-consuming process), you simply apply a ludicrous number of filters and effects, thereby highlighting the general theme of the sample while obliterating any nuance or variation (i.e. the extraneous noise).

This is apparently how Pete Rock approached the sample, which he used as the backbone for his beat “Get Involved” off the Petestrumentals record.  The first thing you’ll notice is the stark difference in audio quality between the Pete Rock beat and the original, largely a result of the heavy filtration that gives the beat its distinct ‘wah wah‘ sound.  Although present in “Windy C,” Pete Rock’s knob-fiddling has really drawn it out in the beat.

However, that’s not to say he hasn’t done any chopping.  In the opening eight bars or so, you can clearly hear the traffic noise at the beginning of the loop.  Why he left it in is beyond me, but I suppose it adds that element of subtle fluctuation which prevents a beat from sounding too monotonous.  Also, listen for the vocal sample starting at 4:19 – you’ll know why in a minute.  Anyways, check it out:

Pete Rock – Get Involved (Petestrumentals, 2005) 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

St. Germain’s take on “Windy C” is similar.  He’s clearly run the sample through some filters, although it’s not as obvious as on “Get Involved.”  Perhaps the biggest difference is that whereas Pete Rock uses the sample as the focus of his beat, adding the occasional scratch here and there, St. Germain relegates it to the background of “Sure Thing”.  Emphasized at the beginning of the track to set the mood, the loop is gradually submerged beneath a wave of other samples – the melancholic blues lament (‘you’re the pretty, pretty, pretty’ (?)) also used by Pete Rock (see above), and the increasingly frenetic guitar solo.  

Although to be fair, this seems to be how most house music is constructed, so I suppose I shouldn’t read too deeply into it.  Get your listen on below:

Finally, the Dilla version, a track called “Lucy” from his posthumously-released Jay Love Japan album.  One of the reasons dude was such a genius is because he did what other people never even considered doing.  In this instance, instead of avoiding the vocals at the end of the loop, Dilla incorporated them into his beat.  He also went the hard route and chopped it up like crazy, replacing segments of the loop with other samples from later on in the original song.  To hear what I mean, listen to the 0:27 mark for the drum roll and the vocal sample at the end of the intro loop, and starting at about 1:17 listen for the short flute stabs and the band members talking.  Shit is absolutely nuts!  

J Dilla – Lucy feat. Bo Bo Lamb (Jay Love Japan, 2007)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Album cover image yanked from: http://991.com/newgallery//100-Pure-Poison-Coming-Right-At-Y-328421.jpg

Quick

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade gets Rick Rolled

Earlier today, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was Rick Rolled – as in Rick Astley himself jumped out of a float and started singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.”  Greatest. Parade. Ever.

Music

Classic beats reborn: DUB MD presents “Hip Hop Renatus”

Hip Hop Renatus is the latest mixtape burnin’ up the interweb.  Presented by DUB MD – admittedly a cat I’ve never heard of – Renatus features a host of up-and-coming wordsmiths spitting hot 16s over “new, rare, classic and unreleased” beats by hip-hop’s finest producers: Dilla, Primo, Madlib, Pete Rock, Large Pro, 9th Wonder and more.

Apparently, ‘renatus’ means rebirth in Latin.  And on this album, DUB MD and his guests do just that by providing new life to some absolutely bananas beats.

In DUB MD’s own words, the project is “thirty four tracks [of] raw, authentic, no [apologies] Hip Hop music.”

Check out some of the tracks below, then head over to 2dopeboyz to download it for yourself.

Dominique Larue – Role Play (Produced by 9th Wonder)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Cy Young aka Cyrano – OK Corral (Produced by Madlib)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Arsun F!st – I’m In Here (Produced by Marco Polo)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Featured

The right-wing media gets nasty

Earlier this morning, Fox News announced that Alan Colmes (pictured above) will leave the network’s popular Hannity & Colmes debate program at the end of the year.  Apparently, after twelve years of ‘sparring’ with conservative counterpart Sean Hannity, Colmes is moving on “to develop new and challenging ways to contribute to the growth of the network.”  Whatever that means.

If you’ve ever seen Hannity & Colmes, you know that despite its billing as a “debate talk show,” the program offers neither enlightening discussion nor insightful commentary.  Colmes, ostensibly the duo’s liberal half, has been widely criticized for his submissiveness to both Hannity and the show’s overwhelmingly right-wing roster of guests.  Al Franken calls the show Hannity and Colmes, and refers to the “liberal on-air punching bag” as Hannity’s “goofy sidekick.”  Journalist Bob Garfield once asked Colmes if he was a “human straw man,” and John Stewart calls the show Hannity & Whatever.  To get a taste of why this criticism is well deserved, check out this particularly embarassing episode following the Biden-Palin debate (Colmes’s portion begins at around the 2:00 mark):

Clearly, Colmes’s departure will not jeopardize the journalistic integrity or intellectual excellence of Hannity & Colmes and Fox News, largely because neither has any.  What it will do, however, is give Hannity even more air-time to spout his conservative rhetoric.  It’s true: the New York Times, citing “two people close to the network,” reported that Hannity will likely become the sole host of the show following Colmes’s departure.

In addition to being absolutely terrifying in its own right, the decision to provide Hannity with his own sixty-minute time-slot in prime-time is indicative of a growing trend among right-wing media outlets.  With the Democrats firmly in control of both the legislative and executive wings of government, conservative television and radio stations are preparing a renewed assault on their perceived enemies – the ‘anti-Americans’ Palin alluded to on the campaign trail.  Indeed, no longer encumbered by the tedious task of defending Bush, right-wing firebrands like Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter are getting ready to spend the next four years mercilessly castigating the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressives of all stripes, and anyone else who happens to take the wrong position on any number of issues.  

The initial forays have already begun.   Shortly after November 4, Hannity explained that he was afraid that Obama “is the guy that has these radical associations 20 years ago” and that the President-elect will reveal himself to be “hard, hard left.”  Rush Limbaugh took it a step further, calling the current economic crisis an “Obama recession:”

“The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen.  Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression.”

CNN recently aired a segment on this topic, with further examples of how right-wing commentators are trying to paint Obama as a radical leftist:

And this is just a taste of what’s to come.  Truly, if you thought that the past eight years were bad, get ready for a period of intense, vitriolic bile from across the conservative airwaves.  It will dwarf even the worst attacks of the Clinton years, and will make the mainstream media’s tepid criticism of Bush (especially leading up to the Iraq War) seem positively benign.  Who knows – it may even make us yearn for the days when Hannity and Colmes ‘debated the issues’ and ‘interviewed’ guests.

Classic Breaks

Classic Breaks: Seven Minutes of Funk

If you listen to hip-hop, you know “Seven Minutes of Funk” by Tyrone Thomas and the Whole Darn Family.  Even if you can’t identify it by name, or have any idea who Tyrone Thomas or his apparently massive family are, the first twenty second of this track have been indelibly etched into your subconscious. Have a listen:

A quick search of the sample database at The Breaks shows that “Seven Minutes” has been sampled for thirteen songs.  I suspect, however, that that list is incomplete given how damn funky and perfectly sample-able the song is.  Because – and let’s be honest – as soon as you hit ‘play’ your head was nodding.  It took me three hours to write this post because I start dancing every time I hear Woody Hughes’s (or Paris Ford’s, depending on who you read) “emphatic bass playing” and Tyrone Thomas’s “steady drumming.”* 

According to allmusic, “Seven Minutes” is from The Whole Darn Family’s 1976 release Has Arrived.  More information about the band is surprisingly difficult to find.  Fortunately, My Bass Rocks has a great post on “Seven Minutes” which includes some background info on Thomas and his fam.  The band was apparently formed in 1974, and the track was written after a gig in North Carolina.    

Like a lot of ’70s music, “Seven Minutes” gained far more exposure as a hip-hop sample than it ever did in its original incarnation.  The song’s opening seconds have been looped to great effect by a diverse group of emcees, largely because its infectious bass line is compatible with a seemingly endless variety of hip-hop subgenres, from g-funk to East Coast boom-bap to old school party music.  

Although sparse, the break is compelling enough to be used alone.  Nor does it need to be extensively chopped.  In fact, producers nearly always keep it intact, preferring to harness its already palpable groove than to risk mutating it into something far less interesting.

Below are four examples of the sample in action.  My favourite is EPMD’s “It’s My Thing.”  It seems to capture the fun, get-down-on-it spirit of the original.  Lines like “Rhymes fresher than fresh, never heard me fess/scored 110 on my emcee test, ” especially when delivered in the smooth cadence of an emcee like Parrish Smith, accompany the sample perfectly.  Grandmaster Flash’s “Superrappin'” is also interesting to consider because it uses a less-recognizable sample from the middle of “Seven Minutes.”  Anyways, check ’em out:

Jay-Z – Ain’t No N**** ft. Foxy Brown (Reasonable Doubt, 1996)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

EPMD – It’s My Thing (Strictly Business, 1988)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Dru Down – Pimp of the Year (Dru Down, 1993)

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – Superrappin’ (?, 1979?)

* Clearly not my own words.  My description of the track would include more phrases like “sexy-ass bass line” and “dope-tastic drums”.

Cool Music

Playing for Change: Peace Through Music

I can’t tell you how much I love the internet.  It’s the eternal time-waster, but it also lets me get exposed to things I never would have seen otherwise.  Playing for Change is just one such example.

This movie (brought to me courtesy of Metafilter) is fascinating.  The filmmaker went to a variety of different countries all over the world, and had different musicians sing/play along to the song Stand By Me.  He then layered the tracks together and created a pretty amazing song.  Check it out below.

Underreported News

Don’t panic, the Roots are still alive

I didn’t even know about this until yesterday, but Pitchfork is reporting that the Roots were involved in a bus accident on their tour in Europe.  Their tour bus collided with another car and thankfully everyone is okay.  ?uestlove blogged about it and said ““In reality the crash was all of about 7 seconds….but to do a 360 on the highway and end up ramped up (the van that crashed into ours was UNDER our double decker bus) in the air….is….well… a frigging miracle.””

You can see a picture of the bus at the top of this post.  How crazy is that?  It looks like a vicious crash, so I’m happy everyone is alive and well.

Pitchfork (among a ton of other sources) is also talking about the rumor that the Roots may be giving up the touring life.  The newest story is that they’ll become the house band on Late Night when Jimmy Fallon takes over for Conan.  I think that’ll be the saddest day, but I do understand that no one can keep up touring forever (unless you’re the Rolling Stones, of course).

So here’s hoping for a speedy recovery, and here’s also hoping that this Jimmy Fallon business is just a rumor.  I don’t think I could take the Roots seriously anymore knowing they were backing up that guy.

Music

African Swim – Free hip hop from the Cartoon Network (kind of)

[adult swim] is a pretty crazy concept.  It started off as the late night Cartoon Network and has now branched off to be this international force.  Basically, it’s now it’s own network.  They release albums, participate in crazy advertising campaigns, run an internet radio station, have a podcast.  The [adult swim] network has an agreement with Stones Throw Records, one of the more progressive labels out there.
Their newest album is a compilation of South African hip hop and is definitely worth checking out.
You can listen to the whole album below.  And you can download the whole album for free.