Filed under: Producers
Q-Tip – ‘Gettin’ Up’
taken from The Renaissance (Universal/Motown, TBC)
OK, so I know I’m never really on top of the ‘news’, but I guess that’s because for the most part I’m rarely excited by it. So what’s-his-face is dropping a new mixtape? The hottest thing this year?! Gimme a break.
However, the recently leaked single from Q-Tip has me seriously amped for his upcoming release entitled The Renaissance. The beat’s killer and Tip can unsurprisingly still out-rhyme pretty much any rapper on the current scene: bring on November 4th. If it all sounds like this (please, please, please say it does) then we’re talking album of the year status. Although I guess in 2008 that ain’t saying a great deal…
Don’t hold your breath though. If the album drops before 2009 has already started then I’ll happily chow down on my virtual headwear.
Filed under: Miscellaneous
Phife Dawg – ‘Ben Dova’
taken from Ventilation: Da LP (Groove Attack, 2000)
Because I’m on a serious trawl through the Dilla archives after bumping Yancey Boys and it’s Friday. Hit the weekend running people.
Filed under: Producers
Damu The Fudgemunk – ‘Yes We Can (Election Mix)’ (Redefintion Records, 2008)
First off let me congratulate you America: I’m ecstatic and still recovering from the huge sigh of relief that I emitted yesterday morning. Let’s hope this really does bring about change in the future for all of us.
To celebrate, here’s a new track from FDB favourite Damu. Loads of samples thrown into a tight instrumental groove that’s had my head bopping all day. I can’t wait for a full length that my man John at Redefinition Records tells me is dropping in March. Watch out!
Filed under: Album Reviews
Illa J – ‘Sounds Like Love’ ft. Debi Nova & ‘Showtime’
taken from Yancey Boys (Delicious Vinyl, 2008)
During the outro section of ‘Sounds Like Love’, one of the tightest grooves on Illa J’s debut LP, he soothingly states that he’s, “sitting here, trying to think of what to say in space/It’s just the music, it speaks for itself.” Whether this is a canny acknowledgment of the fact that most people who choose to give Yancey Boys a whirl won’t be doing so in order to hear what he has to say anyway or simply some smoothed-out ish that just sounds kinda cool over a dusty groove remains to be seen, but you’ve gotta feel for the man’s position. Ultimately, whatever Illa’s got to say, the use of his older brother’s musical backdrops means that Yancey Boys is always going to be about the beats.
And for the most part it is, although writing off Illa’s style completely would be a little unfair because within the context of the music on offer here he feels comfortable and reasonably accomplished, neither taking away from nor particularly adding anything to any of the songs. He mostly writes about love, it’s tidily delivered, feels relatively soulful… it’s pleasant yet almost completely uninspiring. The sung content, which features quite regularly, will inevitably grate quite quickly and become a sticking point for a lot of listeners but I don’t mind it when dipping in and out of the few truly choice cuts that the album has to offer.
But seriously, who cares? What we have on our hands here is some early Dilla material that should be treasured by anyone who hasn’t simply jumped on the post-mortem bandwagon. However much I love the material that the mighty James put out over the course of his whole career, I’ll always have a serious soft spot for the work that he did on the Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia, Madd Skillz’s From Where??? and as a part of The Ummah and these are essentially off cuts of the era characterised by deft sample choices, subtly executed chops and big crunchy snares. Granted, in places they feel underdeveloped and lack the fierce, bouncy momentum that his top choice material delivers so devastatingly, but beggars can’t be choosers. The smokey brilliance of ‘Sounds Like Love’, simmering thump of ‘Showtime’ and smack you in the face snare hits of ‘Air Signs’ are worth the price of admission alone for this particular Dilla devotee.
Expect big things and you’ll be disappointed. Take this for what it is – a bunch of Dilla’s unused/rejected beats from the infancy of his career with uninspiring rhymes laid over the top – and you may find that Yancey Boys adds up to something that exceeds the sum of its parts. I can’t front: this has been in and out of rotation for me since it dropped. The music speaks for itself, don’t ya know.
Filed under: Miscellaneous
I’m gonna kick this post off by upping my street credibility by like, a gazillion: my mother texted me to let me know about Tuesday night’s BBC arts documentary that propounded to explore “the life and work of the chart topping rapper and multi-millionaire businessman Jay-Z.” Great, I thought: it’s rare that we get any decent coverage of American hip hop in the British mass media; I really like Jay-Z (duh); I’m intrigued by how his Glastonbury set was ultimately so well received and believe that there’s quite a lot to consider as a British fan of the genre about the way that we – as a nation – interact and engage with American rap.
And it’s not because I think there’s anything particularly lofty at stake here as we already know that rap is global and Jay is one of its leading figureheads, but up until last June my parents and their friends had never really spoken or inquired about the man and now they do (I approach this topic scientific-like). It may not seem it for those of you across the pond, but that seems like a pretty big deal to me because I would say that Jay-Z is the first American rapper to cross over to that extent in this country, where Jonathon Ross interviews him and pretty much everyone knows who he is. I guess Hammer may have done it back in the day, but what we’re talking about here is ‘real’ hip hop and one of its key proprietors becoming a part of the everyday collective consciousness in this country.
So this could have been good, and to be fair in places the program worked reasonably well. Some of the interview segments with Jay were enjoyable as were the clips of footage from gigs in L.A., Las Vegas and New York, but unfortunately that was about it as the remainder of the show’s content was blighted by two key factors. Firstly, presenter Alan Yentob who I’m sure is a very culturally informed man outside of hip hop knew next to squat about Jay-Z or his music and secondly, at times the focus for this documentary strayed too far away from the music and tried to get ‘in deep’ about his other interests only to expose the distance between interviewer and interviewee even further. Cringe-worthy moments included the pair wandering through an art gallery which made Jay look kind of stupid (which he clearly isn’t) and Mr. Yentob incredibly uncomfortable (which presumably he was) and Yentob commenting on Jay’s compositional process of feeding off a beat “freeing up the lyrical flow.” I’m sorry old man, but I just ain’t buying it.
I guess the problem is that the aesthetics and legacy of hip hop at a core level feel in some ways distinctly at odds with what it is to be British, or at least certainly at odds with the BBC’s version of Britishness. It’s what makes me slightly uneasy telling people that I’m into rap music in this country because certainly for the majority of the population, they don’t get it and I don’t blame them. On the surface, Jay-Z’s music is too gawdy, too brash and his persona too overtly materialistic to be taken seriously by middle Britain and that’s why what this documentary needed was somebody who could in some way bridge the gap between these two worlds and make sense of it in some way. Ultimately, by placing a stuffy, middle-aged intellectual as interviewer Jay-Z: He Came, He Saw, He Conquered only served to highlight the disparity between American rap and your average Brit and in all probability left most viewers feeling even more bemused by Jay-Z, his popularity and his role in global popular culture.
Yentob started the documentary with the statement, “If there’s one rapper you need to know about it’s him.” Alan, if you’re out there, name three other rappers that someone might need to know about in 2008. Nope? Didn’t think so. If the BBC wants to be cool and informed then that’s great, but it seems like a bit of a no-brainer that if you plan on this sort of coverage you should probably get someone involved who has a vague understanding of the subject at hand in the first place. Seriously, I’m available whenever.
Filed under: Interviews
For some reason unbeknown to me I’m yet to throw up a link to my Freddie Foxxx interview that dropped over at Jeff’s spot. Missed it? Get there immediately.
Filed under: Miscellaneous
I’m deep into The Wire season 5 after finally managing to get a hold of the whole box set. If you think I’ve got time to blog ‘proper’ then you’ve got another thing coming. Drop a comment that reveals anything and I will hunt you down, I swear.
Whilst this continues, let me refer you elsewhere:
“The game’s the game” – Marlo Stanfield