FROM DA BRICKS


Jay-Z @ Glastonbury
June 29, 2008, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

Peep some of the highlights on YouTube.

I don’t know how much of the furore surrounding Jay-Z’s placement as Saturday headliner at Glastonbury Festival has made it across the pond, but over in the UK it’s been impossible to get away from the controversy of an American rap artist occupying a spot that has been traditionally reserved for guitar-led anthemic rock. For whatever reason, people seem to have ignored the fact that despite two years of mudbaths and a growing proliferation of cheaper festivals avaliable to British punters, the struggle to sell all avaliable tickets for Britain’s most high profile festival has fallen firmly on Sean Carter’s shoulders. Jigga’s response? One of the most electrifying and original performances in the history of the festival.

Sadly, I wasn’t in attendance (if I had been, this post would be almost completely incomprehensible), but even from the comfort of my own living room in front of a 20″ screen it was clear that Jay-Z’s set was nothing short of extraordinary. Opening with a cover of Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’ was a stroke of genius, sending a veritable eff you to Noel Gallagher who in the run up to the festival has been particularly outspoken about his opposition to Jigga as headline act, a diss served up with a knowing smile and a sense of inimitable grace.

From this sarcastic and intelligent opening it was a non-stop rollercoaster through the more commercial hits, with beautifully delivered acapellas and numerous other elements thrown into the mix to keep the crowd hyped. The backing band’s renditions of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ and the Jackson 5’s ‘ABC’ sample flip provided exciting platforms for Jay to rip through a couple of sixteens, and these weren’t the only references to music outside of the hip hop realm, with Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’ also cropping up during the set. It was really the pace of the performance that was most striking, with swift transitions and these multiple musical references maintaining an almost unstoppable momentum that had even the crustiest hippies waving their hands in the air and hollering like they were at a dingy basement somewhere in Brooklyn circa 1994. White people with dreadlocks can bounce and grind with the best of them, don’t ya know…

Top all this off with dazzling visuals and perfectly judged interactions with the crowd and it’s fair to say that this was a defining moment in the festival’s history. What really landed the sucker punch was that apart from Memphis Bleek acting as hypeman, this was Jay-Z and Jay-Z alone: the temptation to throw in a duet with Beyonce to ensure the crowd stayed happy was categorically eschewed and allowed Jigga to shine firmly on his own merit.

Thought that a group of muddy, largely white Brits wouldn’t appreciate the work of arguably the greatest rapper alive? You couldn’t have been more wrong: hip hop music has officially just been taken to another level. Glastonbury Festival in the house, y’all!

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Inbox Treats
June 26, 2008, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

I’m relatively pushed for time this evening, so I’m falling back on the classic blogger’s quick fix by throwing up a couple of choice treats that landed in my inbox this week. I gotta say that for the most part I’m not really on top of things that people send me by e-mail, all too often feeling liking I’m being used for easy promotion by whoever is apparently ‘hot’ at the moment coupled with a general acceptance on my part that FDB is never going to be that go-to spot for up to date news and releases. However, the following is more than worthy of your attention and it means I feel like I’ve fulfilled one of my weekly posts without too much effort. Bonus!

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Smeko – Arsenal For The Streets Vol. II

Hailing from France, DJ Smeko’s Arsenal For The Streets Vol. II is proof positive that when it comes to turntablism the boys from the continent continue to be on top of their game. A tightly constructed 50 minute mix, this is worthy of your attention for two key reasons: tight skills and juicy blends. Featuring beats and acapellas from some of the ’90s most respected underground players, it’s the transitions that work particularly well here, with various beats and verses melting into each other as the mix progresses. Don’t sleep, this is what a decent hip hop mix should be all about.

Tracklist:

1- Intro
2- Evil Twinz – ‘Evil Twinz Glocks’
3- XPerado feat OC – ‘Watch Ya Step’ (Blend)
4- J Zone – ‘No Consequences’
5- Attack – ‘Stikken Mov’
6- Ruthless B*stards – ‘Murder We Wrote’
7- Bahamadia – ‘Uknowhowedo’ (Blend)
8- Busta Rythmes – ‘Woo Haa’ (Blend)
9- Big L – ‘Put It On’ (Blend)
10- C Rayz Walz – ‘Whodaf*Kareyou’
11- Big Shug – ‘The Way It Iz’ (’96 Blend)
12- One Be Lo – ‘Rocketship’ (Blend)
13- Mike Zoot – ‘Chess Bumpin’
14- Krs One Feat Channel Live – ‘Free Mumia’ (Blend)
15- Masta Ace -’Always’

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East Flatbush Project- ‘A Day In The Life’ (10/30 Uproar, 2008)

It was good to hear from Spencer Bellamy recently via MySpace who had some new material to share from his upcoming EP entitled First Born. ‘A Day In The Life’ features rhymes from Stress and guitar work by Peter Pallis of Brooklyn-based metal band Anaka. On first listen I wasn’t particularly taken, but after a few rotations the beat started to grow on me and it definitely represents a progression from a producer who still lives in the shadow of the undisputed classic ‘Tried By 12′. See what you think and don’t forget to peep my interview with Spencer in the archives.

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Independent Woman? ‘Downlo Ho’ Beat Deconstruction
June 23, 2008, 4:14 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Breaks, Producers

Scientifik – ‘Downlo Ho’
taken from Criminal (Definite, 1994)

John Klemmer – ‘Touch’
taken from Touch (ABC, 1975)

After getting into a little John Klemmer a little while back care of the magnificent ‘Free Soul’, I’ve been keen to explore the man’s discography in more depth. Unfortunately this exploration led me first to his Touch LP from 1975, a release that I didn’t really connect with and which quashed my initial enthusiasm, meaning my acquaintance with his wider body of work has been fleeting to say the least. However, the purchase was salvaged for me by a combination of the title track itself and my insatiable sample-spotting geekery, an unfortunate affliction that has inevitably led to some duff buys on my part in recent times. But then that’s all part of the fun: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jacked by Buckwild for one of the less celebrated cuts from Scientifik’s fantastic Criminal, ‘Downlo Ho’ rarely seems to receive a mention when discussion of the album comes up, but for me it’s one of the clear standouts. Whereas the beats elsewhere on the LP tend to be a little darker in tone, ‘Downlo Ho’ manages that perfect equilibrium between the raw and the smooth, an infectious combination that never fails to instigate a healthy bounce of the cranium. The sample itself is a straight loop of the first couple of bars of the song slowed down, thereby falling in line with the majority of Buckwild’s production aesthetic during the period where big drums and loops prevail. When it’s this dope in the first place, the man knows as well as anybody else when to leave it alone and let the groove shine.

There’s plenty of other touches to the beat with various vocal stabs, sax loops and other somewhat unidentifiable noises thrown into the mix to give it a little extra flava, but it’s the bang of the drums that ultimately set the groove off so well. The snare hits are particularly prominent in the mix, with a healthy dose of reverb allowing them to breathe for nearly a quarter of a bar before fading, and to avoid the mix getting too messy Buckwild keeps the kick drum pattern pleasingly restrained and straightforward. It’s these simple yet incredibly effective moments of flair that certify the man’s place in the boom bap hall of fame (if only such a place existed).

Ultimately, Klemmer’s original is well worth a listen as well, but it is in all honesty one of those songs that I would probably very rarely choose to listen to if it wasn’t for the hip hop connection. With so much other music to explore I don’t imagine I’ll be delving too far into his discography any time soon, but if you know of something that I need to hear then please let me know. In the meantime it can be Buckwild who serves up my Klemmer fix: lazy I know, but sometimes a bout of self-indulgence and a heavy lean on your musical crutches is no bad thing, a sentiment that must pretty much define the online hip hop community whose members in general still can’t let go of the ’90s. But then with beats as good as this, why would you want to?

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Hubert Laws Sample Appreciation
June 19, 2008, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Breaks, Producers

Hubert Laws – ‘Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again’
taken from Romeo & Juliet (CBS, 1976)

Onyx – ‘Shout’
taken from All We Got Iz Us (JMJ, 1995)

Onyx – ‘Shout (Pete Rock Remix)’
taken from Shout (Remix)/Most Def VLS (JMJ White Label, 1998)

Jazz Liberatorz – ‘I Am Hip Hop’ feat. Asheru
taken from Clin d’Oeil (Kif, 2008)

I’ve already shared this little gem of a sample with the heads over at the Pete Rock forum and it should be familiar to you too if you were one of the 839 (!) people to download my Pete Rock Breaks & Beats Mix. However, given that it constitutes perhaps my favourite ten seconds from the entire archives of fusion jazz it more than deserves its fair share of airtime here at FDB. This short yet astoundingly beautiful sample is tailor-made for transposition into slammin’ boom bap, explaining the two and four-bar straight loop format adopted by Fredro Starr and Pete Rock on the two existing versions of the criminally slept-on Onyx anthem ‘Shout’. Having said this, the Jazz Liberatorz’ deftly executed chops sound pretty good too… either way, this particular groove goes hard.

Before delving into the ins and outs of the different ways in which it has been flipped, I feel compelled to comment on why I feel that this sample works so well. Not only does it already hover around the mid-90s mark in terms of bpm, but it’s the way in which the wonderfully clean Fender Rhodes part is framed at either end:Hubert Laws’s flute melts into the break as it begins and it is perfectly rounded off in the final half bar by achingly beautiful strings. Ultimately this means that it is an incredibly malleable sample, as it is clean enough to chop succinctly and yet offers just as much if left untampered with. Pete Rock follows the second school of thought for the Onyx remix, literally dropping the break over heavy drums and adding an extra touch of flava with a Biz Markie vocal sample. Although the sound quality of this white label rip is relatively low, I’d have to say that this is probably my favourite of the three usages presented here simply because it allows something that is already flawless to shine. And no, it’s not just because it’s Pete Rock. I can occasionally muster a little objectivity you know…

Yet stating a preference here is a little unnecessary as both the original mix and the Jazz Liberatorz’ cut are bangin’. I’ve written before about Onyx’s sophomore effort All We Got Iz Us and ‘Shout’ endures as a song that never fails to threaten the longevity of the well-oiled machine that is my neck. Fredro Starr opts for just the first two bars of the break, adding swirling vocal screams into the composition to add a little Onyx-style zest. With filtered bass line and heavy drums in tow this track easily stands its own against the crew’s classic moshpit-inducing anthem ‘Slam’ and represents the Queens outfit’s inimitable charm as well as anything else that they ever put together. The Jazz Liberatorz’ certainly do a little more with the sample (I wonder if it may have been replayed), but it maintains its core essence and provides Asheru with the opportunity to contribute to one of the best songs from what must be one of the most overlooked releases of the year so far.

I had originally intended for this post to simply focus on the original Onyx mix (this one has been in a pipeline for a minute), but I simply couldn’t hold back from sharing all three of these interpretations due to the remarkably high standard that they represent collectively. Although I fully appreciate the work done by Starr et. al., it would be impossible to deny that it is the exquisite quality of the sample source that does most of the hard work here. Check for it at the 5.35 mark: this is digger’s gold folks.

 

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Slice of Soul – Enchanted Lady
June 16, 2008, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

Milt Jackson & Ray Brown – ‘Enchanted Lady’
taken from Memphis Jackson (Impulse, 1970)

The vibraphone remains an instrument for me that encourages a mixed reaction. Although in certain musical settings it is able to maintain a soulful and smoky edge, all too often the tone of the instrument can leave me feeling a little sterile with an unsettling sense that I’m stood in a slightly rundown elevator in the sort of hotel that needed a decor update somewhere around 1987. The figurative cousin of the dreaded panpipes, the sound of the instrument has been unfortunately corrupted for me by associations that definitely don’t do it any justice. That is unless Milt Jackson’s holding the mallets.

Now I can’t say I’m particularly up on the man’s work, but what I have heard I love. ‘Enchanted Lady’ is one such number, found on his seemingly forgotten-about LP Memphis Jackson where he worked closely with long-term collaborator bassist Ray Brown. With frustratingly little information online regarding this album, I’ve got little to give you in the way of background to the release, but fortunately ‘Enchanted Lady’ is so good that it temporarily eclipses the desires of the detail-fixated geek in me. What really gets me about this song is the progression over the first minute and the wonderful way in which various elements of the mix join, leave and re-enter it seamlessly over the track’s duration. Jackson’s vibraphone part is of course worthy of its own mention, but it’s really the way in which all of the instruments gel and the momentum maintained by Paul Humphries’s drums that make this such a beautifully realised composition.

It’s not hard to see why Pete, De La and Large Pro have jacked sections of this for their lush bangers, but this really is a song that stands alone from its later incarnations. If you have any background on this LP then I’m all ears, but for the moment I remain remarkably content with the music alone. And let’s not be too hasty… sometimes even those elevators have charm.

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That Sweet Boom Bap – Beats From The 90s Review
June 13, 2008, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Album Reviews, Producers

K-Def – ‘For Da Family’ & ‘Jam On It’
taken from Beats From The ’90s (Ghetto Man Beats, 2008)

Although I’ve been more than enthusiastic about the recent spate of releases from Jersey’s one and only K-Def, the thought of previously unheard material honed by the man himself during one of hip hop’s golden ages has had me understandably drooling at the mouth for the past couple of months. Sure enough, his latest releaseBeats From The ’90s delivers all that its title promises: for fans of that official boom bap, this is a release to cop with the swiftness.

When I spoke to K-Def back in April I was a little concerned that this particular drop would be little more than a collection of previously released instrumentals from back in the day, but in reality it offers a whole lot more. Apart from ‘Ain’t No Crime’ and ‘Gettin’ Hot’ this is all new material to me, and it further confirms why K-Def should be held in the very highest of regards when it comes to consideration of producers who have made substantial contributions to the genre. What I really like about this compilation of largely unreleased work is that you can detect K-Def’s developing production aesthetic throughout the era, so whereas the aforementioned ‘Ain’t No Crime’ reeks of the earlier stages of the decade, tracks such as ‘Dramaz’ and ‘Been There Part 2′ tie in more closely with the contemporary material found on Willie Boo Boo: The Fool and The Article. Bottom line? It’s all bangin’.

Ultimately, Beats From The ’90s feels good because it unashamedly presents the sort of delicately executed yet sophisticated production nuances that define an age that endures as one of the most creatively productive and ingenious in the genre’s history. Forget about the next big thing: for pure, unadulterated listening pleasure this latest installment from the Ghetto Man Beats camp easily ranks as one of the best things that 2008 has had to offer for serious fans of that ol’ boom bap. Cop it now and rub your hands at the thought of 24th June: disappointment is out of the question.

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Gimme Some Of That – ‘Clap Yo Hands’ Beat Deconstruction
June 12, 2008, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Producers

Naughty By Nature – ‘Clap Yo Hands’
taken from Poverty’s Paradise (Tommy Boy, 1995)

Sam & Dave – ‘I Thank You’
taken from I Thank You (Stax, 1968)

Ronnie McNeir – ‘In Summertime’
taken from Ronnie McNeir (RCA, 1972)

It’s been a little while since my last beat deconstruction, but given that I’m experiencing a renaissance with some of Naughty By Nature’s greatest cuts it feels fitting to offer up the Jersey legends their due propers. I’ve written before about the group’s third album under the Naughty moniker back in the days when I was still offering up whole album downloads (seems like a long time ago now) and there’s been no change in my perspective on the quality of Poverty’s Paradise or one of its standout cuts, ‘Clap Yo Hands’: even internet time can’t distort this banger.

There are a couple of samples to pick apart here, although the first only serves as an intro skit to the main jam, care of soul legends Sam & Dave. I’m ashamed to say that beyond ‘I’m A Soul Man’ and ‘Hold On, I’m A-Comin” I don’t actually know a huge amount about the vocal duo, but ‘I Thank You’ has without doubt made me realise that theirs is a discography well worth exploring. Released in 1968 the song was both the lead single from the album of the same name and another hit for the group, peaking at No. 9 in the Billboard charts and marking the end of Sam & Dave’s relationship with Stax after disputes over distribution with Atlantic who released the remainder of their work. It’s a great song, so if you’ve slept on it like I have then be sure to add it to your digital archives: I’ll be tracking down the LP with the quickness.

However, more significant in the Naughty composition is Ronnie McNeir’s ‘In Summertime’, lifted from his self-titled debut LP released on RCA in 1972. The track in question is one of the more downtempo numbers to be found on the album and is all the better for it: McNeir’s proclamations of the benefits of the summer season sit beautifully over the hazy glow of the music that supports it. The section jacked for ‘Clap Yo Hands’ isn’t exactly hard to spot, located right at the beginning of the song after the initial quarter-bar guitar lick, although Kay Gee goes to work with some filters and pitches the track up to give it some momentum. Other than that it’s chunky drums and a low-pass filter that seem to do all the hard work, with intermittent horn stabs adding another layer of depth to complete the instrumental. For the true geeks out there, it’s also interesting to note that the spoken vocals heard in the original song are still present in the Naughty joint, an element to the groove that I’d failed to notice until listening to the source material. It’s all in the detail people…

Ultimately, ‘Clap Yo Hands’ is exactly what Naughty always did best: a no frills banger that encourages a ludicrously ferocious head nod. With Treach and Vinnie ripping through typically tight verses, it’s tracks like this that bring out the ‘God, I wish it was 1995′ attitude in me and forget that in doing so I’m falling victim to one of the most boring cliches that hip hop fans over the hump of their mid 20s are prone to spout. Sometimes you gotta just let it all hang out, right?

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