Corey Penn & The Japanese Contingent
June 8, 2008, 4:19 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

Nujabes – ‘Sky Is Falling’ ft. C.L. Smooth 
taken from Hyde Out Productions Second Collection (Hyde Out, 2007)

Shin-Ski of Martiangang – ‘I Can’t Help It (Can’t Stop Me Remix)’ ft. C.L.Smooth
taken from Re-Shinstruction (Soul Believer/Media Factory Japan, 2008)

DJ Krush – ‘Only The Strong Survive’ ft. C.L. Smooth 
taken from Meiso (Mo Wax/ffrr, 1995)

Although I like the vast majority of hip hop material that comes out of Japan, I can’t say that I’m particularly up on it. Beyond the obvious big hitters like Krush and DJ Honda I know that there are sure to be a hell of a lot more artists out there that are more than worthy of my attention, but as yet I just haven’t explored this particular branch of the genre in much depth. However, things may be about to change having stumbled upon Nujabes’ exceptional ‘Sky Is Falling’ via the Pete Rock forum a couple of days ago, and thanks to Jaz I got my hands on another Japanese-produced cut with the Mecca Don tearing it up. It also reminded me of a third Japanese producer/C.L. Smooth joint from Krush’s excellent Meiso, so it made sense to throw ‘em up together and see where people’s preferences lie; I am yet to determine my personal favourite.

The Nujabes’ cut is taken from Hyde Out Recordings second compilation of songs released by the label, run by the man himself. The beat here is really something quite special, with chunky drums underpinning a beautifully spacious horn loop and plenty of subtle transitions thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. It was my manChris Read who suggested that perhaps the vocals are a little lost in the mix, but this is a small gripe for an otherwise brilliantly executed jam. Shin-Ski’s ‘I Can’t Help It’ is just as dope and is taken from his second LP, a compilation of remixes of his own work. C.L.’s flow sits a little better over this beat, mellow and restrained enough to let the vocals shine a little more. Finally, Krush’s ‘Only The Strong Survive’ goes down as classic material in my book, with oriental nuances working cohesively with hard-hitting boom bap aesthetics to create a banger that sounds as good now as it did all the way back in 1995.

Recommendations for other Japanese material gratefully received. Which cut would you plump for?

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Slice of Soul – What’s Your World
June 6, 2008, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

Leon Ware – ‘What’s Your World’
taken from Leon Ware (United, 1972)

Leon Ware – ‘What’s Your World’ (FDB Self-Indulgent Edit)

Ever since stumbling across the soundtrack to The Education of Sonny Carson that included a past subject for the FDB Slice Of Soul series, I’ve been hankering after more Leon Ware. Unfortunately it transpires that several of his records have never received the reissue treatment, and secondhand copies of even the more well-known albums cost a little more than I’m usually willing to spend on one of my sessions of indulgence on Amazon. Fortunately for me, the exceptional 4 Brothers Beats recently posted up his self-titled solo studio debut from 1972, a record that has several excellent moments, but no song has grabbed me as emphatically during my initial period of acquaintance with the LP as the beautiful ‘What’s Your World’.

Wonderfully atmospheric and expertly arranged, this particular song is proof positive of Ware’s musical genius that has seen him work with pretty much everybody who’s anybody in the annals of 1970’s soul. Credits with Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton and Marvin Gaye only scratch the surface of his career and yet these names alone would prove a high accolade in their own right. ‘What’s Your World’ makes it clear why his services have been so frequently enlisted, a song that hasn’t left the back (and for the most part, the front) of my mind since discovering it at the beginning of the week. The song is enjoyed best in its entirety as it allows the listener to fully appreciate the nuances of the arrangement, but I can’t resist aiming your focus at the opening 30 seconds or so as it is nothing short of sublime, with the drop into the verse at the 0.23 mark and the introduction of Ware’s vocals sending shivers down my spine every single time.

As bonus material I’ve actually chopped and spliced together a couple of one and two-bar sequences in the ultimate act of self-indulgence. Holding onto the allusion that I’d actually ‘produced’ something, I even played this to my tutor group of kids at school, one of whom described it as ‘magical’. Rather than explain to them that all I’d done was rearrange someone else’s music in the most basic of ways, I chose to bask in the glory for a minute: if you can’t live the dream in a company of fourteen year-olds, then when can you? Hope you enjoy it as much as I have done for the last 24 hours.


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FDB Sneaker Spot – Nike Retro Wishlist
June 4, 2008, 4:21 pm
Filed under: Sneaker Spot

I. Love. These. Shoes.

Despite the odd post here and there, I have never really contemplated using FDB to comment on anything despite hip hop music and related genres. However, with a newly revived love for sneakers and their obvious link to hip hop culture I thought I’d test the waters of what could be a new weapon in the FDB arsenal. Alternatively, if nobody seems to give two hoots, the idea will remain lost in the site’s archives for only the most intrepid of new visitors to stumble upon.

Calling myself a sneakerhead would be a gross overstatement of the truth. I have a small but steadily growing collection of recent Air Max reissues and other odd bits and pieces, but I’m certainly not putting myself forward as a serious collector or anything like that. I do however spend a silly amount of time frequenting the big sneaker blogs (shouts to Nice KicksSneaker News and The Shoe Game) and discussing various shoes with like-minded friends who have similarly rediscovered their love of athletic footwear. Maybe it’s all just a sign of getting old as we communally hurtle towards the 30 mark: watch out boys, it’s coming.

What follows is a selection of three pairs of vintage Nike kicks that I’m nominating for the retro treatment. Throw in your two cents and let’s kick off (poor pun intended) a new series at this little corner of the internet. Props go out to Arkamix for a great selection of photos and info on some lost classics that have helped to inform this post.

Air Tailwind 90


To the best of my knowledge, these were the first model in the Tailwind line that continues to this day, albeit in a heavily mutated form. As always seems to be the way with kicks, original often means best, and it’s both the silhouette of this shoe and the great use of colour that make it stand out. I like the detail on the tongue as well as the hefty midsole bulge around the air bubble. There’s also absolutely no frontin’ on the mesh toebox. As far as I know these have never been retroed (if I’m wrong tell me), a damn shame given that they are such a vibrant, clean and stylish shoe. More detailed pics and the opportunity to buy these now over at the Bay.

Air Base II


This pair of Air Base IIs are a shoe that I didn’t even know existed until today. Holding a strong similarity to theAir Span of the same era, I’d guess that it was a combination of certain elements from these two shoes that eventually helped inform the design of the now heavily retroed Air Stabs, with the writing on the back of the upper of both kicks and the general detailing on the Spans holding a clear resemblance to this now popular, contemporary retro running shoe. The contrast of the purple, grey and infrared is a classic Nike match-up on the upper, set off nicely by the white midsole and coloured outsole. Check them out in more detail here.

Air Pegasus 92


These have personal significance for me as I used to own a pair when I was just a wee nipper. Like the Tailwind, the Pegasus has gone on to be one of Nike’s most prolific mass-produced line of running shoes, but none of the later reincarnates can trump the earlier, beautifully simple models like those displayed here. Mesh toebox and strong colour blocking mean that these are the definition of a clean, simple design that just works. Oh, and the use of fire red is always a winner. More detailed pics to drool over here.

Speak ya clout: we’ll see how long this new series lasts…

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Random holiday Reflections
June 2, 2008, 4:22 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

Despite rarely writing about anything other than that good old hippity hop, after a week in Florida and whilst suffering from jet lag I’m not really able to focus my thoughts back towards music just yet. Here are a few things that struck me during my time in the sunshine state:

1. Florida is unbelievably flat, which would be perfect for cycling if everything wasn’t so amazingly spread out. No wonder there are more than a few people kicking about with excess flab. Don’t imagine those $5 all you can eat buffets do much to help either.

2. No matter how old I get, I don’t think I will ever be able to stop myself from being absorbed by the wonderful corporate magic that is Disney and Universal Studios. Consume and enjoy!

3. Having time off from both music and the internet is no bad thing, and realistically what did I miss? As I usually spend two or three hours a day on the net I was surprised that after three whole days all that had happened was a few comments (thank you) and a couple of interesting e-mails. Other than that, it made me realise that I need to seriously trim my time in front of a screen. Amazingly, there are actually other things to do.

4. American mainstream sneaker outlets suck. Hard. In my local Foot Locker in Bristol there are at least four or five desirable pairs knocking about, not least the reissued Air Max Bursts, and JD Sports continues to kill ‘em with tons of exclusive Air Maxes. The best thing I came across was some cheap Lights in an outlet store, but other than that it seems you’ve gotta be close to some bonafide boutiques or in a major city to shell out for anything truly worth copping.

5. Beautiful beach + warm weather = guaranteed good time.

6. Americans are spolit for choice when it comes to excellent coverage of sporting events. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the two NBA Conference finals and the spelling bee wasn’t bad either. Bring me ESPN!

7. The chances of getting a decent quality lager on tap in the States are slim to none. What’s up with all that light/lite beer?

8. The food, however, is exceptional. Grilled lobster, shrimp, steak and scallops? I could murder that goodness all day, everyday. Again, no surprises hidden underneath those larger than life waistlines.

9. ‘Luchini’ sounds best whilst coming in to land on a 747.

10. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing quite like good quality family time. Watching my Dad eat food designed to be eaten by hand will never cease to amuse me, and neither will hitting him with a cheeky wet willy(that last one was the best Tim). One for the family annals Mum: thanks again.

Normal service will resume when my body starts to believe I’m in the right timezone. Given that I’m back at work, I’m hoping that won’t be too far away as teaching children whilst bleary-eyed doesn’t quite work out. Deconstructions and a couple of interviews to follow shortly: nice to be back.

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