Ubiquitous Drums 101 – ‘Theme From The Planets’
September 19, 2008, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Breaks

Dexter Wansel – ‘Theme From The Planets’
taken from Life On Mars (Philadelphia International, 1976)

Given that I’m lacking a bit of time today and am in some serious discomfort (knee cartilage is officially the bane of my life), it seems the perfect opportunity to continue my new series that focuses on everybody’s favourite part of good hippity-hoppity music, the drums. Today’s percussive treat comes in the shape of Dexter Wansel’s ‘Theme From The Planets’, a great slice of space-inspired downbeat funk that offers a hell of a lot more than just three bars of particularly crispy hats, kicks and snares.

So here’s my brief, entirely rippedoff summary of Wansel just to set you on your way into further exploration. A keyboardist raised in Philly, Wansel made his name alongside Gamble & Huff at Philadelphia International Records during the ’70s, eventually collaborating with artists such as MFSB, Grover Washington Jr. and Lou Rawls amongst many others. ‘Theme From The Planets’ comes from his most successfully commercial album Life On Mars which will now set you back a few bob if you hanker after original vinyl as a result of the presence of the track offered to you here: diggers love it. There’s little point in me regurgitating much more info, so follow the links and fill in the gaps yourselves.

As a brief aside, although whipping out the Spock costume does inevitably increase the inherent joy of the listening experience, it’s far from a necessity. However, if you do choose to take the plunge then be wary: those fake pixie ears can be a bitch to remove.

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Some Things Change – ‘Decepticons’ Beat Deconstruction
September 1, 2008, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Breaks, Producers

One Be Lo – ‘Decepticons’ (Pete Rock Remix) & ‘Decepticons’ (Pete Rock Remix Instrumental)
taken from Decepticons VLS (Fat Beats, 2005)

Isaac Hayes – ‘One Big Unhappy Family’
taken from The Isaac Hayes Movement (Stax, 1970)

Lafayette Afro Rock Band – ‘Darkest Light’
taken from Malik (Makossa, 1976)

Although the vast majority of my sample ‘knowledge’ comes from you know where, I’m glad that my explorations into the soul and funk that laid the foundations for hip hop music have gone far enough at this point to mean that from time to time I stumble across something all by myself. Granted, Isaac Hayes isn’t exactly the most obscure of sources, but I was pleased to discover ‘One Big Unhappy Family’ on my current (rather obsessive) journey through the entire Isaac Hayes’ back catalogue as it forms the backbone of one of my favourite Pete Rock remixes of the last decade ever. Given that a discussion of the ‘Decepticons’ remix also ties into certain ‘issues’ I’m having with the Chocolate Boy Wonder’s production style of the moment, it seems apt to jump on the happy coincidence of the Hayes’ sample discovery and serve up a little beat deconstruction, FDB style. The renaissance is in motion people.

Let’s start with the sample. ‘One Big Unhappy Family’ can be found on Hayes’ third solo studio outing The Isaac Hayes Movement which goes down as essential material from the late master arranger and composer. Although I’ve still got a way to go until I make my way through all of Hayes’ work, it really is the late ’60s/early ’70s output in the lead up to Black Moses that captures me most emphatically. The trio of albums that precede this seminal double LP are nothing short of sensational, and if you’re yet to indulge in a posthumous Hayes craze then I’d strongly suggest that Hot Buttered SoulThe Isaac Hayes Movement and To Be Continued act as jumping off points into the veritable ocean of material that he leaves in his wake. For me, this is probably the weakest of the aforementioned LPs although Hayes’ exceptional cover of ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ is worth the price of admission alone. ‘One Big Unhappy Family’ is pretty glorious in its own right, an achingly sentimental number that has me crunching up my face and gyrating on my desk chair like I’m slow dancing with Beyonce in some soul-drenched Harlem basement (damn, that’s an image and a half), but it’s the bar and a half at the 0.24 mark that manages to break the trance and turn my facial scrunch into a broad – if rather brief – smile. Pete doesn’t do a huge amount with the break despite layering the snare hits and adding kicks and bass, chopping it into several neat sections that get flipped in various ways throughout the One Be Lo cut. It’s a great beat that feels beautifully spacious and demonstrates the restrained, soulful PR sound that I feel is sadly lacking at the moment… more of that later.

On top of the Hayes’ sample you get a nicely executed panned flip of Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s classic ‘Darkest Light’ horn intro to add a little interest during the chorus sections and they sit rather nicely here adding to the ‘gazing over the cityscape at sunset’ vibe that the track captures so well. However, there’s no denying that using it could be perceived as a little lazy and it’s a trend that’s developing in Pete’s current output that concerns me a little. Although ‘914′ was a standout for me from NY’s Finest, using ‘UFO’ and ‘It’s A New Day’ is hardly rocket science, and his recent ‘Nautilus’ sampling outing with The L.O.X. must have been something he put together in about five minutes. In his sleep. Now I don’t want to go too far with this as these are admittedly relatively isolated cases, but it all contributes to my feeling that Rock is struggling to find his fire of late. The Kurupt and Vast Aire collaborations earlier in the year clearly lacked something and when you take this travestyinto account it becomes pretty clear that it’s not a particularly good time to be a Soul Brother fanatic. Just gocheck out some of the chat at the PR forum if you need further proof. Disgruntled doesn’t even begin to cover it.

However, let’s not let my geeky panic at the state of Pete Rock detract from his work on the One Be Lo cut featured here. I’ve thrown up the instrumental as well because it’s the version that gets most plays from me, with the vocals sounding a little harsh in the mix on the vocal cut (poor mastering or crappy mp3? I’ll let you decide). Pump this one loud on the train and you’ll be bopping your head maniacally with little care for the welfare of others around you: this is what real Pete Rock is supposed to sound like.

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Ubiquitous Drums 101 – ‘Sing A Simple Song’
August 29, 2008, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Breaks

Sly & The Family Stone – ‘Sing A Simple Song’
taken from Stand! (Epic, 1969)

OK, you’re gonna have to bear with me a little here party people because getting back into this blogging game after three weeks or so off ain’t easy. What always strikes me during my holiday periods away from screaming children and mounds of paperwork is that despite having all the opportunity in the world to do all the things I want to do, the vast time I have in which to do them often means that they don’t get done very swiftly, if at all. Ultimately, I need to be squeezing things into my daily routine to actually get anywhere with them, otherwise the potential to simply loaf about and do nothing often takes a hold. Anyways, I’m back to work next week so there’s no doubt that my game will be back on big style, as avoiding the work that I’m actually meant to be doing is one of my most finely-honed personality traits. Just don’t tell my boss. She’s a little bit scary.

I’ve been toying with the idea of another series of posts for a while now, and the light bulb above my head beamed brightly when I stumbled across Sly & The Family Stone’s Stand! whilst doing the digital rounds in France. For the readers amongst you who have even a passing familiarity with prominent drum breaks then the discovery of ‘Sing A Simple Song’ will seem like a complete no-brainer, but it’s new to me (as is the vast majority of material that features in beat deconstructions and the like around these parts) so I felt it was worth sharing. It also seems like a decent jumping-off point into other drum breaks that although widely-used, don’t seem to have quite the same legendary status as ‘Blind Alley’, ‘Impeach The President’ and the like. Hence, a series of posts is born: sometimes this game comes easy.

Check in at the 2.11 mark for the point at which the break begins and you’ll be on instantly familiar ground. What I really like about the way that these drums get flipped is that they often include remnants of some of the horn stabs which provides a layer of intricacy to the beat in which they have been employed. For proof of the importance of this particular combination of snares, kicks and hi-hats then check everybody’s favourite resourcefor a generous overview of its usage, although I have little doubt that this probably covers less than half of the instances in which they can actually be found. Keep your ears to the ground speakers people…

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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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The World Is Fallin’ – ‘Up Against Tha Wall’ Beat Deconstruction
May 12, 2008, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Breaks, Producers

Group Home – ‘Up Against Tha Wall (Getaway Car Mix)’
taken from Livin’ Proof (Payday/ffrr, 1995)

Young Holt Trio – ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’
taken from Wack Wack/On Stage Reissue (Diablo, 2000)

It stands as a relatively obvious point, but delving into the world of sample sources now stands for me as the only way in which one can truly appreciate the producer’s craft. Sure, I always loved a Dilla banger or appreciated the multiple layers of sound carved together by Pete Rock, but it’s only now that I’m at a stage in my listening habits where I am able to more clearly define what constitutes a specific individual’s or group’s style in greater depth: Da Beatminerz were all about sourcing loops and lacing them over thumping drum breaks during their heyday in the mid to late ’90s; the aforementioned Soul Brother continues to have a knack for drawing together samples from a diverse range of sources and amalgamating them cohesively; Showbiz was flippin’ material like no-one else back in the day and playfully manipulating the structure of the classic hip hop jam. The list goes on. But for all my recent discoveries it really is DJ Premier who begins to endure for me as the genre’s most consistent and genuinely original beatmaker. Here’s one reason why.

‘Up Against Tha Wall (Getaway Car Mix)’ has long been for me one of the finest cuts that Premier has ever put together. Haunting, simple and richly textured, the beat possesses a more melancholy edge than the other cuts that can be found on the lyrically dubious crew’s debut LP, Livin’ Proof (besides perhaps the almost equally fantastic ‘Suspended In Time’). Having found out via the usual means the sample source, I’ve actually been on the hunt for the Young Holt Trio’s ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’ for a while and was lucky to stumble across the reissued Wack Wack/On Stage double release in my local second hand CD shop a month or so ago. Given the clarity of the piano groove in the Group Home joint, I was left astonished upon hearing the source material for the first time: Premier knocks it out the park with this one.

In order to spot the sample you’re going to have to listen relatively hard, as Preem’s ability to isolate the piano from the rest of the Young-Holt groove mean that its essence is altered significantly when placed in its new context. The point to listen out for crops up at the 0.43 mark, with a single piano note followed by a slow trill lifted from the rest of the track and restructured. It’s difficult to know if Premier perhaps pitch shifted the first note to provide him with the eventual pattern found in the Group Home composition, but it seems plausible given that the higher note cannot be easily discerned elsewhere in the Young-Holt original. It’s both this rearrangement of the sample and the expertly executed filtering of double bass and percussive elements from the break that testify to the man’s genius here and there remains little doubt for me that no other producer in the game is quite as adept at sourcing and chopping up a groove. The result is the perfect combination of bang and beauty, a masterfully realised musical equilibrium between a deeply soulful sentiment and the harsh realities of life on the street.

Before I get lost too deeply in Premier’s figurative rectal passage, I’d also like to make note that Young-Holt Unlimited (the name they adopted after the first album) are emerging for me as the suppliers as some of the finest loops and grooves that hip hop has ever seen. The overview for the group on The Breaks speaks volumes about the calibre of beatmaker who has mined their material (you may have missed my previous post on theircover of ‘Light My Fire’ over at Oh Word), and although Young-Holt’s output is varied in quality when considered apart from its affiliation with hip hop, I would recommend getting the relatively cheap reissues as a means of understanding why Premo in particular has tended to use their work so frequently.

It seems all too easy to fall back on analysis of the indisputable greats’ back catalogues as fodder for content at this here corner of the internet, but when it sounds this good and is so indicative of a particular individual’s production processes then I don’t feel like I even need to make an attempt at justifying why this remains relevant. Open your ears and appreciate: DJ Premier’s unquestionable genius rules supreme.


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Tell Me What The Deal Is – ‘Enuff’ Beat Deconstruction
April 29, 2008, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Breaks, Producers

Masta Ace – ‘Enuff’
taken from Disposable Arts (JCOR, 2001)

Love Unlimited – ‘Share A Little Love In Your Heart’
taken from In Heat (20th Century, 1974)

Shouts to Floodwatch for the hook-up and Travis for the info.

Although I have a ridiculous amount of respect for the one and only Masta Ace, I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t know his material in the way that I probably ought to. Sure I’ve bought/downloaded the back catalogue and enjoyed it immensely, but I’d be lying if I said that I knew his discography inside out. As such, I decided to giveDisposable Arts a little spin out a couple of weeks back, and although I can’t say that I’m besotted with it in its entirety there are of course moments of both lyrical wizardry and satisfyingly bangin’ production on show that make it essential for your digital archives (the out of print CD will already set you back a pretty penny). With the sun blazing through my window it was ‘Enuff’ that made a serious impression on me, sailing through the necessary qualification for the beat deconstruction treatment.

A bouncy, upbeat and summer-tinged jam, the track is produced by Rodney Hunter, a name that had completely passed me by until a little research in preparation for this post. Originally holding an affiliation with Peter Kruder of Kruder & Dorfmeister fame, the man has a production history that is varied to say the least which makes the no frills aesthetic of this track somewhat surprising: it’s hard to imagine that this was accomplished by somebody who only dabbles in straight up hip hop production. Given the cleanliness of the bass line and Hunter’s ability with the instrument I’m assuming that the rumbling bass frequencies that underpin the main groove were also played by the man himself. Good work fella!

Sample fodder comes in the shape of Love Unlimited’s ‘Share A Little Love In Your Heart’, a pleasing yet overly lavish piece of ’70s Barry White-honed soul that at times is breathtakingly beautiful and at others cringe-worthingly corny, lifted from their album of 1974 entitled In Heat. So far looked over for the reissue treatment, I’m disappointed that someone hasn’t made the effort to put this out as I would hazard a guess that there are other delights of a similar vibe to indulge in for fans of the Walrus of Love’s meticulously executed and dramatic sound. Check the opening section of the song for the keys that form the backbone of the Masta Ace cut: you can’t miss ‘em.

Ultimately I would liked to have seen a little more of this Rodney Hunter figure within the hip hop realm, as I really do feel that this beat encapsulates that turn of the millennium production aesthetic as well as more well-established producers of the era. Still, I’m pleased that he dropped this little gem on us and so should you: if it’s sunny where you are (it certainly isn’t anymore over here), wind down the windows in the ride and enjoy. The summer’s on its way, isn’t it?!

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‘Free Soul’ – A Quartet of Cuts
April 21, 2008, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Breaks

John Klemmer – ‘Free Soul’
taken from Blowin’ Gold (Chess, 1969)

Although I don’t know a great deal about saxophonist John Klemmer, his relatively extensive discography and collaborations with artists such as Tim Buckley, Nancy Wilson and John Lee Hooker speak volumes about his contributions to music over the last 35 years or so. Having recently stumbled upon a reissue of his first solo outing Blowin’ Gold, I was pleased to discover the rousing ‘Free Soul’, a track that has received the sample overhaul at the hands of several prestigious diggers. Although the song is most closely associated in my mind with Kurious’s ‘Leave Ya With This’ and Ed O.G.’s ‘Less Than Zero’, I wanted to instead shine a light on the following selection of cuts that either qualify as under-acknowledged or display particular finesse behind the boards.

MC Lyte – ‘Lil Paul’
taken from Ain’t No Other (First Priority/Atlantic, 1993)

Although I’m a huge fan of MC Lyte’s earlier material, there’s no doubt that her 1993 release Ain’t No Otherleaves something to be desired. It’s not that the album is necessarily bad by any means, but when compared with the energy and originality of her defining moments in the late ’80s there’s definitely something missing here. With overt attempts to cash in on the more prevalent street aesthetics of the era, Ain’t No Other goes down for me as a relatively typical example of an artist trying to stay in line with contemporary trends but failing to do so very convincingly.

Having said this, ‘Lil Paul’ is an enjoyable enough number that incorporates the main sax refrain from Klemmer’s original to produce one of the standouts from the album. Honed by the essentially unknown Funk (anyone know anything about this Sweet N Lo’ album that features contributions from Funk and members of the Alkaholiks’ camp?), there’s enough bounce to the beat and variation in the production to keep things interesting and provide Lyte with a palatable platform to get verbally aggressive. Groundbreaking this ain’t, but bump it loud and that head will develop a satisfying and all-too-familiar nod: rock the house, L to the Y and the T to the E!

Akinyele – ‘Exercise’
taken from Vagina Diner (Interscope, 1993)

Picking favourite beats from Akinyele’s solo debut is nigh on impossible due to Large Pro’s devastating realised craft on Vagina Diner, but I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘Exercise’ and Ak’s somewhat goofy debunking of the virtues of exercise. In terms of the production, ‘Exercise’ features a trademark Large Pro manoeuvre with the succinct use of a low pass filter applied to the first couple of bars of the sample, although it is uncharacteristically stripped down with only drums to act as a bolster for the song’s three minute duration. Still, with that bass rumbling underneath the cymbal-heavy percussion you won’t hear me complaining: this is slammin’ early to mid ’90s production at its very finest.

Deda – ‘Blah Uno’
taken from The Original Baby Pa (BBE, 2003)

InI – ‘The Life I Live’
taken from Center Of Attention (BBE, 2003)

Yea, you guessed it: yet another ‘isn’t Pete Rock great’ diatribe. However, in this particular instance I feel comfortably justified in saying that both ‘Blah Uno’ and ‘The Life I Live’ really are amongst his best work and am thereby absolved of the nagging feeling that maybe there’s a little too much Soul Brother focus here at FDB (as if).

Pete was obviously digging on Klemmer’s LP back in the mid ’90s, using carefully selected sax loops from ‘Free Soul’ for both of his shelved projects of the era that were subsequently released on BBE in 2003. Despite my love of the InI project, my preference here lies with the Deda beat that features the same filtered bass that can be found on the Akinyele joint. In addition, Mt. Vernon’s finest adds a flurry of sax jacked from the 1.25 mark that gives the production a magnificently warm, jazzy feel that is vintage Soul Brother. Of course, the InI track is still fantastic, incorporating a couple of bars of Klemmer’s squealing sax from the 0.47 mark to sit over the Rotary Connection sample and neck-snappingly fierce drum track in the creation of a certified banger (a link would be much appreciated if you’re fortunate enough to own this album released on Cadet).

Although purists would undoubtedly cite Mecca & The Soul Brother as his finest moment on wax, this particular fan would argue that there is a sophistication to the beats in this period of Rock’s career that is unparalleled in his broad discography. It’s a damn shame that these albums fell victim to the same old industry bullshit because to my mind both Center Of Attention and The Original Baby Pa would otherwise have rightfully asserted their places as classic material. Discuss/contest/crucify at will dear readers: I’m poised and ready.

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Slice of Soul – ‘You Don’t Have To Change’
March 19, 2008, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Breaks, Slice Of Soul

Kool & The Gang – ‘You Don’t Have To Change’
taken from Light Of Worlds (De-Lite, 1974)

About a month or two ago I copped Kool & The Gang’s seventh studio album Light Of Worlds, albeit with the sole intention of getting my hands on a high quality version of the undoubtedly brilliant and heavily sampled ‘Summer Madness’.


To my delight I stumbled upon ‘You Don’t Have To Change’, which is both a fantastic song in its own right and the basis for one of the standout beats from NY’s Finest, ‘We Roll’. Granted, the track isn’t exactly soul in the more traditional sense of the word, but ‘Slice Of Soul’ was never conceived to be constrained by petty genre definitions: deal with it.

The song details the plight of a man who like a “zombie in the night” has been awakened by love only to be struck down by the realisation that his object of affection harbours concerns over her own worth within the relationship. Alton Taylor’s lead vocals are beautifully delivered over a soulful groove that runs through several different sections, all contained within a pleasingly compact two and half minutes or so that proves when done right, there ain’t nothing wrong with a dose of brevity.

Inevitably, I particularly like the section that begins at the 1.43 mark as the track gathers a sense of pace with the introduction of a more prominent drum track, but as a whole this is a perfectly crafted number that has had a smile plastered across my face all week: here’s hoping it has the same effect on you.

As a brief aside from the music, I’m off to enjoy the delights on London town over the Easter weekend. Have fun, I’ll catch you on the other side.



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Slice of Soul – ‘It’s Time To Break Down’
March 11, 2008, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Breaks, Slice Of Soul

The Supremes – ‘It’s Time To Break Down’
taken from New Ways But Love Stays (Motown, 1970)

If you’d told me a couple of years ago that in 2008 I’d be spending as much time listening to other genres of music as I do hip hop, I would have pointed towards the large piece of swine hovering above your head and told you to get outta here in a rather aggressive manner. However, times change, and with the progression of the blog and a continually growing infatuation with sample sources I’m currently listening to a wider range of music than ever before: it’s great.

Of course, due to its assimilation into the beast that is hip hop, a lot of my listening habits currently revolve around soul, hence a new weekly feature that will put forward a choice cut that has had me reaching for the rewind button on numerous occasions over the course of the previous seven days or so. Although there will be some reference to its use in a hip hop context, the intention here is really just to put forward a track that I’m feelin’ and fill you in on a bit of background that I will almost certainly have just discovered myself: it’s gonna be as simple (and as manageable for me) as that.

First up in this new series we have ‘It’s Time To Break Down’ by The Supremes. Lifted from their 1970 albumNew Ways But Love Stays, the LP was the second outing for the group after the departure of Diana Ross (excluding their album with Four Tops, The Magnificent 7). The album is most notable for housing their smash hit ‘Stoned Love’, but it also clearly marks a shift into the ’70s both in terms of musical aesthetic and the appearance of the group, constrained somewhat by Motown who were concerned that the new black power look deviated too far from their established image, hence the more traditional pictures inset in the circles below the ‘fros and black turtlenecks.

Sampled by Premier on Gangstarr’s ‘JFK 2 LAX’, ‘It’s Time To Break Down’ is a clear standout on the album, a deeply soulful burner that details the difficulties of distancing yourself from a lover who still holds your heart captive. Jean Terrell (sister of Tammi) does a fantastic job on lead vocals, and the production and arrangement by Frank Wilson is nothing short of outstanding, with a particularly well-crafted opening 30 seconds before the drop into the first verse. All in it’s a fine example of dusty groove soul and goes down as an essential addition to your digital archives.

This first edition of ‘Slice Of Soul’ is especially dedicated to my Dad whose love of all things Motown runs deep: thanks for making Marvin, Martha, Diana et al. such a significant part of my adolescence Shaggy. Now it’s your turn to embrace some of that good ol’ New York rap! I’ll keep dreaming…

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