Back Up In It – Mediterranean Holiday Playlist
April 11, 2009, 3:33 pm
Filed under: Lists

Nothing like ten days in the south of France to get you back in the right frame of mind for music and blogging.  Eff ghetto credentials, being a middle class Brit with a second home on the continent unequivocally rules.  Here’s what’s been tickling my inner ear over the last week on the Riviera.


ATCQ – ‘Can I Kick It?’ (Extended Boilerhouse Mix) & ‘Scenario’ (Young Nation Mix)
taken from Revised Quest For The Seasoned Traveller (Jive, 1992)

I may be wrong on this one, but I’m convinced that the Boilerhouse edit of the Tribe classic was the mix commercially released in the UK all the way back in ‘89.  Either way, this was my first introduction to the track and it has endured as my favourite version of ‘Can I Kick It?’, even to the point of surpassing the original.  This may be blasphemous, but the chorus is the real selling point for me, triumphant in tone as opposed to the deliberately jarring effect of the original.  The Young Nation take on ‘Scenario’ ain’t half bad either.


Arthur Verocai – ‘Sylvia’
taken from Arthur Verocai (Luv N’ Haight, 1972)

I’ve got Jeff to thank for introducing me to Verocai, a master Brazilian guitarist, composer and arranger who seems to be one of many artists to only be fully appreciated many years after they originally committed their work to reel.  The whole of this self-titled debut is nothing short of staggering, but ‘Sylvia’ is the song that I have returned to again and again, a beautifully realised instrumental piece that attests to Verocai’s innate genius when it comes to arrangement.  Check the drum fill at 0.54 before the introduction of strings for proof if you’re not immediately hooked.


Donny Hathaway – ‘I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know’
taken from Extension Of  A Man (ATCO, 1973)

Given my predisposition to sumptuous ’70s soul it seems ridiculous that I’m only just coming around to Donny Hathaway, but ultimately I’m thankful to have yet another indulgence to explore and savour.  Zilla described this song as being better than life itself and after a week or two of it lurking constantly in my headphones I’d have to agree.


Eric B. & Rakim – ‘Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em’ (Chris Read Remix)
taken from The Diary 1.5 (Music Of Substance, 2009)

Upon first listening of Chris Read’s latest project it was his reworking of this Eric B. & Rakim classic that immediately stood out for me, and months later not much has changed.  If you’re yet to latch onto The Diary 1.5then you are categorically sleepin’ because although this is ultimately my personal favourite from the collection the whole project is the definition of dope.  Get familiar if you haven’t already.


Baby Charles – ‘Indecision’
taken from Baby Charles (Record Kicks, 2008)

Any frequent visitor to FDB will know that I’m a sucker for some well executed retro soul and Brighton’s Baby Charles deliver just that with their debut release which seems to have taken a minute to bubble up to the surface of even the more discerning listener’s consciousness.  Still, I’m glad it has, and despite lacking the edge captured so masterfully by the Truth & Soul/Daptone brotherhood, I can’t front on the infectious dancefloor groove of ‘Indecision’, a satisfyingly raw funk workout that barely stops to let you breathe.  In a good way.


De La Soul – ‘Days Of Our Lives’ feat. Common
taken from The Grind Date (Sanctuary, 2004)

If you’re like me you probably skipped through The Grind Date and then quickly reached for one of the early De La releases to make you feel whole again.  It’s understandable, but upon revisitation The Grind Date is a very solid album with more than enough going on to satisfy even the most hardened De La purist.  This Jake One produced sonic thump is the current standout for me despite an appearance from Common whose very existence is enough to make me reach for the nearest bucket at this stage.  Sorry brother, but enough’s enough.


George Benson – ‘California Dreamin”
taken from White Rabbit (CTI, 1972)

I’ve been back on yet another CTI trawl of late, and White Rabbit is the latest thing to grab me from the back catalogue of Creed Taylor’s legendary label.  Featuring a truly remarkable group of players the whole album is worth checking, but this cover of ‘California Dreamin” has felt particularly appropriate whilst gazing at the Mediterranean despite the fact that it’s still a good 8,000 miles away from the Golden State.  Go figure.


Joe Bataan – ‘Ordinary Guy’
taken from Gypsy Woman (Fania, 1968)

I’ve got O-Dub to thank for the recommendation here despite catching onto Bataan via his narration of City of God’s Son at the tail end of last year. More and more I’m finding myself drawn to the Latin end of the musical spectrum and although this is the most obviously soulful song on Gypsy Woman, it strikes a balance between doo wop and boogaloo that is truly delectable.


Rhymefest – ‘Deal’s A Deal’ feat. CL Smooth & Haffa
taken from The Manual Mixtape (N/A, 2009)

If there’s one semi high profile MC I was rooting for this year it was Rhymefest, but I’m afraid to say that The Manual mixtape falls short of the mark for me, neither throwback nor contemporary enough to fully capture the imagination.  The homophobia doesn’t help either.  Still, this particularly cut’s lounge jazz vibe feels undeniably satisfying in the haze of the Mediterranean dusk, and the added bonus of a CL verse doesn’t hurt matters.  A pity that the majority of the mixtape won’t last long on my hard drive, but then I guess disappointment ain’t nothing new in the current rap climate.  And yes, that is a tone of resigned bitterness you’re detecting there.

Shout out to my crew at The What? for the various hook ups.  We takin’ over fellas.


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It’s The Links Baby
January 25, 2009, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Lists

I am fully aware that ‘09 is yet to kick into beat deconstruction mode, but I continue to be overwhelmingly snowed under by work.  What do you do as a flagging blogger when you don’t have time to produce something decent? Point your readers in the direction of people who have been.

Jeff drops one of the most hilarious posts I’ve ever seen on the interwebs in celebration of a new President. Go Obama!

In general, Bust the Facts has had loads of uploads on the go of late so if you’ve not paid them a visit in a while then I suggest you do so. Now.

Joey hips us all to what looks to be a very exciting project that makes me continue to yearn for an extended stint in NYC.

I wish I was as cool as Jay Smooth.

Zilla reminds us that there are treats to uncover on the first J Rawls LP.

Metal Lungies has the lowdown on one of many great Large Pro remixes.

Nice Kicks has a video of Kanye talking about his new kicks and renaming himself MLK Jr. And you thought the ego had already landed.

O Dub dropped this jewel on us a week or so ago.

Trav wraps things up for ‘08.

And for the kicks fiends, there are these to look forward to.

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Songs That Defined My Year (Hip Hop)
January 8, 2009, 3:59 pm
Filed under: Lists

So here’s part two of the songs that will forever be entrenched in my mind when reflecting on the year 2008.  Although I specifically chose not to make this a ‘best of the year’ selection, I guess it’s pretty inevitable that a lot of these cuts dropped within the last twelve months, particularly because I enjoyed a hell of a lot of the hip hop that dropped this year.  Who said this thing was dead?!


P Brothers – ‘Outta Control’

Almost impossible for me to choose a single song from the P Brothers’ truly magnificent The Gas LP, but ‘Outta Control’ takes it on the grounds of bass and drums alone.  Absolutely brutal and completely uncompromising this beat is jaw-droppingly good, and Roc Marcy turns in a belter of a vocal performance to boot.  More of the same this year please fellas.


Freddie Foxxx – ‘So Tough’

Interviewing Freddie Foxxx easily constitutes one of my blogging highlights of the year, as was the long-awaited release of his Crazy Like A Foxxx LP that finally allowed me to ditch that hissy tape rip I’d cherished for so long on my hard drive.  I was concerned that this mix of ‘So Tough’ wouldn’t make the cut in favour of the version featuring Queen Latifah, so I was amped when the CD finally landed and it was on there as for me it trounces the officially released version that dropped on 12” all the way back in 1994.  Pure, gritty boom bap: you gotta love it.


Elzhi – ‘Motown 25′ ft. Royce Da 5′9”

One of two Black Milk produced cuts to make this list, ‘Motown 25′ was the choice cut from one of the choice albums of the year.  Both Elzhi and Royce spit venomous and impassioned fire, but in all honesty the beat is just so good that I wouldn’t care if it was Homer Simpson spittin’ over it.  Now there’s a thought.  Check my vaguely more eloquent write-up for this track over at The Passion.


Damu The Fudgemunk – ‘Colorful Storms’ (full instrumental)

As much as I loved Damu’s Spare Time, I was always a little salty that we didn’t get a full length instrumental version of the beautiful ‘Colorful Storms’, and then as if by magic it cropped up on Overtime… thank you Mr Fudgemunk.  I’m genuinely excited about what we are gonna see from D.C.’s finest in 2009 as my sources tell me that we’re in for some of the same goodness but with an added twist. Bring it.


Jazz Liberatorz – ‘I Am Hip Hop’ ft. Asheru

The Jazz Liberatorz’ overlooked gem from the very early stages of the year had plenty of treats in store for heads into the less thuggish side of rap music, but for me this was its clowning glory.  Featuring a wonderful Hubert Laws’s sample and understated drums this was one of those cuts that begged you to sink into it, and I duly complied on many an occasion.  Funnily enough, it made me think about how dope hip hop is.


Black Milk – ‘Give The Drummer Sum’

Although Tronic wasn’t entirely to my taste, I appreciated the step away that Black Milk took out of the towering shadows of Dilla’s influence into more electronic territory.  However, it’s almost inevitable that ‘Give The Drummer Sum’ was my choice selection from the album, with bangin’ drums bringing that old school flava by the shedload.  Producer of the year methinks.  That is unless you fall down on the Kanye side of things… weirdo.


Pete Rock – ‘Comprehend’ ft. Papoose

As much as I’d love to say that NY’s Finest was everthing I’d hoped it would be, I can’t.  Inconsistent – and at times downright odd – vocal performances clearly let the whole package down and it even felt like Pete had lost a little fire whilst crouched over his sixteen pads.  Still, diehard that I am there was no way that a few of the songs wouldn’t grab me, and for me this was easily one of the best beats on the album.  Shame about Papoose though.


Q-Tip – ‘Gettin’ Up’

Tip came back with an unquestionably dope return to form in the shape of The Renaissance this year, an album that I’ve pushed on pretty much everyone I know since it dropped in November.  As with picking something fromThe Gas this selection is somewhat arbitrary because the whole album was so good, but ‘Gettin’ Up’ has endured as a firm favourite with its soulful keys and Greg Nice-esque touches on the mic.  Tip for hip hop president!


K-Def – ‘For Tha Family’

I always loved the version that cropped up on Mic Geronimo’s otherwise dire Vendetta LP, but with the Milt Jackson sample in place this mix wins hands down.  Deeply soulful and perfect for those lazy Sunday afternoons, ‘For Tha Family’ is everything I love about that mid 90’s sound.  Can’t wait to hear what K-Def has in store for us this year.


Madlib – ‘Two For Pay Jay’

If I’m totally honest I’ve always felt a little indifferent about Madlib’s production over the last couple of years, butthe Dil Cosby Suite changed all that.  A brilliantly executed collection of beat ditties, ‘Two For Pay Jay’ became a firm favourite from the very beginning of my appreciation for the most recent installments of the Beat Konducta series.  Now if someone can just tell me the sample source/what other hip hop song has sampled the same song I can finally sleep easy at night.


Illa J – ‘Sounds Like Love’ ft. Debi Nova

So Yancey Boys turned out to be a bit of an opinion splitter, but I stand by what I originally said about the album and can’t front on the fact that it received a decent amount of play from me.  The crackling groove of ‘Sounds Like Love’ made it immediately stand out, and being that I’m such a sucker for a little R & B style hook it was guaranteed that this would end up in pretty heavy rotation.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Illa J drifted quickly into obscurity, but perhaps with a decent production roster and marketing behind him he could make some waves in ‘09.


Jemini – ‘Brooklyn Kids’ (TV Track)

Despite loving Jemini’s style of rhyme, it was this instrumental version that I turned to more often than not when in need of a Scars & Pain hit this year.  Fantastic 70’s fusion keys sample, heavy drums, occasional vocal adlibs… right up my alley.  Countless late nights bopping to this one.


Junior MAFIA – ‘Player’s Anthem’

An oldie that came back into my life via the Beat Deconstruction treatment.  I think what originally encouraged me to revisit the Junior MAFIA LP was seeing Clark Kent talk about sneakers at some point over the year, and I was reminded of his understated yet highly efficient production technique.  Favourite moment is when Kim finishes the final verse of the song, all the various layers of the beat drop out only to come back in together at 4.12 with a heavy snare hit.  So fresh and so clean, just like Clark’s Air Force 1s.


Large Pro – ‘Maica Living’ ft. Killa Sha & Guardian Leap

I though it was a shame that more people didn’t pick up on Large Pro’s comeback album because it was a  solid release with lots of ear candy for all of us boom bap dinosaurs.  Again, it’s difficult to pick a favourite but I love the laid back, spacious vibe of ‘Maica Living’ and thinking of Killa Sha always brings a smile to my face due to Rafi’s & Dallas’s lampooning of the man at the ‘07 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival.  Keep up the good work in ‘09 fellas.


Metaform – ‘Crush’

Dope instrumental work that probably passed a lot of people by.  It’s the William Bell guitar lick that seals the deal, but there’s a lot of texture on display here.  Makes it slightly incomprehensible why I haven’t delved into more of his work, but time’s short in these treacherous internets.


Statik Selektah – ‘Talkin’ Bout You (Ladies)’ ft. Kweli, Joell Ortiz & Skyzoo

Too much going on with Stick 2 The Script to engage my interest over a whole album, but dipping in and out of the selection uncovered some enjoyable cuts.  ‘Talkin’ Bout You (Ladies)’ was one of them with all the worthwhile elements of this kind of throwback in place: soulful loop; scratched chorus hook; well respected MCs doing their thang.  It’s a no brainer.


Bone Idols – ‘Keep On’ (Chris Read Remix)

Despite DJ Chris Read not considering himself a producer, this particular unreleased remix of his received heavy rotation from me throughout the year (although it felt particularly sweet in the summer months).  I covered Chris’s The Diary mix all the way back in December ‘07, and since then I’m always on the lookout for anything that bears his name.  You should be too.


Mood – ‘Karma’

The Doom album is one of those kind of slept on releases that for whatever reason I hadn’t gotten around to checking before this year, but I was glad that I did because some of the early Hi-Tek production is excellent.  ‘Karma’ is a case in point, bringing that classic late 90’s indie feel with an almost Queensbridge edge, and as such it ran tings for me in November.


GZA – ‘7 Pounds’

If it’s possible, I think this Black Milk joint bangs even harder than ‘Motown 25′.  Granted the sheen has been taken off all things contemporary GZA for me as a result of this, but this song is too good to succumb to my own petty squabbles with Mr Grice.  GZA sounds hungry and complex, and despite this being a somewhat odd collaboration it works devastatingly well.

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Songs That Defined My year (Miscellaneous)
January 5, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Lists

And so it is that 2008 draws to a close. To my mind it’s been a really good year for music and I continue to enjoy forcing my musings upon you as much as ever. Certainly in terms of FDB it’s been a slightly impotent end to 2008 with various technical difficulties plaguing my blogging game, but with my new MacBook up and running 2009 should bring a greater frequency of posting than you’ve become accustomed to of late.

I toyed with the idea of a ‘Best of ‘08′ but since it wouldn’t have necessarily reflected my listening habits I’m instead opting for a more personal approach (particularly given that others have that task covered admirably). Regardless of when these songs were released or whatever genre boundaries you want to lump them into, the following collection of songs are those that will forever remind me of the last twelve months. Today’s installment focuses on anything that falls outside of hip hop, Wednesday’s will be just beats and rhymes. In many cases I’ve already written something about these songs, and if so I’ve thrown a link up to the original post as well just in case you missed it first time around. I would link to where you can officially buy these songs in the usual style, but WordPress isn’t having regular formatting with all these images and that grates against my anal tendencies.  Get diggin’!


Isaac Hayes – ‘The Look Of Love’


Despite not wanting to rank these tunes in any order of preference, I’d be remiss if I didn’t kick things off with the late Isaac Hayes, as I think I’ve listened to his music more than any other single artist this year. It’s a sad fact that it is often in someone’s passing that you only truly appreciate their greatness, and such was the case for myself and My Hayes this year, whose discography I have devoured at a rate of knots over the last twelve months. It’s impossible for me to pick a single favourite Hayes composition, but his cover of ‘The Look Of Love’ represents everything that was so special about the man with it’s truly magnificent arrangement and unbridled sense of grandeur. Rest in peace big guy: your music is eternal.


?uestlove & The Randy Watson Experience – ‘Goodbye Isaac’

Although this tribute to Isaac didn’t seem to draw much attention when it was released, for me it was a fitting musical commemoration of his genius. I know little about the background to the song other than it’s a collaboration between that drummer from some band out of Philly, Randy Watson and James Poyser, but their combined efforts capture a somber and reflective mood that still manages to pack a punch. Melodic and haunting, ‘Goodbye Isaac’ is a truly beautiful piece of music that floats effortlessly in that hazy state between consciousness and slumber.


Quincy Jones – ‘Brown Ballad’

Aside from Isaac, Quincy Jones has been the focus of much of my attention this year despite an enormous discography that will take far more than a year to fully digest. For whatever reason Smackwater Jack was the LP that I seemed to latch onto most easily, and ‘Brown Ballad’ became a firm favourite in spite of its gushing sense of sentimentality. Jones is such a master when it comes to arrangement and this song’s texture is just so velvety smooth that it proves irresistible. A guilty pleasure perhaps, but a delicious one at that.

Marvin Gaye – ‘Cleo’s Apartment’

Previous post

I grew up listening to Marvin Gaye because my Dad is such a fan, although he rarely strays out of the 60’s material so it was a joy for me to fully appreciate the Trouble Man OST off my own back this year. The title track itself is probably one of my favourite Gaye songs ever, but this little ditty creates such an incredible atmosphere in such a short space of time that it firmly rooted itself in rotation for me throughout the year, eclipsing other material to be found elsewhere on the album.  Check Boon Doc’s flip in case you missed it: dopeness.


Milt Jackson & Ray Brown – ‘Enchanted Lady’

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Sampled on a number of truly classic beats, this sumptuous slice of soul jazz is currently my only real experience of vibraphonist Milt Jackson, but if the remainder of his discography offers up anything as good as this then I’ll inevitably end up violently slapping my own forehead when I finally get around to digging through his work properly.  I’m an absolute sucker for this kind of smoothed out jazz in 4/4 time, but there’s so many little details at play here that there’s no doubt in my mind that this is something truly special.  I mean, if it’s good enough for Pete, it’s good enough for me.


Bob James – ‘Feel Like Making Love (I Want You)’

I’ve never bragged about my digging credentials largely because I don’t have any.  Sifting through sample sources and finding the inspiration behind some of my favourite beats is still a relatively new hobby for me in the grand scheme of things, and purists would despise my methods.  Still, elitism about digging in the crates is one of my pet hates in hip hop, so I’m proud to say that previous to 2008 I’d never fully taken in Bob James’sOne LP, home to ‘Nautilus’ and a grip of other heavily sampled tracks that stand alone as fantastic pieces of music.  ‘Feel Like Making Love (I Want You)’ weaved its way into rotation at the very beginning of the year and is now a stalwart of my seduction playlist.  Shame the girlfriend doesn’t really like it.

Eddie Hendricks – ‘Intimate Friends’

The Temptations co-founder released a whole host of albums after his split from the group and with some of them out of print he’s yet another artist who I’m yet to absorb fully (you can see a pattern emerging here, right?).  I did however manage to acquire a copy of Slick (Tamla, 1977) at some point during the year and ‘Intimate Friends’ quickly became a personal favourite both on its own merit and through its employment in anAlix Perez song that my ex-flatmate used to play ad infinitum (I miss you Rich).  Man, I’m more sentimental than I thought.


The Supremes – ‘It’s Time To Break Down’

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I was completely blown away when I first heard this song, and those initial warbled vocals still send shivers down my spine every single time.  Deeply soulful with an awe-inspiring vocal performance from Jean Terrell, ‘It’s Time To Break Down’ conclusively proves that there’s far more to enjoy from The Supremes than just those three minute Berry Gordy financed pop hits of the 1960s.  Now I just need to uncover more of them.


Mayer Hawthorne & The County – ‘Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out’

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Once Phill had pointed me in the direction of this cut from Stones Throw’s Mayer Hawthorne I couldn’t get enough of it.  I still can’t.  The ‘Tramp’ drums work beautifully at giving this cut a little extra bounce, but it’s the sweetness of the vibe here and Hawthorne’s falsetto that seal the deal.  As a result this album is easily one of my most highly anticipated drops of ‘09 and it should be one of yours too.  You got that?


Stan Getz & Luis Bonfa – ‘Saudade Vem Correndo’

I’m certainly no bossa nova expert but to me this must surely represent the pinnacle of a somewhat frowned upon musical sub-genre.  Yea it sounds a little bit like you might hear it in the carpeted walls of a hotel elevator, but when the sun was whilst I was holdiaying in the south of France this summer nothing felt quite as sweet as this particular cut.  Dilla knew all about this song’s charms.


Menahan Street Band – ‘The Contender’

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Use of the word anthem can be somewhat overplayed, but I don’t think you could possibly deny the Menahan Street Band of the moniker in this case.  Smoldering horns and blistering drums give this song a palpable aggression that is intensely infectious, but it’s smoothed out with lilting guitars and a soaring flute track.  The fact that when I listen to it I feel like I’m Rocky Balboa dishing out a final knockout blow doesn’t hurt matters either.


Gary Burton – ‘Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly’

Despite lacking the motivation to embark on another mix project (as yet), I was particularly proud of my Pete Rock Breaks & Beats mix this year: big shouts to Rafi for giving it the push towards a wider audience.  Given that ‘Pete’s Jazz’ is one of my all time Soul Brother compositions my affinity with this Gary Burton groove was obligatory before I’d even heard it, but once I did I was sold hook, line and sinker.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve listened to the opening sixteen bars or so over the past twelve months, but I’m still not tired of it and it endures as one of my most listened to songs of the year.


Sharon Jones – ‘How Long’ (Ticklah Remix)

You’re always on dodgy ground with a remix of a song that you love in the first place, but this Ticklah remix of one of Sharon Jones’s greatest songs had me reaching for the rewind ad infinitum.  Containing enough to separate it from the original whilst maintaining the core essence of the groove, Ticklah smacked it with this one.  Just be sure you don’t make Ms. Jones wait: I’d dread to be on the end of her soulful wrath.


Leon Ware – ‘What’s Your World’ + FDB Edit

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Long out of print, I was pleased to stumble upon Ware’s self-titled album from 1972 on the strength of this song alone.  Deeply soulful and expertly arranged, ‘What’s Your World’ epitomsises everything I love about 70’s soul and Ware’s voice is to die for.  Excuse the conceit of re-upping my own little edit, but I tended to always listen to it before devouring the original.  After all, isn’t the act of blogging pretty much as self-indulgent as it gets anyway?


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Top 50 Albums @ The Passion
December 24, 2008, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Lists

Okay, so no ‘proper’ content as of yet, but eff it, it’s Christmas.  Once I’ve digested my turkey and got over the hangover you’ll get something a little more from my itchy fingers.

Until then go and check out the top 50 albums of the year over at Passion of the Weiss.  Once again Mr Weiss has been generous enough to open up the doors for Team Passion to drop the knowledge and although I may be a little biased (yours truly contributed a few blurbs) for my money it’s a fine overview of the year’s musical offerings. The linked post will be gradually updated to contain the whole 50, so check back in over the next few days for the complete picture.

Eat, drink and be merry people.  Opportunities for this level of self-indulgence are reserved solely for this time of year, so don’t waste it: I know I won’t be. Enjoy the festive frivolities and I’ll catch ya in a few days with some – gasp – fresh content.  Merry Christmas!

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Officially Back Up In It
December 18, 2008, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Lists

After much anticipation I’m now back in the driving seat of my digital game.  It’s a relief.  However, the timing’s off in terms of posting as obviously we’re about to hit Christmas, so I wouldn’t hold your breath for content over the next few days: you should be drinking heavily and rampantly consuming anyway.

You can however check out my contributions to Passion of the Weiss’s Top 25 hip hop cuts of the year and marvel at the combined strength of Team Passion.  A rather good job by all contributors if I do say so myself.  You should read the whole thing, but if you’re keeping an eye out especially for me (you know I love you too) then check out my write-ups for Q-Tip’s ‘Move’, Elzhi’s ‘Motown 25′ and Luda’s ‘MVP’.

More to come from me shortly…

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Holiday Hits Pt. II – Marvin, Gil and Amy
April 17, 2007, 3:46 pm
Filed under: Lists

Not one to disappoint, here we go with part two of FDB’s ‘Holiday Hits’. I’ve been trying to get into a little bit more soul and jazz recently, inspired by blogs such as Souled On Music. Of course, this is also the breeding ground of samples for hip hop, so the enjoyment is two-fold: I get to check out some great records as well as pick out the constituent parts that may have come to be utilised at a later date and in a different musical context. As a result, I picked up a few bits and pieces whilst away.

(Forewarning: more holiday gloating ahead)

Whilst sunning yourself on a terrace that overlooks the Mediterranean, the hardest of the hardcore rap music seems a little inappropriate, and I got a lot of pleasure out of the following records as the evenings set in on the Cote D’Azur (sick of it yet?). Allow me to share…

Moving Down The Line – Marvin Gaye

‘Trouble Man’ has always been one of my favourite Marvin Gaye tracks, and it is only recently that I realised that the song was part of a soundtrack, scored by Gaye, for the blaxploitation film of the same name. What this record shows is his ability to embrace a range of musical styles beyond his earlier output, and the music lies more within the realms of funk and jazz here than with any other work that he recorded. Very few of the cuts feature Marvin’s beautiful voice which I feel is a shame because it would have worked well soaring over the dramatic soundscape below, but of course this is a soundtrack to a film. The title song is still my clear favourite, but ‘T Plays It Cool’ gets itself into a tasty funk groove and ‘Don’t Mess With Mister T’ is atmospheric and spacious. Dim the lights, sit back and soak it up..

Ever Feel Kind Of Down And Out? – Gil Scott-Heron

I feel relatively ashamed that I haven’t got into Gil Scott-Heron earlier, and his influence on hip hop is undeniable (could he be considered the first ‘rapper’?). What’s particularly interesting about this record, recorded in just two days in 1971, is the range of musical textures and subject matter here, with Gil ranging from angry and revolutionary (‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’), positive and uplifting (‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’) to pensive and tortured (‘The Sign Of The Ages’). The musical backdrop is similarly varied, and it makes for an exciting and engaging listen. I think I prefer the more upbeat numbers, but the album in its entirety is excellent.

I don’t know much about the context of this album within his career as a whole, and would greatly appreciate any information on similar works within his catalogue or any other recommendations. I’m at the beginnings of my soul journey: point me in the right direction brothers and sisters.

Around The Way Girl – Amy Winehouse

The musical cynic in me generally avoids big album releases, the hype too often overwhelming the music itself. It’s ridiculous I know, and ‘Back To Black’ is a fine demonstration of why this policy does not always work. I’d seen a few people mentioning this album on the hip hop blogs, so during one of my afternoons in Fnac I thought I’d give it a try and was absolutely blown away by it. The manner in which Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson have captured the essence of Motown records from the ’60s is staggering, and such is the quality of the album that it goes beyond a simple rehashing of the past and feels fresh, warm and lively.

Winehouse’s voice is sensational, full of emotion and power. My Dad noted a similarity with Dinah Washington whilst we were away, and I read this afternoon that she actually states Washington as one of her main influences (well done Dad).

I’m not even going to post a link for this as it is so widely available that it feels pointless, but you should definitely track this down and enjoy these little slices of perfectly crafted pop soul. She’s a North Londoner as well: she must be great.

Back onto regular album reviews and the like from here on in; I’m back in work on Friday so reality is gradually starting to creep in… take it easy.

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FDB Returns – Holiday Hip Hop Hits
April 16, 2007, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Lists

Having spent the last week and a half on the sunny shores (most of the time…) of the south of France, I’m glad to be back at home and have been itching to get back into the cosy world of hip hop cyberspace. I had quite a few ideas for posts whilst I was away, but I’m going to kick things off with a post split into two parts that will detail my holiday listening/buying habits. Of course, I listened to loads of stuff, but these are the albums that for whatever reason received more airtime than the others. Tomorrow’s focus will be on soul/jazz, but for now, let’s get into the hip hop…

Flippin’ Like Species – LL Cool J

Man, where do you start with LL Cool J? James Smith has seen it all in hip hop, and along with only a handful of others, has managed to carve out a career of serious longevity in rap music. It’s fair to say that his output has been a little hit and miss, but LL was there all the way back in the innocent mid ’80s, still kicking it through the more hardcore aesthetic of the early and mid ’90s and then onto teaming up with R ‘n’ B female vocalists and suchlike as the jiggy era dawned. The man is still recording as well, although I’m not really interested in checking out any of his material beyond 1995’s ‘Mr. Smith’, the first of today’s albums. Granted, this is by no means a sensational release, but it is rewarding in places and had me bopping my head whilst basking in the rays of the Med (it’s a hard life I know).

Let’s take this one step at a time. Of course, the album has the obligatory radio hits in the form of ‘Hey Lover’ and ‘Doin’ It’, the former of which is trash, but ‘Doin’ It’ is pretty much as good as any crossover hit from the era with bangin’ production and a pleasingly hard edge. The overly sexy shit on the lyrical side of things does grate, but I don’t have a problem with this song and although I’m a little loathed to admit it, I like it. The strength of these hits commercially was phenomenal, and amazingly pushed the album to double platinum status. Even I had it on tape when it was released: the exposure was substantial due to these two cuts (to put this in context, I was a spotty thirteen year old at this stage who had had little proper exposure to hip hop and was only just beginning to go out and buy it for myself).

What I genuinely enjoy about this album is that aside from these crossover hits, there is some pretty solid production elsewhere that is largely handled by the Trackmasterz. Naturally, there is a fairly large dose of cheesy chorus hooks, but the beats themselves are pretty dope: the ‘Who Shot Ya (Remix)’ being the most agreeably hard-hitting. Other tracks are well worth a listen as well: ‘Mr. Smith’ features some era-defining sleighbells; ‘Life As’ won’t fail to get your head nodding and ‘God Bless’ does a good job of flipping the heavily used Vickie Anderson break. Beyond these, my personal favourite is ‘Hollis To Hollywood’, where LL muses on the use of metaphor in the rap game and cleverly weaves together references to films backed by the best Trackmasterz’s beat on the album. I love the way that the double bass kick in the last quarter of the bar in the intro leads you into the verse section, and the lightly crashing cymbals in the background give the track depth and flava.

In addition to this, LL’s verses over the album are enjoyable, if not sensational. Again, the sexual references do grow tiresome after a while, but the delivery is complex enough to keep you engaged and there is no denying that the man has charisma and style, the hallmarks of any great MC. You have to admire his ability to stay current, and even appearances from Fat Joe, Keith Murray and Prodigy demonstrate that even though ‘Mr Smith’ was released ten whole years after LL’s first release, he could still hold his own alongside his big name contemporaries in ’95. If you haven’t heard this album in its entirety then give it a go: it ain’t going to rock your world, but you may find some joints that tickle your fancy.

The Most Underrated Album Of All Time?

I’ve already done a post on Da King & I’s slept on classic ‘Contemporary Jeep Music’, so no need to go into any detail here. However, I was still killing this album on the holiday: fun, witty, funky, amazingly consistent, intelligent… this is my current nomination for most underrated album of all time. From front to back this is an absolute banger and if you’re still sleeping on it then resolve the situation immediately and hit the link.

FDB Da King & I Archives

Que La Force Soit Avec Toi – Cut Killer

France’s equivalent to HMV/Virgin Megastore is Fnac, and every time I visit the continent I enjoy a couple of hours flicking through their selections and listening to bits and pieces as you can walk up to listening posts, scan the barcode and check out 30 second clips of each of the songs on the selected albums. I also like to try to walk out with at least one or two French releases as well, otherwise I may as well be surfing Amazon from the comfort of my own home. Cut Killer has already featured here on FDB, and this is another of his mixtape series that is well worth owning. There’s isn’t much to say here that I haven’t said already, but this is a two disc mixtape of quality boom bap beats blended with style. The tracklisting (click the second picture) only tells half the story as there are plenty of other instrumentals and acapellas dropped throughout the course of the mix and the result is a bangin’ selection from front to back. Enjoy.

Cut Killer Mix Disc 1
Cut Killer Mix Disc 2
FDB Cut Killer Archives

C’est Pour Toi – Onra & Quetzal

The final album for today is something that I had never come across before and I imagine will be totally new to the majority of you. The great thing about actually flicking through racks of CDs rather than just surfing on the net is that something can catch your eye that would have otherwise have passed you by entirely, and these can often turn out to be some of the most exciting things that you buy. I am not suggesting that this is a sensational release, but it is certainly a demonstration of well-crafted beat-making that will receive very little exposure outside French shores. Ostensibly, the ‘tribute’ in question is to soul records of the sixties and seventies that form the basis of the samples here, but this could also be seen as a Dilla tribute, as this clearly draws its influence from ‘Donuts’.

Featuring 35 beat skits with plenty of chopped up soul vocals and a progressive edge, Onra & Quetzal do a very effective Dilla impersonation here, clearly in line with the current trend for rich, soulful samples and slightly more abstract constructions care of a big stack of records and an MPC. This lacks the creativity of ‘Donuts’, but it is an enjoyable listen that demonstrates some real talent, and I hope to catch wind of more of their production work in the future. Although this was only released at the end of last year, I’m throwing it up because these guys deserve exposure and as yet, this is only available on the Fnac website and not on Amazon. I’ve put the link to the website below to make it as easy as possible: if you like it, bumble your way through the registration process and cop it.

Onra & Quetzal – Fnac website

That’s it for today, tune in tomorrow for the second installment of my holiday hits series which will focus on some soul and jazz… laters.

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