FROM DA BRICKS


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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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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Minerals & Vitamins – ‘Time’s Up’ Beat Deconstruction
May 23, 2008, 4:22 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Producers

O.C. – ‘Time’s Up’
taken from Word… Life (Wild Pitch, 1994)

O.C. – ‘Time’s Up’ (Original Buckwild Instrumental)
available on ‘Time’s Up’ VLS (Fat Beats Reissue, 2004)

Les De Merle – ‘A Day In The Life’
taken from Spectrum (United Artists, 1968)

What I’ve noticed about my beat deconstruction series is that it’s always the discussion of truly classic jams that seems to get people most excited (deduced by the highly scientific equation of more comments equating to greater reader enthusiasm). To be honest it’s understandable, because I know that for me there are certain cuts that will essentially always engage my interest, regardless of how many times I listen to them or how old they get. ‘Time’s Up’ is one such number, undeniably a key component of the boom bap canon with its deeply hypnotic vibe and devastatingly delivered lyrical attack on those endlessly criticised fake emcees. Eff ‘em: they deserve it.

In listening to the source material, the simplicity of Buckwild’s composition is immediately apparent, a straight forward jack of two two-bar sequences lifted and looped from drummer Les De Merle’s ‘A Day In The Life’. The song is of course a cover of the Beatles’ final cut from their Sgt. Pepper album, although De Merle and his band give it a complete overhaul that provides the track with a totally different and awesomely funky flavour. Finding out information on both De Merle himself and the Spectrum album from which it is taken is surprisingly difficult, particularly given that it appears to be a record much lauded by serious diggers due to several tight drum breaks. The only enlightening material I came across seems to focus more heavily on his release in 1978 on Dobre entitled Transfusion, home to ‘Moondial’ which has been sampled most notably by De La on ‘Stone Age’ and Shadow on ‘Entropy’. Spectrum however has managed to escape a listing on Discogs (an easily indexed one anyway), and De Merle himself is yet to be given even the relatively token glory of a Wikipedia entry. Sometimes even my most intrepid digital digging skills come frustratingly unstuck…

What I particularly love about ‘Time’s Up’ in terms of Buckwild’s production is that it represents a departure from his usual techniques. Although the DITC legend tended to favour loops and hard-hitting drums during his heyday in the mid-’90s (and this isn’t intended to discredit his later work), I can’t think of a single other instance in which all elements of one of his beats come from the same single source. What is ultimately so surprising about the groove here is that it still sounds so distinctly like Buckwild, even though for all intents and purposes there’s no denying that it does not demonstrate the layered craftsmanship that you can find in his production work elsewhere during the period. What it ultimately proves is not only can the man get deep in the crates, but also that he knows when he’s onto something: any messing around with this break would be entirely superfluous.

I’m also throwing up the original Buckwild instrumental for your listening pleasure, although I can’t remember exactly where I stumbled across it and am unable to find out conclusively at what point it received a release. The Fat Beats reissue of 2004 seems to be the most likely source, although I’d be surprised if it hadn’t found its way to wax at a much earlier date. Although I really enjoy the inclusion of the horn tracks from the De Merle original, I actually feel that the final LP mix is still better, as it provides absolutely no distractions from the intense, head-nod inducing groove that is so infectious on the officially released LP version. If you haven’t treated yourself to a dip back into this classic of the mid-’90s era then consider this your excuse: I dare you to just listen to it once. I know that for me, the intoxicating vibe of the joint makes the task prove completely impossible. Don’t front, I know you feel the same way.

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XXL Review – Article EP
May 21, 2008, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Producers

The Program @ MySpace

K-Def @ MySpace

Ghetto Man Beats @ MySpace

You’ll remember that a couple of months ago FDB dropped the most recent of K-Def’s work in the shape of The Article EP with Dacapo. Care of richdirection, here’s what Chairman Mao thinks in July’s XXL:

On last year’s excellent instro LP Willie Boo Boo The Fool, veteran Brick City producer K-Def expressed his own concern with the rap game’s turns over the years. This year, Def teams with young blood DaCapo to form The Program and drop their inaugural EP, The Article (Ghetto Man Beats), reviving the sample-reliant, low-’90s-BPM vibe of the early ’90s. As expected, Def does his thing on the production side, whether generating fresh soundscapes (the joyous strings of ‘Free Speech’ and ‘Day Dreaming’) or tastefully repurposing the familiar (some ol’ Ed O.G. on the industry primer ‘Gotta Get Da Cash’ and a lil’ Latifah on the paean to lost rap cats ‘Fallen’). DaCapo, however, provides the nicest surprise, thoughtfully enunciating throughout like Large Professor or CL Smooth reincarnate. So when he says, on the title track, that he’s in it for “much more than the name or the fame or the change in the game,” it’s official. Genuine article.

Critical Beatdown, Chairman’s Choice. XXL magazine July 2008

There you go: makes me feel proud that I played a small part in it all. Keep an eye out for the official digital release of both The Article EP and Willie Boo Boo The Fool coming from the Ghetto Man Beats camp very soon.

Full post later on (for real this time).

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New PR Material
May 13, 2008, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Producers

Kurupt – ‘Yessir’ (?, 2008) 

Shouts to PR forum head Whateva for the hook up.

That’s right, it’s another desperate attempt to get ‘current’.  Thanks to my hard-working and internet savvy crew over at the Pete Rock forum I got my hands on this new joint that he’s just done with Dogg Pound MC Kurupt.  Rumours are that there’s a full length album on its way which to my mind could turn out sounding nice (if a little strange), particularly if ‘Yessir’ is anything to go by.

I’m feelin’ the vibe here – much more so than the Vast Aire cut released a little earlier this year – with soulful vocals making way for jangling keys, trademark horns and subtle drums that keep the track moving.  It’s interesting to hear the different aesthetics Rock is coming at us with this year, although if this pattern continues to repeat itself I predict an equal amount of gems and filler from Mt. Vernon’s finest in 2008.  Not great percentages, but I’ll run with it: tell me what you think.

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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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No Time To Talk, Listen To Ghost
April 17, 2008, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Producers

Ghost – ‘Basic Instinct’ & ‘Talk To Me’
taken from Seldom Seen Often Heard (Breakin Bread, 2006)

With the end of the holidays now in sight full-time employment looms once again. As such, I’m gonna be pretty busy over the next couple of days with work as well as having a short break away with the lady (gotta make the most of the holidays while they last, right?).

As a result of this I’m doing something I rarely do which is simply present you with a couple of songs that are back in heavy rotation around my way without saying a great deal about them. UK producer Ghost is easily one of the shining lights of the British scene and his debut LP Seldom Seen Often Heard is exceptional, permeated from front to back with a moody and captivating vibe that is intoxicating. Here are two of my favourite cuts for your listening pleasure, the more characteristically brooding ‘Basic Instinct’ supplemented by a dose of spring-infused fun in the shape of ‘Talk To Me’. Enjoy and cop the album if you haven’t already.

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