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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Beat To Tide You Over
December 9, 2008, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

Yaggfu Front – ‘Hold ‘Em Back’
taken from Action Packed Adventure (Mercury, 1994)

The laptop issues are yet to be concluded. I’m hating it. Revisiting Yaggfu Front’s Action Packed Adventure has cured the blues on numerous occasions over the last week, so savour my favourite cut from the album whether you’re familiar with it or not. Ah, ‘Sing A Simple Song’ drums make everything better… kind of.

Regular programming still a week or so off.

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K-Def Drop @ Vapors Magazine
December 9, 2008, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Producers

K-Def piece @ Vapors Magazine

A couple of months back I was enlisted to write a short bio of K-Def for Vapors Magazine (I’m avoiding the temptation to make some sort of lame Biz Markie reference here). Not one to turn down the opportunity to wax lyrical about one of my favourite producers of all time, I jumped on the task with the quickness. Shouts to JNOTA for sending it my way: much appreciated mate.

I actually found the piece more taxing than I thought it would be: it’s kinda hard to find the balance between overt geekiness and something that would appeal to a broader range of people when you’re bordering on obsessive with the subject matter. Still, the result is now up, ready and waiting for you to digest. Drop a comment and make me feel good why don’t ya?

If you’re yet to peep the unreleased Tragedy jam produced by K-Def himself then head on over to Robbie’s spot and check it out immediately. ‘Tidal Wave’ hasn’t sounded this good since 1993…

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Random Reflections On The Roots @ Bristol Academy
December 4, 2008, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

The music blogger in me wanted to attend last night’s performance by the legendary Roots crew, make a mental note of all the finer nuances of their set and put together a comprehensive, analytical review that would do the Philly boys justice on what might be their last tour ever (I’m not convinced they’re gonna be able to stay away from it after all these years on the road).  Alas, I was enjoying myself far too much to indulge in such anal nitpickery, so here are some of my scattered, somewhat chronological thoughts and memories of a truly exceptional performance.

– Seeing a sousaphone resting behind one of the speakers and feeling the inital glimmers of what was to come.

– Reflecting on why promoters in Bristol make such bad programming choices on nights like this.  In short, the support acts sucked gonads.

– Hearing said sousaphone play out a three note riff from behind stage, the lights drop and seeing Black Thought, ?uest et al making their first appearance.

– Pondering after 20 minutes or so whilst on my way to the bar whether the show was necessarily going to be all that.  Realising after 40 minutes that it was.

– Obligatory rendition of ‘Proceed’ breaking down into a five minute percussive extravaganza with the question and answer format executed to an astonishing level of musicianship with some reverb effects thrown in for good measure.

– Hearing ‘Long Time’ after listening to it almost non-stop for the last two days.

– Admiring the adaptability of the saxophonist/guitarist/vocalist who switched effortlessly between all three roles.

– Thinking how much fun it must be to play a sousaphone and hop around on one leg doing 360 spins in front of a live audience.

– The blazing bass solo during a fantastic rendition of ‘You Got Me’.  Reptilian looking bassist in argyle sweater done good.

– Realising that for the first time in years I was at a hip hop gig without feeling constantly annoyed by those around me who were younger or resent for those of my age and above who look to be taking it all too seriously, man.  The Roots cure overt self-awareness!

– A ten minute Fela Kuti tribute that hit the ball out of the park.  I see you Jeff.

– Stamping my feet as the group made their way off stage in anticipation of the encore.  Apologies to the man stood behind me whose toe I may have broken.

– The band reappearing on stage, performing a cover of ‘Love Lockdown’ and ?uest goofing around on the mic.  Auto-tuned laughter sounds similar to children overdosing on helium and yet manages to be even more bizarre and infinitely more disturbing.

– Rocking out to a final barrage of classic funk breaks with Black Thought still runnin’ tings on the mic.

– Leaving with the knowledge that I may never see this group perform again but feeling fine about it given that this was one of the most awe-inspiring, faultless sets I’ve ever seen in my life.

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Hat To The Back – ‘Machine Gun Funk’ Beat Deconstruction
November 26, 2008, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Breaks

Notorious B.I.G. – ‘Machine Gun Funk’
taken from Ready To Die (Bad Boy, 1994)

Black Heat – ‘Something Extra’
taken from Keep On Runnin’ (Atlantic, 1975)

Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns – ‘Up For The Down Stroke’
taken from A Blow For Me A Toot For You (Atlantic, 1978)

Lords Of The Underground – ‘Chief Rocka’
taken from Here Come The Lords (Pendulum, 1993)

I’ve tried to always keep things honest and upfront when it comes to my knowledge of breaks and sample sources here at FDB because it’s far too easy to front like you know everything when you run a music blog. Sure I’ve got a handle on some of the major sources of inspiration for the hip hop canon but it’s a constant learning process for me that often begins with an idea for a beat deconstruction. I’ve been spinning Ready To Die ad infinitum around my way at the moment and decided a few days back that I wanted to take on one of my favourite beats from the album ‘Machine Gun Funk’, so I set about my research, downloaded acquired what I needed and sat down to absorb what pieces Easy Mo Bee had thrown together in its construction.

Long story short (I’m omitting the numerous rewinds, note-taking and what’s-he-done-there?! moments that pleasantly consumed an hour of my life) Easy Mo’s production work here is nothing short of spectacular. Although I’d always realised there was a little chopping at play in the main guitar sample that forms the melodic core of the beat I really wasn’t prepared for the obvious ingenuity displayed behind the boards upon hearing Black Heat’s ‘Something Extra’, taken from their third and final studio album which I honestly haven’t had a chance to fully absorb. However, it’s a welcome discovery on the strength of this track alone, a sweeping ballad that houses that hugely important guitar lick that occupies a mere three quarters of a bar at the 0.34 mark. What Easy Mo Bee does with it I really can’t be sure, although I’d assume there was some pretty rigorous chopping in order to achieve the desired effect.

For that extra layer of flyness during the chorus Easy Mo dug out his copy of Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns’ cover of Parliament’s ‘Up For The Down Stroke’, a sizzling nine minute funk workout that gets my rear end jiggling in a hugely inapporpriate (and deeply disturbing) manner for a nice young man from North London. It took some time to work out exactly what section of this song had been incorporated into ‘Machine Gun Funk’, but pay particular attention at 2.49 when the male voices help bolster the ladies on the “I don’t care about the cold, baby/’Cause when you’re hot you’re too much” refrain which gets dropped during the chorus of the Biggie cut. The chorus’s horns are tucked away in this sample as well but as with the Black Heat chop, I can’t really get my head around exactly what Easy Mo’s done here but since it’s generally nodding violently at this stage I guess it doesn’t really matter that much.

The final addition during the chorus is of course taken from the Jersey classic ‘Chief Rocka’ and some of My Funky’s parting rhymes in the final verse. I can only congratulate him on living and dying for the funk, but regardless it makes for a great little hook during the song’s most sonically climatic moments. All in ‘Machine Gun Funk’ represents an incredibly detailed yet beautifully simplistic piece of production work that has taken my appreciation for Easy Mo Bee’s abilities up to the next level. I bet even Premier wishes he’d thrown this one together.

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Slice Of Soul – ‘The Third Cup’
November 24, 2008, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Slice Of Soul

The Eddie Fisher Quintet – ‘The Third Cup’
taken from The Third Cup (Cadet, 1969)

Another installment of Slice Of Soul brings yet another artist to the table who’s completely new to me and may well be to you as well. Given that my knowledge of guitar-led soul/jazz is pretty much limited at this stage to George Benson and Wes Montgomery, it was a real treat to stumble upon this LP, Fisher’s first solo outing whose title shares this song’s name. Released in 1969 and long out of print, the album feels much more like something you’d expect to find on CTI during the mid ’70s due to its shimmering textures and lazy, atmospheric vibe. As such it’s a little surprising that it hasn’t been given the reissue treatment, but it is out there if you want it (read: yes, you can find a vinyl rip without too much bother) and it’s worth the effort because it’s an enjoyable record from beginning to end.

‘The Third Cup’ is the easy standout for me though, six minutes of luscious licks that’ll have you jazz stepping in next to no time. Maybe it’s just because I’m a complete sucker for this kind of soulful jazziness in 4/4 time but this has been in rotation all weekend and doesn’t look to be shifting yet. Wash away the Monday blues and keep things on a smooth tip readers: you deserve it.

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Beat Deconstruction @ The Passion
November 21, 2008, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions

I’m fully aware that the beat deconstructions have been a little thin on the ground as of late, so if you’re missing some of that geekery tomfoolery then hit up Passion Of The Weiss where I pick apart Stretch Armstrong’s mix of Big Noyd’s ‘Usual Suspect’ with the quickness.

Writing it made me realise how much I miss doing these kind of posts more regularly.  Expect more in the near future digital diggers.

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Ludacris on FDB?!
November 18, 2008, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

Ludacris – ‘MVP’ & ‘I Do It For Hip Hop’ feat. Jay-Z & Nas
taken from Theater Of The Mind (Def Jam, 2008)

I gotta say that I didn’t ever anticipate this moment passing, but two of the leaked tracks from Luda’s upcoming Theater Of The Mind are worthy of your attention. The Premier produced ‘MVP’ is extremely dope despite the shabby quality of this radio rip and ‘I Do It For Hip Hop’ has its charms as well with verses from Nas & Jay-Z (nice score Chris). Although most people’s focus is inevitably on the high-profile guest spots here I really like the beat, but would have liked it even more if producer Wyldfyer had let the Mountain drums do the talking solo throughout instead of adding in additional skittering hats and snares. However, I can appreciate that this would have also killed the song’s commercial appeal. Damn those ignorant masses.

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Open Letter To GZA
November 15, 2008, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

That’s right mate, you think about what you’ve done.

Dear Mr Grice,

I have to admit that it was with some trepidation I attended your show last night at the Bristol Academy. At £18 a ticket the entry cost felt a little steep and to be honest with you I have some reservations about the current trend for long serving members of the hip hop community to tour on the sole premise of performing their classic albums, but you know what? I love you man. I love Liquid Swords even more. I own every album you’ve ever released and I want to support you whenever possible. I mean damn, the last time I saw you at Subterania in ‘99 it was sensational. Why would anything be different this time around?

But I got to be honest with you Gary, you sucked ass last night. Major ass. Your cause wasn’t aided by the shambolic organisation of the show in general terms, but I know that wasn’t your fault. I was even willing to forgive you for coming on stage nearly an hour late because I love you. Have I mentioned that already? But how can you expect me to leave satisfied when yours was one of the most achingly tired performances I’ve ever seen? I mean, did you even want to be there? At all? I know Liquid Swords was thirteen years ago, but apart from anything else it kinda looked like you’d forgotten half of your rhymes. Your usually impeccable flow was inconceivably pedestrian and you just sauntered around on stage a little. Is this really all you’ve got left in the tank? What happened to the live presence of one of the greatest MCs to ever do it?

I want you to know that I will always remain a fan. I also want you to know that I will never attend one of your live shows again. Ever. I mean, I might not even bother paying for your albums anymore. Cheated doesn’t even begin cover it. I’m so sorry things turned out this way, but you’ve left me no choice. You’ve torn my heart out of my chest, so why not stamp on it while you’re at it?

Your massively disappointed fan,

Dan Love

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