Picks 5/12/2013

May 12, 2013 Leave a comment

My old receiver was literally the bane of my existence and so I upgraded to a little $25 amp from China. Best move. Can’t wait to give the old one the Office Space treatment. I’ve been having really good record luck recently. I don’t know what it is, but I love it. TIME2MOVE on Friday was great. Despite some heavy competition (stacked house show down the street / stacked lineup at Rhonda) a lot of people showed up and we had a good ass time. Stay up, its just about summer.

Pulled from the wellsprings that are: Amoeba, Chemical-Records and Discogs.

Brandy – Brandy (Atlantic, 1994)

As I’ve said before, I’m deep in an R&B state of mind. The R&B 12″s section of the record store has been a consistent first stop for me in the last few months. This record came with a particularly amazing comeuppance of modern R&B LPs, Beyonce and Brandy, Jessie Ware and Cassie still sealed in the shrink. Still working through the stack, but this has been the instant winner right here.

Largely produced by Keith Crouch, Brandy’s first album serves as a precursor to the burgeoning neo-soul movement. More soulful than new jack swing, harder than a Babyface production, the record shares that sense of warmness that comes from real instruments and analog production. Listen to the unbelievable “I Wanna Be Down” and tell me that D’Angelo and Erykah Badu weren’t vibin. The warmth and emotion, the vocal delivery, the lyrics are all perfect. She’s able to convey so much emotion, so much conviction in a way that seems effortless. That beat just shuffling along, holding down the groove but giving plenty of space to the star. It’s a timeless track that sounds good almost twenty years later and will still sound good in another twenty.

Brandy is just unstoppable throughout the record as her vocal style is unique, passionate and so pleasant to the ear. Moving between ballads, party starters, diva jams and weirdo 90s r&b, the record is cohesive, although a little long. Of course I have a preference to the funky tracks, the groovers with that 90s swing. “Baby” (above) appears early on in the tracklist and its appeal is immediately felt. The beat is breezy and funky with Brandy absolutely killing it on the mic, sounding vibrant and powerful like a seasoned veteran delivering a hook that just wont quit. The track also serves as an excellent example of her use of overdubbed vocals. Layered vocals was a formula that Brandy used frequently and gives her vocal delivery an dynamic nature that is unparalleled, and really, can you have too much of a good thing?

The low slung “Best Friend” is another Keith Crouch win. Effortlessly sounding like two or three singers within the frame of one song, Brandy has the ability to make every simple phrase brim with melody, overflow with that golden tone of her voice. The other production team on deck is Somethin’ For the People and their blend of hip hop and soul sensibilities works almost as well as Crouch’s work. On “Sunny Day,” the vibe shines bright as a rhodes drenched shuffling instrumental makes enough noise to easily pass for a missing Q-Tip beat. The harder boombap of Somethin’s productions foreshadows the direction she would ultimately spend her career chasing.

Absolutely excellent record, I know this is going to get a lot of play this summer. “Baby” has already done an excellent job rocking a few parties. My only complaint is that like a lot of records from this time when CDs were the greater focus, it was pressed as a single LP and at 28 minutes of music on each side the record kinda sounds like shit. Oh well, that’s why they make mp3s, right?

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Girl Unit / Morri$ – Night Slugs Allstars Vol. 2 Sampler (Night Slugs, 2013)

This is something else I’ve been trying to pick up for a while. Nobody has had it for a price I like so I bit the bullet yesterday and picked it up Amoeba for $15. I’m a big fan of the Night Slugs label, those cats are really pushing forward a different style of music, borrowing from all over the place to piece together a grime/ghettohouse/trap/ballroom/whatever concoction. Their shit knocks, and although I don’t buy every release, I will gladly admit that each 12″ or LP is never anything but forward looking music. Combined with their sister Fade to Mind crew, we have the future of club music right here.

It was initially Girl Unit’s “Double Take (Part 2)”  that instilled the lust in me. “Double Take” initially appeared on his Club Rez EP from last year and it always bummed me out that the euphoric mellow part didn’t stick around long enough. I was even considering trying to piece together an edit just when I heard a long version of the track on Kingdom’s 1xtra mix. It’s a really wonderful track, but I’ve gotta say Morri$’ “White Hood” (above) takes the cake on this one. It’s like a hood symphony up in here. The accordion sample is absolutely killer, slightly menacing, but overwhelmingly catchy. The atmosphere is thick with sound, fat 808s rock against samples of marbles in a wooden box, with chimes and hazy synth tones all up in the mix. Bok Bok’s dub mix takes away the clutter and leaves for a functional rhythm track, but the winner is definitely the original.

Morri$ is in town Thursday, playing the opening party for the homies Low Limit and Sodapop’s new venture Household.

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Zomby – Dedication (4AD, 2011)

Not sure why it took me so long to pick this up, I’ve got a lot of his early stuff and I really love Where Were U in ’92. For the last few months I have literally been craving the sound of Zomby; his grimey, neon tones coupled with deep rhythmic palettes ranging from grime to funky, house to juke. After a few trips to record stores and not being able to find this record I took to the trusty fallback, Discogs.

As much as people talk about Zomby’s music, they talk about his persona more. He’s notorious for being outlandish, a shit talker and pretty self-involved. His twitter feed is absolutely hilarious. Perhaps his biggest his, “Natalia’s Song” (above) came out in controversy last year, revealing that the producer took a sample or segment of a track from another artist and didn’t credit him. Regardless, the song is beautiful, a perfectly hazy, melancholy garage track with bits of glimmering melody at every step of the way. It’s obviously an ode to the work of Burial, and although not executed with the same expertise, it still conjures the same emotional depth.

Much of the record is characterized by bright ravey synth tones, echoing both jungle and grime, but implemented in a way that manages to sound fresh. “Riding With Death” enters with some old school dubbed out subbass, then carried along by a shuffling beat and a rolling muted organ. The atmosphere is thick and the groove is insatiable. When the first tracks from this album began to leak it took everyone by surprise that most of the songs just seemed to end without any logical conclusion. But in typical Zomby fashion, he seems to have had the grander vision of a cohesive album journey in mind. Often when one track ends it’ll dive straight into another, like a raucous mix in the club or a party mix on the radio – all accentuated with gunshot samples and airhorns. It works to great effect when the rolling rave rhythm of “Lucifer” morphs into the thumping “Digital Rain“.

This album works well, it balances brooding dark atmosphere and percussion with those bright synths that creep in like lasers through the haze. My favorite track on the record, “A Devil Lay Here” moves along patiently, heavily focused on that groovey bassline and some heavily romanticized Ruff Sqwad worship. All in all a great buy. I’m amped for his new album next month.

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Kenny Dope Presents The Bucketheads – The Bomb! (Henry Street/Decks Classix, 1994)

As I had no prior knowledge of this song, maybe I internalized it when hearing it on the radio or seeing it on MTV as a kid (I honestly have no memory of either), but when I heard a 45 second clip of this on the Chemical-Records new arrivals section I did a backflip. Something about the track instilled a sense of longing and nostalgia aka I had to buy it immediately. Funny enough, that same week I found two copies of it in the Amoeba used bin for $2-4 and then I read an interview with the Black Madonna who gave it a shout out.

The Bomb” (full version) has been in my possession for over a month now and I can’t help but give the full 14+ minutes of it a listen pretty much everyday. I love how the rolling tribal rhythm peppered with raucous organ stabs sheds its tough exterior to reveal a beautifully soulful disco-house track. The horns are the definition of alluring, the chopped vocals catchy and nonsensical in the way that only Dope can do it. I really love every moment of this track. Everytime I start to mix records at home it inevitably ends up getting played. I think the Black Madonna sums up my feelings for this record pretty well: “It’s one of those records that ate the world because it was just so good.”

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Categories: 1994, 2011, 2013, diva, House, LDN, NY, video Tags: ,

Picks – May 5th, 2013

May 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Bleh, another week. I have stacks and stacks of records I want to write about. I wonder how many I’ll actually get through. Next week we have TIME2MOVE at the Que Sera in Long Beach. Special guests FRANKI CHAN (iheartcomix) and the NATIVES (live). It’s my mans Valdez bday. Big up my bruh.

– Plucked from the nooks and crannies of Amoeba, Fingerprints and Resident Advisor.

Kenny Dope Unreleased Project – Pushin Dope (TNT, 1994)

The label reads: “Respect to A Tribe Called Quest and Wutang Clan.” Instantly I knew I had to buy this. Kenny Dope is well known for his role in Masters at Work and Nuyorican Soul, and he’s also had plenty of time of rack up his own solo credentials. Through some of his responses on the MAW RBMA interview I attributed the dancehall/hip hop influence of the MAW productions to him. Masters at Work are typically buy-on-sight records, so seeing Kenny shout out Wutang filled me with uneasy excitement all the way home.

As the needle drops, the record opens up with “That Gangsta Shit,” a dark, slamming hip hop track perfectly suited for the Wu. Centered around a Cypress Hill sample, and what I assume to be one of the earliest Mulatu samples on record, the track has a hook that is both aggressive and hypnotic. I really love the Mulatu lift, but the second half of the track seems to meander a bit, with that vocal sample incessantly repeating.

Dialing back the testosterone, “Get on Down” (above) is the prize of the bunch. Rather simple, it’s carried by a vocal refrain over lilting piano chords and an airy break, but the warmth of analog gear and a gentle swing yield a beautiful groove. It’s one of those tracks where everything has just lined up perfectly to create an ideal aesthetic and sound. “Inside” shares a similar aesthetic, but picks up the pace which gives the track a wonderfully druggy take on a skate jam. A track that I wish would last minutes longer.

At its best, the depth of human emotion drawn through dusty samples in combination with Kenny Dope’s excellent sense of groove bring to mind the work of DJ Premier or Andres. At its worst, these are good golden era hip hop beats. Big win.

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Urban Tribe – The Collapse of Modern Culture (Mo Wax, 1998)

Detroit’s Sherard Ingram has been making music for a long time, first receiving acclaim in the 90s as Urban Tribe, and nowadays as DJ Stingray. DJ Stingray records are usually too in-your-face for my taste, but I have a big soft spot for Urban Tribe. Although the brainchild and vision of Ingram, Urban Tribe was known as a collaborative effort that included Kenny Dixon Jr, Carl Craig and Shake Shakir. Looking at the record in the store, it was actually KDJ that caught my attention before anything, as my copy has a very faded almost illegible cover, and when I flipped it over to the back the word “moodymann” struck me in the face. Quickly realizing this was the first Urban Tribe LP I pulled out the vinyl to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Kinda dirty, but it’d have to do. Not everyday you come across a record this deep.

Although coming from some of the most important names of second wave Detroit Techno, this record is a sublime example of Mo Wax’s blend of experimental hip hop. That influence really comes into play sonically, as the “futuristic” sound palette of techno is the mainstay here, with blocky synths and pixelated drum breaks making up the overarching characteristic of the music. The drum sounds are most intriguing, as airy 909 kicks tend to center things, but the snares and hi-hats are all crunchy metallic objects, brittle yet funky. Album standout “Peacemakers,” (above) is an excellent example of this style, blending lush electronics, a funky electro keyboard motif and a sweet soulful vocal sample that gives the track a really calming, yet vibrant quality to it. By Speaking in the language of techno, taking a lower tempo and working with a hip-hop rhythmic structure, Ingram foreshadows the work of beat scene cats like Daedalus, Flying Lotus, or even someone like Dabrye. Such premonitions are also seen in a track like “Sophistry” with its heavy swagger and filtered atmospherics, still sounding fresh 15 years later.

The influence of dub/dancehall is heavily present as well, as deep subfrequencies form the base of almost every track. Basslines come through and wind, groove, and heave with a slow funk. On a track like “Low Berth,” a crackling halftime break anchors the groove, while a fat writhing bass line is taken right out of the Robbie Shakespeare playbook. Spacey electronics helmed by both Carl Craig and Ingram move through the track, effectively completing the futuristic dub vision of Scientist.  It’s a wonderful sounding record, a bit heady, but I think it’ll see a lot of play on those lazy summer afternoons.

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Dense & Pika – Resident Advisor Podcast: RA353 (Resident Advisor, 2013)

I’m not particularly a fan of techno, although I do dig on the Detroit stuff and other things here and there, but it’s not really on my radar. This mix is billed as a “warehouse techno mix” and although it’s not something I would have checked out on description alone, I wanted to look into it because I always dig the Dense & Pika tracks that end up on other DJs mixes. To preface, this mix has been out for exactly two months now and the only reason I’m writing about it is because I have listened to it almost every day of those two months.

On two turntables, a 909 and Ableton for samples, the duo craft a mix that evenly spreads out its loves and influences, mixing Detroit techno with ghetto house, jungle with techno, acid with electro. Running through about 60 tracks in just as much time, they keep the groove focused, but constantly moving and growing. Snippets of a phantom vocal will pop in for just a few seconds before its gone, percussion will dip in and out, songs come and go, but the rhythm stays steady and new exciting elements are always coming forward. An early banger is one of their own productions, the stomping “Move Your Body Back” and it hits really hard, but also helps set the dark, spacey tone for the whole project. My favorite part of the mix is about halfway through when they mix out of James Ruskin’s “Indirect World” and into Drexciya’s “Birth of New Life.” With Ruskin, they had taken a break from chugging drum machines and began to explore atmosphere, with Drexciya’s otherworldly melodies eventually flowering and coming to the forefront.

What I view to be the real success is ultimately the human quality to both the mixing and track selection. There are a lot of vocals to provide a human element, but more importantly, there are a load of tracks that are purely visceral, conjuring up the words slinky and sensual. Particularly excellent is this “Sweat on the Walls – Clone” thing into DJ Deeon’s “Fuck for Free,” as the energy moves from fairly sadistic into goofy and playful. The inclusion of Special Request’s Lana Del Rey remix is a great thing because I really love that track. This mix pushed me to go out and pick up the 12″. I love this mix; I dance to it, it gets me through long days at work, I’m listening to it right now at 10am smoking weed. Big ups.

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Wiley – Wot Do U Call It? (XL, 2004)

This is frankly one of the most important records to come out of the grime scene; a hugely influential beat by the master Wiley. Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the vocal version, but the instrumental is really incredible. That string sample, the bass rubs, the wacked out woodblock, the overall energy of the track. Pure bliss. Eski-beat has been making somewhat of a return during this grime resurgence, as heard on the recent all Wiley mix by Royal-T. The sound really is incredible, and so unique. Too bad a lot of the early Wiley 12″s are fairly expensive.

Categories: 2004, 2013, detroit, hip hop, LDN, mix, NY Tags: , ,

Pulls. The last two months of my life seem frozen.

April 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Okay, so I guess I took a little break from the blog. Life gets in the way sometimes right? Gotta reassert myself, music first everything else second. I originally wrote this entry two months ago, but these records are too good to not talk about. Today I added the Cassie write up and added some notes to the original blurbs. Pearson Sound and Bok Bok are coming to town next week. Gonna be a rager. OH and make sure you watch the “Body Party” video. I pray to it like three times a day.

Pulled from Amoeba, All Day Records and Dat Piff.

inc. – no world (4AD, 2013)

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. I was first struck when 4AD quietly released “The Place” (above) and announced a full length on the way. You know I have an inclination towards the deep and sensual, so inc sat well with me almost immediately. My subtle hype turned ecstatic when I saw them at the Boiler Room the other night, the vibe was thick with soul and the band was on point. I was really impressed by how their sound translated live, it was just as intimate and groovy, introspective, but dialogic. Winter is the time to be dormant, to explore within your own den, and I have taken this time to listen to a whole lot of slow-burning soul and r&b.

The album has a pronounced introverted character to it, and I assume that this is the reason why some of my friends don’t dig the record. There aren’t any huge hooks, lavish vocals, or club tracks; the lyrics are cryptic messages to lovers, friends, or no one in particular, and the vocals rarely rise above a hushed whisper. Instead, the grooves swell, bubbling with the assured funk of a veteran (the brothers that make up the group were avid session musicians, having worked with Pharrell, Beck, Raphael Saadiq, etc), and a music head whose got a deep love for spiritual soul music.

Although the vibe is constantly peaked at “late-night bedroom soul,” the group explores the full pantheon of sepia toned r&b taking influence from Babyface, Blood Orange, and Illangelo’s productions for the Weeknd, but still remaining completely unique. The brothers Aged are exquisite players who have a deep appreciation for the organic groove of live musicians, as heard of the lovely “Lifetime” or “Trust (Hell Below)“. Contemporary production methods are also a huge influence as well, usually drawing cues from the seductive contrast of sharp, precise drum programming and layers of atmospheric haze that nod towards Illangelo or Nicolas Jaar. The use of both live elements and “in the box” methods on tracks like “Angel” or “5 Days” are extremely rewarding, especially in how organic the blend sounds. Sometimes the mix is a little too smokey, and the vocals are somewhat buried, but I assume that considering the group, they are more focused on vibe rather than singalong lyrics. As the record ends one more time, I’m going to flip it and start all over. Totally beautiful, I can’t wait to hear some of this stuff on a big soundsystem.

4/28: It’s been two months since I first wrote this and I’m still in love with this record. It’s absolutely beautiful and has a healing quality to it – it’s the best record for when I’m hungover, sad, or just have a nasty case of the Mondays. Oh and it sounds great on a big soundsytem. Since first picking this up I haven’t been able to play a show without dropping “5 Days” or “The Place.” Record of the year? We’ll see.

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Cassie – RoackaByeBaby (Self released/Badboy, 2013)

I guess I’ve always loved Cassie. “Me & U” was all over the radio the summer I was on tour with This Flood Covers the Earth. We would be in the most backwoods/backwards ass county tucked up in the bible belt, but the pop station would keep the diva on lock. For me it was a perfect song for that moment in time. In the last year or so I’ve really fallen for r&b, quickly growing from a small portion of my record collection to stacks of Brandy, Sade and Aaliyah 12″s sitting in front of my 1200s. Like a lot of people, the unofficial Cassie “Trilogy” reignited my interest with the gorgeous woman who seems to get more buzz for being Puff Daddy’s sidepiece. Her output isn’t exactly full of hits, but when it works, it really works. Cassie’s trademark soft coo is astoundingly aesthetically pleasing, which makes up for her lack of singing talents; truly, I can listen to this girl say anything on repeat for the rest of my life. Her tone is excellent, and as I’ve stated before, vocals are usually a deterrent for me, as I prefer to view the voice as an instrument within the ensemble. Cassie excels when she is thick in the mix, tucked into a smokey late night r&b instrumental.

Cassie’s 2006 self-titled debut was one of the first records to push the modern late-night bedroom aesthetic that has become a dominating force within the genre. She capitalizes on this post Weeknd/Future style of urban pop by enlisting the right people (Mike Will, Rob Holladay) to make dark, sensual instrumentals that match her delicate vocals. I have to wonder how much control Puff had over the project, as it forms a very cohesive, focused record, and at 13 tracks it feels more like an actual album than a scattershot mixtape. Regardless, it’s very well done and quite likely to show up on some end of year lists.

“Numb” (above) is still my favorite track off the record, taking cues from Clams Casino on the production, by offering an LA sunset vibe to Cassie’s soft rap. The Rick Ross feature isn’t great, but it doesn’t detract from the overall aesthetic of the track. Weirdly enough, most of the throwaway features on the record are often paired with either a poor instrumental and/or a subpar performance from Cassie. Yet, I’m at the stage where I’ve listened to the record so many times, and have come to use it as functional, day-to-day music that the the French Montana EDM track doesn’t get skipped and I’ll even give Meek Mill the time of day.

But the highs are high; the Jeremih featuring “Sound of Love” is pure pop genius and if the world was just it’d be #1 on the radio. One of the strongest cuts is “I Love it” featuring an excellent delivery from Fabolous over a creepy, hard beat that could have easily come from Kingdom’s arsenal. Throughout the mixtape Cassie is base, her lyrics mostly written by Jeremih and focused on hypersexualized standard themes of her beautiful body and good sex. As stated before, her delivery is the real star, and alongside her smooth coo she demonstrates her ability to rap, and rap well. It’s surprising how competent an emcee she is, her flow is assured and dripping with swagger. This may be the first release that features rapping from her and I hope it’s something she continues to develop. In fact, her delivery throughout is quite strong, she’s gotten comfortable with her voice and knows how to use it. Big ups Cassie, holla at me when you get over Diddy.

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Terekke – Damn b/w Pf Pf Pass (L.I.E.S. 2011/2013)

Even though there is currently a repress out, the going rate for the OG 12″ runs about $45 on discogs. This one came to me on the excellent American Noise compilation I wrote about a while back. Terekke is a completely new name to me and he has quickly become an almost daily listen, especially with that deep Soundcloud of his. He has a sound that comes off like a chopped and screwed PPU release; exploring a real talent for small, weirdly hummable melodies and loose, playful percussion.

I first heard “Damn” Saturday afternoon, spliffed with the beautiful Long Beach breeze coming through my window and a California brew in my hand. I’ve gotta say that it may have been the most perfect introduction. This is a deep, Larry Heard aping Chicago bomber, rubbed with grain and smoked to a deep gray. This track would be fun to play in the club because it would just work, a simple bass groove keeping the energy up while those ghostly cymbals sputter.

It’s interesting to read that I had previously described “Pf Pf Pass” (above) by the way the “kick drum crumbles,” and  I feel that it was an astute observation. The kick is steady, but is hardly prominent, allowing the synth loop to drive the momentum while adding a lot of color. This one is going to be in my crate for a long time.

4/28: Yep, this record has refused to leave my crate. Both tracks really work, having tested them out in the club and at the house party. “Damn” for the win.

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Theo Parrish – Handmade (Running Back, 2012)

I saw somebody play “Black Mist” (above) recently and it totally blew my mind. It’s incredible how much of a difference hearing music on an appropriate soundsystem can really change the way you perceive music. The bass is unbelievably deep, so deep in fact, I had to adjust the tone arm on my 1200s just so the needle doesn’t skip all over the record from those lovely low frequencies. The track is fairly straight forward, there’s some mangled modular synth stuff going, and heavy lysergic funk that is a subconscious nod to the demented forefather himself, George Clinton. Parrish’s masterful rhythmic work propels the track, hihats and woodblocks primed and full of color, making this an ideal gateway track whether in a sweaty club or as a jawdropper during a backyard bbq.

On the flip, the jangly “Pop Off” struts with a stuttering gutbucket funk groove that could easily be the timer for some sort of cartoonish explosion. The relentless loopy forward momentum reminds me of the recent jazz-indebted work of Joe. “Wild Out” concludes the ep and is carried by some zombie fax machine sounds and underground explosions. It’s probably the most difficult to imagine throwing into a set, but I can see how this track would absolutely kill in a place like Panorama Bar right about 4am. Theo, you’ve done it again, my man.

4/28: BLACK MIST. THAT BASS. THAT BASS.

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Categories: 2011, 2013, boogie, detroit, diva, House, LA, NY, soul

The Picks – February 17th, 2013

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Things have been hectic lately, passing time marked by sharp peaks and valleys. But thus is life. The first TIME2MOVE party was so great, a huge thanks to Low Limit and Sodapop, and to all the lovely people that came out and partied with us. The homeboy Purple/Image did an amazing set at the Boiler Room the other night with the unbelievable lineup of Nguzunguzu, Kingdom and Inc. I gotta say it was one of the best parties I’ve been to in a while. If you look closely you can see me dancing in the background for most of the Nguzunguzu set. Oh and I smoked out Alex on live stream.Sick. 2013.

Pulled from the vast garbage heap that is the internet, and a certain crate at Fingerprints.

Cakes Da Killa – The Eulogy (Mishka, 2013)

I’ve been following this “queer rap” scene for a minute now and I’m impressed with most of the output from the artists. The music comes across as purposefully dense sonically and intellectually, offering a lot of stuff for journalists to write about. While there have been a few great mixtapes to come out of the NYC subculture, Cakes’ The Eulogy is the only one I find myself coming back to over and over. The common fault of a lot of the material from the scene is the ability to strike the balance between a hot beat and a proficient vocal performance. Le1f, for example, can flow very well, but often obscures his voice to a negative affect or will choose a beat that is too left-field or ill-fitting. Mykki Blanco has struck a bountiful relationship with the rising club don Brenmar, but I would argue Mykki is a much better performance artist than a vocalist. But returning to Cakes, its immediately apparent that he has a lot of talent and some sort of vision in mind. This kid was born to a rap, dropping a dexterous flow both languid and slinky, maintaining of sense of sexuality only sharpened by his abilities. The Eulogy features primarily unknown producers, but each track booms with dark, purple-tinged textures crossing the pantheon of ghetto dance traditions from Dance Mania, footwork, vogue, Baltimore or trap. As an LA native my mind instantly moves to the Fade to Mind crew, a group who share that same penchant for the dark, brash, vulgar and ultimately visceral spectrum of music. Listening to the record I feel like I’m drunk at a good party in downtown LA, weed smoke and sage thick in the air, and everyone clutching a Tecate.

“Keep it Coochie” (above) pops up early on in the record and is an immediate favorite as that beat shudders in like a demented Quasimoto track remixed by a drunk DJ Earl (#teklife). Cakes comes on chatting about this or that, then drops into a fiendish verse full of swagger, potent with a larger than life ego. His flow sashays, strutting like a vogue dancer over that jacking ballroom beat. The horn sample pops and the 808s shake with enough ecstatic energy to appease any one looking for a party.

As I’m sure you know, I’m a bass addict and so Cakes’ love of the sub frequencies is a huge boon to me. Tracks like “Da Good Book,” which revisits the footwork influence, or the chopped and screwed Ha Dance of “Fuck Ya Boifriend” are swollen with bass dropping rumbles that my soul yearns for. The only piece out of place is the relatively straight approach to closing track “The Eulogy,” a typical post-Dilla, Madlib inspired soulful beat with a fairly straightforward delivery from Cakes. “Eulogy” is in no way bad, or is it even a detriment to the cohesion of the album. It comes across more like a sly wink as he walks out the door, both showcasing his talent as a serious rapper, and giving that man behind the curtain moment, revealing himself as a typical rap junkie just trying to make it in the game. Whether a more traditional hip hop approach will surface, or the gritty urban dance traditions remain, Cakes will continue to be someone to watch.

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Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Shame (Stone’s Throw, 2012)

Anyone who has drank with me recently can attest to the fact that I tend to go on and on about how Gibbs is the best rapper out right now. I will admit that I am prone to hyperbole, but frankly Gibbs is an incredibly impressive artist. From Str8 Killer to his mixtapes, Gibbs is a straight up mercenary in a game of  busters. Always outshining any guest MC, whether its Jeezy, Juicy or Gucci, his flow is characteristically confident, syllables rolling out, carried by a rhythmic inertia. It’s hard to imagine Gibbs as anything other than the G’d up persona (and to be real, all the people I know who have met the man will attest to the fact that he’s absolutely legit), but his raps draw closer comparison to the sociological visions ala “New York State of Mind” than anything contemporary. Lyrics and image are similar to the majority of rap output these days, but Gibbs seems less caught up in hero-making and more interested in putting forward a more accurate streetwise image – something like an Iceberg Slim.

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick this one up. The combination of Madlib and Gibbs is one of the most incredible things to happen in music in a while. I’ve been a Madlib fan since Beat Konducta #0, but I have always found his album length projects with other rappers (except Madvillain, duh) to be fairly disappointing. However, when “Thuggin” was released, the immediate strength of the track ensured that this MadGibbs album was going to be the record that would reset the bar in hiphop.

I think the real winner on here is “Terrorist,” Gibbs moves deftly with a rhythmic swagger that dominates the groove of the song – your hips inherently following the directions coming from his blunt deepened voice. He moves at full speed, stopping to breath only a handful of times through the course of the minute long barrage. “Shame” (above) further highlights Gibbs’ gift for vocal groove, heavy rolling funk, and breathless phonetic incantations. And then let me just undo all of what I just said with my favorite line from the track: “Like I slipped on a banana peel and fell in that pussy” haha Gangsta Gibbs….

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DJ Barely Legal – Live on MistaJam’s Show 1/30/13 (BBC 1Xtra, 2013)

I missed the first wave of grime, but I’m making sure to catch up during this second wave. Having grown up in Southern California in the ’90s it was impossible to escape the cultural influence of rap music. Dre, Jay Z and Nas were the early core of my CD collection. The posturing, vocal acrobatics, booming instrumentals and anthropological case studies really struck me as incredibly important and the music has made an unequivocal impact on my life. So as I’m getting older and exploring other genres I’m quick to find the MC-driven music of the world, and the grime scene has proven to be incredibly fruitful. Stylistically the MC style is often more similar to the Dancehall tradition of chatting, as MCs carry on rhythmically with long streams of sound, often balanced with the heavy swagger of an American rapper. The riddims they spit over are absolutely bonkers, originally growing out of a dark garage influence, but Wiley’s eski style’ brought in ice cold hues and the standard 8bar, FL Studio focused template.

It’s proper then that this mix by newcomer DJ Barely Legal opens up with Wiley’s “Eskimo” and Will himself chatting on it. Well, let’s back up, Barely Legal is a rising star of this second wave grime scene and she pulls out the heavyweights from the old guard for her debut BBC 1Xtra appearance. Roll Deep takes the stage with Wiley, Scratchy, Riko Dan and God’s Gift spitting over a mix of old and new beats. These guys definitely have the chemistry of a group who has been performing together for ten years, as they seamlessly weave in and out of bars, Riko reaching into Scratchy’s last flow, each MC anticipating the energy of the other vocalists, but also conscious of the movements of the riddim. God’s Gift is a favorite of mine and he’s on point here, dropping mostly short pieces but with a swagger that leaves the listener hungry for more. Wiley is consistently interesting to listen to, as he projects so much personality into his performance, which clearly points towards his massively proficient carrier. Scratchy is the weak point on here, but even then he really kills it on the second half of the set.

Barely Legal picks out a few new tunes, like that ice cold  Wen VIP that I hadn’t heard. This cold side of grime is really what gets me, it takes a sci fi soundtrack palette with a big love for over-zealous sub frequencies. The classic stuff is a highlight on here as well, like Wiley’s “Morgue” which borrows from the jungle tradition focused on that dread-filled rolling subbass. The beat is heavy, primed for the club/car/back room and is wonderful to hear some of the best MCs in the game killing it. Ruff Sqwad’s brilliant “XTC vs Misty Cold” is also a great addition, as the track brings a sense of dread, but is prevailed by a greater sentiment of romantic nostalgia. Pretty deep shit for a beat made by a 15 year old kid.

Categories: 2012, 2013, hip hop, LA, LDN, NY

Picks 1/27/13

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Very interesting week for Cornejo here. I saw Jessie Ware at Amoeba on Tuesday, and I was absolutely astounded by how talented and beautiful she is. And as digger’s luck would have it, at the end of the performance they gave away three gift certificates to the store and guess who got one… Yeeep, $25 in credit to your man’s holy land. I didn’t shop for long, just picked up a few things I had been eyeballing, but asking me to spend free money in there is a dream come true. We’re less than two weeks now from the first RITUAL party, and our special guest Low Limit will be live on the Boiler Room this Tuesday! 2013 is shaping up quite nicely…

Pulled from the hallowed stacks of Amoeba and Bagatelle.

Lee Gamble – Dutch Tvashar Plumes (Pan, 2012)

This record came as a surprise to me when it popped out at the end of 2012. I guess it caught most everybody off-guard when the German experimental label PAN dropped two full lengths from the previously low profile Gamble. Despite the hype of having shown up on pretty much every blog’s best of list, this is really incredible music. I’ve never been one for a lot of experimental/noise/ambient music, as I really tend to require a rhythmic anchor, but Gamble explores unique tones and timbres with a sense of propulsion and movement that is incredibly unique. The music is accessible, engaging and fulfilling.

It’s not all synth washes and harsh bleeps, in fact there is very little of that at all. Tracks that begin hazy and lazy grow legs, jacking like pistons, ecstatic with momentum. “Nowhen Hooks” is a ray of sunlight, a house banger that clears waves of synths and retreats just as quickly with the same waves massaging the adrenaline rush of the dance. As the track ends, “Tvash Kwawar” builds up from the same source of matter and slowly grows into a delicate techno thumper. More techno in idea than sound, the track throbs with life for a moment before it dissolves. “Plos 97s” (above) more explicitly explores techno, but adheres to so little of the “rules” of the genre while maintaining a minimalistic approach to arrangement and construction. With Gamble, suggestive rhythms and the sonic template of a track is much more important than the groove or functionality of the work. The tracks that could possibly be seen as dance tracks are too short, too weird, but undoubtedly I would love to hear them on a loud soundsystem.

The more meditative, serene tracks are just as engaging; often never losing a sense of movement, despite how irregular or vague the rhythm. A track like “Black Snow” ruffles, is muted, and moves, hardly breathing for less than two minutes as samples slip in and growth seems inevitable, until it all stops. Immediately following the tease of snow, “Coma Skank (Binocconverge mix)” saunters in, still carrying a heavy sense of cinematic dread, but with move with a sense of aimlessness and confusion. A thick layer of tape dust covers the rhythmic elements, and the eerie clops and bleeps set up a very particular state of mind for the listener. Opening up the flip side, “Overund” sounds like a morose gamelan ceremony with beautiful wavering bell tones ringing in unlimited darkness.  “Kuang Shaped Prowla” is a fitting close to the album as it seems to bob gently, warmth emanating from the subtle movement of the track. It disappears quietly, sneaking out like a lover leaving in the gray stillness of morning, not daring to look back.

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Bigga Haitian – Haiti A Weh Mi From b/w The Good, Bad, and Ugly (Flames, 1989)

As a digger, it’s always nice to get home and look up something that you just bought and not be able to find a whole lot of information on the record. There’s no discogs listing for this, no tracks up on Youtube, no blog posts, just a quick mention on Wikipedia. The lack of accessible information is partially what makes collecting dancehall records so interesting, as the music seems to eerily stand alone from any particular cultural context. In reality, the scene has healthily existed in pockets from Kingston, to New York City to London, and today is still strong. However, the truly underground stuff like this has failed to have a resurgence of online interest unlike a lot of other music from this time period.

Haiti A Weh Mi From” was supposedly a huge hit for Bigga, so I was surprised not to find much about it online. This is the debut release from the deejay and his flow is full of swagger and rapid fire chatting flourished with a few vocal tricks here and there. The track is predominately a coming out party for Bigga as he chats for nearly five minutes straight over a super lightweight riddim. Bigga’s voicing shows a lot of skill and does well to carry the momentum of the track, but it’s not particularly a superb track.

On the flip, “The Good Bad & Ugly” (above) starts things off with a false start and an instant rewind. This track is everything the A-side isn’t; it’s loud, brash, dirty and full of dread – the ideal club track. It opens with some dubbed out piano stabs and 808 hats, then a cheeky nod at the Morricone theme creeps in but is immediately offset by deep waves of bass. Bigga absolutely demolishes on this track as well, he rides the groove confidently and balances the weight and propulsion of the riddim quite well. Can’t wait to play this one out.

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Nite Jewel – Good Evening (Gloriette, Secretly Canadian 2008/2012)

Finally the incredible Nite Jewel debut gets a repress! On most days I would say this is one of my favorite LA releases of the 21st century, as the record’s mixture of dust covered funk and late night pop have really made an impression on me. I first heard the record at the tail end of 2009, just after it had received a lot of hype and a subtle repress of two tracks on a single by Stones Throw. Specifically, I heard it while vagabonding around San Francisco for a week and a half, stuck in a place between moving across the country with no plan whatsoever, or having to cross burned bridges back to the life I was trying to leave. I was in love at the time like you couldn’t believe, and of course being a Cancer, this was eventually the tipping point towards my return home. I have a specific memory of sitting at the train station in Oxnard, totally fucking cold, alone and waiting for this train for hours, with all my possessions in the world (except the 1200s and two crates of records I had left behind) crammed into a traveler’s backpack. This record was on repeat on my ipod, Ramona Gonzalez’s small voice sounding more and more like the voice of a Siren dragging me back home. Aside from all the heavy emotional associations I have with this record, I can step back and say that this is still a really fresh and incredible release.

Take the fat bassline and sharp claps of “What Did He Say,” a record that has been a staple in my sets for years now. Or listen to how Gonzalez’ quiet pop grows heavy with melancholy and frustration on “Weak for Me,” and just as her voice grows larger and more forceful (but still unintelligible) the track begins to fall apart right before you.On the flip, “Artificial Intelligence” moves forward with some basic drum programming, but its the emphatic vocals and hazy synths that steal the show. But really, the track that gets me each and every time, the true bomb on here is “Let’s Go (The Two of Us Together)” (above) as it starts straight out the gate at a boogie gallop. The shakers, the synth tones, the vocal delivery – it’s all there.

The record is influenced by a vague sense of 80’s quiet storm, boogie funk, R&B and balearic pop with a punk attitude to it all – very DIY and low-fi. It came at an important time in music and it’s sad that she didn’t rise as quickly as some of her peers. I’ve recommended this album to a lot of people over the years and I think that’s one of the biggest signs of a truly good record. Pick it up, you’ll like it.

Categories: 2012, boogie, dancehall, diva, LA

Picks 1/20/13

January 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Weird week. I like the weather though.

Pulled from the digi stacks of All Day Records, Chemical-Records and Soundcloud.

V/A – American Noise Vol. 1 (L.I.E.S., 2012)

Yes, I am firmly and fully on the LIES bandwagon. There’s a lot of hype around this label coming from all corners of the internet including Pitchfork, FACT, Spin and Resident Advisor. The label’s output is far-reaching and is often given the term “outsider” house/techno or low-fi, but these descriptors hardly allow any insight into the real magic contained on the limited slabs of vinyl. Styles range from new age ambient to crunchy techno, surfer house to burnout boogie, acid house to synth explorations – yet all the music can be characterized by a sense of warmth, an analog or tape feel. No huge names sit on the roster, and that’s precisely what has made the label so impressive, they continually turn out records that are surprising. Delroy Edwards and Xosar, two of my favorite producers in 2012, have had their debut release on LIES, so the label truly carries weight with me.

This is the first CD  I’ve bought in years, probably 5+years. A lot of this stuff on the compilation is new to me, as I only have a handful of LIES records, and most of those were left off this compilation. It’s a 2-CD set, and the first disc compiles some of the more rare/desirable releases. Bookworms’ “African Rhythms” (above) is the clear gem on here, the meditative percussion moving along at its gentle bounce, nestled in soft foggy synths. It has a really wonderful Theo Parrish vibe to it, very focused and spiritual. Terekke’s “Pf Pf Pass” was a wonderful surprise on this disc as he rides along in a blunted boogie groove, heavy in thick analog dust and sloppily cut samples. The groove is really immersive, drawing you into a sunny worn VHS dreamscpae where the kick drum crumbles and the hi-hats splinter. “Asidis” also finds Terekke in extremely strong form, keeping his sunny disposition, but picking up the tempo to proper pool party vibes. These two tracks remind me of what I loved so much about Nite Jewel’s early work – it was lowfi, fun and funky.

Moving on to my two favorite LIES alumni, Delroy Edwards’ remix of Xosar’s “Tropical Cruize” is truly a gift to me from the universe. The track beautifully melds Xosar’s tendencies toward exotic melodies and romantic melancholy, with Delroy’s fridgid focus on the dancefloor. Icy and infectuous, the “Don’t talk, just listen” loop is intoxicating. Xosar’s orignal track here, “Sansovtime” under her Bonquiqui alias takes a harder approach to the Trackman Lafonte and Bonquiqui project, coming much closer to the paranoid electro funk on “Nite Jam“. What I love most about Xosar is how fresh she makes everything sound – I mean, synth flutes? Yeah it’s so good.

The compilation really does cover a wide range of music, but it’s tracked very well and truly works front-to-back as a unified album. Placing the minimal techno groove of Marcos Cabral’s “24 Hour Flight” with the dreamy analog funk of Legowelt’s “Sark Island Acid” may not necessarily seem like a logical move, but it exemplifies the grander vision of dance music that ties together the LIES family. I’m really excited to see where this label is going to be going in 2013.

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Delroy Edwards –Heart and Soul  b/w Sprk Tha Dust (L.I.E.S., 2012)

This record snuck out right after Christmas as a limited black label release and without a second of hesitation I swooped it up. I’m a big fan of Delroy’s crunchy Detroit influenced house/techno as well as his propulsive ghetto house DJ sets. Fortunately for me, he displays both affections on this 12.

“Heart and Soul” (above) was the prize at the end of his recent Juno Plus Podcast, and was something that I was really hoping would see an official release. The track is reminiscent of his 4 Club Use Only debut, and specifically the cold, downcast techno of “Love Goes On and On” with the icy synth lines and ghetto rhythms. The track is further colored by his somber voice endlessly intoning the phrase, “I gave you my heart, I gave you my soul” – which happens to be a perfect refrain for a special Christmas release, right? It is this sense of melancholy that draws me to Delroy, no matter how hard or playful the rhythms are (and on this track the claps, kick and hats are primed for destruction), a haze of frustration and bitterness shroud his music. But don’t get me wrong, this is not “emo” music at all, this is propulsive dance music with an outright human quality to it. I may have to pick up another copy of this record because I intend to play this track out as often as possible.

I was pretty freaked when I first flipped the record and dropped the needle; I was beyond lit, chillin in the semi-dark of my studio about ready to go to bed, but wanted to give the new Delroy a quick spin – then BAM BAM BAM BAMBAMBAM. The track title doesn’t lie, “Sprk tha Dust” is the musical equivalent of hitting a sherm stick. Reworking one of 2012’s better moments in mainstream rap, Delroy flips “Bandz a Make Her Dance” by pitching down Weezy’s mumblings and dropping in a thundering overdriven kick. A horrifying haze and banshee synths are an appropriate nod to Three 6 Mafia tropes, but this track is far beyond the level of a demented remix as the laggy layered vocal samples and disorienting everything about the track make for a very heady experience. Listen to this one on headphones while walking somewhere at night, I dare you.

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Kingdom – Diplo & Friends BBC 1Xtra Mix 1/06/2013 (BBC Radio 1/1Xtra, 2013)

Kingdom is my current favorite DJ. His mixes are essential listening and his Fade to Mind parties are not to be missed. The owner of the company I work for is a jazz musician, so he has a basic understanding of the music world, but he caught me off guard the other day when he asked me why anyone would ever follow a DJ, as he was looking to ascertain the artistry of being a DJ. He’s from the oldschool and when he thinks of a DJ, he’s thinking a jock who announces each track in a Top 40 countdown. I explained to him the concept of edits, exclusives, dubplates, and the artistry behind the different approaches to a mix. I’m not sure he fully understood where I was coming from, and I suppose you do have to have a certain level of immersion in this world to truly understand the qualities that make a DJ a really great one. Listening to Kingdom mix records is like watching an athlete at the top of his game, or listening to a jazz band with real chops running through a set of standards – you may know what to expect, but every experience offers a fresh take, an improvisational quality that is singular to the artist.

For the most part, Kingdom’s mix for Diplo’s show on 1Xtra is full of exclusives from the Fade to Mind/Night Slugs family and this is a large part of the reason why I am so partial to the man’s work. Beyonce remixes, lifted Little Dragon acapellas, Missy Elliot features, and Girl Unit outtakes, all become tools that he uses to not only offer an incredibly unique sonic experience, but a floor focused one. Kingdom is consistent in his vibe, and I once described his sound as similar to what my dreams are like – equal parts sexual and paranoid. The tones are dark, heavy with brooding synths and pummeling drums, covered with a haze thick from smoke, but carried by precise doses of R&B divas. One of my favorite moments is Kingdom’s edit of a Kowton remix, where he deftly drops in a sample of Mariah hitting a high note, to both an ecstatic and haunting effect. The voice is so easily recognizable as Mariah, but so out of context that it truly creates a completely new experience of the material. Girl Unit’s “Double Take Pt 2” is an excellent inclusion and really lightens up the mood, but it is singularly impressive in how Kingdom uses it as a tool to move from a pitch-black jacking vogue workout into an edit of the dreamy Mike Will produced Future/Kelly Rowland jam “Neva End.” Coming to the end, Kingdom wraps things up in proper Fade to Mind form by laying out Fatima al Qadiri’s digi-industurial-horror “Oil Well” and dropping in a strong acapella (or is it a commissioned verse?) from my favorite Three 6 Mafia member, Gangsta Boo. This whole mix is absolutely brilliant and I liken it to eating a great meal or seeing great fashion, it just makes me want to step my own game up. Big ups to Kingdom and the Fade to Mind crew, 2013 is gonna be your year.

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Burial – Burial (Hyperdub, 2006)

I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for ages now, but I had a 20% off coupon for Chemical-Records recently and I decided to take the plunge. I had never really heard this album at all, so I have had a really great time getting acquainted with the early material of one of the most important artists of the 21st century. I have a lot of respect for this man, and I’ve come to build a deep relationship with his music. This music is just so powerful, so human. It’s music that soundtracks my everyday experience; whether it’s my commute to the industrial landscape of my workplace, or the dark, dirty streets and alleys of my neighborhood, or perhaps the cold, smokey nights in my studio apartment.

I had never really heard the Burial dubstep material, and I was immediately drawn to the opening track “Wounder” with that lonely siren-synth, the menacingly still atmosphere and hard drum programming assuring its status as a classic. The back cover says the material is drawn from 2001-2006, so it’s interesting to see how some of these tracks were crafted in the very early days of dubstep, still moving in that middle ground between garage and dub. “Gutted” (above) is the standout for on the halfstep tracks, as the tell-tale Burial emotive touches really get me everytime. He also begins to show some of true artistry and dexterity that he would later master, ss exemplified in the dubby cut “Broken Home.” I’m not sure where that original sample came from or what it is supposed to say, but the realignment of sound is really wonderful.

Stepping back and viewing the span of his career is also revealing in how a cut like “Pirates” foreshadows a lot of the same tones and themes he covered in his 2012 releases, Kindred and Truant. The track features the basic bass swell and gray tones, but it experiences a shuttering start-stop in the beginning, and as seen on his two latest eps, it is a nod to the days of dusty cassette tape recorded pirate radio. I love the idea that he has followed through on this vision, a meta-narrative involving the physical sustainability of his music, coupled with all the markers of a fabled and romanticized memory of music past.

Categories: 2012, 2013, House, LA, LDN, mix

Picks 1/14/2013

January 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Saw Moodymann the other night for the LIFT 3rd Anniversary and I’ve gotta say it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to. An immaculately tuned soundsystem in a small dark room thick with weed smoke and incense, and then my man KDJ drops a few Dilla tracks at about 2:30am. As he would say, “It’s like y’all in my living room right now.”

Gig Friday was poppin’. Geeman’s “Bang’t” sounded incredible in the room, and a huge sing-along to D’Angelo topped it off. Big ups to all my boys, whether on the mic or droppin beats.

Got a gig this Thursday @ MOLAA w/ Clorofila. Pretty stoked, I played with them last year but had to cut out early. This time I’ll be on the floor gettin freaky.

Pulled from the crates, bins and stacks of Amoeba, Fingerprints and Zia.

Donald Byrd – Places and Spaces (Blue Note, 1975)

By now, my deep undying love for all things Donald Byrd should be apparent. Whether it’s his work as a sideman for Hank Mobley or Coltrane in the late ’50s, his work as a leader on Blue Note in the ’60s and ’70s or his almost smooth jazz/R&B in the ’80s, the man has had one of the more worthwhile careers a digger could ever hope to come across. His sound changed with the times, but the music is consistently soulful, melodic, and subtly joyful. Poring over his catalog is like charting the evolution of popular black music in the 20th century, moving from jazz to funk, to disco, to quiet storm and eventually hip hop, as experienced on Guru’s Jazzmatazz series.

This record has been on my wantlist for years, and although I see it occasionally, it always gets passed up because it tends to come with a steep price tag. My brother and I have a ritual where whenever I visit my folks in Phoenix we’ll go out and hit a record store or two. Usually I wont pick up anything because I hate to carry shit on a plane, but this time at Zia was very different. I found this record almost instantly upon walking into the store, and when I saw it priced at $6 for a VG+ copy I almost leaped. I picked it up, found a few other scores and gladly carried them all onto the plane.

The record kicks off with “Change” and it’s an immediate change from Byrd’s prior electric work, which tended to be dark, and even the Mizell produced masterpiece Stepping Into Tomorrow had a nocturnal mood to it. Places and Spaces is very much a summer record, as the Mizell’s love for samba and Caribbean music shines and adds a very sunny and exotic quality to the album. “Change” kicks off with a sense of Carnival-esque excitement, then drops into a wonderfully funky Chuck Rainey bassline with Byrd soaring over the top. The strings are perfectly arranged, elegant but not over the top. This is a real peak time bomb, love it.

Taking the mood down a bit is “Wind Parade” (above) which is a soulful, languid track, perfect for lounging on the weekend or late night on the dancefloor. The track is pleasant and warm, and is a real pleasure to listen to. Opening up the flip, “Places and Spaces” is similar, but a bit on the sweet side. This is pre-quiet storm soul, and is basically some of the best stuff from that genre. Byrd hardly makes an appearance, but I’ve grown to trust the Mizells as much asthe man with the horn.

Ultimately though, this record can be summed up with “You and Music,” a masterful soul track that balances cheesiness with an abundance of human spirit and subtle funk. Kay Haith’s sweet vocals really carry the vibe, and help balance out Byrd’s remarkably unremarkable vocal talents. Not necessarily the greatest Byrd/Mizell jam, but certainly a damn good one. So glad to be able to put this on my shelf and in my crates.

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Yellowman – Zungguzungguguzungguzeng (Greensleeves, 1983)

PA! PA! PA! I flipped when I saw this real clean copy of this classic Dancehall bomb at Zia for the mad low price of $8. Goldenage Greensleeves dancehall records often fetch a pretty price, that is if the records ever turn up in LA at all. This was the diamond in the rough of the whole reggae/world/latin section in the store, but the score was very worth it.

Yellowman was one of the baddest of his day, revolutionizing the genre by making it raunchier, and branding a now familiar thuggish flair. His flow is fast and confident, with the ability to not only ride a groove, but to carry it.  His life has been riddled with strife, but it’s a beautiful thing to hear this man do what he does best.

Zungguzu” is one of the more famous dancehall songs, and it’s been sampled/voiced by everyone from 2Pac, Toyan, Beenieman, Blackstar, Junior MAFIA and quite a few more. The track is massive, especially as the Roots Radics band is incredibly groovy, keeping the riddims simple, but full of dynamic elements. And now is as a good as time as any to mention that the record sounds unbelievable, the mix is clear and the low end is pure subbass heaven. Yellowman is a straight up G, listening to his flow it’s easy to see not only the crossover and popularity of dancehall in NY hip hop of the late 80s, but the enduring influence of his vocal intonations and flow.

Tracks range from the more rocksteady sing-song vibe of “Good, Bad and the Ugly” to the harder, forward-looking dancehall style of “Friday Night Jamboree” (above), but overall the record is cohesive and full of bombs. Everytime I listen to the record I have a new favorite song, but as of this exact second it would be “Dem Sight the Boss,” which features a great contribution from Fathead whose lazy drawl and whine is a wonderful counterpoint to Yellowman’s flow. This is a great example of a slow song that has the ability to absolutely destroy a club – the bass looming and sweeping, ghostly organ and an easy chant to follow along to. Straight up G.

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Kassav’ – Love and Ka Dance (FM/Celluloid, 1979/1980s)

This is one of the better blind (deaf?) buys I’ve had in quite some time; I’d seen it a few times in the Caribbean section at Amoeba, but the laundry list of musicians kept me at a distance as I just assumed this was some typical imperialist culture vulture crap. But no, these guys (at least on this record) are the real deal. Parisian studio musicians applying elements of disco to more traditional music of the French Antilles. I fell in love with the music of Haiti a few years ago and have since amassed a sizable collection of francophone Caribbean music.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been inundated with records for the last month or so, and even though I’ve had this one since before Christmas, I only just put it on for the first time last week. The record struck me right away, the opener “Kassav'” (above) is a no-holds barred, no frills, disco stomper. The track features all the necessary qualities of my favorite Caribbean music: hypnotic rhythms, group vocals, fat basslines, funky horns and a deep sense of trance-like euphoria. At 10+ minutes the track is a rager and fortunately for us DJs, there is a nice little instrumental break in their, which flows into some absolutely mad percussion runs that beg to be played out.

Over on the flip, the rather pop-oriented “Nouvel” does well with salsa-indebted horns and P-funk leaning synth work, but the track is just a little too tame for my taste. The title track, “Love and Ka Dance” returns to disco and is really a huge treat. The track bumps along at midtempo, but the energy is carried with an Afrobeat influence in the horn lines and in the vocals. Lovely purchase.

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Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (TDE/Aftermath, 2012)

I don’t have to say shit about this record, you’ve heard it, you’ve read about it, danced to it, smoked to it, partied to it, listened to your non-rap friends talk about how amazing it is, and maybe even got naked to it. Yeah, it is the most cohesive, self-conscious, intelligent album-length narrative released in mainstream hip hop in quite some time. Yeah, it is the best hip hop record released in a while. But to me it’s a lot more than that.

The Chronic 2001 was the first CD I bought with lunch money I had saved (and for a fat middle schooler you know that’s a huge feat); I bought it the week it came out and I hid it from my strict parents. I snuck listens while my parents were at work or asleep. Only ever being to enjoy the record at full volume while on my headphones. 2001 was the first record I loved, the first record where I pored over liner notes, knew every word, knew the damn thing in and out. And for the few short years I had a car, the CD was more often than not testing the boundaries of the Camry’s bass range. So like most people with my affliction, I’ve been waiting for the fabled Detox for years (almost 14 to be exact) and with every delay, every setback, every new rumor about the album (“Shit, dog he’s working with the LA Phil!” or “Bishop Lamont gonna be his new Eminem!”) I held out hope, fueled by the rumors and blind desire.

Understandably, Dre has a big challenge to face up to, he’s been the backbone for the careers of NWA, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, the Game, 50 Cent and more, two milestone albums under his own name, as well as lending his production and/or voice to some of the most recognizable rap songs ever. It feels like there’s been a recent swell of artists coming out in defense of the often-marginalized rap producer – spreading a modern message of “give the drummer some.” And to be frank, even if it’s a track by Mike Will Made It or Just Blaze (guys who use tags), the producers behind some of rap/R&B’s biggest hits go under-appreciated by most listeners. Dr Dre is afforded a double edged sword of fame and name recognition that few other producers have ever had the pleasure of holding. I mean, what other producer could headline Coachella?

At this point in his career, why should he release an album under his own name when he’s still got a great ear for talent? If Detox were ever to come out, regardless of it’s objective quality, all scrutiny and criticism will have been magnified by years of waiting. It’s just smarter for Dre to executive produce, crafting masterpieces for other rappers. And get it straight, Good Kid is a masterpiece. Listening to this album, it’s miles away from Lamar’s Section 80; where 80 was juvenile and pretty unlistenable all the way through, Good Kid has that intangible quality of a classic to it. It sounds good, it feels good, it’s heavy with spirit and talent – but most importantly, Dre touched it. Unlike his Black Hippie cohorts whose debut full lengths have been good, but fairly unremarkable, this album is incredibly focused and primed for maximum accessibility.  Dre may not have made every beat (or even most), but you can sure as hell bet he cleaned up a lot of the Pro-Tools sessions, making sure each kick was hard and each string sample clean, making sure Kendrick’s flow sounded exactly how it needed to be. The diligence of Dre in the studio is widely documented, often taking the role of drill Sergeant, commanding all day voicing sessions. With a weaker man at the helm, nobody would be talking about how they’re sick of hearing Kendrick in the club, radio, your friend’s car or on Pitchfork. At the end of the day, Detox may never come out, but thankfully Good Kid did.

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