#SampleSnitch-You are Who You Sample: Isley Brothers to UGK

#SampleSnitch-You are who you sample: Isley Brothers to UGK

by Dan-O

If a rapper who produces is selecting the same artist to sample over the course of their career you start to see the connection. The latest example is Kanye West and Nina Simone (http://www.vinylmeplease.com/magazine/kanye-west-sings-blues/ great in depth article on that) the two share that kind of driving-off-a-cliff-but-surviving genius. In the case of UGK it becomes apparent that they made their bones on Isley Brothers samples.

The debut full length studio album from UGK is called Too Hard to Swallow and features three Isley Brothers pulls: Summer Breeze as the co-foundation for Tell Me Something Good, Between The Sheets two years before Biggie used it on Cramping My Style, and I Turned You On for I’m So Bad. UGK were a fearless revelation with songs like Cocaine in the Back of the Ride and Pocket Full of Stones scaling back the horrorcore of early Geto Boys in a way that made them more frightening…cause Pimp didn’t sound like he was writing fiction and Bun didn’t sound like he let his feelings get in the way of anything.

Four years later UGK put out one of hip hop’s flawless treasures in Ridin’ Dirty. Being from Maine I didn’t hear it in 1996, I went into the Army and got stationed at Ft. Hood Texas. That is when I rode in my first Cadillac and when my friend played me One Day for the first time. He hit repeat twice until it soaked our bones. Instead of the ball busting ferocity and relentless aggression One Day is a step back appreciation of the finite nature of our life. Bun B trips through childhood, lost friends, sin, prison all with the assured linguistics and breathe control of a king.  Pimp at about a minute and thirty left in the song does one of his trademark shockingly honest admissions “My man Bobo just lost his baby in a house fire/and when I got on my knees that night to pray/I asked God ‘Why you let these killas live and take my homeboy’s son away?’/ Man if you got kids, show em you love em cause God just might call em home,” It is heart stopping. I used to go to cook outs in Texas (or later in my duty station in Korea) and put this song on just to watch everyone stop & turn their attention to it. You have to.

You have to because of Ronald Isley’s magnificently fragile voice chiming in from the last song on their 1974 album Live It Up. The song is called Ain’t I Been Good to You and the album is important because it is in the sweet spot of The Isley format: dance banger-slow jam-mid-tempo-funk then repeat. The other reason One Day can’t be ignored is because of Ernie and Marvin Isley. Marvin’s bass is just monstrous and Ernie is credited on the album with “percussion, drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar” the rhythm section is all time electric making it damn near impossible not to groove. For those who don’t know Pimp had a big hand (along with the legendary N.O. Joe) with producing all UGK music. He knew that Ronald’s voice would give you pause just like he knew Ernie and Marvin’s groove would keep you nodding your head. UGK created music that wasn’t for the club or the backpack, rider music for car speakers,  for moments like the first time I heard it. They couldn’t have done it without the Isley bump and none of them would have a problem saying that.

The Isley Brothers original:

The UGK version:

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#Bandcampgold-Triple Fat Lice by Homeboy Sandman & Aesop Rock

a2063461306_10Bandcampgold-Triple Fat Lice by Homeboy Sandman & Aesop Rock

by Dan-O

It comes out of nowhere in the most assured, thick New York accent “I didn’t vote I already got enough sticka’s.”By the time it hits my ears I’m letting out an audible OOOO making bitter beer face in public. I stare at my phone and say “that is the most NY sh_t I have ever heard.” The man speaking is Homeboy Sandman on Yoohoo my favorite song on the Triple Fat Lice EP he released with Aesop Rock.

I’ve never been a devoted Homeboy Sandman fan, he operates on a level of meta-awareness I find uncomfortable to listen to but I love him on the Lice EP’s. The mission is different, Rock and Sandman gather together to have the most fun they can have and just send it to whomever likes that. On Pins and Needles they repurpose the Phife-Tip interactive Chorus from Tribe’s Check The Rhime. They fill each verse with wild nonsensical humorous brags like Sandman claiming his first name is Danger and then immediately making it clear that these pretzels are making him thirsty. Sandman has always been a great rapper and at times he does turn his self-awareness back up but he’s still in a fun place which makes the journey a joy.

For Aesop Rock’s part the last few solo albums I have been convinced he is at his literal career peak as a lyricist (which I understand is blasphemous to the Def Jux underground). The Impossible Kid was better paced and more personal with less Rubix Cube lyrical word games. On that same song where Sandman goes full NY (Yoohoo produced by Quelle Chris) Rock has my favorite line of the project “I’m terrible at parties, wonderful at tetris.” You can listen to Triple Fat Lice over and over catching more as you go. The hilarity does give way to serious underlying messages. Comfy is about feeling assured that the world around you is so unreliable it makes more sense to never really lay down stakes.  Oh No provides a straightforward bass slapper of a beat and Rock goes off declaring that “the acid in my tummy eats bones and hooves”  before building an even more horrific image of our world “spinning out of the nothingness/ roaches in our honeycombs/ nothing in our moneyclips /bass in our media /spirits in our computers /sad trombones in our futures. ”

It’s followed by Pizza and Burgers where Rock says “Even if I’m Shakespeare on paper in person I’m Beavis.” This is the joke and the truth wrapped up in one and laid over familiar sounding lyricist friendly beats. I’m so glad these ep’s exist and I hope it introduces these guys to a whole new generation who keep hitting their newsfeed for updates on J.Cole and Kendrick doing an album together. The world is so much bigger and weirder and more fun than that.

Stream or download Triple Fat Lice below:

https://aesoprockhomeboysandman.bandcamp.com/album/triple-fat-lice

 

#BandcampGold-A Common Wonder by Amerigo Gazaway, Stevie Wonder & Common

#BandcampGold-A Common Wonder by Amerigo Gazaway, Stevie Wonder, & Common

By Dan-O

Amerigo Gazaway is the best mash up dude in the world right now because when he picks two artists he doesn’t just jam them together he weaves them together. He’s paired Fela Kuti with De La Soul, Mos Def with Marvin Gaye all in ways that made you see the musical link between those artists and appreciate their skill set to a greater degree. Midway through a Gazaway mash up you wonder why you didn’t see it in the first place.

Gazaway’s strength is that he makes bold choices that pay off through deep knowledge of both artists discographies. A Common Wonder pulls heavily from 60’s Stevie in key moments; laying the foundational I Used to Love H.E.R over I Was Made to Love Her and most surprisingly finding a way to make Signed Sealed Delivered (I’m Yours) and The Light seamless dance partners. Innervisions is the current critical go to for “best Stevie Wonder album” and it gets some play in interesting places. Common’s best verses from Chi-City are ferocious and perfect over the funky synthesizers from Living In The City, The Innervision intermission drops in an interview Com did with Rap Radar talking about his relationship to Stevie. It is classic Gazaway in the sense that it provides a meaningful connection between the two while making it clear that while Visions is one of the best Stevie songs ever he doesn’t need it and can use it on a skit.

Young Stevie didn’t have any of the problems Neo-soul did. While Neo-soul seemed to all move at the same tempo and represent as relentlessly earthy (I love Neo-soul but everything has problems) young Stevie brings undeniable kinetic energy to the sonic space he fills. You can hear Love of My Life change for the better as the pace pushes Badu and Common making the song better. As an MC Common has always been a difficult one for me, his best work stands alongside the best to ever happen in the genre but bad Common is horrible. Gazaway finds the verses, the songs that show a real three dimensional beating heart. When you hear The Sixth Superstition you’ll hear Common better than you ever have before and that’s the benefit of a great mashup for the MC, it throws a different light on verses we took for granted.
I had to perform at a very important event, commemorating a very important man and before I spoke I shut myself away from everyone and just listened to A Common Wonder. Someone asked me what I was listening to, I went into full pitch mode and a day later they were in my face about how great the project is. A Common Wonder is a tide that lifts all boats and I am sure that person I pitched is now off somewhere else pitching another friend.

Stream or download below:

https://amerigo.bandcamp.com/album/a-common-wonder

Mixtape Review-Jugg King by Young Scooter

Mixtape Review-Jugg King by Young Scooter

by Dan-O

From afar I like Young Scooter. When I think about how much trap has changed and how much Scooter’s new mixtape Jugg King is right in the pocket of F.B.G. The Movie mixtape from 2013 my overactive mind wanders. Does Scooter see these new happier trappers and see them as a disservice? Does he look down on them appropriating dealer culture while clearly not having the experience in it (by their own admission)? Is Scooter going to see my review and respond to me on twitter? The answer to all these questions is no, a firm no.

Scooter came into rap with beautiful hooks and a hypnotizing flow dedicating every word to dealing and being independent and he is the same today. If you listen to the title track this isn’t one of those rappers who had a fire in his belly when he started and has become jaded. Jugg King’s hook declares it “I do what I want, you do what you can.” How could he be jaded? He never fell underneath Gucci or Future’s wing, never took a spot on a deep roster of MC’s clamoring for number one. He just forged good relationships and maintained them which is why you still see Metro Boomin and Zaytoven on the production list after all these years. This is why you haven’t heard from him in a while and he drops a mixtape featuring Young Thug, Meek Mill, Young Dolph, and Future.

You can listen to Jugg King front to back a few times without picking out favorite songs.  Nothing throws Scooter off his spot, every verse is dope money and deceivers eating his dust.  You can just press play and drive. Even surprising turns fade into comfort; Cassius Jay takes Gin and Juice and flips it into a trap beat for Young Scooter who makes OG Snoop an absolutely weird joy. On Cook Up Young Thug’s purposely distorted voice clicks into synergy with Scooter’s cocksure Juvenile sense of melody, that is the group album that should grow out of Jugg King.

Scooter is great with guests but does not need them. Streets on Fire is a straightforward hi hat first beat produced by Stack Boy Twaun and Scooter deals like it is life’s greatest joy “Jugghouse on a one way, I got four in a row I sold more pounds than Boston George, motherfuck Diego I just stuffed a thousand pounds in a Winnebago” I tip my hat to anyone who can bow out of Jugg King on moral implications. If you don’t want drug dealing to be glorified and Jugg King is too much of an advertisement for the wrong message I get it. Scooter is just too much of a snake charmer for me to let go. He knows how to sway with his tone in subtle softer ways like on Life which gets somber and mixes in anger, pride, shame, and parental joy.

His grand sense of DIY means I don’t even have to ponder his next move. He’s signed to his own label (Black Migo Gang). He’s the Xzibit of trap music. The same way X could jump on Snoop’s album, get Dre to produce for his album and never have to sign to any of them is how Scooter navigates between Freebandz (Future) and 1017 Brick Squad (Gucci) while never losing anyone’s respect. It’s impossible to even watch him sweat under the lights. He’s still smiling.

Stream or download below:

http://www.datpiff.com/Young-Scooter-Jugg-King-mixtape.829704.html

Mixtape Review-In Tune We Trust by Lil Wayne

Mixtape Review-In Tune We Trust by Lil Wayne

by Dan-O

Looking back on what Wayne accomplished is shocking, even if you start at 2007. By the end of 2008 he had sold 2.88 million copies of Carter III and changed how pop rap albums sound forever. He created the pop mixtape market with his Dedication series that started in 2005. Wayne didn’t fall out of touch he savagely experimented and when he was wrong he was so committed to that wrong that it was unbearable (see Rebirth).

The lessons Wayne teaches are all present on In Tune We Trust which is likely a collection of loosies he had hanging around.  Loyalty kicks off the mixtape with a brilliant first verse from Gudda Gudda. The key here is the beat by ChefBoy’RT is simple but filled with kinetic energy that drives at Weezy speed. Wayne taught us all what energy is. Whenever you hear Kendrick get into his take-over-the-world flow you know that comes from Weezy. In an interview Isaiah Rashad called Wayne the Michael Jordan of rap! You can debate the comparison but even on the low stakes freestyle Magnolia you marvel at how easy the art is for him.

The best song is Fireworks produced by Mike Will Made It. Jeezy kicks off the track with a great verse that puts Wayne into his perfect zone. While Jeezy has a pinpoint verse about success and drug dealing, Weezy wanders and jokes (“whip it like a big booty b__ like a cup of coffee with a spoon in it”) with the flow of a master and the mentality of a thirty four year old perverted Dennis The Menace. The difference in the two approaches makes the song work stand out.

The four song length of In Tune We Trust sets expectations low but it is a reminder that while you may think of Weezy as last era’s guy he is the same age as Future. He has just been professionally rapping before he could legally buy cigarettes.   I am dead sure that when he does get his label situation right his next album will be a monster.

Stream or download In Tune We Trust below:

http://www.datpiff.com/Lil-Wayne-In-Tune-We-Trust-mixtape.852132.html

Mixtape Review-Red Corolla by Domo Genesis

Mixtape Review-Red Corolla by Domo Genesis

by Dan-O

Odd Future turned out to be a pretty awesome buffet of talent you could pick and choose from. I chose Domo Genesis from the very beginning, a no nonsense rappers rapper with an endless appetite to spit. When Domo put his debut album out last year he was in his Sunday best bringing buttery R & B singers in to hit the hooks, high profile guest verses, and jazzy production with horns or piano or both. Genesis is fine but it doesn’t play to his strengths like this year’s project Red Corolla

It is ten tight tracks and none of them are long; none of them are overly conceptual. The production is short stabbing sounds over big drums. Evidence and Hi-Tek fit perfectly in the mix. Only two guest features pop in and both are fantastic. King Chip leads the way in the standout collaboration Honestly, Just Wanna Have A Good Time and Styles P drops another dope guest verse (for his guest verse hall of fame portfolio) on Overthinking.

The production is better because it provides tension that pushes Domo forward. The gentle plink of piano keys doesn’t feed the adrenaline in the same way these beats do, they push him to push harder. Even a song like Vintage Doms that you can think of as a straight up exercise in rapping is full of gems: “With a swag meaner than a broke bitch,” “Since Bishop fell up off the roof the juice I got it now.” He still brings melody in when he feels like it, on What It Means he kicks things off catchy with a splendidly sung hook but clears room for bar after bar afterward.

All the decisions he makes fit the concept of the red corolla, the cheap car that grounds his experiences. On the title track he explains it on the first verse.

“No longer focused on my broken ways
All I know’s the only way is to get loaded paid
But funny how the changes turn page when the dough exchange
Got me trying to float away
Back to red Corolla days”

It is a clear concept but one with enough room to breathe as a writer. The decisions just have to fit the personality of the man who once drove that vehicle. Red Corolla might be my favorite mixtape of the year and I don’t know if it has to do with the pure lack of rapping rappers we have now. Not taking any shots but guys like Domo who fearlessly lace rhymes are a rare breed at this point. It has made me a better listener and more appreciative. Mixtape Domo doesn’t have any concern about what will fit on the radio or jump up to first single level importance he just does the work and it all fits together perfectly.

I’m not saying album Domo isn’t valuable; I just want a bridge built between the two so we can arrive at a sonic compromise that makes everyone happy.

Stream or Download Red Corrolla below:

http://www.datpiff.com/Domo-Genesis-Red-Corolla-mixtape.849135.html

 

Goodbye and Thank You-Prodigy

Goodbye and Thank You-Prodigy

by Daniel Olney

Anger and depression are the most interesting shows to watch they present the adversity that begs the question; how to overcome it. Entertainers are well aware of this and some of our favorite musicians (rappers being no exceptions) are actors digging through the lovely life they have for the faint impression real strife left on them. Every album, every song needs to reset and grab a fresh hold on that old place they don’t live in anymore.

The first time I heard the voice of Albert Johnson (who we all knew as Prodigy of Mobb Deep) I didn’t feel the terror of Jason in the hockey mask. It was as if all the jittery shame left me and I was alone with my burning hostility. I was already psychologically aware of how destructive the tendency was and I wanted to be peaceful(I worked on it and still do), the hostility that still bubbled was something I worked to not feel or to at least pretend I didn’t.

When his voice came through the speaker It cleared my conscience. Prodigy presented an anger that went well beyond entertainment. Death, imprisonment, and violence followed him and publicly he never blinked. He never did major name collaborations, never electronically modified his voice so he could sing.  He knew pain like very few people, his whole life haunted by Sickle Cell Anemia, calling Prodigy a voice for the disenfranchised is accurate but not enough.

His voice was a tragic lesson in being in pain pushing through it, getting mad pushing through it and each time the push gets made folding the unresolved negativity over until it is thick enough to become your character. His hooks were simple and short because he just loved to rap, he needed all the space. Off on his own with a band of characters by his side (Alchemist, Havoc, etc).

Losing him felt like losing permission to, through gritted teeth; speak of the ugly perils this life provides. Allowing tone to become as heartless as the truth is without feeling the need to apologize.

To be raw forever or even to be raw at all.

Prodigy scared all of us. He threatened to leave our stomach on our shoes. He might shoot us playing basketball without even knowing us. I never knew anyone that listened to that music with hopes to emulate the lifestyle. He never made it seem that good.  P was surviving and inflicting himself on the world with the power of authorial genius reserved for top tier artists.

If you believe in a heaven and hell you should be scared that he passed away. If you believe he was a good man he’s going to have some choice things to say to the divine power or whoever has to face him. If he is going to hell no one will be better prepared. Whatever elaborate torture that turns out to be his greatest fear is likely to fall on dead nerve endings. P once called his heart an ice box.

He was the Santa Claus of misery for relieving me over and over of the hostility he knew so much better than I did, for speaking the ugliest truth while his opposition made the shiniest medication music. He spawned a whole genre of people doing that music to varying degrees but they’ll never find his sweet spot, his off-cadence on-cadence monotone.

“In other words please stay the fuck from out my face, provoking me to turn to a monster, you push me into a corner you know what’s gonna come.” —-Prodigy on the song Raw Forever From Albert Einstein 2: P=MC2

I can’t imagine him resting peacefully but he’s definitely earned the right.