#BandcampGold-1990 by Amerigo Gazaway & Xiomara
I used to burn cd compilations of 90’s R & B. They were semi-notorious amongst my crew (Army stuff). I called the series “Booty Music” because the 90’s were the first decade where the music said what it meant. As richly political and social as 70’s R & B remains those guys could only say so much. Aside from Between The Sheets by The Isley’s the lens is big picture not hardcore sensual.
The new album 1990 nails what was so unique about that decade in the genre. The producer of all thirteen tracks is Amerigo Gazaway who is the master of mash-ups. If you know the careers of the artists he is mixing, he picks and matches up from deep within catalogs. This dude knows more about music than I ever will so it is a joy to learn from his new releases. I have never heard of West Coast singer Xiomara but she really hunkers down and provides beautiful delivery of very well written songs.
1990 does such a great job stretching out in all the trailblazing directions the decade explored. Some of the songs influences are quite clear. After the initial interlude we go right into a West Coast New Jack Swing tribute(Westside Swing). This is where I shout out Xiomara who shows herself to be surprisingly comfortable in different sonic environments. Her strong diction and clear vocal leadership hold everything together and keep this from being cheeky nostalgia. Bounce is a gorgeously blown kiss to the Timbaland/Missy/Ginuwine/Aaliyah explosion that tore music down and rebuilt it. SNL is still doing skits about the Pony beat. At the end it slows down into a DJ Screw pace and you realize again how damn good Gazaway is.
The best songs on the project aren’t as directly referential and are more powerful for it. That Old Alarm is one of the finest R & B songs in the genre this year. It knocks and is haunting at the same time building on weird strings and strong drums. Xiomara drifts overtop talking about getting a loved one out of her head, knowing that it will be hard but once it is done she will be able to move on “don’t come chasin’ after me/ ringing that old alarm.” Can’t Let Go is a groove that finds and holds you so tight that when the beat drops out Xiomara and friends giggle their way through a weed based parody of the chorus.
Both participants understand that 1990’s R & B was primal and personal at the same time. The beat found your guts and made YOUR BODY ALL OVER MY BODY make sense. Xiomara grounds the project with lyrics sung with ownership. It isn’t nostalgia in that pure sense, it is what Sharon Jones did for late 60’s Soul. These two breathe new life into the vessel containing what we loved to bring us closer to what it meant. Recommend this to ANYONE who ever loved this era in music. Somewhere Drake and 40 are BUMPING this.
Stream or download 1990 below:
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Tagged #BandcampGold, 1990, Aaliyah, Amerigo Gazaway, booty music, Ginuwine, Isley Brothers, Missy, reviews, Sharon Jones, Timbaland, Xiomara
#Bandcampgold-Nina Simone & Lauryn Hill-The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon by Amerigo Gazaway
I’ve written so much about how great Amerigo Gazaway is and monologued at people about him so often that finding new great things to say will be a challenge. It’s like finding new ways to tell your wife how special she is after fifteen years. Giving it a shot: Gazaway has always been brilliant at taking two artists and weaving their work together one modern hip hop giant and another older soul head the difference this time his mission is more apparent. You can see in the title what you get from the listen, he is using Lauryn Hill to teach Nina Simone. I think you can learn more about Nina’s work from The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon than you can from any documentary (I’m not even going to talk about that movie) about her. Nina like Marvin and Stevie before are focuses for Gazaway because they are the source of all the samples. Dj’s and producers understand how deeply dope Nina was but does the average listener? Nope. They just sing along to the loop.
You should know more than the documentaries will tell you. She was a tortured soul but that’s not enough. She could squeal coo bellow and breathe life into a corny old song like Cherish. You can hear her do this in the background of To Zion as Lauryn takes the verses she is somewhere in the background living emotionally through a reverberating hum. She could find pain in her music, yup. More importantly she could find delicacy and delight just as extreme as her heartbreak. Listen to Nina on the opening of The Sweetest Thing. She makes so much of each moment we have with her. Gazaway instructs us to admire how gallantly finite she always feels.
The project is full of the best skits where Nina talks about very important parts of who she is. In one, she talks about how kids didn’t want to play with her they just asked her to play a song. Another skit talks about the duty she had to protest music for the betterment of her people. Putting all the skits together it’s a maddening position. To be isolated from your people yet completely dedicated to finding justice for them. What an incredibly American journey.
Another plus for me on this project is hearing peak Lauryn like I haven’t in a long time. Full disclosure: old Wyclef production on those Fugees albums doesn’t hold up for me. I don’t listen to them a lot. On Take It Easy I’m able to hear Lauryn spit and Nina kills it, the horns are great. Fu-Gee-La was a great song originally but I love this version so much better.
I’m not a music guy so I’m not sitting back wondering where he got these stems from. I’m so happy to have Gazaway as a dope college professor teaching me the depths of a subject I dearly love. It doesn’t matter how you feel about either of these artists or how you imagine this will sound. You’re wrong. it is way crazier. Press play.
Stream or download The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon below:
#BandcampGold-A Common Wonder by Amerigo Gazaway, Stevie Wonder, & Common
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:
Mixtape Review(mash up edition)-Yasiin Gaye: The Return (Side Two) by Amerigo Gazaway
When I first pressed play in my vehicle and explained what this project is my wife looked at me, beaming a sudden tranquility, and said “…nothing like a good mash-up.” You can’t beat a great combination: Jay-z and Oasis (Ojaysis), Wu-tang and Fugazi (Wugazi), White album, Red Album, and the miraculous concoction of Jay lyrics over Godfather soundtrack that DJ Skee cooked up a while back.
A good mash-up becomes three things: cold water in the face reminder to listen to artist A, Artist B, and a new bonded hybrid of the two artists that lives above the two. The tape becomes a new musical creation that leaves you asking “Why aren’t there more mash-ups?”
Gazaway used side one(separate mixtape) of this collaboration to focus on the Marvin and Mos we know; using What’s Going On quite liberally behind verses burned into the brains of any Rawkus Records true believer. Side two is great because it draws masterfully from my favorite Marvin works (lesser known Here, My Dear & I Want You) intertwining the voices in a way that feels like a genuine collaboration. Sometimes the Marvin Sample is a simple groan looped to follow the right words (Modern Marvel pt. 1). On Undeniable we isolate one of the most powerful voices in hip hop history for a two word chorus that sneaks behind The Temptations and goes beyond a perfect fit.
The booklet that comes with the download states that the mission is to use Yasiin Bey’s own words as a tribute to Marvin. So this is not Amerigo’s tribute to the two artists, it’s his assist in a loving tribute from Bey to Gaye. In terms of career Bey has always felt like an unstable property going from underwhelming project to eye opening one (True Magic to The Ecstatic). While his debut album Black on Both Sides has more than its share of brilliance you can feel a lovable paranoia running amuck; A talent that can’t trust its surroundings and wanders as a result; a voice that yearns to sing, rock, Jamaican toast, and rip verses. No one knew how to create a universe of interlocking grooves better than Marvin Gaye and the combination makes every song feel like a first time test conducted with a gloriously funky safety net.
I may be giving the false impression that these songs carry a singular feel from one to another, absolutely not. Ghetto Rock is thick and chunky with Chuck Berry guitar and vocals. Modern Marvel 1 is a whispering beauty while 2 is a summer cook out eyes closed finger snapping sing along. Anna’s Love Song doesn’t belong on Here, My Dear it feels like the grandchild of the song it takes its name from. I’m so glad to have rap I can play with my wife’s parents in the car. So happy that Amerigo Gazaway reminded me of the strength and range Marvin had in his voice. Sometimes his music hypnotizes me to an extent that I forget how much power he wielded. Nothing like a good mash-up and this one is great.
stream or download Yasiin Gaye: The Return (Side Two) below:
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Tagged Amerigo Gazaway, Bandcamp, Gazaway, Here My Dear, I Want You, Marvin Gaye, Mash Up, mixtape review, Modern Marvel, Modern Marvel 1, Modern Marvel 2, Mos Def, Rawkus Records, What's Going On, Yasiin Bey