#SampleSnitch-You are who you sample: Isley Brothers to UGK
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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Tagged Aint I Been Good To You, Bun-B, Ernie Isley, funk, Geto Boys, Isley Brothers, Marvin Isley, One Day, Pimp C, Ronald Isley, Sample Snitch, UGK, Underground Kingz
EP Review-Coming Home To Texas by Leon Bridges and Mick
The most exciting thing about the Mick Boogie Leon Bridges Texas remake of Bridges album Come Home (now Coming Home To Texas) is that it proves how wonderfully durable this set of songs are. Bridges is wearing the revivalist tag and I’m not sure whether this project was his strike against that notion or hip hop’s.
Mick does an excellent job of lacing classic Texas hip hop beats behind Bridges, behind being a key descriptor. You always hear the clean crisp delivery of every word Leon says, you just also get a knocking beat and some guest verses behind it. Boy, are these guest verses interesting! Chi Duly produces the first two tracks, the album title track and the Bun-B assisted Better Man. Bun kicks off Better Man as the first voice with a blackout verse. I’m not sure if Mick found it in some unreleased gem bin or got a new verse. Either way Bun always makes it clear that he is more of a genius than you can understand. Chi Duly nails the thickness of each beat and these new versions don’t seem to impede on the original versions at all. They are welcome alternate versions.
The other important guest verse is Slim Thug on a bass blown Hasan Insane version of Brown Skin Girl. It’s got the perfect super slow slither that Thugga loves to move at. Slim Thug’s verse aligns with the theme of brown skinned girls so it seems new and when you think about all these talented producers(Donnie Houston, TedyP, Jett I. Masstyr, Chris Rockaway, Chi Duly, and Hasan Insane) and rappers(Slim Thug, Bun B) coming together to remake someone else’s album that project has to carry some weight.
Come Home won’t win anyone’s album of the year. That title is more political than most places will admit: one part music, one part drama, one part “what is everyone else saying is great?” Hip hop came together with Bridges because while the critical arm of the industry supports hip hop and R&B they have never supported Soul. You don’t read loving anniversary posts for The Stylistics debut album or The Chi-Lites albums from worst to best. Almost every important rapper and producer you can think of listens to that stuff CONSTANTLY. When Come Home came out a lot of hip hop heads breathed a sigh of relief….ahhhh here is an album I’ll be able to listen to for years and years. Coming Home to Texas and the last song (River) especially will link Soul and the hip hop you love in a way you may not realize was there.
Stream or download Coming Home To Texas below:
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Tagged 2015 albums, 2015 mixtapes, album of the year, Bun-B, Come Home, Coming Home To Texas, DJ Booth, Leon Bridges, Mick, Mick Boogie, Slim Thug, Texas hip hop
Mixtape Review-The Iron Way by T-Pain
T-Pain is the Mozart of strip club music. No matter how many changes he has gone through I’ve never given up on him because I know that to be true. I know he is capable of stifling musical intelligence and flawless execution on very silly songs about strippers and butts, even if he does go into the more silly than genius realm on occasion. Just listen to the T-Pain produced Booty Butt Ass off of his new The Iron Way mixtape with DJ Drama; I just kept picturing Luther Campbell from 2 Live Crew with one single tear coming down his face like “that was beautiful.” He has more range with his autotune usage than anyone else in music (proof of this starts two minutes and fifty eight seconds in and goes till the end).
The most educated critic had to feel that roller coaster nervousness during the first listen of The Iron Way. The Jay-z song D.O.A. changed T-Pain in a big way. It wasn’t a diss to him at all, Jay clearly took to task people ripping him off, but T-Pain took the hit and became unfashionable. Part of this was that he was already over exposed; part of this is that he’s a goof. This is the dude who complimented Ray J’s dick size on live radio when the Kim K sex tape leaked. People were ready to turn their back before they did. So when the first track ,Kill These N_’s, started and fed into the blistering rap diss Trust Issues we didn’t know if this was all angry rap T-Pain. Little did we know the supremely zoned out and darn near tranquil Sun Goes Down(Audio Push are perfect guests on this one) and Need To Be Smokin were to come. Really every kind of song was to come; this mixtape is twenty songs long. If you like enormous rap anthems with rewindable bars you need to hear King where Bun B goes bananas and Big Krit sounds like Denzel looks in Man On Fire. If your into braggadocio reggae influenced finger snap hip hop then play Disa My Ting. He also drops the really sticky sweet club love song Heartbeat where he says “I can’t control it; it’s like your running electricity through me!”
As cheesy and novelty as Hashtag is the story of the relationships straining is very engaging and well-constructed. It’s a perfect example of what The Iron Way gives you. Its genius; well sung, super listenable and genuinely evocative but cheesy as all get out. You have to find a way to embrace both to enjoy it. Like forgetting while watching a genuinely brilliant Kung Fu movie that these are dudes fighting on strings. By the way Pain can rap too; his verse at the end of 15 is acrobatic and venomous.
T-Pain is not in a position to fade out because he can do too much. He’s a very good rapper, producer, and the king of autotune singing. Dude can construct incredible melodies that sticks in your head and this T-Pain ,the post-D.O.A. edition, has a bit of an edge. He understandably feels betrayed by an industry that shuns him while re-purposing his sound. That means the gushy booty music like Ever comes alongside fiery anti-industry anthems like Personal Business. The imbalance is a perfect balance.
stream or download The Iron Way below:
P.S. I wanted to give you my favorite silly lines from The Iron Way mixtape since T-Pain just can’t help himself.
“She make me bite my fist, I guarantee you ain’t seen a booty quite like this” Booty Butt Ass
“Put my face in her booty like a vanilla cake” Did It Anyway
Best line is “You actin’ like your style fell from the sky. The good news is…you got it from a hell of a guy.” Relax
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Audio Push, autotune, Big K.R.I.T., Booty Butt Ass, Bun-B, D.O.A., datpiff, Dj Drama, mixtape review, T-Pain, The Iron Way
Mixtape retrospective: looking back on Drake’s So Far Gone
So Far Gone is like a mixtape rubik’s cube. I keep picking it up and listening and getting confused; how do people like this? It seems needy and emotional but not thoughtful. Drake was constantly referencing women but not with any distinct intelligent things to say about them. The fact of the matter is that if you look back on it So Far Gone changed the rap universe. If your listening for the ramifications turn on the radio.
Even when Kanye was backpacking he was talking about political and social issues. He got a lot of credit for changing masculinity but it all boiled down to having the stones to wear a pink polo shirt…which seems like a small accomplishment (Cam’ron nods). So Far Gone really does change things. It’s not a break up album full of anguish like 808s& Heartbreak; the level of barren emotion you can hear on the Trey Songz assisted Successful is Drakes resting place. Goofball fun Kraftwerk-sounding tracks like Lets Call It Off with Peter Bjorn & John are natural and not stretch tracks, where a tough guy rapper does a goofy song to have a single (Eminem nods). How many rappers were jumping all over Lykke Li’s Little Bit for a singing duet? Listen to the beginning of Say Whats Real “Why do I feel so alone? Like everybody passing through the studio is in character as if he acting out a movie role.” It’s not just about him feeling lonely it’s about the hollowness of male bravado in hip hop circles. The never smile attitude that leaves a world without smiles.
He jumped on Ignant Shit with Lil Wayne and flossed (although he still says the phrase eager beavers which is not very flossy) then shared the Teddy Pendergrass-esque sex breakdown song A Night Off with Lloyd. R&B dudes used to play at rapping but rap fans didn’t really care/acknowledge it. Drake was comfortable in both spheres with a real knowledge of rap that extended to Houston hip hop and Little Brother underground. Balancing both is something that really hadn’t been successfully pulled off before (Domino nods).
Best I Ever Had changed the industry. The notion of a hip hop song not even really solely about love, like the old LL Cool J stuff, but a song about a woman being the best sexual partner you’ve ever had. A lot of credit goes to Noah “40” Shebib who put the bass knock in that song that makes it undeniable. This is a hip hop song. Whether you believe Drakes sincerity regarding women or don’t try and find a Dr. Dre song that’s complimentary of female sexual partners. It just wasn’t done, women were reduced not pedestaled. After Drake became Drizzy the male MC had more he could do. If he mixed feelings or relationships into his songs he would get thoughtful points but still having the gun talk (absent from a lot of Drake stuff) the fans would still consider him hard. Before that if you made a sensitive song everyone assumed you were riding the Common lane and were playing community leader. If you listen to what a lot of us consider the high point of rap (90’s) it’s an emotional wasteland. What’s the most emotionally charged Das Efx Song? Black Moon? I love all that stuff but we have to respect that So Far Gone broke things wide open. Is Houstatlantavegas a faux pimpish sleezeball anthem soaked to the skin with the kind of R&B you used to make fun of? Yes. It’s also really really good; Drake can sing and construct a hook and what he’s doing is unlike your favorite or least favorite rappers. You can always say this dude sounds like Drake but I’ve never said “Drake is just ___” cause who would that other name even be? Not Kanye, he’s more Phonte from Little Brother and he’s darn sure not Phonte. He’s still very vein and self-centered; lots of braggadocio but never ever convincingly hazardous.
Maybe the thing I love most is how stupid he is sometimes. On So Far Gone, his first major major mixtape he has a song with Bun B & Lil Wayne called Uptown on his time to shine he says the corniest line “sipping Pink Floyd, puffing Wayne Brady. Damn…Whose Line is It Anyway?” Really? A Wayne Brady, Whose Line name-check on your big southern style collabo jam? Yup. That’s some Drake ish. This is the only platinum artist who raps about muffins.
Stream or download So Far Gone below:
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Tagged 808s & Heartbreak, Black Moon, Bun-B, Das Efx, Drake, Drizzy, kanye west, Lil Wayne, Little Brother, Masculinity in hip hop, mixtape retrospective, Noah 40 Shebib, Phonte, So Far Gone
Song of The Year-The Imperial featuring Action Bronson, Royce Da 5’9 and Black Thought produced by Statik Selektah
The most popular DJ albums fall into one of two categories. The first is the super-producer putting the most popular artists together to line up as many radio hits as possible. If even one record breaks in a big way the DJ gets a new car. Not trying to run down this approach. I need great radio singles like everyone else.
The second kind is the massively well respected producer, underground or on the popular border, who uses his great beats to gather all the most interesting guests together. Statik Selektah and maybe Marco Polo fit into this category. Statik’s new album What Goes Around is absolutely fantastic in terms of track chemistry; Snoop Dogg raps with Ransom on a song, Noreaga, Reks and Termanology share the track Drunk and High. At first you might look at the tracklist and ask why Bun B and Jared Evan are on a song together but you can always trust in Statik Selektah.
Not only is this the kind of producer who never stops working (even to sleep) but his ear for MC talent is as good as his ear for song construction. He not only got Action, Black Thought and Royce together on a track, he got hungry top-of-his-game Black Thought. This is the Black Thought who ran side by side with Pun on Capital Punishment. Is it the catchiest song of the year? Does it have Jhene Aiko singing seductively? No and no but if you are walking around yapping about the lack of lyricism in rap this might sink your battleship. While this song is definitely on a higher level because of the collection of talent all the songs are formed with hard as nails wordsmiths and gritty, jazzy boom bap minimalism.
If the trashy rap makes you feel gross this is your hot shower.
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Tagged Action Bronson, Black Thought, Bun-B, DJ albums, Jared Evan, Marco Polo, Noreaga, Ransom, Reks, Royce Da 5'9, Snoop Dogg, song of the year, Statik Selektah, Termanology, The Imperial, What Goes Around
Phil Ade-R.O.S.E.(Result of Society’s Evil) Mixtape Review
Between R.O.S.E. and Young Moe’s Humble Hustle 2 (https://freemusicempire.com/2013/06/15/young-moe-humble-hustle-2-mixtape-review/)the DMV(Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) have a definite 2013 sound forming. Just because R.O.S.E. has a Kendrick Lamar style cover doesn’t mean all of its content exists in that off tempo Top Dawg zone. Songs like 2am (featuring Bun-B) and Nas Told Me jam the heck out. Not to mention the fabulously foul capitalist anthem Money with a game changing base line from producer 6ix and a simple snide fantastic chorus from Phil Ade.
On the production side Sunny Norway is behind the boards for nine out of the seventeen tracks, giving a warm needed backdrop on songs like City Lights or a more urgent darker soundscape like the one present on One Time or Big Mistake.
The guests do a pretty impressive job; Bun B is solid as always, Rockie Fresh has had a very good year that continues with his guest verse on Get Back. The case could be made that nothing about R.O.S.E. is that quotable, verses while well put together are full of what you would expect. It’s part introspection, part come up and as dope as songs like The Dreamer and Under Achiever are they don’t have rewindable lyrical moments. Good news-not everything needs rewindable lyrical moments. Good music is music you can listen too over and over and most of R.O.S.E. is good music. The biggest negative about the project is the song Every Bag which features an annoying hook about buying hot chicks…you guessed it….every bag. To be fair this song is for a different demographic, I understand that.
The complaints are minimal. I have to commend Phil Ade, Sunny Norway, and Teddy Roxpin for crafting an extremely cohesive project. All the tracks swim from one to the next in a natural way. This synergistic quality is what makes Every Bag stick out so much, so in a way its a credit to the work that it feels so foreign. Nothing feels like a single, this is an album and as free albums go VERY worth your time. The versatility of the DMV is the ability to do stuff that feels Trap-ish(like Money) but switch gears naturally to a song about love/sex(Xscape) or family. The best DMV rap finds a way to be earnest even in its least genuine moments and this is definitely a Phil Ade trait.
At the end of the second to last track, Disappointed, 2pac explains the rose from concrete metaphor in another of the spellbinding interviews he used to give(did anyone in hip hop history give better interviews?). You see the next track named Roses and picture it immediately as a down tempo introspection but that’s not what happens. What you get is a Sunny Norway piano with freakish urgency and an autotuned chorus that seems part trashy and part drunk talk honest. Even when Phil Ade does subtle he does it bigger and crazier than you pictured it. He chooses to end his opus jamming out, which I can always appreciate.
stream or download R.O.S.E. below: