Tag Archives: funk

Five Song Guide to Weird Prince Music

Five Song Guide to Weird Prince Music

by Dan-O

Everybody loves Prince. I am not gonna waste full sentences telling you what makes 1999 or Purple Rain great. That is on you to figure out. One of the great things about Prince is how much crazy stuff he has out there and how darn good it is. All of the songs below are from albums far outside his “best album” discussion. All of these songs (in my eyes) are as good as any of his best work. He was an artist with a lot of dimension and I hope if you hear any of these for the first time it helps you get closer to how much of a unicorn this dude was.

Cherry, Cherry from Exodus

Exodus from 1995 is a big sloppy funk album by the New Power Generation that is not for everyone. It is definitely for me.   Exodus is messier than other Prince albums, it is thick with horns and bass in the way peak Parliament is. Prince knew how to make his work digestible; to teach a funkless white audience how the genre worked. By doing that he spent a lot of time grooving at 70% of his powers. Exodus gives him the chance to concoct overpowering funk. Get Wild is loud and very Digital Underground. Cherry, Cherry is the masterpiece for me. It feels like it could have been on Purple Rain as a bonus cut but it’s him years later. This song is timeless in how it takes that glimmering preciousness adds finger snaps, basketball, and maintains the real feeling of starry eyed romantic connection.

Don’t Play Me from The Truth

You’ve heard the stories about how much of a talent Prince was with the playing of multiple instruments. He was such a good composer it’s hard to isolate his talent on any given instrument. Prince was too much of a mastermind to flex outside the needs of the song. Best place to really get in touch with the ability he had on lead is an acoustic guitar album called The Truth. It is one of my favorite Prince albums PERIOD. The warmth and precision of his guitar work is miraculous but just as fly and once a generation is the swagger he has along with that ability. He brags about being over 30 speaking proper English and not smoking weed. This song is about being grown and past foolish things. That moment when he says “Don’t play me I already do that in my car,” is the illest brag a pop star ever made. Most people do acoustic albums to spill their feelings. Prince is Prince no matter what the form. His formula is too perfect to change.

Black Sweat from 3121

Its criminal how the listening audience turned away from Prince in the mid to late 90’s and on. 3121 is an album from 2006 and It is one of his best. Black Sweat in particular is one of the top five nastiest funk songs he ever constructed. My face screws up every time it starts. The hook is incredible, the drums are next level. You should listen to this song but you should make sure you have nice headphones. If you don’t then take it to the car; trust me.

A Case Of U from One Nite Alone…

I might sound whiny about the left behind music hanging around one of music’s most important careers but I am not mad at anyone. Prince was so productive he buried treasure all over the map. I love Joni Mitchell A LOT. I don’t love her like Prince did. He pulls A Case Of U from Joni’s most pulverizing and vulnerable album Blue from 1971.  Prince lets his voice tip toe through the emotional vulnerability and stand to declare strength the way she always did. He gets the mixture. Throughout One Night Alone… his piano work is staggering. His sense of time is exact on a mechanized level. You can listen to him play piano and guitar (on The Truth) so well you’d think he was an artificial intelligence robot sent from the future to teach us music. Add to that how intuitive his song selection musical vision and vocal tone  is and it is an eye opening listen.

Paisley Park from Around The World In A Day

Prince loved Stevie Wonder but he loved Joni Mitchell just as much. He was very influenced by the psychedelic music of the 1960’s. Around The World In A Day is an exploration of the spirit brought on music by The Beatles and others. The reason it doesn’t get much love outside of Raspberry Beret is its placement as follow up album to Purple Rain. No one expected an exploration of psychedelia following a world dominating classic. Wouldn’t you just do that again?! You would. Prince wouldn’t. Outside of all that contextual jibber jabber Paisley Park is a hypnotic song. His vocals float above the hammering drum machine and the characters he etches go through sadness, forgiveness, and growth. He cares about everyone he mentions and paints them like Renoir watching dancing couples. All the colors are bright and lustrous.

Most of these songs and albums mentioned are on your basic streaming services but Exodus could be tough.  Here is a youtube link for the album in case.

 

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#Bandcampgold-Resistance by Brandon Coleman

#Bandcampgold-Resistance by Brandon Coleman

by Dan-O

Albums have hearts and souls. I need all of them. My favorite Freddie Gibbs album is ESGN because he was so angry at Jeezy and his old label for mismanaging him that his mind was spiraling down the most angry heinous pathways possible and some days I’m there with him. That album has a heart for the worst days. Resistance has the opposite heart. It has love and joy and funk. It makes my five year old and my wife dance together.  When the horns start on the song Sexy and the bass drops my family loses it.

I didn’t know about this album until I went to see Kamasi Washington live. Coleman is his pianist and Kamasi stepped back so he could launch into his lush composition Walk Free. It has the soul of a Donny Hathaway love song with gentle instrumental touches and admirable composition. I vowed that the next wifi connection found would bring me to his album!

The kids say things like “It’s a mood” and sound creepy to me but this album is one. Brandon Coleman does his Roger Troutman thing through the talk box but he doesn’t lean on it. It’s not a shtick. He’s written real songs that are well formed and funky which leaves the Vocoder as an additive you forget about after a while. While Sexy is funky and lets loose it is followed by There’s No Turning Back which is its equal in glimmering smooth horizontal excellence. It glides by at two minutes and twenty seconds leading into the title track which is even shorter (one minute and fifty one seconds).

This is where I confess that you’re not me and you may not have the same taste. Coleman is part of that West Coast jazz contingent with Kamasi (same folks worked on To Pimp A Butterfly with Kendrick). His influences are people I LOVE LOVE LOVE from Freddie Hubbard to Troutman to George Clinton to Dre to Quik. I am a die hard West Coast sound guy and nothing is funkier than Addiction (with killer guest work from Sheera).  These songs slap and groove while maintaining a high IQ in musical execution.  Most people would have made a song like Love the somber/poignant come down in the album but he turned it up, made it bounce like a pop song so that the concept can taste as good to your ears as it should to your heart; as it should to your everyday interactions. This is my kind of dude so Resistance is my kind of album.  The boldest protest made by it is the earned smile it wears while playing in this world of ghastly madness. I wonder if Stevie Wonder has heard this album?

Stream or buy Resistance below:

https://brandon-coleman.bandcamp.com/album/resistance-1

 

Sample Snitch-Chaka Khan, Simply Red, 8ball, & MJG

 

Sample Snitch-Chaka Khan, Simply Red, 8ball, & MJG

by Dan-O

So UGK dropped their first album Too Hard To Swallow in 1992 stacked with old soul samples. The sample listing includes Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers, and the Isley Brothers. I’ve already written a previous Sample Snitch about the Isley connection with UGK. A year later in 1993 8ball & MJG drop one of the scariest debut albums in the history of the genre (Comin’ Out Hard) and on the title track they sample Rufus & Chaka Khan’s Stay along with Simply Red’s Holding Back The Years.

The juxtaposition of smash mouth street content over warm lush soul would come to define Southern Rap. This is the creation of riding music made to bump in Cadillac’s not headphones or dancefloors. At the time the “average” hip hop fan was so used to the east coast brusque tough guy shouting street cred that this was all new. The smooth foundation of Simply Red topped with the brilliant sample of Chaka Khan for the chorus was shaken and altered by 8ball saying things like:

” I gotta come out hard as hell just like the life I lead

Cool, feed on the next brotha’s greed

J-Smooth cuttin’ up, lil’ Hank gettin’ buck

Killers be shootin’ up suckas with no guts

I’m scoping big butts, looking for the payoff

Living like a pimpster, taking everyday off

Riding through the hood with my homies gettin’ smoked out

Fall up in the mall, on a ho stroll, loked out

Cool, calm and collective, comin’ out hard”

He was feeding on greed watching killers shoot people while remaining cool, calm and collective…how? It was a different environment and mentality from the one listeners understood.  The imagery portrayed is still genuinely horrifying. On the song Pimps 8ball has a verse where he gives lessons on pimping and one is

“Lesson three

If you don’t tell dat ho who is boss

Bitchs like to run shit

But end up getting smacked in the mouth

See a real nigga believe in beatin them hoes down

Push they head into the wall until you hear dat crackin sound”

His intonation is so serious and sinister in its joy as he says it that the verse never leaves you. It teaches you a horrible truth about the world that we all need to work to change. It speaks the terror hidden from some neighborhoods. That song samples Love T.K.O. by Linda & Cecil Womack( they went by Womack & Womack).  8ball & MJG made gangsta rap just as ugly or brutal as anyone in history but the sugar of soul and funk (Rufus for example had all songs written by the keyboardist, bassist and drummer so they naturally made songs perfect for hip hop sampling.) made it go down differently. While people were having congressional hearings about Dr. Dre & Ice Cube, Old Dirty, Wu-Tang Clan…Southern Rap wasn’t really in the conversation. Maybe it wasn’t big enough sales wise, maybe the samples made it taste less threatening than it was. Either way, Comin’ Out Hard is the core of a method we still find today.

Rufus featuring Chaka Khan Stay off the album Street Player

Simply Red Holding Back The Years off the album Picture Book

Comin’ Out Hard by 8ball & MJG brings it all together

#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: