Tag Archives: Pimp C

#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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Album recommendation of the week-Lorraine Motel by Killa Kyleon

Album recommendation of the week-Lorraine Motel by Killa Kyleon

by Dan-O

Socially conscious rap music is filled with misinformation. First point-you don’t have to be a social scientist/genius to construct a meaningful album with a socially conscious message. Do not listen to anyone’s album for the answers on life; this is their art and perspective that is what is important. Second point-the songs don’t have to carry a single tone, they don’t have to be whispery emotional pleas over piano plinks or hard charging Public Enemy style anthems for resistance. This is an artist’s world and it can be constructed however they want it and if the rules they set up hold it works.

My favorite recent socially conscious album is Lorraine Motel by Killa Kyleon. The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated and he lined up the release to hit on the anniversary of that loss. He is a Houston rap warrior with songs in his discography featuring Bun B, Pimp C, and Lil Keke. Kyleon raps like an old traveling swordsman or gunfighter, the art of spitting is so easy at this point he is dead focused on his message. This time around he seems to have gotten much better with hooks that dig in while representing his point.  

The song titles feel like messages you’ve heard before(the last song Freedom Ain’t Free is Joey Bada$$ lead single off his new album All-American Bada$$) but they’re not.  Strong Black Woman isn’t a whispery cute song meant to get him in the good graces of female fans. It is filled with hard slapping lyrics about the determination of the women he is dedicating the song too. First words spoken are “One more semester left she ain’t gotta trip.” The problem with dedications to women in rap is that a lot of times men construct these to be so general it boils down to a pat on the back for being sexy. Killa gives the women in his verses the determination he has to win (his mother especially) “You knew not to question God so you forgot to ask him, for help through hard times and struggle cause you knew you passed it. That’s what ambition get ya.”  Anyone who gets mad about hip hop being pro street violence anti-police violence needs to hear Lorraine Motel. My Skin is My Sin is my favorite song; it boils and bubbles with frustration about police brutality, Colin Kaepernick, the positives and negatives of President Obama, and the depression street violence creates in the psyche.

The music is tonal and moody but still very much the Houston rap that Drake (among many) borrowed from, it rattles and bangs in chunky measures. I haven’t been able to find a good production listing but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was familiar names from his previous projects. Lorraine Motel rings with the pure white hot anger of really caring about the situation. On Change Gone Come the last verse gets so far into police brutality that it left me haunted by the line “Dead to the wrong, them crackers still right. They playin’ God the way they steal life.” The second half of Lorraine Motel is a flummoxing experience, eight songs that just make you sit with the problems we have as a nation and FEEL them deeply enough to hurt again. That is what a great socially conscious rap album does, it connects you to the problem so you care when it is so much easier nowadays not to care about anything.

You can find Lorraine Motel on Spotify, Amazon music, and all the other streaming services.

FME 2016 MVP is Boosie Badazz

FME 2016 MVP is Boosie Badazz

by Dan-O

Most of my frustration with music reviews stems from people judging influence in the moment. We can look back and understand the influence great albums or artists had on previous eras but anyone telling you the influence someone right now is having on the world right now…is pulling that out of their butt. In the moment all we have is the work.

No one put in better work in 2016 than Boosie Badazz. He beat cancer got out of prison and released six fantastic projects.  You could select the worst of those six projects (probably Thug Talk) and still get more out of it (content and enjoyment-wise) than the numerical victors of 2016. Over a total of 103 songs he poured his heart out time after time.

The emotional progression of his work in 2016 was masterful. In January he released a tight and earth shattering collection of music called In My Feelings. (Goin’ Thru It).  It’s a devastating journey; he turned introspective internal monologues into anthemic bangers.  While he roars he also ruminates all the way through going from The Rain to his cancer experience (Cancer) to sleeping in a puddle in his federal prison cell to the responsibility he has to his family and friends(Call of Duty) it makes perfect sense that the last song is I Know They Gone Miss Me where he wistfully hopes that his kids and friends will hold his memory close even after he passes. Nothing he released in 2016 was as uncomfortable as In My Feelings because of the unfiltered level of disclosure he abided by for those ten songs.  Forgive Me Being Lost in the wrong hands would be a humble brag about the depth and unstoppable nature of our narrators vengeance but right off the bat he confesses seeing his first dead body at 8 years old, he describes himself and his crew as roaches and as the song progresses he delivers the blistering “They tried to give me life, said I’m bad for the community. How I’m supposed ta feel about some people tryin’ to ruin me? Why should I stop for the cops if they shootin’ me? Why I get rich now my friends using me? Cold Winters, why us I need answers, if I sin god forgive me but my baby need pampers.”  Every Boosie verse takes place on the lowest dirtiest scariest continuum of existence, and it’s in a very consciously Springsteen way.  No matter how rich he gets he doesn’t want to lose that identity.

Out My Feelings In My Past is a brilliant follow up that hit a month after its predecessor. He makes the transition from internal dialogue to engaging with the world and wrestling with his memory of it vs. the state it is in now. You can see this on World War 6, New School/Old School, and especially on Mann where he talks about how horrifying the newest generation of younger hustlers are compared to his era.  Takem Back is a vivid rendering of his path to success where you can hear the implication that Boosie uses his experiences as parables and abides by the lessons they teach.

Thug Talk came in March and embraced fully the anger bubbling in the first two releases. On the second song (Finish U) he shouts the song into a melee that would make Waka Flocka proud; Off The Chain makes every brag kinetic and might not be his most meaningful song but pumps adrenaline through your speakers(“Say you gangsta I don’t buy that. I can smell where you hide at. Six murders and two attempts you talkin’ that ish B__ you lying! Go to war with any creature B__ you F_ing with a lion!!!”—Off The Chain). This roaring tsunami of anger feeds the soulful seething hopelessness of Menace II Society.  Guest verses on Thug Talk are no joke featuring the holy trinity of Z-ro, Pimp C, and Webbie.

In May Bleek Mode (Thug In Peace Lil Bleek) blew more holes in our available hard drive space. Not only was this project #5 but it is nineteen tracks!   My favorite Boosie song of 2016 is on this one, Hard But Sweet where he refers to his childhood as the Jolly Rancher days because they were hard but sweet.  The image fits him like a glove and defines the project which is full of hard, violent bangers but reveals itself in the sweet songs longing for the companionship of his favorite people. Destined To Blow and Blue Money are full to the brim with swagger but Not My N_ and Family Rules are intensely emotionally. Boosie doesn’t need death to get intense. He doesn’t “get intense” he just is. Dis Morning is just Boosie going off, about Ebola and distrust, paranoia, police violence, & ambition.Boosie is so ceaselessly dialed in to passionate full force response that it is actually difficult to maintain his level of energy. Boosie wears you out! At one point in Bleek Mode Boosie is convinced that in prison the insulin he uses for diabetes is being tampered with in order to murder him. Can you imagine being in that state of mind? Bleek Mode takes you there and it is scary. Still Not as scary as C-Murders voice.

A month before we even got Bleek Mode Boosie & C-Murder came together to put out an album called Penitentiary Chances. I didn’t have high hopes since prison albums(C-Murder is still locked up) tend to sound awful from a sound quality pov. I was wrong. Every Boosie song takes place in Boosie world so all vocals are clean as a new white T-shirt and all beats rumble with bass. The high point of the project is hearing C-Murder dialed into the power of that horrifying voice over the creepy chanting of Dear Supreme Court. If the song was intended to convince people he was innocent I’m not sure it should have been as creepy as it is. As a C-Murder song it is amazing. Penitentiary Chances is a real discussion about prison life from two people who shared the same cell block at one point. Boosie says “Used to have a personal chef…now I work in the kitchen(In The Pen),” let that image really sink in. It is intense. You listen to This Ain’t Living, For My Homies That’s Dead, Blame My Mother, & When We Came 2 The Can and before you hit song ten you feel like your living Donald Goines White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief. Great book, tough read. Same deal here.

By the time Boosie dropped Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas I was ready for some joy to peek in.  No one has dropped a Christmas project this hardcore. The track that made headlines was No Drake On where we have a Boyz N The Hood moment gone left. The protagonist of the song is riding around seething for revenge but he’s not getting out of the car. Instead of Drake playing in the ride he pops on Murder Was The Case. Lil Scrappy is great on the song, Hurricane Chris is vicious on Hurricane, Rich Homie Quan is probably my favorite guest verse of the album but I like my Boosie songs solo. Vlad TV features Boosie hitting that TI level of boisterous-but-he-means-every-word performance.

This isn’t just some paper Burger King crown of an award I’m giving to Boosie. I listened to over a hundred songs of his this year MANY MANY times. I know about his grandmother, his spirituality, his kidney cancer, his childhood love for pickles and hot chips and that level of successful vivid storytelling creates a relationship to the music and its author. I never sit back wondering why Boosie can’t break out into the international sensation the top 3 guys are. I’m just thankful that in 2016 anyone gave this much of themselves.

Stream or download Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas below:

https://www.spinrilla.com/mixtapes/boosie-badazz-happy-thanksgiving-merry-Christmas

Stream or purchase Bleek Mode below:

https://www.spinrilla.com/mixtapes/lil-boosie-bleek-mode

Stream or purchase Thug Talk below:

https://www.spinrilla.com/mixtapes/lil-boosie-thug-talk

Stream or purchase Out My Feelings (In My Past) below:

https://www.spinrilla.com/mixtapes/boosie-badazz-out-my-feelings-in-my-past

If you get this far and like what you hear buy or stream In My Feelings and Penitentiary Chances from the service you pay for or hunt down the physical copy like us old heads do. Best Buy still has music…for now.