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Archive for the ‘Nas’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DJ PREMIERE & THE BADDER BAND-Tiny Desk Concert #644 (August 21, 2017).

This is a fascinating Tiny Desk Concert. DJ Premiere plays turntables–scratching records and hyping the audience.  But he is accompanied by a live band: a five string bass, a trumpeter, a trombonist and a drummer.

Who is Premiere?  Three-time Grammy winner DJ Premier, one of the definitive architects of New York hip-hop, brought a new type of life to NPR’s Tiny Desk: our first concert helmed by a DJ.

The set list rested on the undeniable footprint of Preemo’s classics, but this was more than just another DJ mix. His touring outfit, The Badder Band, overlaid Premier’s blends with an undulating electric bass courtesy of Brady Watt, a steady accent on the one from drummer Lenny “The Ox” Reece and boisterous horns from Mark Williams and Jonathan Powell.

I don’t know much about DJ Premiere, although I have learned that he was part of Gang Starr (which explains why there is so much Gang Starr represented here).  He medleys these songs together in a 24 minute mixtape

  • KRS-One – “KRS-One Attacks”
  • KRS-One – “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know”
  • Das Efx – “Real Hip-Hop”
  • Nas – “Nas Is Like”
  • Jeru The Damaja – “Da Bichez”
  • Gang Starr – “Step In The Arena”
  • Gang Starr feat. M.O.P. – “1/2 & 1/2”
  • Royce Da 5’9 – “Boom”
  • Gang Starr – “Moment Of Truth”

So he spins the discs and includes some of the raps from the records.  Especially the ones where he himself is mentioned:

Clap your hands everybody, if you got what it takes
‘Cause I’m KRS and I’m on the mic, and Premier’s on The Breaks
(from “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know”)

there’s also this line

If you don’t know me by now I doubt you’ll ever know me
I never won a Grammy, I won’t win a Tony
[Premiere points to himself and holds up three fingers at the Grammy line]

He gets the Tiny Desk crowd hyped with them repeating “Hell yeah, fuck yeah, the real hip hop.”

He does a lot of scratching and repeating with Das EFX

And he features some of these great lines:

Yo, you niggedy know that I’m back man
You’re wack man, I eat a rapper like I’m Pacman
I briggedy bring it, straight from the cella
Fo’ realla, packin more hits than Lou Pinella

It’s me the Nigga wit G’z
The B double O K-S
So say yes I’ll bust your caliber
When I pop shit and rock shit like Metallica

The original song is a simple slap bass line, but here the live band adds a cool funky bass line and live drums.  It’s really cool watching how he does all his turntable work

As it switches to Nas, the horns come in, playing a jazzy riff with some nifty bass underneath.  Premiere hypes everybody up Tiny Desk WHAT! Don’t be no motherfucking bitchez (from the Jeru the Damaja song).  There’s a ripping trumpet solo followed by an interesting trombone solo

Gang Starr gets a pretty lengthy rap from “Step in the Arena.”  There’s a pause and then the violins from “1/2 & 1/2” kick in.  Premiere air violins (poorly) before a shout out to M.O.P.  He raps the end line with the record.

He does a very long scratching intro to Royce Da 5’9’s “Boom” and the drummer spins his cymbal.  Premier adds some clicking sounds from another record.  He gets another name check in this song:

Me and Premier, we kind of the same in ways
We both speak with our hands in dangerous ways

He seems to be adding samples to Gang Starr’s final song.  He’s pressing buttons and making sounds but I don’t know if they are part of the original or not.

When the rapping is done, they jam for two minutes.  Premier plays some samples, the bass rumbles away, the drums keep a fast beat and the horns kick in to rock out to the end.

This is a really fun show and I could totally see how much fun a live DJ show like this would be if you knew the songs he was mixing.

[READ: June 25, 2017] “The Piano Teacher”

This is a short piece about a piano teacher, Miss Nightingale.

She was in her early fifties and was a quiet beauty.  Although single, she felt she was fortunate.  She might have married but is involved with a married man instead.

But mostly she is happy that she can make a living teaching students to play piano.

The boy with her now was a delightful student, eager and talented with a bit of cockiness.  Although he was always silent.  He seemed shy somehow–never prattling on and she couldn’t understand why he had been moved through several teachers already. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BADBADNOTGOOD-Tiny Desk Concert #593 (January 23, 2017).

I’m amused at how kinda dorky all of these guys look–except for the drummer who looks “cool.”  Why is that amusing?  Because of this blurb:

BADBADNOTGOOD made a name for itself by reworking songs from the likes of Nas and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, eventually catching the attention of Odd Future leader Tyler, the Creator. The masses took notice in 2015 when the group produced an entire LP for Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul. BADBADNOTGOOD has been called a hip-hop ensemble, but its foundation is clearly jazz, which provides a gateway to countless genres. On IV, the group allows that gateway to widen, adding soul and funk to the repertoire.

And they are all only in their 20s!

They play three songs from IV.  This first “And That, Too.” is a very jazzy song.  I love the complex piano melody that’s getting thrown around–syncopation and almost chaos, but always staying true to the great rhythm laid down by the bass and gentle drums.  I also happen to love the flute solo that rides over the top of everything–it provides a great 19070s jazz vibe.  The flute switch es to alt sax, and instrument that I think is kinda cheesy–I’d have rather it stayed with flute.  But his solo is pretty great–meandering and intense.

Introducing “In Your Eyes” the drummer says that he was fortunate enough to go to high school with a sax player who he didn’t know would have a voice that would blow him away … “later in my life” (ha).  Charlotte Day Wilson’s voice is deep and sultry although I don’t particularly like it–it feels too forced or something?  But she does sound much older than she looks.  Which is shame because I think the music of the song is pretty great.  The flutist has switched to guitar for this song (that’s a talented dude).

Before introducing the final song the drummer says “My 2017 is feeling pretty good so let’s keep it going.”  The fact that this was recorded sometime around the inauguration trump feels incredibly tone deaf.  But whatever.  “Cashmere” (“which only slightly veered from the studio version”) is a ten-minute song that opens with a very cool high bass note section and lots of piano.  The guitarist switches to yet another sax (four instruments in three songs).   The middle of the song is just the bass notes and a  lengthy piano solo.  i also like how the song seems to be over but that bass line picks up one more time.

I was surprisingly delighted with this Tony Desk Concert.

[READ: July 4, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit

As Book 5 opens, Lunch Lady foils some safe robbers (in a very funny way).  I really enjoy how every book starts out with an intro comic showing off Lunch Lady’s mad skills.

Then it switches over to a school bus.  The Breakfast Bunch is trying to get on board–they don’t usually ride the bus–but the driver, Brenda, is pretty awful. To them and to everyone.  She drives like a maniac and yells at everyone.  She’s nice to the principal bit once he tells her his news, she can’t even pretend to be nice to him.

The news is that there is going to be a bake sale.  And if it goes well, the students will get a field trip and… Brenda will be the bus driver!

Gah! “How she despises children.” (more…)

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commitSOUNDTRACK: KANYE WEST-Late Registration (2005).

I lateregcan’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying Kanye West’s music as of late.  So much so that I went back and bought Late Registration.  I wanted to check out his early stuff, so naturally I started with…his second album.  And it’s a really enjoyable, soulful, gospel-filled rap album. Complete with Kayne’s bizarre, humorous and often offensive lyrics.

Musically the samples are wonderful—they create a very specific feel of pop soul that both works with and sometime against the lyrics.  The album suffers from two things that I’ve found I do not like in rap, and in articular in Kayne’s albums.  It bugs me when rappers intro their songs with several “uh, yeah”s.  I don’t know why but it does and that’s how Kanye opens the disc.

And, I wish there weren’t so many guests on the record.  While I understand the guest singers who provide backing vocals, I don’t get all the guest rappers (and there are a lot: Paul Wall, GLC, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Game, Jay Z, Really Doe, Nas, Cam’ron Consequence).  I mean, I’m not here for them, so why devote so much time to others, it makes you seem like you couldn’t thin of enough to say (and we know that’s not true about Kanye).  After a few listens, I have grown to appreciate the guests, but I like Kayne’s style so much that the other guys are just distractions.

Late Registration is largely produced by Jon Brion, who has made some amazing music with Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann—and while it is certainly stripped down Brion, the flourishes that Brion often employs are apparent here.  Like the tinkly pianos and farty bass that opens “Heard ‘Em Say.”  There’s some falsetto R&B-esque vocals from the singer from Maroon 5 here—I had no idea he sang like that.  It fits very well with the song.  And the instrumental section at the end is very Brion.

“Touch the Sky” uses a long sample (slowed down quite a bit) of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.”  But the sample is so much of that original song that it almost seems like cheating.  Except that he has slowed it down and modified it somewhat, and…his raps work perfectly with it.  The other really crazy sample is from Gil Scot-Heron which samples “Home is Where the Hatred Is.”  The strange thing is that the song is 1:44 and the last 45 seconds of the song are just Scot-Heron’s song playing along by itself.  It’s weird to have given up that much to another song…but it sounds great.

“Gold Digger” is a very funny song about, well, gold diggers.  The topic isn’t new (the fact that it samples an ancient Ray Charles song attests to it), but the chorus of “I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger, but she ain’t messin’ with no broke niggers” is great.  There’s also an intro section with Jamie Foxx doing his now patented Ray Charles.  It’s a pointed song but done with a very funny twinkle in his voice (the Kayne twinkle).  “Drive Slow” is a cool slow-tempoed number with a great sample from Hank Crawford and an interesting slowing effect at the end of the song.  “Crack Music” is a great political song equating making records to selling crack.  The metaphor works well.  And this is one of Kayne’s strong pro-black songs.  It’s really powerful.

The surprising thing is the two really sensitive songs: “Hey Mama” which is a sweet song to his mother in which he promises to go back to school and get his doctorate and “Roses,” which is an angry but beautiful song about his grandmother being in the hospital.  There’s a great verse about her being poor and therefore not getting the best care: “you telling me if my grandmother was in the NBA right now she’d be okay”   As well as a line about a nurse asking for his autograph while they are worried about his grandmother—although, realistically, how often is a nurse going to meet a star like Kayne?  The end of the song has some great soulful crooning by (as far as I can read) an uncredited singer.  And I feel like Brandy, who opens up the next song really falls flat in comparison to this unnamed singer (I don’t care for the way newer black singers wail their scales).  But the Etta James sample of “My Funny Valentine” that floats through “Addiction” is gorgeous.

“Diamonds from Sierra Leone: is a surprisingly political song that samples “Diamonds are Forever.”  There’s two version on the album.  I like the remix featuring Jay-Z a lot less, in part because I’ve never been a huge Jay-Z fan, but also because his verses completely interrupt the flow of the song.  “We Major” has  a very retro, almost easy listening vibe. There’s a lot of backing vocals going on and they remind me somewhat of Ben Folds Five’s backing vocals (which is pretty weird, I suspect). This song is interesting for its talk of worrying about daughters—as with many rappers, women are bitches and hos unless they are your grandma, your mama or you daughter—which is kind of awkward, really.

“Celebration” is perhaps the weirdest juxtaposition of contents.  It’s a celebration, bitches.  A celebration apparently about the fact that he and a woman (who had a fatty) accidentally had a baby (“You my favorite accident”).   That line makes it sound like the child is at the party, which makes the chorus “Grab a drink, grab a glass, after that I grab your ass” hard to fathom.

 “Gone” has a nifty piano melody (and some cool interstitials very Brion-infused melodies) that plays under Cam’ron and Consequence’s raps.  The song is kind of a muddle (although a funny muddle) until Kanye comes in at around 4 and a half minutes.  I really like the way the album ends: with Kayne rapping “Sorry Mr West is gone” and the music completely cutting off.

The bonus tracks include the original of “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and “We Can Make It Better” (which features Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Common and Rhymefest). It’s an interesting track (especially the sped up backing vocals) but it seems like a bit of a throwaway (which is surprising given the number of guests).  “Late” is a unlisted bonus track which is very strange.  There’s lots of “ah ha ha has” in a posh sounding falsetto).  But there’s some witty lines in here, especially this verse:

They said the best classes go to the fastest
Sorry Mr. West there’s no good classes, and that’s what yo’ ass get
Not even electives? Not even prerequits?
You mean I missed my major by a couple of seconds?
Now I’m in the shop class or the basket weavin
With all the rest of the muh’fuckers underachievin

So Kayne is clever and stupid.  A great rapper and a not so great singer.  And amazing producer and a good song writer.  And this is as good an album as I’ve heard it was.

[READ: August 8, 2013] The Commitments

I have been reading a number of big, heavy books lately (which I have yet to post about…later in the week), so I decided to take a break with a light, fun book. And one that I’ve read before (and seen the movie of many times).  I looked on the inside cover where I wrote the date of acquisition (a thing I did for a while until I realized it was kind of silly, and yet I’m glad i did it here) October 1993, almost twenty years ago.

But aside from Jimmy playing songs on vinyl, there’s very little that’s dated about the album–which may even be the point of the book.

This is the story of a bunch of misfits in Ireland who join together to form a soul band.  The nucleus of the band is Jimmy Rabbitte, a local kid who lives and breathes music.  He had Frankie Goes to Hollywood before anyone else and he knew they were shit before anyone else.

Some of his mates have started a band (called hilariously And And! And) which plays new wave.  Jimmy tells them they should play soul instead.  He plays them some James Brown and they love it.  Which leads to the talk of music and sex.  And they are really into it.  And then there’s  the oft quoted line from the movie: “The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once and say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”

And so they begin a quest to find the rest of the band.  Jimmy puts an ad in Hot Press (the Irish music magazine) and interviews everyone (some very funny jokes in there).  And the recruits form a crazy quilt of characters.  (more…)

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