Donald Byrd jazz fusion blackbyrds places and spaces positive happy fast joy music
Post has 3 notes
Oh, the places you will go. The latest from The Wildebeest.
Oh, the places you will go. The latest from The Wildebeest.
Justice System - “Due Our Time”
“Time! Time! Time!”
Yeah, it’s time for another obscure rap record!
Well, not just rap, but a heaping bit of jazz and funk thrown in too.
Now, when it comes to groups who mix rapping with instruments, people tend to jump to The Roots and be done with it. Well, sure, they’re one of the most successful outfits to do it, but they aren’t alone in the category. And around the time they were just finding their legs, a Bronx outfit called Justice System was walking tall. The group, composed of members Folex, Coz Boogie, Mo Betta Al, Jahbaz, Eric G., and Wizard C-Roc (If I missed anyone you can tar and feather me), arrived with plenty of flair with their wonderful 1994 debut, Rooftop Soundcheck. This record is a true synthesis of jazz, funk, and hip-hop, as emcees Folex and Jahbaz are surrounded by Rhodes pianos, basses, saxophones, guitars, and drums, taking cues from artists such as Miles Davis and Afrika Bambaataa. Rooftop Soundcheck is truly enjoyable record, funky and light, and very, very live, another one of those summer soundtrack-type joints. Though in the early ’90s hip-hop went through a jazz-adoring phase and damn near everyone was throwing a horn in their instrumentals, the System was one of the few groups who really nailed the mix and did it all.
It’s just a damn shame that they kinda fell off the face of the planet not long after the record.
Anyhow, one of my favorite spins from the album is the upbeat opener, “Due Our Time,” coming with plenty of attitude and head-bobbing beats. Folex and Jahbaz put in a hell of a showing, explaining who they are: Some funky-ass rockers; who they aren’t: Whack gangster emcees; and what they intend to do: Make fantastic music, and make everyone realize that their time is now. I love this one.
Co$$ - “Pot Ash”
Keeping in the trend of posting kickass songs which, in my opinion, rank as some of the best music rap is putting out in 2011 (No Watch The Throne round these parts), another track which ranks favorably on my list and has dominated my playlist for a good while now is “Pot Ash,” by the Cali rapper Cashus Clay, better known as Co$$. Familiar with the name? You damn well should be, because I’ve spoken about the emcee’s collaborations with Florida producer Numonics at least twice before on this blog!
Anyhow, hailing from Leimert Park, Co$$ has been steadily rising for the past few years, often a featured guest on records by Blu, Fashawn, and other prominent Cali emcees, but on his long awaited debut, Before I Awoke, Co$$ gets his own time to shine. I’ve put the record through its paces, and it’s seriously a solid introduction to the man, showing a thoughtful balance between the hectic life on L.A. streets and his desire to grow, inspire, and become enlightened. It’s an intriguing duality, and Co$$ brings a lot of heart and intelligence to his rhymes.
“Pot Ash,” is the finest example of this. With the producer Exile (of Blu and Exile fame, as well as his work on Fashawn’s debut), Co$$ puts in a top-flight performance, rapping about his life with such candor that you can’t help but pay attention and feel for him. There are some very strong emotions on display here, such as personifying his depression, and remembering his father who has passed on, and Co$$ is adept at creating vivid lines and showing a level of depth which not a lot of emcees today can match. Exile’s production is just as incredible, with a pensive, jazz-inflected tune with a terrific wandering sax and looming piano keys, which suits Co$$’s words perfectly. This one is excellent.
The supreme urban bohemian bards.
I always dug that Herbie Hancock sample.
Arts The Beatdoctor (Feat. The Proov) - “Transitions”
Big ups to Audioholics Anonymous, because this one has been on repeat all damn day!
Arts The Beatdoctor (that’s quite the name by the way) is a producer from the Netherlands who got his start providing backdrops for rappers, but then decided to go solo, creating jazz-inspired tunes with nice drum beats and smart samples. In 2007 he released his debut, Transitions, which features a mix of smooth instrumentals and collaborations with Dutch rappers such as Pete Philly. I’ve been listening to a few pieces from Transitions, and I really find myself falling for the Beatdoctor’s intoxicating sounds and moods, with this one being a particular highlight.
“Transitions” is a fleeting, moody listen. One which, for me, evokes a vivid image of a rainy late-afternoon train ride, probably in London or Paris. It’s a subtle and striking track, and the frequent appearances of the horns, and the xylophone-like melody looms. It’s all very precise, and Arts proves why he should be called the Beatdoctor. Guest rapper The Proov’s ruminations on life and women is not bad, and paired with the awesome tune, it comes across nicely. The only problem is that the track a bit too short, but the smooth and understated interlude towards the end is not bad either.
Audio has been played 0 times.
A Tribe Called Quest: Sucka Nigga
A Tribe Called Quest - “Sucka Nigga”
I’ve been writing this blog, a blog which (mostly) concerns golden age hip-hop, for eight months without a single post on one of the greatest groups ever to grace the genre and popular music in general. A group which expanded the possibilities of what rap could be, say, and do. A group which cemented a new style for the music and influenced a generation of listeners.
(And before you get on my case about groups like Public Enemy, Biggie and Pac, Nas, and so on, I’ll get to ‘em. The ‘Beest is in it for the long haul.)
A Tribe Called Quest. You know ‘em. The Queens crew of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (along with Jarobi White, who left to become a chef early in the group’s career but I’ll still throw in here just for the sake of completeness) changed the game with their arrival in the ’90s. Members of the ever-enlightened Native Tongues collective (initiated by the Jungle Brothers), the Tribe came to be the defining members of the group, and the champions of alternative rap. The group brought a new level of intelligence and deep ruminations to hip-hop, as the lyrics of Q-Tip and Phife explored and defined the Black experience for the 1990s, speaking about love, race, identity, crime, education, and more. They affirmed positivity, and celebrated hip-hop culture. The production broke barriers too, as the Tribe’s production was heavily influenced by jazz and soul, sparking off a hybrid known as “jazz rap.” Special attention paid to the low end, as the bass was as rhythmic, as constant, and as alive as a beating heart. Tribe was a group that really changed my thoughts on rap, and helped get me into the music heavily.
Partly the reason why it took me so long to write about the Tribe in the first place was the fact that it was so damn hard to pick just one song to start with. The group released five albums, and they’re all pretty damned good. For me, no one record stands above the others. From their fuzzy, mostly-nonsensical 1990 debut, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (try saying that five times fast), I was torn between “Footprints,” “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” (I got to get it, I got-got to get it), and the iconic tracks, “Bonita Applebum” and “Can I Kick It?” On ‘91’s less fuzzy, darker follow up, The Low End Theory, there was “Excursions” (which has some great samples of The Last Poets), the fantastic tag-teaming effort of “Buggin’ Out,” and the classic posse cut in “Scenario.” On their underrated 1996 effort Beats, Rhymes, and Life, “1nce Again” was calling to me.
Midnight Marauders took it simply ‘cuz it was my first Tribe album, and the one which resonates with me the most. One this one, the Tribe was at their peak, with some of their finest moments to be found here. The listen is not as wary as Low End, funkier than Life and Love Movement, and more lean and concentrated than Travels. Even though the album is full of great jams, “Sucka Nigga” took it. A solo Q-Tip joint, Tip explores the Black culture’s fascination with a certain epithet, and how it’s gone from reviled to revered (along with endless controversy). It’s an infectious head-nodder, and Tip is on point (as always).
The Nonce - “Keep It On”
A largely unknown and terribly underrated group, The Nonce (“nonce” defined as the present or immediate situation), was the pairing of L.A. rappers Nouka Basetype and Yusef Afloat. Considered by some as L.A.’s answer to A Tribe Called Quest due to the group’s jazz-inflected style and the high pitched voice of Yusef, which brought a slight comparison to Tribe’s Q-Tip, The Nonce was much more than carbon copy. They practically redefined chill hip-hop, giving even the Tribe a run for their money in creating sounds that were cool, formless, and airy. Their first and only full-length, 1995’s World Ultimate is a forgotten hip-hop treasure, a slow and steady-burning affair that cruises low earth orbit. It’s the type of record made for quiet, late-night listens, with beats that tend to move gently and effortlessly. It lulls you into an overwhelming sense of calmness and relaxation. Nouka and Yusef are damn fine hosts for your audio trip, providing smooth lyrics about old school hip-hop, ladies, and life in general. Even though they come from the home of the gangsters, they keep matters light and breezy.
“Keep It On” is a world ultimate joint (Like what I did there? Eh? Eh?). While faster and more boom-bappy than the rest of the record, “Keep It On” still exudes chill, with a minimalistic sound and a lot of bass. This song dominated my life for a good while.
It’s unfortunate that the crew didn’t last too long. After a further EP of new material in ‘98, The Sight of Things, Yusef tragically died in a road accident in 2000. As well, the group had trouble gaining fans in the U.K., as the word “nonce” is Brit slang for a child molester. Yeah, leave it up to the Brits to go and pick that word of all words. But let me assure you, the only thing going on with these guys is good hip-hop. Check it out.
Digable Planets - “Escapism (Gettin’ Free)”
Following in the spirit of the Native Tongues, the NY hip-hop movement of the late ’80s and early ’90s which emphasized intelligence, positivity, and self-expression, the trio of Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug Mecca were on a completely ‘nother vibe as Digable Planets. In 1993 they issued their first album, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), an album which stood tall with other legendary hip-hop records of the era.
The DPs could be best described as cool. But not just any cool, but a Miles Davis Birth of the Cool-style cool. The group heavily borrowed from the ’50s jazz and beat culture and ’70s blaxploitation and funk, and rooted them in a gritty, early ’90s New York City aesthetic. They presented themselves as enlightened, bohemian urban bards, name-checking jazz greats such as Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk, reading Marx, burning incense, and avoiding unnecessary trouble in the ghetto (though they could very well bring the ruckus if they had to). They were a breath of fresh air in the hip-hop world, which at the time was firmly entrenched in ultraviolent gangsta rap, and gained much praise for their track, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat).”
“Escapism” is one of my faves from Reachin’. Over a sample of Herbie Hancock’s legendary “Watermelon Man” the group champions peace, uniqueness, and self-expression, presenting a groove which is just too smooth for words.
Rebirth of cool, indeed.
Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth - “All The Places”
“Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s a household name…”
I really wish they were. The duo of überproducer Pete Rock and rapper C.L. Smooth, both from “Money Earnin’ ” Mount Vernon, New York, were one of the finest pairings the hip-hop world has ever seen. Emerging on the scene in the early ’90s the group issued an EP and two albums before calling it quits, and though mainstream success eluded them, they still had a staggering effect on the sound and attitude of New York rap in the early 1990s.
Pete Rock helped usher in a new era for hip-hop production through his heavy use of jazz, funk, and soul music. While he wasn’t the first to do it, he refined it considerably, crafting sounds that were smooth, seductive, and down right intoxicating, especially favoring the sounds of horns. Pete made the typical boom-bap-style sound of rap that reigned at the time seem crude and unsophisticated by comparison, and quickly became one of rap’s most sought after beatmakers.
Along with the revolutionary production were the sublime lyrics of C.L. Smooth, who was a cut above most other rappers of the day. C.L. infused warmth, spirituality, and thoughtfulness into his rhymes. He was a playboy, a concerned social commentator, an enlightened poet, a passionate activist, or a normal dude chillin’ out with his boys…usually all in a single track. C.L. rarely swore or raised his voice, and every word was delivered with assured confidence and cool.
So they were a spectacular group, but it was one song that made them legendary. That song was ‘They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)’, a track widely considered to be one of the greatest rap songs ever made. Dedicated to a fallen friend, Troy Dixon, the song was a soulful tribute to the trials and tribulations of working class families, C.L. Smooth’s in particular.
I had a very tough time choosing a song by P.R. and C.L. to post about (What else is new?). ‘All The Places’ from 1994’s The Main Ingredient won out today for it’s head-nodding vibe. It’s just absolutely perfect for a summer day in your car, rolling real slow with the windows down and the stereo up.
Though both P.R. and C.L. are still making music today, it’s a damn shame that they aren’t doing it together. Even more unfortunate is the fact that they aren’t on the friendliest of terms, though they’ve had a few collaborations here and there. Here’s hoping for a comeback album someday.
Oh, and since I’m horribly indecisive, here are the other songs by Pete Rock and C.L. that I considered posting…
- They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.) - From “Mecca and The Soul Brother,” 1992.
- Take You There - From “The Main Ingredient,” 1994.