So I thought it’d be fun to dig through the crates of my cranium and bring out 3 of my first cassettes that I owned. This would have been around 1993-1995. I can definitely recall listening to these tapes, and I think its sort of neat to look back on the content of them and how I haven’t really changed from these tastes, I’m just a bit more seasoned.
So here is the first tape I can recall having and thinking it was one of the coolest things:
He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. If I can recall, my Mom got this from a good friend of hers. The friends husband was way into hip hop, and maybe they had given me this since its a user-friendly curse-word free album. Not to mention, its awesome. I always loved Fresh Prince of Bel-Air growing up and I can still laugh my ass off at most episodes. So here I was, 6 or so years old, listening to this tape in my room, thinking it was so damn cool. This album was huge when it came out, and Parents Just Don’t Understand is still one of the best radio friendly joints that have been produced. Listening to this record now, it totally reeks of the phila flavour sound, which makes sense seeing as they were from there. You can definitely tell the influence that Will Smith exerts, such as Slick Rick, Kool Moe Dee, Heavy D, and Philadelphia acts such as Steady B, Cash Money and Marvelous, etc etc. Some of these songs still hold up, and its fun to hear Will Smith’s voice before it lowered the last bit (which can totally be heard on Homebase and whatnot). Its nice to hear records that are just fun, without sucking. They are one of the only acts to pull that off. As a kid I thought the Nightmare on Elm St. song was so dope, but now as a slightly Heavier D, I will pick the fat boys track over this one. Have you ever seen the video for the fat boys track? Not to mention I’m much more appreciative of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s tracks on this album. His slicin’ and dicin’ is tasty. As a kid, I had this one tape. Now I’m an adult and I have it on vinyl.
Stand Out Tracks: Time to Chill, Lets Get Busy Baby, Rhythm Trax-House Party Style, Charlie Mack
If you really want a treat, watch this video of one of their best songs from their catalogue, which was one a bit of a poor album. Appearances by Don King, Alfonso Ribeiro and the one and only, Iron Mike.
Next One is one I didn’t really recall until doing extensive search of the releases of Cold Chillin’ Records. I love Cold Chillin. The first real wave of their releases is almost untouchable. I find theres a common pattern in artists like MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, and Biz Markie, where their second album is better than the first. That isn’t to say because artists like Kane and Markie started using Marley Marl sparingly, because I back Marley Marl to the very end, but I think with the growth of the overall hip hop sound the samples became much more well produced and explored for an overall full and more catchy sound. So while doing my extensive research in my spare time (I have lots of spare time), I came across some release that totally hit a fuse in my brain. The eponymous and only release by CANADIAN young pop rap group, TBTBT. Too Bad To Be True. I can’t remember exactly why I had this tape or where I got it. My mom sort of just came home with it. Maybe it has to do with the same friend as above. Here was another pop rap/new jack swing group that would be more geared towards someone like me. The kids in this group ranged between 12-15. I peeped the video for their single “One Track Mine” and thought “Man, this brings me back. Now I remember this”. There is no denying that one track mind is a banging hit. Its not great, but the production is stellar, and its fun to hear kids rap sometimes when its not the worst thing you’ve ever heard in your life. I can’t remember much else from this album, but I bet there were some def slow jams. Now I think about my taste and how I love rap geared towards a poppy new jack swingy sound like the 2nd and 3rd Heavy D record, and Cake and Eat it too, and being able to dig Keith Sweat but not telling anybody about it. Could this be why?
Lastly for today, we will talk about a compiltation. Well, more like a movie soundtrack. The Batman Forever soundtrack. When this came out, it was huge. Seal won three grammies for kiss from a rose. I never liked that song and always fast forwarded over it, but I still remember the video of him singing the song on a roof with the bat signal, and having some silk shirt blowing about. What happened to Seal? He is still around with his hot wife, he is still talented. Looking back on this tape, it had some great bands. It makes sense why I dug it then and how I dig some of these groups now. It had Massive Attack(Featuring Tracey Thorn from Everything but the Girl), Mazzy Star, Sunny Day Real Estate, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, and some other decent acts. I remember not being huge on the U2 song. I’m still not. I never knew what I was really listening to, because I had lost the case, but I remember loving most of the songs by the artists I just mentioned. Kinda neat considering my ongoing admiration for said artists, and my near obsession with Nick Cave’s body of work. This movie is really terrible, but the soundtrack still has some hold up songs. Its sort of like the soundtrack to “The Saint”. The movie is garbage, but some of the songs are by artists of this similar vein. Its just weird to think when I was a kid, I knew a song by Sunny Day Real Estate. Do you remember the SNES game? Do you remember how bad it was?
June 26, 2009
If I ever do heroin…
It will be to Steely Dan’s “Can’t Buy a Thrill”. Let me back up for a second. Never have I or will I do heroin. I have a definite anti-drug and alcohol stance, due to the caused loss of self control and it is one of the most fleeting ways to spend and lose money. But, if you know any heroin addicts, you should give them a copy of this album.
I guess it is safe to say I’m a Steely Dan fan. I’m a pretty stupid Steely Dan fan. I don’t like Pretzel Logic and find myself willing to skip over at least one or two tracks on every album I claim to love. What draws me to the Dan is their tight studio production, their passion for perfection and their overall smoothness. The songs that tend to “Rock” or sound booming are ones I can definitely do without. Starting off as a tight early 70s hybrid of rock and jazz, they made their way into the realm of smooth mainstream jazz, abandoning almost all rock elements. But we’re here to talk about their first record, the one you should have handy when you decide to become a junky. Can’t Buy a Thrill.
Taking the album name from a line from a Bob Dylan song (bummer), this album can be summed up in one word: Sleaze. Its the Married with Children of pop music. From the album cover to the opening track, “Do it Again”, you’re covered in it. You’re sucked in, and you hear a kind of sleaze that almost sounds unintentional. It makes sense that this is a great heroin record, because Fagen and Beckett were addicts. This is the kind of music Santana tried to make credible but failed. He is still alive playing the same solo for pop artist’s, its almost heartbreaking to watch him.
This album paints a perfect picture of Los Angeles and New York City in the early 70’s. This is the album that makes you think of those gritty 70s movies, whether they were well produced or just raw exploitation movies. Either way, I’m hooked. The lyrics to the opening track “Do It Again” accompany this image perfectly, with lines about murder, love and lust, and gambling. These ideas almost cover the whole theme of the album, theres a certain struggle within the lyrical content of these songs. A song like “Only a Fool Would Say That”, a statement about the cost of everything in life. “Dirty Work”, a song about falling back into the bad habit of loving a women you can have when her husband isn’t there. “Turn that Heartbeat Over Again”, a closing track on crime and drinking. This album makes me think of orange skies and grainy images.
The one flaw to this album is David Palmer and Jim Hodder. These two handle lead vocals on three songs and it just isn’t the same as Fagens unique voice. I can’t remember if Fagen thought he didn’t have what it takes or didn’t think he could do it live, but either way, its good he handled it for the rest of the band’s career.
The best way to listen to any Dan LP is with a pair of great headphones and the vinyl copy of whichever album you decide to pick. I’d say stray from The Royal Scam and focus on this record along with Katy Lied, Aja, Gaucho. I can’t think of any records that are produced as well as these ones. The massive attention to detail, the attention to placement of instruments in the mix, everything is boiled down and every little bit counts, and thats what makes this band probably the best studio band.
Steely Dan would never top the sleaze that they achieved on this record, but its because with each record they just keep reinventing and building on their already well established style and sound. But there is one shining moment on their second album “Countdown to Ecstasy” with their song “Gold Teeth”. Listen to that and not think of some B-Level Crime Flick from the 70’s. I think thats one of the keenest points of their sound, is that its timelessness yet it’s a great representation of the time in which is was written. It does a much better job than any 70s bad rock band you hear on Q107. If you like Doctor Wu from your minutemen double nickels album, then listen to the original by the Dan, featured on “Katy Lied”.
Now on to personal matters, I’ve been working a lot which is good because I need to finish paying my visa off which will be done with my next paycheque, and I’ll scoot up to see Kait on Monday which I can’t wait for. I miss her a bunch! She is not a believer when it comes to Steely Dan, but she listened to Gaucho, which is good but Katy Lied is overall better, same with Aja.
June 4, 2009
This is going to be a special Similar Haircuts. We’re gonna take a walk down memory lane with this one and take a sort of break from hip hop for this entry:
When I was in High School, I had a secret admiration for the Dave Matthews Band. It was something my friends knew about and surprisingly did not judge over. Even Joe sort of likes the song “Satellite”. It was something that I was almost forced to keep secret, due to his fan base when you’re a high school student. The other people that like him are bros. We all know about bros, we’ve all dealt with them, its not fun. Live shows consist of bros, and people above 30. Then me. There was just a lot to appreciate in his music I found. I enjoyed that he played cool things on guitar, and when everyone in the band can offer up a few heaping helpings of talent, you are usually in for a real treat. My liking of this group really came into fruition in my grade 12 year. For my birthday I received a ticket to see him in concert at the ACC. I went alone but didn’t mind. It was a good time, a handful of great jams, and a drunk mother with no ring on her finger kept bumping her hips into me. A 17 year old boy couldn’t ask for more. My girlfriend at the time had beef with his words because she thought they were too sexual, because of songs like “Rapunzel”, where the first chunk of lines is totally referring to cunnilingus, which I thought was fun. Clearly, my ex was a silly. I saw him a second time a few months later in the spring at the Molson Amphitheater and it was a nice time. Again, went by myself. After this, time went on and after noticing weight loss, I sort of fell out of listening to him on a regular basis. I still keep tabs, I still listen to the odd song here and there. Anyways, his latest album “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” dropped, and after listening through some of it, I’m not feeling it. Its getting great reviews, which is good for the band for sure. Listening to the first full song on the album I noticed something troubling which brings us to tonight’s Similar Haircut:
Shake Me Like a Monkey by Dave Matthews Band and…
Word Up by Cameo
Yes. You read right. Dave Matthews Band have ripped off Cameo. Now the whole song doesn’t rip off Word Up, but one of the main riffs, that is played through the chorus is Word Up without a doubt. Do you remember the first time you heard Word Up? I do. Let me tell you about it: When I was in Grade 4, I recieved some sort of Toronto Raptors mix CD that had songs picked by the teammates and that banging track by Cameo was on it. I won’t lie, I like it. I still like it. Its so goddamn catchy, but c’mon, do you think no one in the studio noticed the similarities. Even the horns make it sound even more like Word Up. The song by Dave Matthews isn’t even good. Its so “rock” sounding, and usually when Dave Matthews tries to rock out, it ends in tears.
So I guess if we have to declare a winner, the winner is Cameo. His came first which gives him an edge, not to mention his song is untouchable. There are instances when one hit wonders can be untouchable. I mean you can’t “U Can’t Touch This” by the Hammer, and you can’t mess with Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” which probably got half its success from Michael Jackson doing Rockwell a favour and singing the main hook. Whatever happened to Cameo? Who cares, Word Up!
My Down Colorful Hill LP came today. It came after waiting for less than a week. No complaints from me, its great. Plays like a dream. I’ve listened to it twice today, and will probably end up spinning it once more.
June 2, 2009
Okay, here we go. I was gonna space these out, but they’re really fun to write and this one I already know is gonna be a no contest, and due to the inevitable shortness of this post, we’ll label it #2.5:
The Sample in Question: “Resuce Me” by A Taste of Honey
Contenders: “I Got a Man” by Positive K and “Movin’ On Em (Remix)” by Two Kings in a Cipher
Two Kings in a Cipher: I can’t say a whole lot about em, an afrocentric duo comprised of D.O.P and the Noble Ahmen-Ra. They dropped this one LP, “From Pyramids to Projects” and I think its one of those overlooked LP’s that actually contains a couple gems. The lyrics are your standard run of the mill for groups like this. Islam, History, theres some Egypt references which I can always dig on. They ended up going on to produce for successful acts (well Bad-Boy related artists which are pretty snore for the most part [and yes I’m aware Biggie is part of that group, but you and I both know hes a biiiiit over rated.]). Overall though, this is a fine album but there are many “would rather listen to” records i’d stack on top of this.
Positive K: “Grand Puba, Positive and LG” and “Wanna give a shout to my man Pos K” were my first exposures to Positive K. Positive K released this one record called “The Skills dat Pay da Bills”. Not amazing, groundbreaking, and until you reach “Carhoppers” the album sorta blows, but once you hit that, you’re in for a treat until the end pretty well. Positive K is responsible for some of the funnest 90’s jams. After this album he kind of dropped off the face of the Earth and as far as I know, he hasn’t released an official record since but was planning on a comeback I believe.
Ok, you got a bit of info, lets get into it, but I know this is gonna be a no contest. I’m gonna break this into a one paragraph argument, or a couple, we’ll see:
Two Kings in Cipher use some scratching and some horn riff through parts of the song and it sounds gross. This song reminds me of “Its Time to Party” by EPMD in the sense that you’ve got this bumpin beat with these relaxed guys rapping over it, except when EPMD did it, it worked. This doesn’t work, especially when you compare it to Positive K’s “I Gotta Man”. You’ve got that bumpin beat with Pos K convicing a girl to get with him and to toss her current guy aside. We get some reaction and feedback from the girl which helps keep this track fresh but the coolest part about that is that the girl voice is actually Pos K, using studio magic/technology to alter his voice and its perfect. I couldn’t even tell, but maybe with some of the pronounciation and rhythm of lines it makes sense. I could care less about the lyrical content in the Cipher track, because Positive K wins this. His use of the sample is responsible for the best party hip hop song of the 1990’s. The lyrical content helps this, and doesn’t try to be anything more than it should be. I remember hearing this and listening to it non stop and just having to show people. Positive K on this track/the video reminded me of an old buddy Andrew, who would stop at nothing to get with a girl. Persistence!
I knew I didn’t have much to say, but I thought I’d throw it out there. Take Positive K seriously, and stop listening to Wu Tang.
I can’t embed it but here is the link to check out I got a Man