04/17/14 Guest Blog

Illustrator Wilfred Limonious drew over 150 iconic dancehall LP covers

New book collects artist's work, also displayed at Hometown HiFi in L.A.

Wilfred Limonious - courtesy Chris Bateman / www.infinestyle.wordpress.com

Wax Poetics is partnering with Sonos Studio in Los Angeles to present HOMETOWN HIFI, an art show running through April 24 about the roots of Jamaican sound system culture, featuring works by Beth Lesser, Limonious, and Pekka Vuorinen, as well as artifacts and films.

In today’s interview, Canadian musician Chris Bateman (of the Operators 780 former local fame) explains his obsession for the art of the underground dancehall illustrator Wilfred Limonious, who died in 1999 after having drawn over 150 iconic LP covers. As expected, the quest he embarked on in 2009 to compile the ultimate Limonious retrospective book turned into quite the treasure hunt…

Wilfred Limonious - courtesy Chris Bateman / www.infinestyle.wordpress.comWhen did you first become aware of Limonious?

Chris Bateman: I first came across Limonious’s covers when my band toured across Canada in 2003. We stopped into S&W Soul King records in Toronto—which was a block from my grandmother’s house. S&W Soul King was an amazing reggae record store and label. I picked up the Stalag LP that day, and our guitar player picked up the Josey Wales Undercover Lover LP. We were all blown away by Limonious’s album art! From there, my friends and I would come across more and more Limonious LPs, and the conversation would always come back to “Why isn’t there a book of his work?” In about 2008 or 2009, a friend sent me a link to a message board thread about Limonious, and that’s when I started to think about a retrospective book a little more seriously.

Wilfred Limonious - courtesy Chris Bateman / www.infinestyle.wordpress.com

Why him in particular? What did he have that, say, Jamaal Pete didn’t?

That’s a good question! I liked a lot of cover artists before I saw my first Limonious jackets, Tony McDermott, for example, I always loved his sleeves. Limonious was the first album jacket artist to make me stop in my tracks though. His lines were so simple and intentional and his colors were so bold. There was also so much humor; I love that. It was immediate and light hearted. His covers looked just as the records sounded. With so many small details and scribbled patois lines, I would comb over a Limonious jacket like a child reading a comic book.

What made you decide to go and track his traces in Jamaica?

One of the first people to contact me in a really supportive way about this project was Orville “Bagga” Case. He was one of the most prolific jacket designers from the early dancehall era, and his email to me was so supportive and nice. We emailed back and forth for a while, and when he started giving me addresses of people in Kingston that I should interview, I knew that I had to actually go down there.

Wilfred Limonious - courtesy Chris Bateman / www.infinestyle.wordpress.com

Wilfred Limonious illustrations courtesy Chris Bateman / www.infinestyle.wordpress.com

What was the biggest surprise for you among his body of work?

It was a huge surprise for me to learn that his time as a newspaper cartoonist was a significant part of his career. When I would mention his name to people on the island, it was often more recognizable as a newspaper cartoonist than an album jacket designer. He created a number of comics for smaller publications also. Those were really exciting to find and are in the book.

Wilfred Limonious - courtesy Chris Bateman / www.infinestyle.wordpress.comWilfred Limonious - courtesy Chris Bateman / www.infinestyle.wordpress.com

At the end of this quest, can you draw a more precise image of what kind of person the great Wilfred Limonious was?

Everyone that I met with had the same thing to say about Wilfred Limonious: he was a quiet person that loved to draw. One of his friends who runs a printing plant in Kingston told me, “If you came here and he just thought, ‘I feel like drawing,’ he’d draw you just like that.”

 

In Fine Style – The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious by Chris Bateman will be out soon on DJ Al Finger’s One Love Books.

 

Sonos Studio Presents "Hometown HiFi"

Sonos Studio Presents “Hometown HiFi” © Stephen Paul

Sonos Studio Presents "Hometown HiFi" © Stephen Paul

Sonos Studio Presents “Hometown HiFi” © Stephen Paul

 

“HOMETOWN HIFI,” curated by Wax Poetics contributor Seb Carayol: Sonos Studio (145 N. La Brea, Los Angeles) until April 24. Hours: 12–6 PM, Wed.–Sun.

 

04/17/14 Events

Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York’s “Bounce Ballroom”

We're giving away a pair of tickets!

Red Bull Music Academy - Bounce Ballroom

In the tradition of last year’s RBMA NYC United States of Bass event, the opening night of Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York will once again celebrate a range of hyper-local dance music sounds that have made a global impact. On May 1, Brooklyn Night Bazaar will serve as a unique playground for “Bounce Ballroom,” showcasing four different sounds and dance styles from the New York/New Jersey area: housing, voguing, flexing, and Jersey Club.

 

We’ll be randomly selecting one winner for a pair of tickets. Just email contest[at]waxpoetics.com with your full name in the body and “Bounce Ballroom” in the subject by April 24.

 

Taking to the turntables, some of the most revered DJs of their respective club sounds will provide the soundtrack for four dance crews comprised of celebrated masters of their dynamic craft. Customizing the large, open Williamsburg space to fit the occasion, four unique stages will be set up to showcase each style with a distinctive twist. Throughout the night, the crews will rotate between stages, creating a compelling environment that invites the audience to partake in the eclectic dance mayhem.

Holding the musical reins for bruk up will be dancehall king Bobby Konders. Characterized by moves such as the crab walk, the shoulder pop and the ghost walk, bruk up was embraced by NYC dancehall lovers in the mid-’90s, and slowly transformed into the style known today as flexing (or bonebreaking). The dance roster will include Drew Dollaz and Bones the Machine, who have toured with Madonna as her backup dancers, Samiam, who has earned the nickname “Moviemansam” for his cinematic dance interpretations, and Bed-Stuy Veteran/LOUD League crew founder Albert “The Ghost” Esquilin.

 

Nourished equally in clubs, loft parties, and raves throughout the United States over the last 30 years, house dance is now a staple of urban dance battles and dance school curriculums worldwide. Hoisting the dance flag for housing and waacking (a disco-driven street dance style that originated in Los Angeles in the 1970s) will be Cricket and Eriko, who host a frequent house dance cypher called The Lab in Manhattan, as well as prime waacking authority, Princess Lockeroo. NYC house legend Todd Terry will provide their musical backdrop.

 

Evolving out of the gay ballroom scene of 1980s Harlem, voguing and ballroom house has recently made a strong comeback in popular culture. To the sounds of Fade to Mind-affiliate DJ MikeQ, as well as the fierce commentator Kevin JZ Prodigy, a trio of legendary voguers is set to make jaws drop at Bounce Ballroom. A true ambassador of the dance, Javier Ninja represents the House of Ninja, a main staple of vogue since its early days. Dashaun Wesley from the House of Evisu is a master of a dizzying array of duckwalks, catwalks, dips and spins, while Leiomy Prodigy embodies vogue femme attitude, performing effortlessly in all manner of skintight outfits and six-inch heels.

 

The youngest style in our celebration, Jersey Club has been causing a storm over the last five years. Already a veteran of the breakbeat- and call-and-response-based sound at age 23, DJ Sliink will soundtrack the stage along with his protégée Mike Gip. On the dancefloor, Gip is bringing his young ’n’ hype Jersey squad, including SoSo, Emanni, and artist/rapper/DJ/dancer Fiinesse. Add to that a trio of dancers affiliated with DJ Lilman’s Team Lilman dance team—Ani TL, King Naboo, and Urkle—and you can expect to see the Tip-Toe, the Getty Up, the One Leg Back, the Sexy Walk, and whatever new dances Newark has invented this week.

At Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York’s inaugural Bounce Ballroom night, prepare for a history lesson that your booty will never forget.

Purchase advance tickets here.

Enter to win a pair of tickets by emailing contest[at]waxpoetics.com with your full name in the body and “Bounce Ballroom” in the subject by April 24.

 

 

 

04/14/14 Contests

Universal is reissuing Gang Starr, Ludacris, and Kanye West vinyl for its “Respect the Classics” campaign

Win a copy of Step in the Arena, Back for the First Time, and 808s & Heartbreak

Gang Starr Step in the Arena

Over the last several months, the Respect the Classics vinyl reissue campaign has offered releases from West Coast gangsta gods and East Coast street hip-hop. In February and March, they looked to the legendary pairing of Guru and Primo for their 1990 album Step in the Arena, and one of the Dirty South’s great rhyme spitters, Ludacris, with his Back for the First Time major label debut, as well as Kanye West and his curveball 808s & Heartbreak.

During hip-hop’s golden era, Gang Starr’s DJ Premier created his first real production with “Just to Get a Rep” that laid out a formula that would serve them well throughout the rest of their careers. That formula oftentimes included snappy drums, precision DJ cuts, and lovely looped soul and jazz samples creating a bed for Keith Elam to display his Gifted Unique Rhymes Universal philosophy. That was on full display when Marlena Shaw’s “California Soul” got looped over a booming bass drum yielding jams like this:

Fast forward a decade later and the South was on fire, finally moving out from the underground and into the mainstream. Ludacris’s Incognegro was retooled into a major-label smash as Back for the First Time, eventually going triple platinum. To further bolster production by the likes of Bangladesh (“U Got a Problem?” and “What’s Your Fantasy,” both club bangers), Organized Noize (“Game Got Switched”), and Jermaine Dupri (“Get Off Me”), the Neptunes and Timbaland got in on the action with “Southern Hospitality” and “Phat Rabbit,” respectively. All of that provided the perfect backdrop for Luda’s confident delivery straight out of the ATL. The vinyl reissue contains a lenticular cover to bedazzle the eyes.

Merely a few years later, Kanye West was a critic’s darling. Having released three albums that topped many year-end lists thanks to catchy singles like “Gold Digger” and “Stronger,” they were also nearly flawlessly executed albums in concept laid over a good bit of chipmunk soul with lyrics relating to the everyman. There were allusions to cash and women, but this sounded different. In one of God’s great mysteries, Ye’s ego was able to be fitted into shiny platters for the whole world to digest. In November of 2007, West’s mother passed away unexpectedly, causing a radical shift in sound for his next album.

In 2008, the world heard its first glimpse of 808s & Heartbreak during the MTV VMAs when he performed “Love Lockdown.” Over taiko drums, West opted to sing, via Autotune. It was an artistic gamble, and one that not every critic loved in their reviews. However, it showed that Ye wasn’t going to confine himself to a box. One of the album’s single, “Heartless,” was covered by the Fray and even on American Idol by winner Kris Allen. 808s remains a challenging but rewarding listen thanks to its dark imagery and dank production techniques. Now the album is reissued on vinyl and includes a copy of the album on CD.

• • •

Universal is once again partnering with Wax Poetics to give away a prize pack of each of these LPs to one lucky winner. Email contest[at]waxpoetics.com with a subject of “Respect the Classics LPs” with your name and address to enter. The contest will end April 21.

04/09/14 The Nod

Funky Vignettes from Rap’s Obscure Early Days

BBE's new compilation Rock It... Don't Stop It! shines a light on pre-'83 hip-hop obscurities

bbe174cdgcover

The first rap music ever recorded in a studio and put on wax was an attempt to duplicate the sounds bubbling up from small clubs in dilapidated areas of New York City, places where DJs spun funky disco records and MCs chatted up the crowd with witty rhymes. After Sylvia Robinson took a chance and issued “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979, the floodgates opened as dozens of musical entrepreneurs realized that they too could commit these party soundtracks to vinyl.  While the output of prolific independent labels like Robinson’s Sugar Hill, Enjoy in Harlem and the majors who dabbled in the genre (Mercury’s “Christmas Rappin’” and Spring’s “King Tim III”) is well known, there were numerous smaller players in the game who made their own worthy attempts at the new genre.

Old School Hip-Hop, 1980s Hip-Hop, Obscure rap from BBE

BBE’s new compilation Rock It… Don’t Stop It! shines a light on ten of these pre-’83 obscurities. With selections from “Brooklyn, Boston and Beyond,” as the subtitle has it, the comp makes available a series of tunes that—aside from the requisite rarity (you would’ve been be hard pressed to find these even when they were originally released)—give a good look at this underdocumented part of rap music.

As for the music itself, it’s naturally all about a funky downtempo disco beat, one that often interpolates a popular club record (Jimmy Williams’s “All of My Lovin” for “To the Max” or Yaz’s “Don’t Go” for “Sweat,” to pick two). The rapping is alternately clever, overblown, nimble, humorous and occasionally clumsy.  In other words, not much different than a random cross section of today’s rapping would be, except in style.

As a historical document, Rock It… is essential. The brief liner notes provide enough material to satisfy the casual reader and set the serious scholar on the right path. For DJs, the package (available as a two-LP set as well as in digital formats) provides ten potent ingredients to spice up your sets. And for the listener who is simply a fan of good music, the set is a quirky, enjoyable hour-and-fifteen of fun.

04/07/14 The Nod

Blue Note Turns 75

Remasters and vinyl reissues

BlueNote_header

Don Was, the president of Blue Note Records, made a big announcement at the end of February. In celebration of the legendary label’s seventy-fifth anniversary, a massive vinyl initiative of remastered titles, as they call it, will get underway starting on March 25, 2014. How large scale is the campaign? About 100 titles spanning both the classic and new eras of Blue Note. The plan is to roll them out at five titles per month. The titles and artists include some of the finest jazz music ever recorded, including Eric Dolphy, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Madlib, Freddie Hubbard, Lou Donaldson, Lee Morgan…and it goes on. See for yourself.

The official announcement reads:

Two years ago, we decided to begin remastering the jewels of the Blue Note catalog in hi-def resolutions of 96k and 192k. In order to develop a guiding artistic philosophy for this delicate endeavor, we donned our lab coats, ran dozens of sonic experiments and carefully referenced every generation of our reissues. Ultimately, we decided that our goal would be to protect the original intentions of the artists, producers and engineers who made these records and that, in the case of pre-digital-era albums, these intentions were best represented by the sound and feel of their first-edition vinyl releases. Working with a team of dedicated and groovy engineers, we found a sound that both captured the feel of the original records while maintaining the depth and transparency of the master tapes… the new remasters are really cool!

While these new versions will become available in Digital Hi Def, CD, and the Mastered for iTunes formats, the allure of vinyl records is way too potent to ignore. This year, Blue Note—along with our friends at Universal Music Enterprises—is launching a major 75th Anniversary Vinyl Initiative that is dedicated to the proposition that our catalog should be readily available at a low cost—featuring high-quality pressings and authentic reproductions of Blue Note’s iconic packaging. Beginning in March 2014, we’ll start rolling out five remastered vinyl reissues every month. Although this program begins in celebration of Blue Note’s 75th Anniversary, our catalog runs so deep that we will faithfully be reissuing five albums a month for many years to come!
—Don Was, President, Blue Note Records

On March 25, the following classic era albums were reissued. The names across the spines alone are incredible, but when you know that musicians like Lee Morgan, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Elvin Jones, Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Herbie Hancock, and Ron Carter were involved, it’s pure bliss. From bop to avant-garde to modal jazz and beyond, this initial set of releases is an excellent overview of why Blue Note was so incredible: they just wanted to record and release great music.

John Coltrane Blue Train

Eric Dolphy Out to Lunch

Larry Young Unity

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers Free for All

Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil

Additionally, if you are in the Los Angeles area, be sure to visit the Grammy Museum starting March 25, 2014, where an exhibition on the label entitled “Blue Note Records: The Finest in Jazz” will open.

[Contest is now closed.]

04/04/14 Events

DOPE New Music Showcase

Presented by Bedford Box Office & Wax Poetics

sonya_DOPE

Photo by Siyaka Taylor-Lewis

Join us April 7th as we host another installment of NYC’s best showcase for rising musicians, DOPE.

Presented by concert producers Bedford Box Office, this bill meshes a diverse taste in palates from the space induced rock of M.A.Y.O.R., to the sonic seduction of Eritrean-bred singer Sonya Teclai (also featured on our recently released DOPE by Bedford Box Office Side A compilation). Brooklyn based songbird Ophelia Cache sprinkles her dreamy flair of operatic and classic soul to round out the list of performers.

In between sets, showgoers can enjoy an always eclectic and exciting set by our resident DJ, Crystalena.

It all goes down at one of the city’s newest venues, Friends & Lovers (an obvious suggestion as who to bring along with you) located on 641 Classon in Crown Heights Brooklyn.

Come through, and treat yourself to an intimate evening and sneak peak into the next big things in music before everyone else jumps on it.

DOPE, April 7th // Friends & Lovers, 641 Classon, 7:30 // $12

For more information on DOPE and it’s upcoming concerts, please visit www.bedfordboxoffice.com