To celebrate the 25th anniversary of West Coast classic The Chronic, Dr. Dre’s debut solo LP, our buddy DJ Matman has crafted a dope mix of album tracks such as “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” and “Let Me Ride,” alternative versions, remixes, and original sample material from the likes of Parliament, Donny Hathaway, Clarence Reid, Whodini, and Leon Haywood, amongst others.
Roll down those windows, light up a blunt, and enjoy!
In 2008, Gizelle Smith stormed from relative obscurity onto the funk scene as the front woman of Hamburg-based band the Mighty Mocambos.
Born and raised in Manchester, the child of a Seychellois mother and a father who was a band-member of the legendary Four Tops, Gizelle had a multicultural upbringing steeped in soulful music. Her first single “Working Woman” with the Mighty Mocambos became an overnight smash and a prime-time club favorite of funk and soul DJs worldwide, leading legendary producer Kenny Dope to remix the song for his own Kay Dee Records. The album that followed, This Is Gizelle Smith and the Mighty Mocambos, was released in 2009, followed by solo singles “June” released on Record Kicks in 2009 and “Johnny” on Mocambo in 2012. After a five-year hiatus, Smith is finally back with new recorded material, a double-A-side single ahead of a new album slated for release March 30, 2018. The record sees her moving on from the classic sound of her debut album, as she’s expanded her musical palette to incorporate more psychedelic and jazzy progressions, bold arrangements, and more adventurous instrumentation.
“Sweet Memories” announces her return with a bang and really showcases Smith’s vocal range and control, coupling her layered harmonies and powerful topline acrobatics over a funky backdrop of tasteful guitar, solid bass, and tight drums. Flitting between honey-dripped soul during the verses before a full-on frontal funk assault from the chorus, it’s a treat from the first note to the last.
The bouncing “S.T.A.Y.” on the flipside is aimed squarely at the modern-soul crowd with a groove that wouldn’t be out of place on an Isley Brothers or Gil Scott-Heron LP. Soul man extraordinaire and respected Stones Throw Records alumni Eric Boss also gets in on the action, contributing accompanying vocals. The uplifting and positive message of this song is the sunshine to the rainy day of “Sweet Memories.” There’s something in this single for listeners whatever the weather.
“Sweet Memories” b/w “S.T.A.Y.” will be available on 7-inch vinyl and digital formats December 1, 2017, via Jalapeno Records.
As a member of the group the Jewels, singer Martha High first met James Brown in 1964 when they went on tour with Soul Brother No. 1. While her group broke up soon after, Martha stayed with Brown, singing with him throughout the next few decades.
Italian label Record Kicks has teamed Martha up with Japanese funk outfit Osaka Monaural and recorded a tribute—Tribute to My Soul Sisters, dropping November 17—to her late boss and the funky divas Brown groomed like Lyn Collins and Marva Whitney.
“I looked up to these ladies of soul,” says Martha, “Given the opportunity and the pleasure to perform their songs, is my way of saying: thank you, you’re not forgotten. To record the music of the Funky Divas, would mean a lot to Mr. Brown. He always wanted the world to know he had powerful women on stage that could hold his crowd while he was off the stage. They were just as powerful and funky as he was.”
Stream the entire album early:
Funky diva Martha High has been an integral part of James Brown’s life and career for more than 30 years. The idea for Tribute to My Soul Sisters was hatched back in 2014, when Martha was visiting producer DJ Pari, head honcho of the Soulpower organization and manager of soul legends like the Impressions, Lyn Collins and Marva Whitney.
Without further ado, following DJ Pari’s advice, Martha partnered up in Tokyo with one of the hottest names of the new funk renaissance: Japan’s Osaka Monaurail. Martha could not have chosen a better band for this mission. Deeply influenced by the work of James Brown, Bobby Byrd, and Curtis Mayfield, and with nine albums under their belt, Osaka Monaurail have been leading the international funk scene for more than two decades, appearing at festivals such as Montreal Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival and Womad’s, as well as recording and touring with funk legends like Marva Whitney and Fred Wesley.
This unique collaboration gives new life to 13 soulful pearls, masterfully interpreted as only an Original Funky Diva can do. To name a few: “Think (About It),” made famous by the female preacher Lyn Collins; “Mama’s Got a Bag of Her Own,” Anna King’s answer to Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”; “This Is My Story,” of which Martha recorded the original version with the Jewels; and the soul classic “Answer to Mother Popcorn” by Vicki Anderson.
Born in Victoria, Virginia, and discovered by rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley, Martha started her career with the soulful, legendary doo-wop group the Four Jewels, with whom she scored the national hit “Opportunity” in 1964. Soon, the Jewels caught the attention of James Brown and joined the James Brown Revue in 1966. The Godfather of Soul recorded and released several songs featuring The Jewels until the group disbanded. Nevertheless, Martha stayed with James Brown and continued to work with him as his personal vocalist for 32 years. She was with him at the Boston Garden during the iconic 1968 gig after Martin Luther King’s assassination. She was by his side when he performed at renowned Rumble in the Jungle event in Zaire. Mr. Brown produced several of Martha’s singles on his own People label such as “Georgy Girl,” “Try Me,” and “Summertime.” Meanwhile Martha launched her solo career in 1979 with the self-titled debut LP for Salsoul Records. Since, she has released five albums under her name and, being one of the “hardest working women in show business”, she became one of the leading singers of saxophonist Maceo Parker’s legendary funky music machine, working with him for 16 years.
Throughout her career Martha has shared stages worldwide with iconic artists like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Michael Jackson and George Clinton. Martha has been carrying the torch of soul music for her whole life, like a true soul sister.
TRIBUTE TO MY SOUL SISTERS EURO TOUR
25.11.2017 BIKO Milano, Italy
26.11.2017 New Morning (Officiel) Paris, France
28.11.2017 Mojo Club, Hamburg, Germany
29.11.2017 Schlachthof Wiesbaden, Germany
30.11.2017 Under the Bridge, London, UK
01.12.2017 Espace Julien, Marseille, France
02.12.2017 Le JAM Montpellier, France
Wax Poetics are excited to present Instant Classic Selection : an exquisite mixtape courtesy of French duo Souleance, a.k.a. producer Fulgeance and DJ Soulist. Featuring gems from the likes of Brenda George, Lord Creator, Usje Sukatma, Patrice Rushen, and Souleance themselves, the mix feels undeniably good.
So listen up and check out the Bamboule EP Souleance dropped last month here .
1. Kourosh Yaghmaei – Saraabe Toe
2. Souleance – J’aime Marcher
3. Antonio Carlos Jobim w/ Herbie Man – One Note Samba
4. Lord Creator – Such Is Life
5. Adrian Gurvitz – New World
6. Brenda George – What You See Is What You Gonna Get
7. Nina Simone – African Mailman
8. Souleance – Partay
9. Usje Sukatma – Waiting for Your Love
10. Photay – Inharmonious Slog
11. Daphni – Face to Face
12. A Patinha – Não empurre, não force (Melô dos Patins)
13. Patrice Rushen – Haven’t You Heard (Joey Negro Extended Mix)
14. Ebernita “Twinkie” Clark – Awake O Zion
15. Masequa Myers – Black Land of the Nile
Wax Poetics journalist Ronnie Reese (center) and friend at the Red Bull Sound Select and Discogs Crate Diggers Chicago. Photo by Ryan McMahill.
On Sunday, November 5, Wax Poetics stopped by the Red Bull Sound Select and Discogs Crate Diggers Chicago record fair at the House of Vans to dig around and speak to some folks for our upcoming show Soul City. The debut of our new travel web series, which features a different city each episode, debuts in a couple months. The first episode is hosted by Wax Poetics journalist (and Chicago native) Ronnie Reese and features the Windy City, home to iconic R&B label Vee-Jay and soul legend Curtis Mayfield. We’re speaking to Mayfield’s son, Todd Mayfield, about his father’s ventures into creating his own labels—Windy C, Mayfield, and the successful Curtom. We also speak to Chicago house legend Ron Trent about the Chicago house scene, the early independent labels, and his own concern, Prescription Records, which Rush Hour recently compiled. Sign up to our newsletter and know the day the show drops.
Check out some flicks from our day digging and filming at the Red Bull Sound Select and Discogs Crate Diggers Chicago:
Chicago DJ/producer/label owner Dave Maze with Wax Poetics journalist Ronnie Reese. All photos by Ryan McMahill.
Everyone knows the backbone of hip-hop is the breakbeat. From the block parties of NYC in the tail end of the 1970s to the late-’80s/early ’90s golden era of hip-hop, the best breaks from the seemingly inexhaustible world of soul, jazz and funk recordings were mined by dusty fingered DJs to form foundations perhaps even more fundamental to contemporary hip-hop than its four pillars. The breakbeat became such an underlying and integral element of hip hop that new breaks, their discoverers and their studio manipulators became revered as the fuel that, alongside lyrical delivery, would perpetuate the genre creatively. But, so central did the funk breakbeat become to the sound of hip-hop, that the music’s roots in disco are often overlooked. It is instead the legions of house music DJs and their dancers who have claimed disco as their ancestral history, with disco classics now an ever present highlight heard in house sets during the all day summer parties of Ibiza and the marathon weekends in Berlin’s darkest warehouses. In putting together his new compilation for BBE Records, Reach Up – Disco Wonderland, Andy Smith, a DJ grounded within hip-hop and with a longstanding reputation within the genre, hopes to go some way in reclaiming disco as the beginnings not only of house music, but of hip-hop too.
“A lot of people have asked how come I’m into disco now, but actually I was into it in 1978/1979 when I first got into music,” says Smith, who established his international standing in the mid-’90s when he sourced the samples integral to the success of albums by leading Bristol band of the era, Portishead. He went on to be their tour DJ and was the first DJ ever to release a multi-genre mix CD on a major label with 1998’s The Document. “It was the first club music I’d ever heard. It was also the way I learned to mix—non-vari-speed disco decks. So, for me, it’s like going back to basics.” It wasn’t too long after Andy Smith started to DJ that those same disco grooves would help spawn hip hop. In 1979 the debut release on Sugarhill Records heralded a new wind, the intro of “Rapper’s Delight” borrowing from disco group Love De Luxe’s “Here Comes That Sound Again” and the main groove famously coming from the unmistakeable bass line of Chic’s “Good Times.” Achieving much greater popular success than forerunners like The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, it was the the first widespread introduction of rapping as vocal delivery and also of an as yet undefinable new movement emerging from New York. Although, rather tellingly, its label Sugarhill Records would switch back to a more traditional disco sound in attempting to follow the success (with Positive Force’s classic “We Got the Funk”), the seeds had been sown.
Within weeks, Harlem’s P&P Records were releasing their own disco rap material (their Cloud One “Patty Duke” can be found on Smith’s compilation). The Funky Four Plus One More and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five had appeared on NYC label Enjoy too, although by 1980, the year of Kurtis Blow’s similarly disco-defined “The Breaks,” both acts had decamped to Sugarhill. “If your history with hip-hop goes back as far as mine, you have to love those early Sugar Hill and Enjoy records,” reckons Smith. “That early sound was essentially just rapping over disco records. I sometimes do a night called Hip-Hop On Wax where I just play old school hip-hop and I do play a lot of ’80s stuff because I find it really exciting. That’s where it grew from. To a lot of people though, that’s not old school hip-hop, not unless you play Young MC or Sugar Bear. Their old school is late ’80s, early ’90s. But, if you go back to the disco rap stuff though, things like Fearless Four, that stuff has a timeless quality. That’s the era that really got me into hip-hop. Obviously I loved the ’90s, Gangstarr, Pete Rock, but I maybe loved the ’80s more because that’s when it first hit me and it still sounds good today.”
It would not be until the the two musical pillars of hip-hop—rapping and DJing—met on wax that the breakbeat would start to become one of hip-hop’s true defining elements. But the latter of those pillars was still unrecognised on vinyl until the 1981 release of The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel (which, again, borrowed heavily from Chic and disco). In the late ’70s and early ’80s, hip-hop as we now know it, was still unformed and emerging via two separate and distinct disciplines, both of which relied heavily on disco; rap records were essentially just disco songs with a new style of vocal and hip-hop DJs littered their sets with disco records. “I wanted to tip my hat to the hip-hop side of things,” says Smith of acknowledging the latter on his new compilation, “so there are some crossover records that are known for their breaks. T-Connection ‘Groove to Get Down,’ for instance, is a classic breakbeat track.”
Since his emergence, Andy Smith has presented music from all sides of his record collection including funk, northern soul and ’50s R&B. While he is primarily known for his hip-hop sensibilities, each of the musics he presents is often respectfully offered in its own context. So, while the likes of Kenny Dope might sometimes display more of a hip-hop turntablist approach in their delivery of disco, on Reach Up – Disco Wonderland Andy Smith offers us disco music as he first heard it himself, at the dawn of hip-hop. There are nods to the breakbeat element of block party DJs, such as the aforementioned T-Connection and the Disco Dub Band, but the bulk of this mix and its accompanying collection are just as easily accessible to today’s house music fans who embrace disco as a familiar format. Where Smith’s compilation differs from the widespread understanding of disco as a forerunner to house music is mainly in its tempo. There are few charging, uptempo disco songs to be found here, the Salsoul screamers and 120 bpm bangers that so neatly fit into house music sets and on whose Earl Young drum patterns house music itself was initially styled. Instead, Smith begins by revisiting the pace at which hip-hop’s earliest records emerged, that mid tempo groove shared by the early Sugar Hill sound. “Advance ‘Take It to the Top’ is something I often play when I’m starting off a disco set, a nice slower groove,” he says. “It’s not all peak time stuff, some of it’s early doors tunes.”
“There’s a re-edit on there of Joanne Wilson ‘Got to Have You’ and that always stays in my bag. ‘Is It In’ by Jimmy Bo Horne too,” says Smith of two of his favourite inclusions on the collection. “The version of ‘For the Love of Money’ by Disco Dub Band would also always be with me. It crosses over; it’s as much a funk track as it is a disco track and I’ve had it on 7-inch for years.” Inspired by the Reach Up parties he has presented for over three years at places like Space in Ibiza, Lovebox Festival, Bestival, and the Scala, Smith says “the younger people really are into disco again.” Originally attacked in the late ’70s/early ’80s by some white, macho, rock music fans for its acceptance of flamboyant clothes, manners and attitudes, not to mention its links to Black, Latino, and gay subcultures, disco music is once again thankfully back in vogue. But just as it was partially squeezed from its popular standing by more macho rock music, as the ’80s progressed both the hip-hop and house music that had been birthed by disco also played their part in removing disco’s dancefloor hegemony. It could be said that house music repaid the debt in so overtly continuing disco’s musical legacy and by reintroducing its audiences to the now much beloved forebear. With Reach Up, Andy Smith joins a smaller cabal intent on granting disco music the respect it deserves within hip hop and reclaiming it as their own.