02/26/18 New Releases

The Herbaliser returns with Bring Out the Sound on BBE

The Herbaliser shoot by Matt Humphrey

Photo by Matt Humphrey


Today’s world is a rather immediate one. Simplified, easily digestible information and entertainment are available at the flick of finger on a phone screen. Yet, as the saying goes, patience is a virtue. And who would begrudge the virtuous their rewards?

With an ever-increasing time occurring between album releases, fans of U.K. hip-hop innovators and perennial festival favorites the Herbaliser are used to waiting. But, half a decade after their last album, that wait is once again over. Early 2018 sees the release of Bring Out the Sound, the Herbaliser’s debut release for BBE Records.

“The past few years things have been working against us, even though the quality of our records has been getting better,” reckons Ollie Teeba, hinting that the band’s pervading studio perfectionism is not the sole reason for the delays in delivery (band members have experienced life affecting personal tragedy and serious, recurring health issues over recent years).

Thin, with sharp features and high cheekbones that still lend him a rather boyish charm, Teeba is one half of the duo that founded the Herbaliser in the mid 1990s. He is tirelessly chatty and prone to veer off on tangents. In comparison, his musical partner Jake Wherry is much more round of face. Initially Wherry can look quite stern, affording him an air that lies somewhere between music mogul and nightclub security. But as a familiarity creeps in, his face softens and he proves to be friendly, relaxed and affable. He is perhaps the more straightforward talker of the pair.

“I don’t think we’ve got shit,” says Wherry. “It’s just that the periods between our albums have got longer and longer.”

The Herbaliser’s new album Bring Out the Sound is much more than a classic addition to the Herbaliser canon, it redefines it. Bereft of any samples or interpolations and with their strongest concentration on hip-hop yet, it is different to anything they’ve made before. Chopped up hip-hop beats add a weight to the production that, after 25 years, is now at a masterful peak. But none of these beats are recycled; each drum sound utilised is solely their own. 
There are still widescreen cinematic pieces, imaginary soundtracks for dusty spaghetti westerns or stylish 1970s spy thrillers, but this time they quote no one but themselves. Their expansive funk machinery is also joined, for the first time, by a psychedelic sound lead by the debut inclusions of Wherry’s fuzzed out guitar.

The album also features a sea change in the Herbaliser’s approach to vocal inclusions. Bring Out The Sound offers their strongest reliance on hip-hop vocals to date, many of them helmed by original U.K. don Rodney P, whose many previous collaborations with the band have only happened in the live arena. It also showcases the Herbaliser’s first attempt at an acoustic guitar-backed pop song in “Seize the Day,” sung by Just Jack. An instant classic, the format slips so comfortably into the Herbaliser’s sound you’re left wondering why it has taken until now to appear. But the Herbaliser has always had an uphill struggle in procuring just the right vocal accompaniment to their sound. 


“We wanted to make a hip-hop album but we didn’t know any rappers,” says Wherry of their debut album Remedies, issued by Ninja Tune in 1995, “so we kind of developed an instrumental style. As kids growing up in the 1970s the music on TV was so good. All the library music in the background, which diggers and producers have been sampling ever since, that was our soundtrack. Remedies was a mix of our love of soundtracks and TV music with hip-hop.”

“Ollie hates it,” chuckles Wherry when remembering Remedies. But the album, which featured frequent future collaborators Kaidi Tatham and Malachi, placed the Herbaliser at the forefront of an exploding U.K. hip-hop movement. Spearheaded by Ninja Tune and Mo Wax, with its distinct sound, this U.K. movement would capture global attention from both existing hip-hop fans and the new entrants it generated.


“It wasn’t an album so much as it was everything we’d done up until that point,” says Wherry, somewhat dismissively, of an album that nevertheless sold very respectably and is counted as a classic of the era.

“To me, some instrumental hip-hop sounds like a beats tape that you’d write a rap to,” says Teeba in a similar vein. “We thought, if we’re going to make some of these as instrumentals, let’s make the arrangements more interesting. So we drew heavy inspiration from movie soundtracks. Hip-hop instrumentals of movie soundtracks. That’s kind of how we came to develop the Herbaliser sound. Because we didn’t know any rappers we thought, let’s just put something out. We were hoping to gain traction in other territories so that maybe opportunities to work with rappers overseas would then present themselves. And that’s what happened. We put Remedies out and ended up working with What What from Natural Resource [now known as Jean Grae] on the next album.”

Wherry nods in agreement. “It didn’t really start to gel until that next album, Blow your Headphones.”


Although Remedies remains an unsatisfactory memory in the minds of the Herbaliser it was so well received that it prompted a response from the band that would become one of the most important decisions they would make. 
“It really just blew up so quickly around the time we signed,” remembers Wherry of the period. “Our first album came out September 1995 and within months all of the artists on Ninja Tune were out on tour in Europe, America and Canada.

It was really exciting.”
Until the release of the Herbaliser’s debut, Ninja Tune had not been seen as an artist lead label. They were more regarded as issuing ‘food’ for DJs: breaks albums, DJ tools, and compilations. But Ninja Tune and Mo Wax both held incredible visual identities and a sound unlike that of American hip-hop. The public demanded more and the labels responded. Each label began to host their own club nights, showcasing some of the identities behind these sounds. On Ninja Tune, ‘DJ Food’ morphed into an actual artist rather than a description. In the Herbaliser though, audience demands were met by an altogether different approach, one that, in the live arena, would become one of the jewels in the crown of the new movement.

“We started doing the band six or seven months into doing Remedies,” says Teeba of the development, which would change both their sound and their lives. “We specifically didn’t want to sound like Acid Jazz, which was the sound that had preceded the scene Ninja Tune and Mo Wax were leading. We wanted to use sampled beats, produced in the studio, with live instruments. It’s very common now, but in 1995/1996 nobody was doing that. We wanted it to feel like hip-hop, to have that weight that a hip-hop record has.”

“I’d been playing in bands since I was 14, doing gigs in horrible places where you’d only get paid a burger and chips,” says Wherry who brought not only his guitar and bass playing skills to the project but also musicians from his last funk band project, the Propheteers.

“Our first gig as the Herbaliser was at a pub in Brixton (the place just went bananas) and our third was at the Phoenix festival, so we didn’t have to go that route.”

“June 1996 was the first gig and the next year we were doing the Jazz stage at Glastonbury” recalls Teeba. “It sped along quite quickly as people’s awareness of Ninja Tune gained momentum and we gained a good reputation.”
 Though that reputation might have been earned quite quickly, it is one the Herbaliser have bolstered through continuous touring ever since. High caliber musicians such as the aforementioned Aide Tatham and U.K. alto saxophonist and composer Chris Bowden have since done stints in the band (the latter returning to the fold by way of string arrangements on Bring Out the Sound). An integral element of this live set up is also the Herbaliser’s punchy horn section—Ralph Lamb, Andy Ross, and James Morton—a crowd pleasing element that would go on to become as important to the band’s studio output as it was their endeavours onstage.

Together, this tight knit band of musicians, which has kept its same core since their mid-’90s convening, have gone on to tour the world including repeat trips to the USA and Canada, mainland Europe, Israel, and Australia and to some of the biggest events on the festival circuit. 
From sophomore effort Blow Your Headphones (1997) it would be this band around which the Herbaliser would build their studio sound and, as a result, with each release their reliance on samples diminished. 
Over five albums in total for Ninja Tune, including the landmark Something Wicked This Way Comes (2002), plus two albums released since they left the label (including 2012’s unjustly overlooked, self-released There Were Seven), these musicians would be joined by guest vocalists such as Jean Grae, Blade, Bahamadia, Roots Manuva, Seaming To, MF Doom, and Phi-Life Cypher, each adding individual contributions to the hip-hop sound that had long been the Herbaliser’s desired aim. But though hip-hop was where Wherry and Teeba wished to dwell, circumstances necessitated they assume a sound all of their own.
“We’ve never really been welcomed into the U.K. hip-hop fold,” says Wherry with a tinge of regret. “We worked with Roots Manuva on a couple of albums, but working with Rodney P, who’s fantastic and one of the pioneers, we now think it holds that element.”

“That’s where we come from,” agrees Teeba. “In ’94/’95 when we met up with Ninja Tune there was zero U.K. hip-hop market. There’d been London Posse and people like that, but the press was never that interested in U.K. rap and so when the rave thing took over, the labels lost interest.”
Though they’ve collaborated on stage many times before, Bring Out the Sound is the first album by the Herbaliser to feature the vocals of legendary U.K. rapper Rodney P (Rodney’s entrance on the U.K. music scene predates even that of the Herbaliser, London Posse having debuted on vinyl in 1987.)
“When London Posse came out they were the first to rap in their own accents, their reggae hip-hop thing was a pure U.K. vibe,” reckons Teeba, who was willing to approach this album as a purely instrumental project before securing the services of the esteemed rapper. “Rodney P is a legend.” 
Rodney P’s inclusions on the album “Like Shaft” and “Some Things” (also featuring Tiece) show the veteran rapper in fine form and are bonafide highlights of Bring Out the Sound, offering a classic juxtaposition to the Herbaliser’s cinematic instrumentals. “Seize the Day” with Just Jack and the aforementioned psychedelic input add new dimensions that mark a ceaseless evolution in the journey of this time honoured, much loved band. The album stands as a testament to the Herbaliser reassessing themselves, it also demands the same of the audience.

Bring Out the Sound really shows a different side of us,” states Wherry. “But it still sounds like the Herbaliser.”

Bring Out the Sound will be released in March on BBE Records.

02/21/18 Videos

Breaking the Ice documentary explores Icelandic breaks dug up by DJ Platurn



“I always wanted to tie all these records from the motherland into some sort of release, ever since I started messing around DJing in my teens,” says DJ Platurn, who originally came to the U.S. from Iceland. “They traveled over 4,000 miles and all over the West Coast of the U.S. until pops finally let me have ’em. He played some of ’em on his radio shows and the clubs and events he used to DJ at almost fifty years ago.”

Watch the premiere of the mini-documentary Breaking the Ice by Peter Magnusson (pka Kicker Dixon) above, and you can buy the mixtape here. It releases on March 23 via Needle to the Groove and will be sold as a 2xCD package that includes rare photos and liner notes from Wax Poetics scribe David Ma.

“My fascination eventually got serious enough that I started to dig much deeper,” Platurn continues. “Slim pickings and deep obscurity/rarity made finding the kind of stuff I like even more difficult. Finally I had enough. Magnus, excavating with my cousin Sveimhugi back home, and my own research culminated into a lifetime worth of vinyl tinkering.

“Iceland isn’t known for the funk, but anyone who’s a fan of the funk knows it can emit from the unlikeliest of places. Groove-based music is a feeling that comes [from] within, as a fan and a composer. No one’s ever put it that well into words. I’m not gonna attempt to either. It’s just that thing that makes finding soulful music on an island deep in the North Atlantic an actual possibility.”

Check out a glimpse of the mixtape:

02/13/18 Mixtape

Digable Planets Reachin’ 25th Anniversary Mixtape

Mixed by Chris Read for Wax Poetics & WhoSampled



To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Digable Planets’ 1993 debut LP Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), our friend Chris Read has crafted a fine tribute mix featuring album tracks, alternative versions, interview snippets, and original sample material from the likes of Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, KC & the Sunshine Band, Kool & the Gang, and Lonnie Liston Smith. Enjoy!

Artwork: Leon Nockolds

Track list:

1. Digable Planets – Where I’m From (Aural G Ride Instrumental)
2. Chris Read – Theme #3 (Scratchapella)
3. Lonnie Liston Smith – Devika (Goddess) (Sampled in Pacifics (NY is Red Hot))
4. Digable Planets on Rap City 1993 [Extract]
5. The Headhunters – God Make Me Funky [Loop] (Sampled in Pacifics (NY is Red Hot))
6. Hamilton Bohannon – Take the Country to N.Y City [Extract] (Sampled in Pacifics (NY is Red Hot)
7. Digable Planets – Pacifics (NY is Red Hot)
8. The Crusaders – Listen and You’ll See (Sampled in Examination of What)
9. Digable Planets – Examination of What
10. Eddie Harris – Superfluous (Sampled in What Cool Breezes Do)
11. Digable Planets – What Cool Breezes Do
12. The Crusaders – Mystique Blues (Sampled in What Cool Breezes Do)
13. Edwin Starr – Easin In [Loop] (Sampled in Nickel Bags)
14. Herbie Mann – Push Push (Sampled in Nickel Bags)
15. Digable Planets – Nickel Bags
16. Steve Parks – Movin In The Right Direction (Sampled in Nickel Bags)
17. The Honey Drippers – Impeach the President [Loop] (Sampled in Last of the Spiddyocks)
18. Digable Planets – Last of the Spiddyocks
19. Kool & The Gang – Summer Madness (Sampled in Jimmi Diggin Cats)
20. Digable Planets – Jimmi Diggin Cats
21. The Crusaders – Lillies of the Nile [Loop] (Sampled in Escapism (Gettin Free)
22. Herbie Hancock – Watermelon Man (Sampled in Escapism (Gettin Free)
23. Digable Planets – Escapism (Gettin Free)
24. James Brown – Funky Drummer [Loop] (Sampled in Swoon Units)
25. Digable Planets – Swoon Units
26. Sonny Rollins & The Modern Jazz Quartet – Mambo Bounce (Sampled in Time & Space (A New Refutation Of))
27. Digable Planets – Time & Space (A New Refutation Of)
28. KC & Sunshine Band – Ain’t Nothin Wrong (Sampled in Where I’m From)
29. Digable Planets – Where I’m From
30. The Honey Drippers – Impeach the President [Loop] (Sampled in Rebirth os Slick (Cool Like Dat))
31. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Stretching (Sampled in Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat))
32. Digable Planets Grammys Acceptance Speech 1994
33. Digable Planets – Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
34. Tom Scott – Sneakin In The Back [Loop] (Sampled in Appointment at the Fat Clinic)
35. Digable Planets – Appointment at the Fat Clinic
36. Lightnin’ Rod feat Kool & The Gang – Sport [Loop] (Sampled in Femme Fatale)
37. Digable Planets – Femme Fatale
38. The Headhunters – God Make Me Funky [Loop] (Sampled in It’s Good to Be Here)
39. Digable Planets – It’s Good to Be Here
40. Grant Green – Samba De Orpheus (Sampled in It’s Good to Be Here)

02/05/18 Mixtape

Jazz on 45 Vol. 5 Mixape – Hugh Masekela Special Edition


Album Hugh Masekela Mixtape

Trumpeter/arranger/producer/bandleader Todd Simon brings his fifth installment of #JazzOn45 celebrating the life and music of his longtime hero: the South African trumpeter/bandleader/vocalist/humanitarian Hugh Masekela.

“No other musician has impacted the way I hear, create, and perform than Bra Hugh has,” explains Todd. “His unique sound—blending gorgeous lyricism with immense-percussive rhythm on the trumpet and flügelhorn—is that of no other. I hope you enjoy this small collection of Hugh Masekela’s as much as I am presenting it for you. Note that this is just a small glimpse into an incredible catalog of material that Hugh left us with. I will definitely be posting some non-45 mixes featuring the music of Bra Hugh so we can continue to celebrate his genius! Thank you for listening and reading.”

Track list:

1. She’s Comin’ My Way
2. Unhlanhla
3. “Chisa”
4. What Is Wrong with Groovin’
5. Son of Ice Bag
6. Up-Up and Away
7. Grazing in the Grass
8. Bajabula Bonke
9. Riot
10. Mace and Grenades

Below is a breakdown of each 45:

She's Comin' My Way - Hugh Masekela


  1. She’s Comin’ My Way
  2. Unhlanhla

Released in December 1966, Hugh’s fifth 45 gives us a glimpse into his delicate and soft sides.

Hugh was already on the map at this point with releases on both Mercury (Grrr!) and MGM, where fans were introduced to how open he was to playing various genres.




  1. “Chisa”
  2. What Is Wrong with Groovin’

Hugh and his long-time friend/producer Stewart Levine created their own independent record company called Chisa Records with the help of Larry Spector (manager of the Byrds, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Fonda). “[Larry Spector] introduced us to Danny Davis, who was running Phil Spector’s record company,” says Masekela in his 1994 autobiography Still Grazing. “For a fee of five hundred bucks, Davis promised to teach us the ropes of the record industry.” One can only imagine what the gigs, parties, and sessions were like during this time. The track “Chisa,” released in February 1967, might give us a slight glimpse. Letta Mbulu’s cover of “What Is Wrong with Groovin’” has become a favorite amongst the L.A. spiritual jazz community.




  1. Son of Ice Bag
  2. Up-Up and Away

Universal ended up signing Chisa Records to help pay off huge debts that were rising.

The result became UNI, the label that is responsible for releasing a bulk of Hugh’s genius recordings.

It’s hard to not notice the iconic 45 label and sleeve design while digging in the crates. The second 45 of Hugh’s to be released on UNI features recordings from one of my favorite albums Is Alive and Well at the Whiskey released in 1967. “Son of Ice Bag” is out of this world!



  1. Grazing in the Grass
  2. Bajabula Bonke

Why not feature Masekela’s most well known classic “Grazing in the Grass”? For many of us, this was our first introduction to the mastery of Bra Hugh. Unnoticed by many is the tenor saxophone of the producer, Stewart Levine, doubling Hugh for such a magnificent sound. To me, the flip “Bajabula Bonke (Healing Song)” is just as iconic as “Grazing…”




  1. Riot
  2. Mace and Grenades

While Hedzoleh Sounds is one of Hugh’s most forward thinking albums, the self-titled Masekela released in 1969 exemplifies the genius of Hugh. It’s politically driven repertoire backed with Hugh overdubbing layers of himself on top of each other to create one of the greatest protest jazz albums in history! “Riot,” which has been covered and dubbed in Jamaica by the great Keith Hudson, is uplifting and spirited (a favorite that I love to perform with Ethio Cali), while “Mace and Grenades” is dark, horrifying, and real, screaming the more-than-ever-pertinent lyrics “I’m in jail in here/I’m in jail out here!” while Hugh’s horn cries out loud.


Todd Simon has provided horns, arrangements, and production for Solange, Kelis, Lauryn Hill, Madlib, Quantic, Macklemore, Flying Lotus, Ziggy Marley, and more. In addition to teaching high school music in L.A., Todd runs the African jazz ensemble Ethio Cali and the 21+ member Angel City All-Star Brass Band. His Hodge Podge L.A. party blends live musicians with the finest DJs. You can find more of his music, live dates, and mixes at toddsimonmusic.com.


12/21/17 Mixtape

Dr. Dre The Chronic 25th Anniversary Mixtape

Mixed by DJ Matman for Wax Poetics & WhoSampled



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!

Check out more from DJ Matman here.

Artwork : Leon Nockolds



1. Dr. Dre – High Powered / Mix Intro
4. Dr Dre ft. Lady of Rage – Lyrical Gangbang
8. Dr Dre – Rat-Tat-Tat
9. Dr Dre – Rat-Tat-Tat [Original Version]
11. Dr Dre – Deeez Nuuuts
13. Dr Dre – Lil’ Ghetto Boy
19. Dr Dre – One Eight Seven
23 Dr Dre – A Nigga Witta Gun
26. Dr Dre – Let Me Ride
29. Dr Dre – The Roach
34. Dr Dre – Mr Officer (unreleased)
36. Dr Dre – Dre Day


11/27/17 Tracks

Soul queen Gizelle Smith returns with new single


vh_Gizelle Smith_Sweet Memories_05A

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.