In part two of our interview, James Harris III breaks down his beginnings as a musician and shares his thoughts on his prolific recording career thus far.
Published as "Eternal Soul" concurrently in Wax Poetics Issue 59
Listen to "Gonna Have a Good Time"
"I’m a natural drummer. I have some special qualities that came from the Creator, which allow me to play all kinds of music."
The untold tale of an underground cult classic.
He played with notable percussionists Armando Peraza, Willie Bobo, and Mongo Santamaria early in his development. He covered Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo’s famed “Guarachi Guaro” in 1955 and made it his own in 1965 as “Soul Sauce.” Throughout his career, Cal Tjader would coat that salsa on everything he played.
DJ Disco Wiz, hip-hop’s first Latino DJ, left a permanent mark on the music and culture after teaming up with Grandmaster Caz in 1974.
The Bob James albums One, Two, and Three contributed to the sonic foundation of hip-hop.
Lacking a name for his style of music, Donato’s is a distinct sound, immediately recognizable from the first few bars of any of his tunes.
Perhaps more than any other artist of his era, he connects the major players in a six-degrees-of-separation game that keeps going until it seems that Womack must have known and played with everyone.
With his soulful strings and the crack rhythm section of Howard Grimes and the Hodges Bros.—Teenie, Charles, and Leroy—Willie Mitchell made stars out of O. V. Wright, Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson, and Al Green, giving neighboring Stax Records a run for its money.
"There is a sense in Nite Jewel’s music that has to do with nostalgia for a time that is a fantasy rather than a time you’re actually from, and the time that’s a fantasy to me is right before I came into existence."
"I mentioned John Gotti because it was the topic of the times. Any part of the violence that I wrote about were things I saw, even if I didn’t directly participate in all of it."
"Old Brazilian music and bossa nova was fantastic, but people used to make lists of things that were forbidden, including having electric guitars on song festivals."
"It’s a bit of a myth that the sky is falling on the music industry. I mean, with the Internet, it’s kind of the best time ever for independent artists and independent labels. The artists weren’t making money off record sales anyway."
Dr. Dre changed the game at least three times: N.W.A, Death Row Records, and Eminem. But if Death Row was the Motown of the ’90s, Colin Wolfe was G-Funk Brother #1.
After a controversial five-year stint in prison, Vallejo rapper Mac Dre emerged anew, pioneering the hyphy movement and signing countless rappers to his label. Even after his early, tragic death in 2004, Mac Dre’s legacy and influence endure in the Bay and beyond.
Produced during the final leg of 1982’s Controversy tour, the feature was conceptualized as a documentary concert film meets glam-funk fantasy, filtered through Prince’s unique paisley-and-lace perspective.
"RZA's beats had a grimey, rock-like feel to them. The majority of the album was done at RZA's house, in the basement."
As the 1980s began, Hall & Oates, assumed creative control over their music resulting in another triumph for the songwriting duo when Voices was released in 1980.
After an album on Asylum failed to make waves, Ned Doheny wrote a couple songs with Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart that would find great success in the R&B world. Teaming with Steve Cropper, Doheny embraced this new funky direction and recorded two albums that made him a star in England and Japan.
Though they’re different, and attracted different audiences, it’s not hard to imagine these records meeting up on the jukebox in some dark roadside stop.
“I wanted it to sound raw, not real polished. Soul music is not limited, because there’s so much blues and gospel in it. I tried to stay true to that.”