Wax Poetics http://www.waxpoetics.com The Best Music Magazine on the Planet. Thu, 21 May 2015 21:46:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O adds needed context to the Grandmaster Flash vs. Scorpio and Melle Mel debate http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/stetsasonics-daddy-o-adds-needed-context-to-the-grandmaster-flash-vs-scorpio-and-melle-mel-debate/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/stetsasonics-daddy-o-adds-needed-context-to-the-grandmaster-flash-vs-scorpio-and-melle-mel-debate/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 21:38:30 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48646 By now, you’ve all heard about the controversy where Scorpio of the Furious Five calls Grandmaster Flash “the Milli Vanilli of...

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By now, you’ve all heard about the controversy where Scorpio of the Furious Five calls Grandmaster Flash “the Milli Vanilli of rap” because, as claimed, he was not actually on the recordings. If you read the full interview, it seems that the majority of the (salty) beef comes from the fact that Grandmaster Flash makes more money presently than do the rappers from the group. And Scorpio and Melle Mel claim that Flash will not help the rest of the group out by touring together, and that in the past he has deaded advertising deals that could have benefited everyone. Despite whether those claims are true, one must look at the facts about the recordings.

Luckily, a level-headed professor has stepped in to give the situation some much-needed context. Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O has spoken out about the nature of early hip-hop recording sessions, putting the work of a DJ in its proper historical and studio-sonic context.

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Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) reflects on the legacy of Malcolm X http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/blog/yasiin-bey-aka-mos-def-reflects-on-the-legacy-of-malcolm-x/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/blog/yasiin-bey-aka-mos-def-reflects-on-the-legacy-of-malcolm-x/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 20:37:08 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48641 Malcolm X would have celebrated his 90th birthday on Tuesday.

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Jamel Shabazz

Photo by Jamel Shabazz

 

To commemorate the 90th birthday of Malcolm X on Tuesday (May 19, 2015), Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) speaks on the significance of Malcolm X today, especially for those who Bey says are “…poor, or hungry, or hunted.”

Taken from an interview with Yasiin Bey shot in Paris with curator Sohail Daulatzai for the exhibit Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop, and accompanied with the soulful boom-bap of beatmaker/MC Oddisee, Yasiin Bey poignantly reflects on the lasting influence of Malcolm X, whom he calls a “style icon, political thinker, and philosopher.”

 

More of the interview with Yasiin Bey is included in the 120-page commemorative book, which also features a commissioned essay by Chuck D, images from legendary hip-hop photographers Jamel Shabazz, Ernie Paniccioli, B+, Cognito, and Katina Parker, as well as album cover art, flyers and other ephemera.

Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop is a traveling exhibit that showcases how hip-hop culture, from its very foundation until today, has been deeply influenced by its relationship to Islam. The exhibition debuted last October at the William Grant Still Arts Center for the city-wide Los Angeles Islamic Arts Initiative.

Rakim, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, the Roots, Ice Cube, the Wu-Tang Clan, Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, and Jay Electronica are some of the biggest artists in hip-hop. Guided by figures such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, as well as the influence of Islam on jazz and the Black Arts Movement of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, and on to hip-hop’s Golden Age, and up until today, these Muslim artists and many others are connected to the larger world of Islam. Reflected in everything from LP and cassette artwork and titles, to lyrics and samples to advocating personal, social and political uplift, hip-hop has been deeply influenced by the Nation of Islam, the Five Percent Nation, and Islam in the African diaspora.

The exhibit showcases a chronology of items documenting a nearly 70-year history that at its root and beyond interweaves jazz, soul, hip-hop, and Islam. A central component is dedicated to hip-hop’s foundations of the jazz and spoken word artists from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, with materials on Yusef Lateef, Art Blakey, Ahmad Jamal, Gil Scott-Heron, Amiri Baraka, and others. A loop of Golden Age music videos, a never before seen short film of Jay Electronica at the Pyramids in Egypt and performing in the Middle East, as well as rare concert footage is also exhibited, curated with a focus on Los Angeles, but not forgetting contributions from important hip-hop centers Chicago, New York, and Philly. Over 200 album covers and cassette J-cards and shells are compiled wall-to-wall in a room dedicated to an assembled collection spanning the early 1980s through present. Foundational artists Gang Starr, Black Star, Brand Nubian, Queen Latifah, Poor Righteous Teachers, Jurassic 5, Digable Planets, Big Daddy Kane, and Intelligent Hoodlum are on display, along with recent contemporaries Freeway and Beanie Sigel, and current artists like Jay Electronica and Oddisee.

Check Wax Poetics Issue 61 for an article written Sohail Daulatzai that details the connection between hip-hop and Islam, and keep an eye out for an extended version of the piece online in the coming weeks.

For more info, visit returnofthemecca.com.

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Listen to Chris Read’s remix of Bilal’s “The Flow” http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/tracks/listen-to-chris-reads-remix-of-bilals-the-flow/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/tracks/listen-to-chris-reads-remix-of-bilals-the-flow/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 23:12:05 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48617 DJ and producer Chris Read (Who Sampled)—who has created heavyweight mixtapes based on the seminal hip-hop albums Bizarre Ride II, People’s Instinctive...

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DJ and producer Chris Read (Who Sampled)—who has created heavyweight mixtapes based on the seminal hip-hop albums Bizarre Ride IIPeople’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm93 ’til Infinity, Ready to Die, and Midnight Marauders—is releasing an album via BBE on June 22. Entitled All Night, the compilation of remixes and productions features tracks by Bilal (premiered above), Oddisee, Renegade Brass Band, Lizzy Parks, Algebra Blessett, and others.

Read more:

London based DJ and producer Chris Read has been a fixture here at BBE now for over five years, a period during which he has put his hand to no fewer than four BBE compilations, including his spectacular round-up of the label’s finest moments, BBE 15: Real Music For Real People and the critically acclaimed Latin Concrete (‘album of the week’ in UK broadsheet The Independent).

During that period Chris has applied his touch to numerous BBE mixtapes and remixes, collaborating with BBE artists DJ Spinna and YesKing among many others.

The gloriously eclectic ‘All Night’ rounds up the best of his BBE remixes, placing them alongside productions and remixes for a stellar catalogue of guest vocalists and labels.

Two Grammy award winners feature, Bilal and Algebra Blessett, Bilal having previously collaborated with heavyweights J-Dilla, Dr. Dre and Robert Glasper, while Atlanta-native Blessett has impressed as one of the most innovative performers in R&B. Also on hand are DC hip- hop man of the moment Oddisee, Tokyo Dawn-signing Pugs Atomz, Wah Wah 45s’ Bev Lee Harling, Mozambiquan hip-hop renaissance men Simba & Milton Gulli, long time collaborator and Tru-Thoughts vocalist Lizzy Parks and the mighty horns of the Renegade Brass Band.

Of the 14 tracks featured, nine are exclusive to this compilation or previously unreleased. Notably, this album is the first to showcase material from Maylight, a BBC New Music Award winning seven-piece fusing soul, jazz and electronics, Chris having produced the band’s debut LP Almighty (due for release on BBE later in 2015).
Other high points include a taster of material from Chris’s forthcoming full length collab with Chicago born Pugs Atomz and brand new instrumental material including ‘Stop Playing (With My Soul)’, a track constructed entirely from samples mined from the catalogue of library-music giant Boosey & Hawkes.

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Nicky Siano unveils Part 2 of his October 1976 disco mix from the famed NYC club the Gallery http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/mixtape/nicky-siano-brings-gallery-london-unveils-part-2-classic-mix/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/mixtape/nicky-siano-brings-gallery-london-unveils-part-2-classic-mix/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 21:45:05 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48079 Win tickets!

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After a great response to the Gallery live set from ’76, we’ve convinced Nicky Siano to crack open the vaults once more: Part Two of a tape-recorded live set at seminal New York City club the Gallery in October of 1976.

 

Listen to Part 1!

 

This set has a couple of interesting aspects to it, beyond the to-be-expected quality music and mixing. The preponderance of Stevie Wonder tunes may seem a little strange until you consider the date. Stevie’s masterpiece Songs in the Key of Life (which, coincidentally, the singer is reprising on tour now) was released in late September of 1976. “I had the album in advance from Motown,” Nicky says. “At that time, I was a Billboard reporter, so every record on earth that was danceable was mailed to me.” And two copies it seems, as he mixes from “Ordinary Pain” (already at this early stage Siano was wittily utilizing only the Shirley Brewer section of the song) into “Sir Duke.” A perfect transition to Dr. Buzzard’s “I’ll Play the Fool” (also brand new at the time) follows, and we’re off on another trademark Gallery journey.

Something curious occurs around the 27-minute mark, however. “For years, I have told people about a primitive drum machine I had [legendary sound man Alex] Rosner install,” Siano says. “I would mix into it in the middle of the night, and on the fly I would create beats. I was so happy when I heard this tape, because there it is right in the middle of this side. It even hums a bit; being such a primitive version of this machine, it didn’t have a ground!” Wax Poetics contacted Alex Rosner, still dapper and sharp at 79 years of age, who told us, “With regard to the Beat Box, I went back into the This and That Gallery [as it was known] file and I found it listed in an old invoice, where it’s called the SR-95 Rhythmer. We connected it to Nicky’s Bozak mixer on June 12, 1976. His distinctive signature is on our Service Report dated that day.”

 

 

 

 

 

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50% off tix to Arthur Russell tribute BAM, featuring Cults, Devonté Hynes, Jakes Shears, and more http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/events/win-a-pair-of-tickets-to-the-red-hot-arthur-russell-event-at-the-bam-brooklyn/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/events/win-a-pair-of-tickets-to-the-red-hot-arthur-russell-event-at-the-bam-brooklyn/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 21:25:09 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48429 The epitome of a postmodern musician, Arthur Russell changed the rules in his much-too-brief lifetime. Over the course of two special...

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Arthur Russell

The epitome of a postmodern musician, Arthur Russell changed the rules in his much-too-brief lifetime. Over the course of two special evenings at BAM, the Red Bull Music Academy teams up with Red Hot to bring together an all-star cast of musicians to pay tribute to his legacy.

For more information and tickets.

Enjoy 50% off tickets for this event by using code 42187. Can be redeemed online, via phone or BAM’s box office. May not be combined with other offers. Not valid for prior purchases. Subject to fees and availability. Maximum of four discounted tickets per household. Offer expires Thursday, May 28 at 11:59pm.

About the event:

The epitome of a postmodern musician, Arthur Russell changed the rules in his much-too-brief lifetime. The Iowa-born composer, cellist and singer entered the Downtown NYC scene in the 1970s—and by the time he passed away in 1992, his influence had permeated virtually every aspect of it. Be it as the musical director of experimental art space The Kitchen; collaborator to Allen Ginsberg, David Byrne, and Ali Akbar Khan; disco innovator with his Loose Joints and Dinosaur L projects; or extraordinary solo musician—Arthur Russell was a master of many trades. To honor his legacy, the Red Hot Organization released the compilation Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell!, featuring more than 20 artists paying musical tribute. Over the course of two special evenings at BAM, the Red Bull Music Academy teams up with Red Hot to bring together an all-star cast of musicians to bring the compilation to life.

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First-ever Ottawa International Music Conference kicks off May 29–31 http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/events/ottawa-international-music-conference-returns-may-29th-31st/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/events/ottawa-international-music-conference-returns-may-29th-31st/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 21:14:13 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48608 If you’re in the Great White North next week, be sure to hit the very first Ottawa International Music Conference....

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11111038_757340294382582_5785888832129875553_n-1

If you’re in the Great White North next week, be sure to hit the very first Ottawa International Music Conference. An essential platform for live music audiences, venues, and artists to connect in the Canadian capital, the conference will host acts from Brooklyn, Paris, Tokyo, San Francisco, Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Chicago.

Spanning three nights of performances and two days of convention functions, the focus of the OIMC is showcasing groundbreaking acts and solidifying the local creative community through the events, seminars, workshops, panels, and parties. Highlights include a Souljazz Orchestra show on Saturday, and Kenny Dope spinning the closing warehouse party on Sunday.

Tickets available here.

 

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James Brown performs “Sex Machine” on Late Night with David Letterman, 1982 http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/james-brown-performs-sex-machine-on-late-night-with-david-letterman-1982/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/james-brown-performs-sex-machine-on-late-night-with-david-letterman-1982/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 17:12:52 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48590   As David Letterman winds down his multi-decade television career, many are reminiscing about the plethora of musical guests he...

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As David Letterman winds down his multi-decade television career, many are reminiscing about the plethora of musical guests he has hosted over the years. We dug around in the archives and found this gem for you. On July 12, 1982, James Brown made a special appearance on Letterman, singing “Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine,” “There Was a Time,” and “I’ve Got the Feelin’.”

Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band did a great job of providing a sparse, tight, and funky backing track for the Godfather of Soul, who brought in a couple players from the JB Horns. Guitarist Hiram Bullock is solid on guitar, along with bassist Will Lee, and drummer Steve Jordan, who proved he could keep up and, in fact, was the one who chose to play “Sex Machine” when JB asked the band what they wanted to play (according to Shaffer’s memoir, recounted here). Bullock chose “There Was a Time.”

“On ‘Sex Machine,’ James wanted a fast tempo,” Shaffer wrote. “That’s the tradition of live R&B. It’s all about energy. Steve Jordan, though, was a young buck who wanted to re-create the groove he’d heard on wax. He didn’t quite understand that when you deal with the Godfather of Soul, you put the groove where he wants it. James won out and the funk got thick.”

The best part is when James runs over to the piano during “Sex Machine” to play the iconic lick and Paul just stops playing his B-3 to watch over his shoulder.

Dave bumped a guest so that JB and the band could run through “I’ve Got the Feelin'” at the end of the show, a spontaneous idea that everyone jumped on.

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Listen to Alan Watts talk about Zen Buddhism accompanied by new music from Antibalas horn man Jas Walton http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/contests/listen-to-alan-watts-talk-about-zen-buddhism-accompanied-by-new-music-from-antibalas-horn-man-jas-walton/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/contests/listen-to-alan-watts-talk-about-zen-buddhism-accompanied-by-new-music-from-antibalas-horn-man-jas-walton/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 19:53:26 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48434 Win a copy of the vinyl!

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We’re giving away a vinyl copy of the album Face the Facts. Simply email contest[at]waxpoetics.com with the subject ALAN WATTS and be sure to include your full name and mailing address.

 

“When we listen to music we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present,” said the great philosopher and Zen scholar Alan Watts.

In celebration of his one hundredth birthday, Figure & Ground Records is releasing Face the Facts: Words by Alan Watts on May 19. The 10-inch vinyl EP samples recordings of Watts’s seminar sessions, backed with new music by Jas Walton, known for his work as a saxophonist with Antibalas.

“It started in 2012,” says Walton, “when I was just experimenting with making music by myself at home, making these vamping chord progression loops that satisfied a certain itch to hear certain harmonies over and over again. One day on a whim, because I like music with found field recordings, I decided to drop Watts’s voice in and see how it matched up rhythmically. Some things worked and some things didn’t, so then I thought, ‘Well, I can nudge this word a little late or nudge that phrase a little early.’ And then one day I just got totally carried away and I was like, ‘You know what, I have all afternoon, I’m gonna be strict about every word falling in line.’ That was the first one that I did, and then I kind of got the hang of it.”

Face the Facts is available for pre-order at Figure & Ground and comes with an instant download of the track “Sound of the Rain,” heard here.

Read more:

This EP is a collaboration with the Alan Watts Audio Archive, co-curated by Mark and Henry ‘Sandy’ Jacobs. Sandy produced Alan Watts’s early psychedelic LPs such as Haiku (1959) and This is IT (1962) on the MEA label and hand built the radio network for Watts’s audio recordings. As well as rare archival photos dug up by Mark, the eight-page booklet features in-depth interviews with him about his father’s public-speaking career and with Sandy about the early recording sessions and the explosive San Francisco cultural scene of the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Jas says of the music: “Alan Watts talks with such a great cadence and natural sing-songy rhythm; there’s freedom in his phrasing from a strictly phonetic point of view. It is mostly just so captivating and feels good to listen to. I thought it would feel even better to contextualize the words by setting them in the rhythmic grid. Against this background, the figure—if you will—comes to life a little bit more.

“There’s a trance aspect to the music: the idea that if there’s a repeating rhythm or groove, it allows the listener a kind of meditative experience. The deeper into that repeating figure you go, the more you can give yourself to it. Afrobeat is very heavily couched in that; I remember someone explaining to me that that’s why Fela’s songs are so long. The band would play for 10 or 15 minutes with an instrumental solo to get people really down into it. That’s when Fela would start singing, and that’s where the message would be. I like the idea that the music itself kind of takes you away and then, to quote Alan Watts, it sort of ‘sugars the pill.’ It makes it a little easier to get into.”

Born and raised in midcoast Maine, Jas moved to New York City where his eclectic musical interests quickly took root. He most recently performed as part of the Luaka Bop’s William Onyeabor tribute shows at BAM and on tour, with Jovanotti, Antibalas, and EMEFE, as well as with The Roots, Father Figures, Superhuman Happiness, Kronos Quartet, Asphalt Orchestra, and Josh Garrels.

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Fluevog Shoes opens new store in Venice, California http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/fluevog-shoes-opens-new-store-in-venice-california/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/fluevog-shoes-opens-new-store-in-venice-california/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 19:19:37 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48584 On May 15, the 45th annual International Fluevog Day, longtime advertising partner Fluevog Shoes is opening a new store in...

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Fluevog Shoes, Venice

On May 15, the 45th annual International Fluevog Day, longtime advertising partner Fluevog Shoes is opening a new store in Venice, California, on 1327.5 Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Check the Wax Poetics Twitter feed for a chance to win a $100 gift card to Fluevog Shoes!

 

ABOUT JOHN FLUEVOG:

John Fluevog is an independent designer and retailer of forward-thinking footwear and accessories. Since 1970 he has been steadfast in creating unique soles for unique souls that have been seen everywhere from the feet of Madonna and Jack White to the runways of high fashion. John Fluevog Shoes was recently named one of the world’s most innovative companies in the fashion industry by creative business experts FastCompany, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art showcased an image of Fluevog’s footwear on both a calendar and postcard. Recently, John was recognized by The Two/Ten Foundation of Canada as The Canadian Footwear Industry’s Shoe Person of the Year.

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L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae premiere “Death Valley” video http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/lorange-jeremiah-jae-premiere-death-valley-video/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/lorange-jeremiah-jae-premiere-death-valley-video/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 19:21:17 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48579   L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae dropped the full-length The Night Took Us in Like Family back in April on Mello Music. The...

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L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae dropped the full-length The Night Took Us in Like Family back in April on Mello Music. The entire album has a crime noir feel, with rapper Jeremiah Jae’s dark, cinematic narratives and L’Orange’s moody sound pieces. The album is quite good and shines through the noise that is today’s musical landscape of too many banal releases. This one deserves your attention.

They follow up the release with the video for “Death Valley,” doubling down on the album’s noir element. Peep it.

Purchase the album on iTunes or be a G and get the vinyl.

L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae

 

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Enter those bloody alleys blocked off with yellow tape and chalk outlines. Secret backrooms riddled with sly crooks and blunt smoke. Slink into the underworld, the seedy shadowland owned by Jeremiah Jae and L’Orange on their opus, “The Night Took Us In Like Family.”

Consider it the alchemy of Madvillain and “The Maltese Falcon”: a five-part fable of tangled crimes, narrow escapes, and raining lead. The door busts open with “A Conspicuous Man.” L’Orange’s carefully severed cinematic clips hold the frame steady. The Windy City-raised Jae muscles the narrative forward—the hitman creeping.

Beats bend sinister with imagery aiming for the temples. Jae invokes dark clouds, crowns of thorns and LSD eyes. Bars written in dirt. Samples are disembodied and ethereal. It’s like a grand jury indictment doubling as a Greek chorus.  A song title like “Ice Obsidian” says it all. This is frozen lava, black and white celluloid, the spoils won by sinners. Watch your back rap.

Or maybe it’s the hip-hop version of the gangster flicks made before the Hays Code—raw and uncensored, deeply artful without pretension. Pitchfork once described Jae as: “a lot of people talk loud and say nothing; Jeremiah Jae finds strength in the inverse.” On “The Night Took Us In Like Family,” he inhabits both eulogizer and executioner. He triumphantly looms over the corpses and explains how this all came to be. L’Orange supplies concrete requiems of dusted soul: beats to crack safes, soundtracks to stealth assassinations.

If gangsta rap remains one of the genre’s most well worn tropes, Jae and L’Orange take inspiration from the rarely tapped roots of the tradition. This isn’t riffing on Oliver Stone’s “Scarface” like popular cliché, but rather the original Al Capone exploitation flick from the early 30s. Jae conjures a villain who vaporizes. Run-the-Jewels-raw but still sophisticated. Cuban cigars stuffed with California chronic.

The picture unfolds wide frame. Guest stars include New York poison dart-thrower, Homeboy Sandman and Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab. The chapters flesh out the story: The Conspicuous Man skulks into “God Complex,” “The Damning,” “Revenge and Escape.” Jae and L’ Orange build their world as a catacomb and find a way to escape just as the walls feel like they’re closing in. It fades out as “A Macabre Instrumental” plays. The funeral is closed casket. The memories aren’t easily disposed.

 

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You call yourself a collector? Records are just the beginning. http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/blog/you-call-yourself-a-collector-records-are-just-the-beginning/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/blog/you-call-yourself-a-collector-records-are-just-the-beginning/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 01:21:33 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48574 So you got a few records and some old games, and fancy yourself a collector? It’s a start, but for...

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Collector Eric Edwards

So you got a few records and some old games, and fancy yourself a collector? It’s a start, but for some of us records are just the tip of the iceberg. Case in point, former AT&T executive Eric Edwards. While he’s got 40,000 LPs in his Brooklyn apartment, he’s also housing a 1,600-piece collection of African art worth about $10 million. Documentary filmmaker Mark Zemel tells Edwards’s story in his new documentary short The Collector, which he hopes to turn into a full series about collectors.

With a collection accumulated over forty-four years from all fifty-four African countries, Edwards hopes to open the Cultural Museum of African Art in Brooklyn next summer to give his collection a proper permanent home. In the meantime, he’s more than happy to share his apartment with a collection that’s clearly part of who he is. “I live with my art,” he says. “It’s part of what gives me sustenance, and direction, and sanity. All of the pieces that you see around here represent my psyche.”

H/T Gothamist

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The Whispers “Keep On Lovin’ Me” music video from 1983 http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/the-whispers-keep-on-lovin-me-music-video-from-1983/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/the-whispers-keep-on-lovin-me-music-video-from-1983/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 23:26:11 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48565   From 1983’s Love for Love, released on Solar Records and produced by the great Leon Sylvers, Los Angeles R&B quintet...

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From 1983’s Love for Love, released on Solar Records and produced by the great Leon Sylvers, Los Angeles R&B quintet the Whispers’ funky boogie track “Keep On Lovin’ Me” got a fresh music video treatment.

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Bishop Nehru drops free EP Nehruvia: The Nehruvian ahead of his Mass Appeal debut http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/new-releases/bishop-nehru-drops-free-ep-nehruvia-the-nehruvian/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/new-releases/bishop-nehru-drops-free-ep-nehruvia-the-nehruvian/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 20:22:15 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48537 Off the heels of his NehruvianDOOM release, and prior to his Nas-helmed debut for Mass Appeal Records, New York phenom...

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Off the heels of his NehruvianDOOM release, and prior to his Nas-helmed debut for Mass Appeal Records, New York phenom Bishop Nehru drops a free, eight-track EP entitled Nehruvia: The Nehruvian EP.

“Some old, some new. Just too raw sonically for the album,” Bishop explains. “And I wanted to put more music out.”

Read the Wax Poetics interview.

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New York phenom Bishop Nehru is the new Golden Child of hip-hop http://www.waxpoetics.com/features/articles/new-york-phenom-bishop-nehru-is-the-new-golden-child-of-hip-hop/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/features/articles/new-york-phenom-bishop-nehru-is-the-new-golden-child-of-hip-hop/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 19:59:54 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48536   “I have a lot of books. Right now, back home, I have The Kybalion and I have Stellar Man;...

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“I have a lot of books. Right now, back home, I have The Kybalion and I have Stellar Man; books for Hermetic principles and things like that. I have books on color: color as a frequency and how certain color affects the body… I read all kinds of stuff,” says young hip-hop artist Bishop Nehru, born Markel Scott, down a telephone line stretching from Beverly Hills, California, to Hackney, London, before continuing: “I used to read heavily, but lately I haven’t been finding a lot of time to…”

Losing the habit of reading at any age is a real shame. But, when you consider how rapidly the career of Scott has snowballed in recent years, opening up shows for Wu-Tang Clan and Nas and picking up collaborations with the likes of MF DOOM, you have to cut the kid some slack. Books may not be the sole focus in the world of Nehru right now, but, his expansion creatively and spiritually has been positively exponential.

Wax Poetics Issue 61 Bishop Nehru

 

Purchase Wax Poetics Issue 61 

 

Let’s go back to the beginning. Scott grew up in Rockland County, New York, which he describes as being a “pretty normal New York town. [My family was] quite musical [and] there were a lot of different genres being played around for sure.” It makes sense then that Scott’s own tastes in music, as in literature, are impressively varied. An independent thinker since his school days, he remembers, “It was really one-sided and pretty uniformed. A lot of people liked the same stuff, but I liked my own. I was into anime and things like that, and in school a lot of the people I was surrounded by weren’t into the same things as me.”

In “So Alone,” a song from his new DOOM-produced record, NehruvianDOOM, he expresses lyrically how having unique interests that did not conform to the norm led to him spending a considerable amount of time on his own: “Thinking different so nobody wanted to stick with him.”

And so, predisposed to spending time alone, he explains how he discovered the music that influences his own and the theologies that now pepper his songs and make them so intriguing: “Everything pops up on its own. Through me being alone, doing my own research and my own thing, I pretty much gathered my own information. Learning more and reading more,” he says with a thoughtful laugh, “and getting more interested in reading more.”

When he talks of the jazz artists he loves, you could easily mistake Nehru for being decades older than he really is: “I listen to jazz often, never stopped listening to jazz. Which artists? Everybody. Louis Armstrong, Roy Ayers, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, I could go on for days.” But when he cites a release from 2006 as one of the first records that he really cherished, it serves as a gentle reminder of Nehru’s young age, just eighteen. “A record that I first really fell in love with? It would probably be one that my mom played a lot,” he says. Often the way. “My mom played a lot of Pharrell; she liked his first album a lot. So I would probably have to say the first album I fell in love with was the Pharrell album In My Mind. It was the first record where I could really take in an album and form an opinion on music. As I got older, I started listening to different sounds, and then I started to want to make music.”

Bishop Nehru by Robert Adam Mayer

Photography by Robert Adam Mayer

 

Starting out at thirteen, Scott was making jazz-infused hip-hop instrumentals under the moniker “Kelz Scott,” which later became “Kile Kanvas.” He began to make a name for himself by sharing his work online within forums on Hypebeast and Odd Future Talk, amongst others, garnering endless plays and praise for his talent. And since his early days, Scott has been keenly involved in all aspects of creating, having a clear overall vision for his music and involved in video and artwork elements. “I like to do everything as far as art,” he concludes, and admits to being inspired by artists who similarly craft all facets of their persona. “I’m influenced a lot by artists as a whole. Michael Jackson, people don’t know that he did a lot of his own stuff. And Spike Lee, he’s not a rapper, but I still consider him an artist, you know. Tim Burton, there’s so many different people. I get inspired by a lot of different things, it’s not just music that influences me.” His aspirations are likewise not limited to just music, as Scott has been vocal about his ambitions to eventually branch out into acting and directing.

 

Listen to Bishop Nehru’s new EP

 

While taking cues from his favorite artists, he looks to his own life and circle to draw inspiration for his own creative work, contributing to the personal tone of much of his writing: “Pretty much whatever it is that I feel. Whatever emotion or feeling and pretty much just going with it. It could be me and my life, or somebody I know’s life and something that happened to them.”

Leaving behind the days of Kile Kanvas, he took on his current title: Bishop Nehru. “Bishop” being in reference to Tupac Shakur’s character in the 1992 movie Juice, and “Nehru” being a nod to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian prime minister who was tutored under and became the political heir to Gandhi.

The bold juxtaposition of two strong and strikingly different figures befits Scott’s uniquely assured ambition and intelligence. Like Juice’s Bishop, Scott is a young kid with something to prove, as evidenced from “Great Things”: “I’m hoping I don’t grow old before I show the whole globe / What I know and what I see / Plus who I plan to be.” But, with an enlightened perspective akin to Jawaharlal Nehru: “That’s a man of peace / Got Gandhi in his genes / So you gotta get the theme / Others parking while I speed / Am I targeting to lead? / Peace.”

Bishop Nehru by Robert Adam Mayer

Photography by Robert Adam Mayer

 

In November 2012, he put out his debut mixtape Nehruvia. It featured clever rhymes wrapped in tight rhythmic flow over a mixture of original production by Ghost McGrady and Scott himself, as well as the classic hip-hop beats of Madlib, DJ Premier, J Dilla, and MF DOOM. By aligning himself with such notable hip-hop artists, it was as though he was prophesying his future projects and collaborations.

Following on from Nehruvia, he collaborated with Aaron LaCrate on the hypnotic track “Appalled,” which provided a refreshing commentary on “lying” rappers who use violence to “bribe and inspire kids” and was a stand-out from LaCrate’s Milkcrate Mixtape in 2013. In the same year, he released the strictlyFLOWz EP, which further showcased his skilled rapping style and provided insight into the unique teenager’s mind. On the track “IntroVERTz,” he writes, “I’m used to being alone / Just me and symphonies.” He says the song refers again to “how introverted I am. I’m used to being alone and independent and doing things for myself.”

It was in April 2013 that Nehru opened up for Ghostface Killah and MF DOOM at the 100 Club in London and sparked a friendship and working relationship with DOOM that would see the release of last fall’s highly anticipated NehruvianDOOM. The concept piece, with a foundation of vintage DOOM production, features Scott relaying self-reflective lyrics with potency on the mic, and, occasional verses from DOOM himself.

Of where he found inspiration for NehruvianDOOM, he says: “The album is based on a lot of the things I was going through personally. It’s pretty much a chapter, I would say. Each song has its own separate theme, and its own way of connecting to that part of my life. Either from the titles to the beats, everything, it channels its own energy.”

As the title suggests, the aforementioned song “Great Things” talks of his ambition in a characteristically spiritual way: “I’m seeing great things in my vision, started with an intention / And then moved farther when I parted with my soul extension.” On his belief in himself from a young age, he elaborates: “I always knew as a kid that this stuff was going to happen, but at the same time, as a kid, I didn’t know the repercussions, that everything has the downside to it.” In “So Alone,” he touches on the pressures and negative aspects of success. It opens: “They calling me the newest teen prodigy now / Sixteen with big dreams, the world’s finally found / The next guy to be crowned / Still I frown because I’m drowning in stress / The amount I’ve allowed to devour my chest / It’s just off the meter and leave a Batista diva.” But, when asked how he handles those stresses—namely the attention, expectation, and demand—he says: “[Now] I just don’t do it. I keep doing what I want to do and try to stay just on my own art, the same thing that I’ve been focusing on. I just do what I do.”

Bishop Nehru by Robert Adam Mayer

Photography by Robert Adam Mayer

 

In the summer of 2014, Nehru joined Nas on tour, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Nas’s seminal debut, Illmatic. “I first heard Nas’s music when I was a little kid. I was born in ’96, so the first time I heard and could understand the words, it was like 2002, so it was probably around that time. One of my favorite Nas songs—period—is ‘One Mic.’ I remember seeing the video and thinking it was the dopest shit. When it comes in, it sounds really scary, for one,” he says, laughing, “at least for a little kid. And the video is amazing to me. It’s Nas just sitting in the room with a mic. It’s simple, but it’s a strong message.” And now, rather remarkably, Nas will be executive-producing Bishop’s own upcoming solo debut. The album is currently in the works, though, for now, Scott is keeping quiet about what to expect.

Despite possessing an impressive ability to forge creative partnerships with those he meets and build on those relationships professionally, the introverted side of Scott reappears when he talks about preferring to work solo: “Collaborating is cool, but I really do enjoy working by myself more than anything. There’s less to worry about, and you know, it’s more me. It’s like when you’re painting something; you don’t paint with someone else all the time. Know what I mean? Sometimes, you just want to paint by yourself.”

His inclination towards working alone suggests that he is still yet to truly come into his own with his music, and that as he progresses and grows as an artist, he may well excel at producing himself as a whole.

Plus, there is a purity to his drive: “I just like to make music. Sometimes, I don’t even want to tour, or go out to the events and places they say you have to. I like being home, making music.” Fittingly, his personal definition of success is beautifully rooted in the process: “Success is just doing what you want to do, and doing it to the point that it brings you happiness every day. I believe that’s what success is. Doing what you want to do and it making you happy every single day.” But, with a chuckle, he adds: “To be honest…I really want to win a Grammy.”

If he keeps expanding his mind, reading books, and aligning himself with such major players, Scott is sure be loaded with enough ammo to attack the industry, realize his visions, and achieve just that. As he raps on his 2014 track “You Stressin’ ” with U.K. dance group Disclosure: “Nehruvian’s getting larger by the second / You best invest in protection / The mind’s a lethal weapon.”

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DJ Monk-One’s mix commemorating Jay Smooth’s influential WBAI show, Underground Railroad http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/mixtape/dj-monk-ones-mix-inspired-by-jay-smooths-wbai-show-underground-railroad/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/mixtape/dj-monk-ones-mix-inspired-by-jay-smooths-wbai-show-underground-railroad/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 19:17:25 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48525 Wax Poetics contributing editor Andrew Mason aka DJ Monk-One spent some time spinning on Jay Smooth’s influential radio program, Underground Railroad....

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Wax Poetics contributing editor Andrew Mason aka DJ Monk-One spent some time spinning on Jay Smooth’s influential radio program, Underground Railroad. The WBAI show was founded in 1991 and focused on hip-hop and the jazz (and soul) cuts that were the building blocks for the sonic art. It was a New York staple and a must for any beatdigger that was trying to learn more about the roots of hip-hop. In fact, it was half the story about how the Wax Poetics founders met Monk-One in the late ’90s during his tenure with the groundbreaking show. Not long after, Wax Poetics was founded with the same mission of exploring the roots of hip-hop.

WBAI is moving its studios to Brooklyn, and Monk-One returned to the show on May 8, 2015, to play this commemorative set entitled “Back to Brooklyn.”

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Riot Goin’ On: The Lions roar with riddim and soul on Soul Riot http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/new-releases/riot-goin-on-the-lions-roar-with-riddim-and-soul-on-soul-riot/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/new-releases/riot-goin-on-the-lions-roar-with-riddim-and-soul-on-soul-riot/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 19:37:01 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48514 Consider the effusive catalog of Constantine “Connie” Price, a career that has brought Connie—real name Dan Ubick—into studios with everyone...

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The Lions Soul Riot

Consider the effusive catalog of Constantine “Connie” Price, a career that has brought Connie—real name Dan Ubick—into studios with everyone from Macy Gray to Slick Rick, Hollie Cook to the Heptones. The Californian guitarist/multi-instrumentalist has taken part in many projects (Joey Altruda’s Crucial Riddims, Breakestra, Rhythm Roots All-Stars), but the one closest to his heart, the one that best anchors his cache of influences, is a reggae-tinged effort with his group, the Lions. Says Dan: “I really just look at things from a ‘what sounds good’ perspective. I’m trying to add to the legacy and create something new.”

 

Win an autographed copy of the Lions’ new LP!

 

Like a good version of the form, the Lions’ latest, Soul Riot, doesn’t follow a wholly predicable structure. “We are all obviously inspired by Studio One, Channel One, Roots Radics, Sly & Robbie, et cetera, but are actively trying to add our own flavors. We listen to everything—’60s film scores, African, Brazilian, rock, Cuban, samba, funk, and soul—so our music reflects our melting pot of tastes. And it’s all served up on a bed of Jamaican inspired rhythms,” says Dan, who along with Blake Colie (drums), Dave Wilder (bass), and Dan Hastie (organ, piano) composed the majority of Soul Riot.

 

Many nods heard in their songs are playful yet respectful, breezy yet electric, evident in the killer cover of the Clash’s “The Magnificent Dance,” a propulsive number inspired from a Jamaican cut called “The Magnificent 7.” Dan, a huge fan of Joe Strummer, was profoundly thrilled to adapt Strummer’s genius to the Lions’ latest. Ubick, the son of a bassist who gigged with Billie Holiday and played for Lenny Bruce, considers himself part of a longstanding sonic progeny.

“I have been inspired by the Clash since seventh grade and always loved the disco remix of ‘The Magnificent Dance’ they did and thought it would translate really well with the Lions’ production. The Clash’s version was obviously inspired by the original Jamaican track, so it was fun to bring it back full circle. Plus Paul Simonon’s bass line is just so funky and tough.” Black Shakespeare, Malik Moore, Deston Berry, and other usuals contribute to the tableau of sound. Says Dan: “A couple of the Lions were friendly with Joe Strummer, and from the stories I’ve heard, he was super down-to-earth, so it was an honor to pay tribute to the man who inspired so many. I hope he can hear it up there.”

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Win an autographed copy of the Lions’ Soul Riot http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/contests/win-an-autographed-copy-of-the-lions-soul-riot/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/news/contests/win-an-autographed-copy-of-the-lions-soul-riot/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 18:38:36 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48518   Courtesy of the Lions and Stones Throw, Wax Poetics is giving away two signed copies of Soul Riot LP! To...

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The Lions 'Soul Riot'

 

Courtesy of the Lions and Stones Throw, Wax Poetics is giving away two signed copies of Soul Riot LP!

To enter to win, simply email contest[at]waxpoetics.com with the subject line THE LIONS. In order to qualify, you must provide your full name and shipping address.

Two winners will be randomly chosen on May 20 and contacted via email.

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The Jack Moves premiere new video for “Season’s Change” http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/the-jack-moves-premiere-new-video-for-seasons-change/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/the-jack-moves-premiere-new-video-for-seasons-change/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 23:14:07 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48490   Following up on the Mass Appeal premiere of their debut single, “Doublin’ Down,” New York–based duo the Jack Moves...

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Following up on the Mass Appeal premiere of their debut single, “Doublin’ Down,” New York–based duo the Jack Moves are back with “Season’s Change.” A slice of up-tempo, socially conscious soul, the video premiered today on HYPETRAK with the single being simultaneously released digitally on Wax Poetics Records.

Singer Zee Desmondes likens the track to an offering: “ ‘Season’s Change’ is a prayer for the power to make a positive contribution to a world in disarray. It asks for strength for those to whom such power is bestowed—that they may make a difference without turning away in fear of the responsibility that comes with the ability to make profound change.”

Performed, produced, written, and engineered by the duo in their hand-wired studio in Newark, New Jersey, the song’s lyrical content conjures up imagery of injustice, suffering, sacrifice, hope, change, power, the passing of time, and the strength of one person.

Set against another brutal East Coast winter, the “Season’s Change” video captures the duo’s surrounding environment in Newark, and the people and situations they see day to day. Newark—a victim of one of the worst riots in American history—like most predominantly Black American cities, is plagued by high crime and violence, low economic opportunity, and an overall dismal backdrop of failing infrastructure—be it abandoned homes and buildings, overcrowded and underperforming schools, or a fundamentally flawed criminal justice system that overwhelmingly targets minorities and destroys lives and families.

Zee adds, “The intention was to not only focus on the negative aspects, because, as one can see on a daily basis, there are numerous instances of hope, positivity, and love among those that are forced to live under such circumstances. This only makes their stance against all odds that much more powerful and transcendent and speaks to the core nature of all individuals, should they be allowed to prosper…goodness.”

The driving soulful sound of “Season’s Change” brings to mind Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield’s best work of the post–Civil Rights Era.

A limited-edition 45 of “Doublin’ Down” b/w “Seasons Change” is on sale at Wax Poetics Storefront. Download the track at iTunes.

The Jack Moves "Season's Change"

 

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Jazz guitarist Matthew Stevens plays “Processional” live at Toronto’s Victory Social Club http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/jazz-guitarist-matthew-stevens-plays-processional-live-at-torontos-victory-social-club/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/videos/jazz-guitarist-matthew-stevens-plays-processional-live-at-torontos-victory-social-club/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48498 Shot on location at Toronto’s Victory Social Club, guitarist Matthew Stevens and his trio run through “Processional”—wait for the change-up...

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Shot on location at Toronto’s Victory Social Club, guitarist Matthew Stevens and his trio run through “Processional”—wait for the change-up halfway through!

New York–based Stevens will be touring in support of his album Woodwork, available now at iTunes and on CD May 26 via Whirlwind Recordings.

Tour Dates:

May 22 & 23 – Bohemian Caverns, Wash D.C.
May 26th  – Jazz Standard, New York City
May 27th – Berklee Cafe 939 – Boston MA
May 28th – Pinhook – Durham, NC
May 29 & 30 – Blue Whale – Los Angeles CA

Read more:

A self-described guitar fanatic who fell in love with his father’s Jimi Hendrix records as a child and never looked back, Stevens purposely assembled his band to allow the guitar to express his melodies alone. His strings shimmer over percussive interplay on opener “Ashes One,” then weave a hypnotic groove on “Star L.A;” they sing the folk- inspired melody of the title track and roar on the album’s driving composition, “Uptown Dance Party.” The elusive “Sunday” continues the genre-bridging mission of the NEXT Collective with a haunting David Bowie cover, while “Blasted” pays homage to Wayne Shorter with its churning, circular melody. Stevens was recently invited by musical director Terri Lyne Carrington to perform at a fundraiser for the upcoming documentary Wayne Shorter: Zero Gravity alongside an all-star lineup including Shorter, Hancock, Spalding, Marcus Miller, Lalah Hathaway, Corrine Bailey Rae, Lizz Wright and Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Stevens possesses a rare ability to marry singable melodies with cerebral complexity, as on the tense, shifting “Sequel” or the knotty “Grown Ups.” A through-composed duo for guitar and piano, “Gently” mesmerizingly interlaces Stevens’ and Clayton’s expressive lines. “Brothers,” performed as a trio with Archer and Doob, embraces the sound of the acoustic guitar from the blossoming resonance to the scrape of fingers on strings. And this was no ordinary acoustic guitar; much of the album was recorded at the Clubhouse Studio in Rhinebeck, New York, which just happens to own an early-70s Lowden formerly played by late folk legend Pete Seeger. It was that axe that Stevens reverently wielded for this song. “Collectively we were each able to tap into what we all think is important musically,” Stevens says. “In my own experience there’s nothing that feels more exciting than that.”

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R. L. Burnside protégé Ted Drozdowski records Stax-inspired “Let’s Go to Memphis” with soul/blues singer Mighty Sam McClain http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/tracks/r-l-burnside-protege-ted-drozdowski-records-stax-inspired-lets-go-to-memphis-with-soulblues-singer-mighty-sam-mcclain/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/tracks/r-l-burnside-protege-ted-drozdowski-records-stax-inspired-lets-go-to-memphis-with-soulblues-singer-mighty-sam-mcclain/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 20:16:04 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48486 “I love Memphis. It can be a rough town, but there’s beauty, too, in its old streets and buildings. And...

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Ted Drozdowski photo by Bill Steber

“I love Memphis. It can be a rough town, but there’s beauty, too, in its old streets and buildings. And people. And I’ve always dug the sound of Stax,” says psychedelic blues guitarist and R. L. Burnside protégé Ted Drozdowski. “For years, I’ve wanted to write a song that caught the vibe of the old-school Stax ballads I adore, and wanted to write a song worthy of my friend Mighty Sam McClain—the last of the truly great traditional soul singers—to sing. When I wrote ‘Let’s Go to Memphis,’ inspired by a weekend there with my wife, it all fell into place. I had a great time weaving together guitar tracks, Paul Brown killed it on B-3, and then there’s Sam. To hear Sam’s voice on a song I wrote, and especially that song, slays me every time. It really is a dream come true. And I hope other people can feel the love in this song—love for my wife, for Sam, and for Memphis.”

Singer Sam McClain was born on the northern edge of the Bible Belt in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1943. As a five year old, he began singing in his mother’s gospel church, taking him to the stage of the Apollo Theater. “When Ted asked me if I would do a song with him,” McClain says, “hell, I couldn’t wait. When he sent me ‘Let’s Go to Memphis,’ I liked the title right away, because it was so Ted. I’ve heard him talking about Memphis and Nashville for so long. So ‘Let’s Go to Memphis’ was a no-brainer for me! I would have sung almost anything for a chance to do this with Ted. But ‘Let’s Go to Memphis’ is a great song, written by a great person.”

Ted Drozdowski’s Scissormen weaves together Hill Country blues, Memphis soul, and psychedelic/garage rock. The trio’s album, Love & Life, is out on July 31, 2015, on Dolly Sez Woof recordings.

 

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DJ Day remixes Lord Echo’s “Bohemian Idol” for a special-edition, split 45rpm 12-inch disco single http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/tracks/dj-day-remixes-lord-echos-bohemian-idol/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/tracks/dj-day-remixes-lord-echos-bohemian-idol/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 18:58:32 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48481 Hailing from Palm Springs, California, DJ, musician, and producer DJ Day has spun at the Root Down and the Do-Over,...

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DJ Day vs. Lord Echo

Hailing from Palm Springs, California, DJ, musician, and producer DJ Day has spun at the Root Down and the Do-Over, worked with Aloe Blacc and Thes One, and has the ears of Gilles Peterson and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Bastard Jazz Recordings recently linked him up with New Zealand multi-instrumentalist/producer Lord Echo (aka Mike Fabulous) as the two remix each other’s tunes.

California dance-floor champ DJ Day gives Echo’s iconic “Bohemian Idol” a 1980s drum-machine reggae vibe and lets the delay run wild, while New Zealand’s analog maverick Lord Echo transforms Day’s “Land of a Thousand Chances” into a live disco dub studio jam session.

Catch the limited-edition 12-inch—on 45rpm white-vinyl—dropping May 12 on Bastard Jazz Recordings, with pre-orders available now. And listen to DJ Day’s cut below:

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Cole Williams (Pimps of Joytime) and Nikhil P. Yerawadekar (Antibalas, Akoya Afrobeat) team up for “Peaches N Herb” http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/tracks/cole-williams-pimps-of-joytime-and-nikhil-p-yerawadekar-antibalas-akoya-afrobeat-team-up-for-peaches-n-herb/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/music/tracks/cole-williams-pimps-of-joytime-and-nikhil-p-yerawadekar-antibalas-akoya-afrobeat-team-up-for-peaches-n-herb/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 19:48:21 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48474 “We went in to record with no plan, and we came out with our cosmic roots on our sleeves,” says...

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Peaches N Herb

“We went in to record with no plan, and we came out with our cosmic roots on our sleeves,” says multi-instrumentalist/producer Nikhil P. Yerawadekar of his new project with Cole Williams (known for her work with Pimps of Joytime and Joey Bada$$’s “Chicken Curry,” among other projects). “I miss the duets of the ’70s,” says Cole, and it’s a fitting sentiment of the sound, heard here in their single “Peaches N Herb.” Nikhil follows up with a more specific reference: “ ‘Peaches N Herb’ is our Rorschach test of Donny & Roberta, Fela, and space.”

“Peaches N Herb,” releasing on May 5, was played and programmed by Nikhil, known for his work in Antibalas and Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble. Additional drumming was provided by Sam Merrick (Kendra Morris).

Nikhil is presently supporting a full-length album from his band Low Mentality, while Cole Williams is working on a solo album under the moniker ThatsMyCole.

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Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, and the most memorable boxing entrances http://www.waxpoetics.com/features/guest-blog/manny-pacquiao-floyd-mayweather-and-the-most-memorable-boxing-entrances/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/features/guest-blog/manny-pacquiao-floyd-mayweather-and-the-most-memorable-boxing-entrances/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 01:35:37 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48463 Floyd Mayweather stood prancing in his dressing room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, long after his cue to...

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LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out (Lenticular)

Floyd Mayweather stood prancing in his dressing room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, long after his cue to enter the arena for the fight against Oscar de la Hoya on May 5, 2007. When his handler propped a Mexican sombrero on his head, Mayweather adjusted it with his gloves and walked out stone-faced adorned in a robe with the colors of the Mexican flag, while superstar 50 Cent walked alongside him rapping “Straight to the Bank.” Mayweather then proceeded to make taco meat out of De la Hoya during the fight.

The sombrero was an idea inspired by his uncle, Roger Mayweather, who used it during ring entrances against Mexican fighters in his heyday as a boxer.

“I want to be as original as possible with my ring walks,” Floyd told Wax Poetics recently. “Sometimes I’ll pick up something I’ve seen in the past, like wearing the sombrero for the De la Hoya fight because my Uncle Roger wore one when he fought Julio Cesar Chavez. He used it as a psychological weapon against his opponent. But I always create a special moment that I can remember and so can the fans.”

Manny Pacquiao is a genuinely good-natured person. He laughs hysterically as he watches a video on his cellphone of Drake doing a spot-on imitation of Manny at the ESPY awards ceremony. Drake is singing “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. As Drake, dressed like Manny, turns his “F’s” into “B’s” to replicate Manny’s Filipino accent, he gets Manny’s mannerisms, his accent and his affect down pat.

“You worried about Mayweather?”

“Well, to me, it’s warmer in July, so I’m not really worried about the May weather,” Drake, imitating Manny, answers.

Nothing exemplifies what Manny means to the Philippines more than his ability to straddle many fields: professional singer, boxer and politician, who will be running for president of the Philippines soon. He continues to live in the Philippines in his hometown of General Santos City, South Cotabato, despite the fact that his wealth affords him options to live anywhere. Filipinos have rewarded him with unbridled loyalty. His handlers go so far as to tuck him in at night.

The “singer” part of his professional trifecta has been recently abandoned, amidst criticism of his singing abilities. “I love to sing, but singing doesn’t seem to love me,” he told Wax Poetics in a recent chat about why he stopped recording professionally. But still, his two recorded albums have gone platinum.

Music is very serious in the Philippines. Not following the proper protocol in karaoke in Manny’s country might get you murdered. When Manny winds down from training, he listens to Shakira, he says, because the rhythm of her songs are upbeat. He loves The Beatles, The Bee Gees, Dan Hill, Survivor and church hymns. He told a GQ reporter that he doesn’t feel nervous in the hours leading up to the fight, because he sings—sometimes it’s “La Bamba” or one of his own recorded songs like “Sometimes We Touch.”

Pacquiao recently ended his hiatus away from the music industry to record a personal entrance song and video for the fight of the century on May 2nd. The song, “Lalaban Ako Para sa Filipino” (Translation: “I Am Going to Fight for Filipinos”) recorded with composer Lito Camo includes lyrics about his commitment to the Filipino people.

I am a PINOY. We are PINOY

I will fight the world with my life at stake/I will fight for all Filipinos. 

I will fight for all Filipinos

I will fight for my country

 

“When I enter an arena, I get overwhelmed by the sheer joy of entertaining my fans,” he said.

Jimmy Kimmel attempted to perform Manny’s new entrance song, making fun of him, on his show a few days ago and joked to the audience: “Translated that means, ‘I’m gonna beat Floyd Mayweather’s face in.’ ”

The always affable Manny, after watching Kimmel, recorded a video thanking him for practicing his song.

 

§ § §

 

Like Manny, Floyd Mayweather’s career has been inextricably linked with music. He appeared on the ABC series, Dancing with the Stars in 2007. During training, he listens to hip-hop, soul and funk music. He has had close friendships with music industry insiders and started his own record label. From his partnership and eventual falling out with 50 Cent, to his live ring entrance performances featuring Justin Bieber and Rick Ross, Mayweather, if anything, is unpredictable.

In the November 2003 fight against Phillip N’dou, Mayweather came out in an extravagant coat outlined with fur and letters on his back that spelled “Philthy Rich Records”—Floyd’s Las Vegas–based record label at the time. It was a label that existed for over 10 years with many signed rappers, including Dirt Bomb and Poster Boy, but it never released an album.

The entrance song for the fight against N’dou was 50 Cent’s “Many Men (Wish Death Upon Me).” N’dou, a South African fighter, had been advised by Nelson Mandela to keep “Mayweather on the outside with the jab.” Floyd toyed with N’dou throughout the fight, and it was clear N’dou was outmatched early. Floyd beat him by technical knockout in the seventh round.

“I never know what I am going to do for the entrance until it gets closer to the fight,” Floyd tells me recently. He has used an eclectic variety of songs from “Hector’s Death” from the movie Troy to “Another One Bites the Dust” when he was carried in on a chariot against Arturo Gatti.

“I have oldies, some known favorites and then live entrances with a song by the artist leading me into the ring. I know what my fans like. Whether it’s a ring walk or weigh-in entrance, I can get a great recording artist like Lil’ Wayne, Justin Bieber or Rick Ross to perform, and I know my fans will love that even more.”

 

§ § §

 

Boxing has always brought out ostentatious and bombastic displays from its athletes and their handlers, from Jack Johnson’s expensive cars and clothes and his refusal to keep his hands off white women to Muhammad Ali’s charismatic boasting and rhyming and Bundini Brown’s hype man sensibilities. The sport has brought out some of the most captivating and curious characters in professional sports.

The arena where boxers have always had the chance to display their often outsized personalities is during their boxing entrances. Over the years, the gladiator-style entertainment of the entrances has become more elaborate, sometimes approaching the realm of an onstage concert filled with pyrotechnics, acrobatics, live singing and dancing, and once during one magical moment, a flying carpet. Music has been an instrumental part of the most memorable entrances and has become inextricably linked with the sport.

Equal parts promotional campaigns, egotistical showcases and psychological warfare, boxing entrances have provided some of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport: some intimidating, others ridiculous and hilarious. The evolution of the boxing entrance can only be likened to the evolution of Earth Wind and Fire’s increasingly elaborate and extravagant live performances. In the symbolism of EWF’s pyrotechnic experience, which included levitating guitars and pianos and vanishing Egyptian pyramids, there was always a story. The sweet science of boxing is no different. But the stories are.

“Liston used to be a hoodlum, now he is our cop; he was the big Negro we pay to keep sassy Negroes in line,” Murray Kempton wrote in The New Republic referring to his distaste for then-named Cassius Clay.

This was the conclusion Kempton came to as Ali and Drew Bundini Brown, Ali’s trainer and cornerman, continued to give Liston grief leading up to the fight–going to his house at 3am with a bus emblazoned with a sign that read “Must Go Down in Eight,” while shouting he was gonna “whoop Liston right now!” and telling Liston he resembled a bear. At the weigh-in, he and Bundini yelled over and over: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee AAAAHHH! Rumble young man rumble!” Liston thought they were certifiably crazy. Angry and off kilter, more than likely as a result of their antics, Liston lost to Ali. In a thinking man’s sport, you have to fight smart, not angry.

“It feels like the over the top boxing entrances all started with Ali,” says Sporting News writer David Steele, “Bundini would be walking in front of him and holding up the belt and he would be surrounded by handlers. It was a big long procession; a spectacle. By the Ali-Frazier fight every inch of the ring was packed with people. At the Ali-Foreman fight there was the shouts of ‘Ali, boma ye!” (Translation: Ali, kill him!)

At the Ali-Foreman fight, Ali walked from the locker room through a procession of soldiers donning rifles. The band played as the audience chanted, “Ali, boma ye!” Prior to the fight, there was a three-night-long music festival. Singer Lloyd Price was in charge of the festival which included performances by James Brown, Celia Cruz, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, the Crusaders, Bill Withers, Manu Dibango, the Spinners, Celia Cruz, and the Fania All-Stars.

Seven years after losing his boxing license after the U.S. government accused him of draft dodging for his refusal to fight in Vietnam, Ali became the heavyweight champion of the world that night.

“The Rumble in the Jungle was a fight that made the whole country more conscious,” Ali wrote.

As the years progressed, the entrance became the show piece for the personality of the fighter. By the ’90s, Mike Tyson changed the game completely.

“I can’t think of anyone before Tyson who had music blaring through the speakers as they entered the arena,” says Steele. “I remember everything he did felt different. And I remember the music just thumping.”

Mike Tyson began his career boxing when boxing still premiered on the Wide World of Sports. Then his fights began to appear on Pay-Per-View on cable television. That’s when things changed as the price of watching the fights went up. The fight—from beginning to end—became a real event.

As intimidating as Mike Tyson was physically, there was always something about him that inspired the need to protect him, mostly from himself. After converting to Islam during his prison time for rape, he donned a kufi, a universal symbol of peace and renewal, as he walked through the entryway towards the fight with Francois Botha. It was 1999, and the last time fans remembered Tyson in the ring he had been head butted repeatedly by Evander Holyfield and, in turn, bitten Holyfield’s ear like it was a Hostess cupcake.

It was perhaps the most bizarre moment in any sport ever. For the general public, Tyson had become an oddity, the Bigger Thomas of the sports world; alternately captivating and repulsive. For people in his old neighborhoods in Bed-Stuy and Brownsville, and for his trainer, Cus D’Amato, a man that genuinely loved him, Tyson represented a way for the ridiculed, feared, and disregarded to authentically enter the mainstream.

As Tyson made his entrance against Botha, he wore a T-shirt that read, “Be Real.” He walked out to the intro of DMX’s debut album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot. DMX’s debut album was filled with lyrics of a wildly violent and dysfunctional life of survival. The boxing announcer spoke over the music and sounding obliviously naive, he said, “Mike Tyson is entering to some scary and imposing music.”

The entrance song could be the soundtrack to a boxer’s personality or who he thinks he can be. Tyson was hoping for redemption. From two painful losses to Holyfield. From the demons that led him to prison and a boxing ban. He would get his redemption in the ring that night, back then the only way he knew how, by knocking Botha out.

 

§ § §

 

In the world of boxing entrances, there are three fighters that stand out in Grace Jones-style flair: Jorge “Maromero” Paez, Naseem Hamed and Wladimir Klitschko. Paez, a circus performer from the Baja in Mexico was skilled in showmanship. He would wear insane outfits for his entrances; a Batman outfit; and once a wedding gown in the ring. He traveled with a hairdresser that would style his hair in a Mohawk, once carved in concentric circles. He would often enter to Michael Jackson—“Billie Jean” or “Thriller”—and then breakdance. “Paez was really the first one of these guys that was charisma redefined,” said Marc Gerald, a literary agent and a good friend of Paez. “He did it differently because he did it from the heart. He didn’t do it just to attract eyeballs.”

Wladimir’s camp works tirelessly to outdo each of his entrance performances. In the match between Wladimir Klitchsko and Odlanier Solis, Wladimir walked up a spiral staircase with a hooded gold robe and rang a bell tower at the top of the stairs as “Hells Bells” by AC/DC played. Wladimir fought once in a closed roof soccer stadium in Germany with 60,000 fans with fireworks going off under the roof.

But Prince Naseem Hamed was the showman of all showmen. In a fight in 2000 against Augie Sanchez, he came out to Black Rob’s “Whoa”. He came out of a cutout of himself and began to dance while fire shot from various places around the stage. In April 1999, versus Paul Ingle, he came out to the R&B hit, “Love Like This” by Faith Evans, but there wasn’t one of him, close your eyes, and then one, then two, then three images of the prince appeared dancing under the spotlight. But that wasn’t the real entrance, he announced to the crowd, before he appeared in a retro convertible to Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.” Prince Naseem’s most grand entrance would be versus Vuyani Bungu, his last big production, he entered sitting on a flying tiger-skin magic carpet which soared over the crowd. He stepped off to walk with P. Diddy to the ring and did a flip into the ring. There hasn’t been a boxer since that can match the entertainment value of the Prince’s productions.

 

§ § §

 

Boxers and music industry folks have often been linked: think James Brown or Berry Gordy who both started their careers as boxers, and Al Haymon, a former music promoter for artists like Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige and New Edition. Haymon now serves as the adviser and manager for Floyd Mayweather.

Professional boxing has taken the lead as other major sports have picked up on using music to hype the crowd. Baseball players choose their theme music that plays through the loudspeakers as they step up to the plate. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation has a piece of the boxing pie with throne boxing (a hybrid event of fights and live music) on Fox Sports, with a deejay and a marquee musical artist performing between bouts. Al Haymon’s new boxing series, Premiere Boxing Champions (PBC), on NBC is looking to revolutionize the sport through music, while bringing it back to the mainstream on network television. Celebrated film composer Hans Zimmer was brought in for the show to create ring walk music just for the PBC series. It’s the first time that boxing, like UFC, has its own soundtrack.

On the second episode which premiered April 2, veteran sports commentators Bob Costas and Al Michaels are talking over the instrumental version of Migos’ hip-hop song, “Fight Night” before they’re joined by Marv Albert. Boxer Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin comes out in just a robe with the hood over his head to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” followed by his opponent, Andy Lee who comes out to Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker.” They both come out alone and understated, in an attempt it seems to class up boxing. It’s a reminder of simpler times and black-and-white television broadcasts on Wide World of Sports.

They are no entourages, no pyrotechnics, and fire blazing.

Just the music and the fighter—each representing the other.

 

Five Hype Boxing Entrances:

Because Chris Eubanks showmanship when he vaults over the top rope can only be matched by Naseem Hamed’s front flip over the ropes. There’s a reason why his theme song for every match is Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”

 

Ray Close vs. Chris Eubanks

 

Both fighters give a full concert: LL Cool J rapping live and Jimi Jameson singing. Even Jamie Foxx got in the mix.

 

Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley

 

Because no one is close enough to Roy Jones to tell him rapping doesn’t mean just make something rhyme.

 

Roy Jones vs. Clinton Woods

 

Katsidis’s gladiator outfit can only be matched in intimidation by B-Hop’s executioner mask.

 

Michael Katsidis vs. Kevin Mitchell

 

Hopkins says he got his executioner moniker from winning twenty-one fights in two years, twelve in the first round. There’s nothing more ominous than seeing his executioner’s mask as he comes out with Freeway rapping live .

 

Bernard Hopkins vs. Kelly Pavlik

 

Boxers on their ring walks:

Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero  – Former Four-division World Champion: “”When I walk out to the ring, I like to come out to songs that motivate me (Kid Rock). It usually has a nice beat to get my blood pumping. Sometimes I come out to Spanish music (Tigres De Norte) for my Mexican fans. When I’m in the gym I like to listen to a variety of different music but mostly old school funk or country.”

Lamont Peterson – Super Lightweight Champion : “Ring walk music isn’t something that has mattered to me like it matters to other fighters. Fighters put so much effort into it and I’m so focused going into that ring, that it is all I see or hear.  But, I love a wide variety of music and listen to it when I train. Anything from Drake to old school R&B. It depends on my mood and my workout.”

Danny Garcia  – Unified Super Lightweight Champion: “When I walk into the ring I like a current hip hop song that’s hot, not any particular one, just one that’s hot on fight night. I’ve had a lot of great artists walk me out to the ring. Jadakiss last time I fought, Daddy Yankee in Puerto Rico and Meek Mill has the Philly connection. My sister has sang the national anthem at my fights, so music is very important to my family.”

Bernard Hopkins – Future International Boxing Hall of Fame Member: “The ring walk music has transformed Bernard Hopkins into who I am today. I use the same mentality for my music that I do for my life, you can see that in the song choices. ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra comes across arrogant, but people don’t know the struggle, they don’t want to hear the drama. My nickname ‘The Executioner’ served its purpose and as I got older and was reminded of my age I wanted to reinvent myself; that was part of the fun. You have to think about, how do you want to showcase yourself? How do you want to market yourself? That’s why I’ve been able to reinvent myself.”

Shawn Porter – Former Welterweight World Champion: “Personal ring walk music makes me feel good. In the past, I’ve walked out to gospel music. It’s motivational and inspiration, not only to me but also to the fans watching. If I had it my way, I would continue to walk out to my own music. However, not entering the ring to my music for my last fight on Spike didn’t bother me.”

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An oral history of Baltimore club http://www.waxpoetics.com/features/articles/an-oral-history-of-baltimore-club/ http://www.waxpoetics.com/features/articles/an-oral-history-of-baltimore-club/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 23:35:22 +0000 http://www.waxpoetics.com/?p=48439   For more than a decade, Baltimore club has been the soundtrack to the city’s weekend. From the car to...

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Rod Lee and K-Life, Baltimore club

Rod Lee (right) with vocalist K-Life, circa 1993. Photo courtesy of Rod Lee.

 

For more than a decade, Baltimore club has been the soundtrack to the city’s weekend. From the car to the club, the sound is truly that of the city at its liveliest. Deceptively simple, the moniker “club” holds a rich history of Black Baltimore nightlife, beginning in the garage days of the late ’70s. The era is legendary, ripe with stories set in clubs like O’Dells and Fantasy, two of the largest.

 

Originally published as “Get Your Life” in Wax Poetics Issue 19, Oct./Nov. 2006

 

While hip-hop was catching on across urban America, dance music was holding its ground as the after-dark sound of inner-city Baltimore; rap was a street thing—the clubs played club music, and the club was where you experienced it. A new breed of nightclub DJs, however, would come to redefine club. No longer the sound of New York, Detroit, or Chicago, club became the tailored sound created by the city’s DJs to keep Baltimore on the dance floor.

 

THE PLAYERS

Scottie B: One of club’s earliest DJ/producers, half of Unruly Records

Shawn Caesar: The other half of Unruly, a formative DJ/producer

Mike Sky: Liaison Distribution, club’s main distributor through the years

Rod Lee: Perhaps club’s biggest DJ/producer to date

Mark B: An early club producer, currently produces cheer music

Dukeyman: Longtime club and house producer

Theo: Producer and vocalist

Booman: Unruly producer, early club and hip-hop producer

Bob the Equalizer (DJ Equalizer): A seminal DJ/producer

DJ Big L: One of the biggest current nightclub DJs in Baltimore

 

SET IT OFF

In the 1980s, Baltimore nightlife was as strong as ever, with O’Dells as the club of choice and Frank Ski, an early and important player, controlling the city’s air waves.

 

Bob the Equalizer: At the time, Baltimore club music didn’t even exist in clubs like Godfreys and Cignels. Thommy Davis wrote [Dem Niggas’] “Git the Hole” back then—real basic, but it was pretty cool. Nothing else was coming out [locally].

Scottie B: House was just starting to get big in ’85, ’87; Trax Records, Marshall Jefferson “Move Your Body,” “Can’t Get Enough” by Liz Torres. House was on the charts because Frank Ski played it on the radio. House people are a real finicky set; they don’t like to give credit to anything having to do with the radio, but, the fact is, house got big in Baltimore because of Frank Ski. He came from D.C. to Baltimore in ’85, played on WEBB AM for a minute, and then V103 FM picked him up, and that was it; house was coming.

Mike Sky: O’Dells was the club. Me, coming from D.C.—back then, you’re pretty much going to hear go-go and rap; you go to Baltimore and it would be gangsta dudes dancing to club music that was 120 BPM. All their classic records are around that tempo. It wasn’t hard for them to stay at that tempo with club.

Rod Lee: Motherfuckers would be packed in, both floors, past a thousand people. I went every Sunday. That was “Super Sunday,” the hustler night—drug dealers, that kind of scene. Shawn Marshall played that night. To see him do whatever he wanted to do, making all them females scream, I was like, “I want that. I want to be the slick dude.” So that’s what I started doing—I would go to the record stores and try to find whatever I heard at O’Dells.

Scottie B: Back then—I’m not lying—everybody in the city, thirteen to thirty, was out on the weekends. Everybody—I swear to God—was at a club! Mondawmin Mall [used to] be packed with people buying clothes to go out in on Friday nights.

Shawn Caesar: You didn’t have to worry about getting killed back then either.

 

Scottie B, Baltimore club

Scottie B (right) with Chubb Rock (middle). Photo courtesy of Scottie B.

 

HERE COME THE DRUMS

With house as the dominant sound, a new wave of DJs joined the city’s bubbling club scene. A unique DJ style, coupled with house’s domestic and import breakbeat fusion, would prove pivotal.

 

DJ Scottie B Baltimore club tapeScottie B: Hip-house started pushing classics out [of DJ sets], because it included all the stuff you listened to the classics for. There was a record made in Baltimore on Jamm City Records by Level Four!, “To Be Real”; it had [Gaz’s] “Sing Sing,” it had [Nairobi and the Awesome Foursome’s] “Funky [Soul] Makossa,” it had [Karen Young’s] “Hot for You,” and it had a lot of bass—it killed everything in one shot, a done deal. That was ’89. [Rob Base’s] “It Takes Two” kind of changed the whole shit too. It was faster than all the hip-hop records, and it was a little slower than the hip-house shit, so it bridged it all together. I ain’t gonna say [club] came from that, but some of it did.

Mark B: Early on, [DJing in Baltimore] was just about the beats; finding the beats on Chicago records or imports, and playing the intro using two copies. If you were fortunate, you could play the whole track for a couple minutes, but, a lot of times, the beats were only a few measures long. [The DJs] were playing for the young Black kids in Baltimore [who] didn’t want to hear any techno elements in there. I don’t think the average person would hear the song in its entirety—they would just hear what the DJ played, and, I mean, if you let it play past the break, you could lose your dance floor!

Shawn Caesar: When I was DJing at Club Fantasy, we were open from twelve to seven, so it was a nice night of diverse music. I’d start early with some real deep house; at two, we’d spark it, and then, right around three, we started getting into those breakbeats, and it got real gritty and hard. That’s really where it started. That’s what was going on in Fantasy and Godfreys, ’88, ’89. That’s where it came from, those imports we used to play.

Mark B: “On 33” by the Stereo MCs was a big one. [U.K. breakbeat group Is That It?’s] State of Mind EP, an import which was just a beat, [was big] too. [Mark One’s] “Hoovers and Spray Cans” beat was another one. [U.K. hardcore/breakbeat group] 2 Bad Mice was huge. Shawn [Caesar] would even play “Charly” by the Prodigy, but only the beat at the beginning.

 

Shawn Caesar and Frank Ski

Shawn Caesar and Frank Ski.

 

WORK THAT MOTHERFUCKER – THE ASR-10

Inspired by an audience keenly interested in bare rhythm, city’s DJs began creating their own exclusive DJ tools and edits for their sets, constructed entirely on what would define club music’s production—the Ensoniq ASR-10.

 

Shawn: [Our earliest productions] were all on tape or reel-to-reel. We used to lug around these ridiculously heavy reel-to-reels to play tracks off of. [laughs] Back then, it was the ASR-10; everybody had one, so you could make stuff at home.

Dukeyman: I started producing with my man DJ Precise; he bought the first ASR-10. My man got locked up after he bought it, so he had to sell it. Scottie ended up with it, and that’s when things started rolling.

Scottie B: We bought our ASR from Dukeyman. Shawn had it in his car with our broken DAT machine. Shawn calls me up, “Hey, they broke in. They took ’em!” Booman comes in the store two days later, and Shawn tells him, “Damn, they stole the ASR.” And Booman said, “And a broken DAT machine? Man, I just bought this from that junkie out there for $300!” So he said, “Man, if you got the $300, I’ll just give you all this shit back.” Now we got that same damn ASR, right there.

Booman: I don’t know what it is, but it gives it that swing. It doesn’t sound the same if I do a club beat on an MPC. The MPC is a little choppier, it’s a little more hip-hop; things are a little tighter. ASR sequences are a little loose.

Dukeyman: That was the signature club sound; it’s dirty, it sounds like trash. Trash is a good thing.

 

Bob the Equalizer, Baltimore club

Bob the Equalizer with Doug Lazy at the New Music Seminar, 1989. Photo courtesy of Bob the Equalizer.

 

RHYTHM WARFARE

Initially playing their productions from tape, the move to vinyl was made in the early ’90s. Not only was vinyl easier to work with, but money was to be made selling 12-inches in the city’s numerous record stores. The 12-inch releases would become the definitive format for the music.

 

Mark B: The first record I remember coming out of Baltimore was a white label with just loops on it; the “Doo Doo Brown” beat was on there. Then the second record would be “I Got the Rhythm,” where Scottie teamed up with the Equalizer, who brought out a bunch of records where he looped beats. Instead of having to buy two copies of these records just for the beat, you could now buy the beat already looped on a record.

 

Bob the Equalizer: When “I Got the Rhythm” dropped, it was on the radio top eight for eight weeks! This was not a record made for radio play; it was made for DJs to scratch and work. A lot of people did not get [that], but it got the livin’ shit played out of it! This was the first Baltimore record to have distribution worldwide. After that record started blowing up, the distributor wanted more Baltimore club music.

Booman: [Early on] Frank Ski did “Doo Doo Brown,” which got [the sound] real big exposure. That really kind of shaped it, as far as [club] getting out to the masses. It got the local radio more open to playing club.

Bob the Equalizer: I had my chops with house music. At the time, everyone was trying to sound like New York, Miami, Detroit, or Chicago. And before Frank Ski even dreamed about “Doo Doo Brown,” I was involved in a white-label project that kicked off the “Doo Doo Brown” [beat]. It came from playing “C’mon Babe” by 2 Live Crew live. He came out with his version much later. [laughs] Frank was a great promoter of music; he pushed everything, and was good for the music, but he did not create [club]—he imitated it and pushed it on the radio.

 

FIERCE-RULING DIVA

Though Frank Ski would become an aboveground figure of the burgeoning scene, another contributor would become a true club icon—Miss Tony. At first a regular, by the early ’90s, Miss Tony had become a fixture of O’Dells and Club Fantasy. At over six feet, hefty, and dressed in drag, Tony was hard to miss. Tony quickly became a Baltimore personality for his sense of humor and larger-than-life attitude on the mic at parties and on wax. Sadly, Tony passed away in 2001.

 

Scottie B: I knew Miss Tony way back in ’86, way before he was allowed to walk into a straight club, and he used to be down at Fantasy. Eventually, everyone knew there was this fucking drag queen that was big as shit. When O’Dells opened, he was known in the community, so he would get on the mic. Before Tony, we would just play records; DJs didn’t have MCs. [When he was on the mic] he had the whole fucking crowd! It was an accomplishment for him to do it, versus some regular guy getting up there; he wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. If you called Miss Tony a faggot, you were going to get your ass whooped by a bunch of dudes that sold drugs on Edmondson Avenue. Hip-hop is so homophobic; how this occurred, you can’t ever explain it.

Big L: You weren’t anybody in the club until Miss Tony knew who you were. If you got a shout out from Tony, it was on and popping!

 

The Unruly Crew

The Unruly Records crew.

 

IF YOU BELIEVE – THE UNRULY ERA

By 1994, the club sound was a major force in Baltimore—in clubs, record stores, and radio. With a community of DJs and producers behind them, Shawn Caesar and Scottie B would create Unruly Records that year. Baltimore club would flourish under their control.

 

Scottie B: We had an idea, a vision. We knew what we were on musically; we still had a love for house and hip-hop, but we knew there was this other shit we helped cultivate as DJs. We knew who was making shit in their basement; we got ’em all together and bam.

Dukeyman: Scottie and Shawn set it up like a business; you go in the studio and they pay you in a timely manner when your record comes out.

Booman: That was a great era! We were just coming into the basement and making stuff, you know, just for the air or for the clubs. We had it locked down; it was all Unruly DJs in the club and on the air. That’s when that real big explosion of Unruly Records came out.

Rod Lee: All of us were homeboys. It was something we created. Everybody who did a club record knew each other. It was a competition. Dudes would come out with something new, and it was like, “Ah, I’m a spank ya ass!” It was fun, and we sold out all our records.

Scottie B: Anybody who really knows club, knows the best era was pre ’98. They know that! That’s when [Griff & Booman’s] “Pick ’Em Up” and [Jimmy Jones’s] “Watch Out for the Big Girl” came out. A whole bunch of shit [was coming out], and not just us; DJ Patrick, Kenny B, Diamond K, and DJ Technics [were all doing] shit—with us, without us, whatever. [Other people] started around the same time as us, but they just didn’t put out as much. Their stuff wasn’t weak. They got classics, no doubt, but they were so [exclusive] with their people. We dealt with a whole gang of people.

Dukeyman: I had five hundred records of Theo’s “Shorty You Phat” when it first came out. I sold them all the first day, cash money in my hand, no CODs, no IOUs. I went to all the stores. That was ’96 or ’97…

Theo: I can tell you it was ’97, because I had that ’97 Tahoe. [laughs] Every person who had a Tahoe at that point was fucking—they were getting some ass!

 

ROLLIN’

By the late ’90s, Unruly had become the premier label for club. Capitalizing on this urban market prominence, the label expanded into more lucrative ventures. Even though Unruly cut back on singles, the music wouldn’t stop. As the label shifted its focus, Rod Lee was becoming a dominant force in the city.

 

Rod Lee: [Unruly] would come out with stuff once a month, two [releases] if you’re lucky. Back in the day, you could sell two to three thousand copies easy, so they just let each record grow. I was like, “Fuck that, man,” and I just started putting out three or four records at a time, six tracks on each record. Before you know it, you go in and everything on the wall is Rod Lee.

Dukeyman: Rod held it down on not using so many samples and coming up with his own concepts. He put the real back into it.

Scottie B: [Altogether] we released about forty to fifty records on Unruly in the ’90s, about ten a year.

Shawn Caesar: Rod took up where we left off—’97, ’98. We had a run and put out a ton of music. He just kept the music going. We kind of changed the focus of our company a little bit. We’re still in it, but working more with the DJs.

 

GET YOU SOME MORE – EPILOGUE

Baltimore club goes strong to this day, as a generation of DJs and producers who grew up on club continues creating. With the MP3 overtaking the 12-inch, the tracks themselves have gone back underground, in an era not dissimilar to the reel-to-reel-exclusive days of the early ’90s. Save for occasional Rod Lee or Unruly vinyl releases, tracks circulate through the city on CD-R, rarely hitting wax.

 

Scottie B: We’ve got three things pressed right now, but it’s a lot different nowadays; Philly is a bigger market for vinyl than Baltimore. Baltimore DJs will play CDs; they have no problem [doing that].

Shawn: For the art of Baltimore club, [releasing vinyl] makes a statement about the music as a whole and where it came from. With MP3s, there’s no business involved, but it’s growth. I want the music and genre to spread.

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