Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Burn a Stogie to this

I once worked at a cigar lounge in Montreal. Great place, lots of good people and one of my better experiences working in a bar. The music though, was absolute shit. They had a Dj who considered himself a funny guy but obviously hadn't bought a new CD since 1999 and they had the worst load of trashy electronica loaded for the times when there was no DJ in the house. Suffice to say, it made working twelve hour shifts a very trying experience. Right after I quit the job, I was sitting at an Egyptian airport with time to burn and I figured I'd try to make a mix of songs that I'd want to listen to if I was going to smoke a really cigar. This is that mix.

Burn a stogie to this

Howlin' Wolf - Evil
Ray Charles - What'd I Say Parts I & II
Minutemen - Hit Song
Johnny Cash - Solitary Man
Bob Marley - Concrete Jungle
Jay-Z - Ain't No Love (Heart of the City)
Dangerdoom - Mince Meat
Handsome Boy Modelling School ft. RZA, Mars Volta & AG
Basement Jaxx - Good Luck
New Age Sleepers - Fade Away
Nina Simone - Sugar In My Bowl

I'm pretty certain that ain't a stogie the Wolf is smoking...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Songs that are currently blowing my mind

Editors - "All Sparks - Cicada Remix"
The original is pretty good, but this version is just ridiculous.

Beanie Sigel - "What Your Life Like?"
Over the most intriguing beat I've heard in a while, Sigel creates the scariest and most hypnotic picture of prison life imaginable. This track from The Truth (2000) is not cheerful, but it shows why Beanie is one of the most important rappers still at it.

Kelis - "About to Hate Me"
For the record, I love Kelis. I will not apologize for it and although this track is more mellow than she usually does it, I find it quite grooving as well.

Obie's first album was a mostly subpar affair, with too many Eminem appearances and the lack of focus that seems to afflict every new artist trying to break into hip hop world. Shall we attend to the streets, or make club records? How many guest appearances can we squeeze onto the album? You'd think these people never heard Illmatic. Obie's found gold in the wildnerness though. Every track he's produced in that strange limbo between debut and sophomore album has been fierce and focused, and these are two of the finest and most recent. "Cry Now" features crashing horns and guitars, with the bass propelling things and Obie in full storytelling mood with a vicious and relentless flow. That one gets the blood boiling and with it's slower pace, "Black Boy" doesn't do much to cool that ardour. The horns lead on this one again, with some weird synths in the backgrounds just for variety and Obie on about life in the street. Definitely looking forward to this album.

Obie Trice - "Black Boy"
Obie Trice - "Cry Now"

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Southern trees, baring strange fruit

The last time I won a competition, it was at some dumb theme park where the carni had to guess your age. After guessing me six years older than I was at the time, I walked away with an ugly and oversized doll of some sort for my sister. An ipod nano is a much better prize, especially as I've been ipodless since mine was stolen/lost at Lit. 4GB will fit about a tenth of my music, but I'm definitely not complaining. I'm also much happier with what I had to do to win it, write about my love for Nina Simone. The contest was by The Fader and they notified me two days ago that I won and shipped my ipod along with four Nina CD's, most of which I already have but some of which is new and exciting, to me yesterday. Here's the letter I wrote to win. I went overboard with the metaphors a bit, but it's Nina and Nina must be writtern about with passion. It'll be published in the next issue of Fader too. Frigging sweet eh?

She'll leave fire in your eyes and coal in your heart,
Nina's beautiful and fierce, with a voice hard as a
machete. I can't get enough of that pain she sings so
true and that fervour, just this side of manic, that
drives her arrangements. That a woman should be so
delicate, so strong...

I love black music. I love soul. I can't deal with R&B
today. Too few of these artists sing with this
passion, this burning passion, anger, love and
experience that you hear in every note of Nina's
songs. Maybe Jill Scott or Lauryn Hill tap into that.
Erykah Badu sings with that righteous anger; Jaguar
Wright too. I love Nina because these women who sing
in her mold, echo her strength and her conviction are
wonderful in their own right, even as they are not
her. You hear these women, you see them perform and
you think majesty. Nina had majesty. It's undeniable
when she sings about black men hanging, when she sings
playfully of her lover, in songs she wrote that tapped
into life in all it's facets.

I love that she sang songs that felt personal (Just
Like a Woman), songs about the black struggle (Strange
Fruit, Black is the true color, etc.), playful love
songs (My Baby Just Cares), I wanna sex you up songs
(Sugar in my Bowl) and so many other things. I really
must stop gushing now. I love Nina and that I cannnot
deny. Let the world know. Thanks for putting her in an
issue and spreading the gospel.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Country music is my music

I'd like to point out an insignificant piece of informtion from this NYT article about the Dixie Chicks:

"The Dixie Chicks' two previous albums, "Wide Open Spaces" (1998) and "Fly" (1999), had each been certified "diamond" for shipping more than 10 million copies in the United States. Without airplay, "Home" stalled that March at six million."

The album that stalled sold six million copies? And Kanye West's opus, his crowning light and acheivement is struggling to sell three million copies? Fuck hip hop, you fools are working in the wrong field. Pick up a banjo, learn a little square dancing. Shit, Nelly must have got the message ahead of the pack. Damn!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Some early Jay-Z

There is something odd about finding an album years after its first release. I’m always being forced to think about music both in terms of its meaning and impact on first release and its relevance to me in this moment. The same thing happens with movies and it’s sometimes very disconcerting. For example, I watched The French Connection the week after I watched Bullitt. I loved French Connection, but found Bullitt severely lacking, from story to characterization to the driving sequence that made the movie famous and inspired the car chase in the French’s Connection that I loved so much.

Anyway, I’ve just downloaded and am listening to Jay-Z’s In My Lifetime: Vol. 1. It is not a good album. Released in the space between Reasonable Doubt’s commercial failure and Jay-Z’s ascendance to pop dominance with Hard Knock Life’s Annie sample, In My Lifetime finds Jay-z flapping around directionless, biting Biggie, making unimpressive threats and jumping on every musical bandwagon of the moment. The appalling beat that powers “Sunshine” is echoed in this garish video, one even Jay-Z can't defend.

Onto more inspiring things though, let's check Jigga out when he actually knows what he's doing. I was listening to Ne-Yo's album (slightly above mediocre R&B) when in the first five seconds of the track "It just ain't right", I heard a sample of someone who obviously knew music. It was obviously a sample, because there's no way Ne-Yo could have created that and then used it just to lead off the song rather than building the track around it. That layering of instruments and slow build up of goodness is something I miss in pretty much all contemporary pop music.

In honor of people who know what instruments are supposed to sound like, here is Jay-Z stealing from Isaac Hayes. The Isaac Hayes track, "The Look of Love," itself a remake has pretty much the most wonderful intro I've ever heard. Long, drawn and plush, Isaac has a full orchestra going with flutes, strings, horns, the guitar and horns punching in for some of the most exciting music I've heard. I've played the first 45 seconds of this track about a hundred times. Jay-Z's crew loses most of the orchestra, making the track jazzier and punchier but no less grandiose as Jay-Z talks over the intro before waxing rhapsodic about the difficulties of life on the streets. Except maybe Beanie Sigel, no one does rap like this anymore. Bleeding amazing.

Isaac Hayes - "The Look of Love"

Jay-Z - "Can I Live"

Jay-Z - "Regrets"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Spank rock

What is this, "Darling Nikki" for the new millenium?

"Ass shaking competition champ, ooh that pussy gets damp, pump, pump, pump that"

My mum hears me listening to this and she'll probably try to ground me. The music is fun though. For some reason I've been obssesed with all this simplistic dance music lately. Strip the music down to some enigmatic basics, kick up the bass, throw in the dirty lyrics and I'll probably bump it. Hell, I'm still listening to the Caps and Jones mix from February that has everyone from Too Short to Luke and D4L. Anyway here are a few tracks from the man who brought you "Put that pussy on me." Spank Rock was in town last week too and I would have liked to watch the room get insane and nasty, but it's pretty much impossible to make it to every show you want to see in this city. Anyway, go rock that.

Backyard Betty
Coke & Wet
Touch Me