Tagged: rap

Beastie Boys – Sure Shot (Samples Jeremy Steig)

As I’ve said before, I’ve never been a huge Beastie Boys fan, in terms of buying their albums and listening to them all the way through, repeatedly. But a huge number of their songs have a large hold on my heart, and I’m guessing that there are plenty of people like me who will have been very sad to hear of the death of Adam Yauch, AKA MCA, at the painfully young age of 47.

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For us Gen Yers, who grew up with the MTV astronaut burned into our minds, The Beastie Boys were basically the first hip hop rock stars. Parents hated them, kids loved them, and they got both young and old very worked up for very different reasons. Listening to (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) as I write this I realise that it’s essentially an updated version of Summertime Blues.

But more than that, it’s their later work, and their other achievements that are the reason they have a special place in my heart. Their 2nd album, the cult classic Paul’s Boutique was amost willfully left of centre considering the fact that their debut, Licensed To Ill, was a global smash. They ditched New York for California and created an alternative business empire, including a record label, clothes label and even a magazine. They campaigned for Tibetan freedom, their organ player released some pretty class music himself, and a Fatboy Slim remix of  their track Body Movin’ became a staple of the big beat movement.

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Oh,  and apparently they invented the term mullet.

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Sure Shot is a track from their 4th album, Ill Communication, which catapulted them back to the forefront of popular culture. The video for the track Sabotage was directed by Spike Jonze, highlighting their links with the skateboarding world, and is now a cultural reference in its own right. But Sureshot was always my favourite track off of the album: powered by the mighty flute loop sample from Jeremy Steig’s Howlin’ for Judy, it’s the Beasties at their best. – raw, funky, with surreal lyrics that never fall into rap cliches.

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I’ll be playing a lot more Beastie Boys tracks this weekend, but this one is as good as any to get started with.

MCA by Fabio Venni on flickr

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Coldplay – Strawberry Swing (Sampled By Frank Ocean)

Well, music’s a funny old game, as Jimmy Grieves might have said.

Last year I wrote that Coldplay hadn’t done anything decent since their second album. I also wrote that I thought the Odd Gang Future Wolf Gang Kill Them Alll collective were a horrible shower of idiotic nihilists whom I had no intention of listening to again. Hmmm.

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So, due to the fact that it featured in just about every single one of The Guardian’s 2011 Top 10 lists, I decided to give the free mixtape Nostalgia Ultra by Frank Ocean (of OFWGKTA) a try. And I’m glad I did – it’s a beautiful concept album, full of retor touches such as tape playters clicking on and off, and basically consists of Ocean singing wry, down-beat but not misogynistic lyrics over tracks such as Hotel California and Strawberry String by Coldplay.

He doesn’t even sample them, he just sings over the backing tracks. And it works. Wonderfully. So much so that I really should have put Nostalgia Ultra in my own best albums of 2011 list.

It also made me realise that Strawberry Swing by Coldplay is just a lovely song. They still shouldn’t have headlined Glastonbury though.

Strawberry by Marc Falardeau on flickr

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Chuck D – Notice, Know This (Samples Otis Redding)

I downloaded  the new Jay Z & Kanye West album, Watch The Throne, last night and was, after my first listen, rather disappointed. Is this really the best that two of the most successful, innovative and inspiring hip hop artists have to offer? Boasting, girls, n***ers * bling? Much of it with beats & rhythms that sound like they’re out of the Bontempi organ demo songbook.

If it is, I’d rather they retired now and went off and enjoyed their millions in silence. And it seems I wasn’t alone in my disappointment.

True hip-hop legend Chuck D has penned a little riposte to Otis in which Jay Z & Kanye build a track around Otis Redding. I’ll let Chuck take it from here.

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Public Enemy by Thomas Ricker on flickr

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The Future Us’es Are Complete Idiots

rapping hobbit

I’m not normally a massive fan of The Beastie Boys, but an article in Friday’s Guardian reminded me of the teaser I’d seen of the rather bizarre short movie they’d made to promote their latest album.

Well, other than to say that it’s really, really freaking weird, features more cameos than Altman’s The Player, and features two different versions of The Beastie Boys, including one that arrives in a De Lorean from the future, suffice to say that it was brilliant enough for me to go off & download the album: hopefully it’s as good as the film.

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Oh, and who knew that Frodo Baggins would make such a convincing rapper?

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What’s The Best Song Of The Decade?

It’s almost as if everyone is determined to make me feel old.

As if to highlight the fact that in less than 4 months time it will be 10 years since I saw in the year 2000 dancing on Bondi Beach, Absolute Radio are asking their listeners to help choose the Song of the Decade. What scares me almost as much as the fact that it’s now pretty much a decade since the Millennium Bug failed to bite (due to the hard work of a lot of people according to my old colleague Richard) is that I’m really struggling to think of any truly great tunes that will come to sum up the noughties as other songs have for decades past.

The Arctics’ ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’? Good, but I’m not sure it’s really great. ‘One Day Like This’ by Elbow? I actually think this might win, but again don’t think it should. To paraphrase John Lennon, it’s not even the best song on that album. Maybe Eamon’s ‘Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)’ or Frankee’s equally charming ‘Fuck You Right Back’. No, maybe not.

It’s strange, and slightly damning, as for the last 4 decades I can easily name the best song. Sometimes I struggle to name just one. So whilst I list off the defining tracks of the 60s, 70s, 80s & 90s (and for me a Song of the Decade has to really define that moment in time, as well as just being the best song released during that period), why don’t you use the comments to suggest what the best song since 2000 might be.

60s:

Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone: This is, for me, the finest song of a very strong decade by a country mile. It seems to encapsulate all the different cultural strands that converged between the deaths of JFK and his brother Bobby, which are probably the ‘true 60s’: the optimism, cynicism, hope & despair that all came together in a psychedelic sexual explosion. And the infamous ‘Judas’ version from the Manchester Free Trade Hall is probably the greatest live track ever recorded.

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The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows: With the release of a new video game and some remastered albums, it really seems pointless to try and write anything new about The Beatles at the moment. But what I will say is listen to this track that they made after abandoning touring for the studio, then listen to ‘Setting Sun’ by The Chemical Brothers and try to tell me that The Beatles didn’t create techno in 1966 at the same time as writing a soundtrack for the original Summer of Love.

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70s

The Clash – London Calling: Though released in 1980 in the US, a year after its British release, this was very much a product of the 70s. From its denunciation of the sacred cow that was The Beatles (phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust) to its searing social conscience, this was the last gasp of punk before it was swallowed up by Thatcher & spat out as a tourist attraction to rank alongside the Pearly Kings & Queens.

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Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Whilst never a hit on the scale of the disco records that bestrode the 70s like glitter-laden giants, Scott-Heron’s slice of political beat-poetry would prove to be a defining influence on hip-hop, and as such should have its lyrics carved into Mount Rushmore, right alongside Lincoln’s head.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpqut

David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (1999 Digital Remaster): When he created Ziggy Bowie created the first imaginary global rock-star: The Beatles might have dressed up as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but that’s all they did – dress up. Bowie became Stardust, and in the process dived into a narcotic nightmare. And in creating this persona he also created a template that rappers & rockers would follow for the next 3 decades. The fact that he also became the biggest British act after The Beatles, managed to invent glam-rock & inspired the New Romantics is all grist for the mill.

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80s

Stone Roses – I Am The Resurrection: Like ‘London Calling’, ‘I Am The Resurrection’ was released as a decade gasped its dying breath, was very much of its time, yet inspired a generation of bands that came after it. With the blend of Squire’s Hendrix-esque guitar, the hip-hop influenced groove of the rhythm section and Ian’s Mancunian drawl, dripping with arrogance, this track is surely the purest example of a band at their peak, blissfully unaware that they’re about to blow it all.

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Grandmaster Flash – The Message: ‘The Message’, strongly influenced by Scott-Heron, was one of the first great hip-hop tracks and would prove to be one that was hard to top: whilst it wasn’t till the 90s that hip-hop truly ruled the world, this record showed how it might change it. Though the band look like failed auditionees for the Village People, the track, with its minimal, electro-influenced tune, shone a torch on life in America’s ghettoes at the start of the Regan years. And what it showed wasn’t pretty. A million miles from P Diddy & Kanye, but something they should probably listen to a little more often.

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Inner City – Big Fun: Reach for the lasers, I said reach for the ****ing lasers! Somehow, music made by weirdoes in Germany influenced rappers in New York before inspiring producers making music for gay clubs in Chicago from where it touched a generation of young Brits discovering ecstasy in Ibiza. House music was born. And before it spawned bastards like handbag, it was amazing. Probably one of the most influential records of the 20th Century, ‘Big Fun’ is also one of the most, well, fun.

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90s:

Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy: Like so many great records, ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ spawned a genre that wasn’t worthy of its name – in this case trip hop. But whilst trip hop was all plodding beats and vague noodlings, Massive Attack created a true soul record: soaring, inspired, epic – ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ still raises the hairs on the back of the neck today, whilst its video is a classic of the genre, shamelessly ripped off by The Verve at the same time as they were ripping off the song.

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Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit: Whilst I’ve come to think that Nirvana are one of the most over-rated bands of the 90s, at the time this sounded like the freshest slice of rock since the Sex Pistols (another over-rated band, more worth talking about than listening to, who have been granted immortality by their singer’s untimely death). By forcing MTV to play indie, or alternative rock as our American cousins would describe it, Nirvana opened the flood-gates for everyone from Green Day to Foo Fighters (yeah, I know) but also, unwittingly, set the scene for Limp Bizkit and a million shite emo bands.

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Dr. Dre – Nothing But A G Thang: Wu Tang Clan’s ’36 Chambers’ may have received more plaudits, whilst Nas’ ‘Illmatic’ may be most commonly suggested as the greatest rap album of the decade, but there’s no doubt that few had as much of an impact as Dre’s ‘Chronic’. Whilst artists & acts from Ice T to Dre’s own NWA could claim to have invented gangsta rap, ‘The Chronic’ was probably the finest example of the genre that has, arguably, shaped hip-hop, and therefore popular music, more than any other over the last 20 years. And in ‘G Thang’ Dre produced probably the best example of the genre; all smooth samples, shocking lyrics and, in Snoop Doggy Dogg (before he ditched the Doggy) the first true rap superstar of the 90s.

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So, the greatest songs of the 60s, 70s, 80s & 90s, or at least the ones that, right now, strike me as being the most influential. Let me know yours, as well as your vote for song of the noughties.

2010 by doug88888 on flickr

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Pharoahe Monch – Welcome To The Terrordome (Public Enemy Cover)

Terror on flickr

A friend of mine recently made me a rather lovely mix CD which ranges from quotes from the amazing Anchor Man to the excellent spoken word track Beyond The Son by Koop. But the thing that really grabbed me by the ears (so to speak) as I listened to it on the way to work this afternoon (I had a rather big pitch this morning which I can’t tell you about or I’d have to kill you) was something that at first I assumed was simply a remix of Public Enemy’s iconic Welcome To The Terrordome.

However, as the track progressed and I realised that it wasn’t just the music that was different to the original but some of the lyrics too, I realised that it was actually a cover version. And a quick text to my mate later I found out that the man responsible was Pharoahe Monche. The most famous track by Monch is probably the, slightly shocking, Simon Says (see below to see why), but his cover of Welcome To The Terrordome is a very different beast entirely.

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Where Simon Says is all relentless beats and incredibly blunt lyrics, seemingly concerned with nothing more than bragging (though this doesn’t change the fact that it’s an amazing track), Terrordome is based round an awesome soul sample ( Come On And Get It by H.D. Rogers according to Wikipedia, and if anyone knows where I can get that I’d be most grateful) and lyrics even more political than those of the original. For whilst Pharoahe Monche’s version of Welcome To The Terrordome is undoubtedly a cover version of the Public Enemy classic, it also aims to build on it.

I have to say that normally I’d shudder at the idea of anyone even trying to cover Welcome To The Terrordome, or just about any track from the amazing Fear Of A Black Planet (that means you, Duran Duran), but Monche somehow pulls it off. I’m not sure whether it’s as good as the original (I’m not sure there are many songs full stop which are as good as Public Enemy’s original version of Welcome To The Terrordome. But it’s certainly an hnest attempt to build on the rap classic and one that deserves your immediate attention. As does the original, in case you haven’t already realised that.

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Terror image by Mosieur J on flickr

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Chase & Status feat. Kano – Against All Odds

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As I’ve mentioned before I can’t stand any of the major breakfast DJs so have my car stereo tuned to Radio 4 (I find listening to news of the world’s imminent collapse on Today much less annoying than even 30 seconds of Chris Moyles). However if I get home after 7 I find that I’ve missed the excellent PM show and whilst I may be slipping gently into my 30s I’m not yet prepared to listen to The Archers and so I occasionally turn back to Radio 1.

Last time I did I discovered, courtesy of the slightly annoying Zane Lowe, 138 Noise and tonight Mr Lowe came up trumps again. This time the track that got me jigging in my car in a manner which really isn’t appropriate for a man nearer to 40 than 20 was Against All Odds by Chase & Status, with grime star Kano supplying the vocals. As with other recent cross-over hits by grime artists (and I have no doubt that it will be a hit) such as Wearing My Rolex & Dance Wiv Me, it sees these (undoubtedly talented) British rappers drop the rather down-beat personas they often portray on record for something a lot more upbeat.

And whilst I’m all in favour of artists keeping it real & telling it like it is, if it’s a choice between listening to another slow, slightly depressing grime opus, or a bit of old-school hip-hop, with a very funky (drummer) beat, some neat samples and great rhymes, I’ll take the latter any day of the week. And if it gives Kano the recognition he deserves, but has failed to gain despite numerous awards, then I hope that the British public do too.

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Ice-T – OG (Original Gangster)

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I was chatting to my sister the other day and mentioned (what I thought was) the classic line from the film New Jack City*:

Wouldn’t wanna be ya, ABC ya!

This got us talking about Ice-T who is absolutely amazing in the film and, at the time, seemed unable to do any wrong. The same year that New Jack City came out, Ice-T released the album OG, which is probably his finest recording. Whilst undoubtedly a gangster rap album its tracks have a sense of humour and sense of social awareness which was often totally lacking in the work of many of the lesser artists who mistook recording boring raps about guns & bitches for quality.

Unlike the work of Ice Cube and Dre Dre, the two other arms of the gangster rap trinity, Ice-T’s work has a much more classic slant, in terms of its use of beats and samples, with a more up-tempo feel and no sign of the G-Funk that saturated the work of Dre in particular. The title track of the album is probably the perfect example of this, with its racing beat, use of guitar samples and insightful rhymes: in many ways it resembles a West Coast version of Public Enemy, though with cynicism replacing the ideology of the New York crew.

Now that Ice-T is better known for playing cops in TV shows and mainly remembered musically for the uproar he caused with his Cop Killer track it’s easy to forget how influential he was but I seem to remember Bono saying that he was amazed at how popular Ice-T was in LA in the early 90s: if I remember correctly he said that Ice-T was bigger than Jesus. And that’s not something that an Irish Catholic in the midst of a particularly religious phase, as Bono was at the time, would be likely to say unless he really meant it.

*According to IMDB the quote from New Jack City was actually

So see ya, and I wouldn’t wanna be ya.

And watching the clip of the film below it seems that IMDB is right. But I think I prefer mine – but can anyone tell me where I might have heard it or did I literally imagine it?!

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Public Enemy vs DJ Zinc – 138 Noise (Wicked Devil Bootleg)

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Being a sad old man who spends his Sundays gardening and dreaming of roast potatoes, I tend to listen to Radio 4 on my drive to & from the station every day. However last night I was coming home a bit late so Radio 4 had switched from news & comment (Today & PM FTW!) to horrible plays. I therefore took the pretty radical step of jumping over to Zane Lowe on Radio 1 and within seconds I was very glad that I had.

The first tune I heard was a mash-up of Public Enemy’s iconic Bring The Noise (from the genre defining It Takes A Nation Of Millions…) with DJ Zinc’s 138 Trek (which I’d not heard before). I know that bootlegs or mash-ups are incredibly passée, but when they sound as fresh & vibrant as this, I couldn’t care if they’re as cool as John McCain’s wardrobe. Bring The Noise is truly one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time and is one that most people would be wary of messing with, especially as it’s already been reworked so well once before – admittedly by Public Enemy themselves, with a little help from their friends Anthrax (I don’t think any track excited my teenage self as much as this did, except perhaps for Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of).

Wicked Devil, for that is the name of the genius responsible for the 138 Noise bootleg, obviously had no such fears. He manages to make the track sound utterly relevant and, if anything, gives the lyrics as much of a boost for the 21st Century as Anthrax did for the 1990s. If it wasn’t for the fact that these days I’m more at home on the sofa, watching The West Wing with a glass of red wine (like I am right now) 138 Trek would have me throwing myself round the nearest dance-floor like, well, like a vaguely coordinated 30-something.

I’ve no idea whether 138 Noise is available yet, though the fact that Zane Lowe is playing it suggests that it soon will be. But if I do track it down (or if any of you can help me in my quest), you can be certain that I’ll be Bringing The Noise, just like I did in 1991. With The West Wing on in the background of course.

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