De La Soul were the band that helped me truly fall in love with hip hop. 3 Feet High & Rising is a stone-cold classic. But then so are quite a few of their other work, including Stakes Is High, produced by the beat genius who was J Dilla.
I’ve just seen the ad of the year, and it’s Channel 4′s trailer for its coverage of the Paralympics (I rather liked their cheeky billboard as well which I have at the top of this post).
The ad, produced by Channel 4′s in-house team, is simply epic set to a blistering soundtrack in the shape of Public Enemy’s Harder Thank You Think(which includes a sample from an absolutely fantastic Shirley Bassey track called Jezahel): I hadn’t heard either track before but they’re both absolute belters.
The horns that Public Enemy sample from the Bassey song would blow the doors of a Mini.
So, here’s to Channel 4, Public Enemy and all the paralympic athletes: you have to watch out for wheelchair rugby (there’s a clip of it in Meet The Superhumans) – I watched an amazing documentary about it a while ago, and can’t wait to see it again.
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.
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.
Andy Smith’s Essential Selection mix for Radio 1 is one of my favourite ever DJ sets. Almost as good is his mix album The Document, which led to a number of sequels. And now, years after it first came out, he’s uploaded what would have been Document 4 to SoundCloud so that anyone can have a listen to a previously unreleased masterpiece.
Delivered to Universal records in 2008 to be released as a double pack CD with Document 1 & 4 (to celebrate 10 years since Document 1) but it never came out – I think Universal just wanted to sell the Amy Winehouse CD to every human being on the planet and couldn’t really be arsed about anything else but hey, thats major labels for you! Its been sitting on my harddrive for 3 years so you may as well hear it.
Smith’s mixes are almost instantly recognisable, so if you like the Document 4, why not head over to Andy Smith’s site and actually pay for some of his music.
And now, because you really shouldn’t need a reason, the 1st track from Andy Smith’s Document 4 mix, LL Cool J’s incredible Mama Said Knock You Out
So I’ve just got back from an amazing week in Cannes at the advertising festival, where the sun shone and we went to an amazing set on the beach by (apparently) Tiesto. And now, I’m at home, on the sofa, watching footage of people at Glastonbury dancing in the rain. Which I’m actually pretty happy about.
What’s slightly strange is that the Glastonbury coverage includes lots of clips of people like Chipmunk, who have taken modern British black music to the very top of the charts. And yet one of the stand-out tracks that Tiesto played was Ruffneck by The Freestylers, a bunch of multi-cultural Brits who were all the rage in the mid to late 90s, but who have disappeared without a trace*.
In the days when the Heavenly Social was the place to be, and Glasto wasn’t quite as much a middle-class weekend out of town as it is now, The Freestylers were one of the best bands around. I remember some friends seeing them in a little dive bar somewhere in London and swearing it was one of the best nights they’d ever had. After dancing to Ruffneck on a beach earlier this week, I can well believe it, particularly with its amazing JBs sample.
So, as you watch the new British wave of black musicians storm the Glastonbury stages this weekend, spare a thought for the fallen warriors of The Freestylers. And try to get your hands on a copy of their Future Sounds Of UK mix: it rocks.
*Apparently they’re still going strong-ish in Australia.
Well, after the obscurity of yesterday’s #shfl11 entry comes a song that I know very well, and love even more. James Brown was, arguably, one of the two or three most influential musicians of the last 50 years, if not the entire 20th Century. He essentially created a new genre, funk, and did for black music what Elvis did for, well, black music actually.
Soul Power Pt. 1 is probably one of the purest expressions of his late 60s/early 70s phase, when he’d moved away from the more classic R&B sound of his early years, and was starting to become the true Godfather of Soul. Like much of his best work it’s a pretty simple thing, sampled to death by a million and one artists, with lyrics that are unlikely to win any awards. But if there’s one thing you should never do it’s underestimate James Brown, and he it’s worth mentioning that by the time he released Soul Power Pt. 1 he’d already penned I’m Black & I’m Proud.
Because whether he was giving voice to the nascent black power movement, or laying down moves that every singer cum dancer would be ripping off for the next 40 years, James Brown had true soul & his songs always had power.
#shfl11 is a self-set challenge to write a post every day in 2011 about whatever song pops up 1st on shuffle on my iPod.
The De La Soul track kept to the spirit of the original, as does the cover by Rebirth: its the sort of track that would have even the most uncoordinated uncle dancing if it were plaed at a wedding. And if you don’t believe me, then you can hear it being played soon when I open the proceedings at an upcoming night of the club Shuffle – more details soon.