It's an approach that apparently is being embraced by hip hop A&Rs as well these days (or whatever the soundcloud era equivalent of an A&R is), as two of the biggest rap songs right now make heavy use of one of the staples of carribean music, the steel drum (or steel pan if you want to be truly accurate). Both Kodak Black's Zeze and Tekashi's Kika - a song notable for not only proving that Scott Storch is still capable of making a solid beat, but also for its court-enforced censorship - are built around the instrument, and perhaps not coincidentally they're both doing quite well on the charts at the moment.
The success of these two songs inspired me to dig up some older hip hop tracks that also sampled the steel drum. The mix above is by no means comprehensive, and intentionally leaves out perhaps the most succesful steel drum-sampling rap song of all time, Crank Dat, but I think I hit most of the highlights. Here's the tracklist:
Big Sean - Guap
50 Cent - P.I.M.P.
Clipse featuring Slim Thug - What It Do / Wamp Wamp
Nas - Money is my Bitch
Mura Musa featuring ASAP Rocky - Lovesick
Madvillain - Curls
Big L featuring Tupac - Deadly Combination (Instrumental)
Tekashi 69 featuring Tory Lanez - Kika
Kodak Black featuring Travis Scott and Offset - Zeze
The Outlaws featuring Tupac - Worldwide (Remix)
Drake Featuring Rihanna - Take Care
Gil Scott Heron featuring Jamie XX - I'll Take Care of U
Young Thug featuring Travis Scott - Pick Up The Phone
Jaylib - Strip Club
As we head into 2019, one of my goals for the year is to use this space to put the spotlight back on some of the artists that helped support the site over the years and get their music some exposure to whatever audience is still left out there. If nothing else, my moms stays riding for this site so there will be at least one additional view added to whatever gets posted here.
The above song - or more accurately "songs," which draw inspiration from Peter Tosh's Stepping Razor and Black Uhuru's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - combined with the title of the album might suggest that Tosh is merely going to be a series of callbacks to classic Reggae tracks, but the album is a lot more varied than that. It's got everything you'd expect from Castro at this point: a smooth flow delivering rhymes that cover everything from the historic to the personal, clearly influenced by dub music but certainly not limited by that influence.
If you want to show Castro some love - or if you're looking for a way to put that Christmas money from grandma to good use - head over to Backwoodz Studioz' site and buy a copy of the album Tosh.
Alternatively, if you are no longer in the Christmas spirit of giving, you can stream the album over on Bandcamp.
While we're here, I want to highlight one more track from the album. The album is sixteen songs deep, and there are several entries worth posting, but one that really interested me was a song produced by Floodwatch. Older heads may recognize that name from the once great music blog Floodwatchmusic, but Flood has since tried his hand at some production work (including a great remix for Bring Me The Head of Zilla Rocca that I can no longer find, but if your DuckDuckGo skills are sharp I'd encourage you to go dig for it). Check it out:
As you may have seen, legendary Jazz and R&B singer Nancy Wilson passed away late last week. There are a few dozen hip hop songs that sampled her catalog, but not too many songs that hit the mainstream. Biggie's Rap Phenomenon is probably the most mainstream song that sampled her. Above is a quick mix of some of her samples, as usual the full tracklisting can be found down below in the comments.
Continuing with the theme from the last past, above is a quick mix of a few songs that sampled from one of the godfathers of electronic music, Jean-Jacques Perrey. The starting point is Perrey's E.V.A. ("extra vehicular activity," background music for astronauts operating outside of their spacecraft), and ends with one of Biggie's classics. Tracklisting in the comments below.
In what may or may not become a recurring segment here, I threw together a quick 10 minute mix to highlight a few songs and the main sample they originated from. The intent here is to be more educational than recreational, so you'll have to excuse a few sloppy scratches scattered throughout. The highlighted sample here is Gladys Knight and the Pips' 1974 hit Don't Burn Down the Bridge.
I'll put the full tracklist in the comments rather than in the main post, because I think it's more interesting to listen to this without already knowing what songs are using the sample.
As many of you already know, there was a tribute to Mac Miller last night at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, "A Celebration of Life." Money raised from the event went towards The Mac Miller Circles Fund, a charity focused on providing "programming, resources and opportunities to youth from underserved communities, helping them recognize their full potential through exploration in the arts and community building."
I saw a few people mention that the recorded stream from last night's show isn't appearing in youtube's search results, so as a public service I've embedded it above. A few partially coherent thoughts I had after watching it last night:
The lineup was incredible, and while there's some stuff you can nitpick (which I'm happy to do, see below) it was a great show and tribute.
Yes, as most of the internet has commented on already, the crowd was pretty low energy (though should we expect people at a memorial, even if it is a concert, to be truly turnt up? Or was this a case of the reseller market pricing out most of the people who would've actually been hyped up for this show?).
The two bros in the light blue bandanas in the front row at least seemed to know the lyrics to everything.
I'm not quite sure how to react to Action Bronson announcing he's "high as a motherfucker," at a tribute for a guy who overdosed on drugs.
And staying with that theme, I'm not heavy into Earl Sweatshirt but either he smoked up a little too hard back stage or his songs just don't translate well to live performances.
If this is the first introduction to J.I.D. for most people, it probably wasn't enough to hook them. It seemed a strange moment to shout out his new album release date, though Mac did produce some of it.
A lot of people in youtube's streaming chat channel seemed confused by Rae Sremmurd's appearance, but they do have a connection to Mac as they moved into his Most Dope house right after him. I actually appreciated the energy they brought to the whole thing.
Vince Staples' performance of Rain was the best tribute of the night.
SZA, Anderson .paak, John Mayer, Thundercat, Chance, and Schoolboy Q, along with Vince, had the best understanding of what a tribute performance should look like.
They were not necessarily great viewed from the perspective of standalone tributes, but outside of that context the performances by Ty Dolla Sign, Miguel, and Rae Sremmurd were all really solid.
I'm sure there's some backstory as to why they were not included, but I was surprised Mac's dj Clockwork and Wiz Khalifa didn't make an appearance at least in one of the tribute videos.
And here's the full lineup from the show, jacked from a comment by youtube user Awesome030000:
00:00 - 09:56 - Video of fans as they wait
09:56 - 16:09 - Video Montage (Concert footage, Childhood videos, BTS, TV Performances, etc.)
16:09 - 19:56 - Dylan Reynolds covers Mac's song "Come Back to Earth"
19:56 - 23:57 - J.I.D. performs his song "Lauder"
24:12 - 28:33 - NJOMZA performs an unreleased song of hers (possibly written for Mac given the lyrics)
28:35 - 31:11 - Domo Genesis performs his "Coming Back" which features Mac
31:11 - 31:27 - Domo Genesis says a few words
31:27 - 33:37 - Domo Gensis performs his song "STRICTLY4MYNIGGAZ"
33:57 - 36:24 - Action Bronson performs his song "White Bronco"
36:24 - 41:37 - Action Bronson performs Mac's song "Red Dot Music" which features him (and brings out the producer of the song, The Alchemist, on stage to groove with him)
41:44 - 42:23 - Earl Sweatshirt says a few words before performing
42:23 - 44:33 - Earl Sweatshirt performs his song "Guild" which features Mac
44:33 - 46:12 - Earl Sweatshirt performs Mac's song "New Faces" which features him
46:12 - 47:19 - Earl Sweatshirt says a few more words and grooves and exits to the song "Hey Ma" by Cam'ron
47:32 - 52:13 - Interview video of Mac and Rick Rubin in Shangri-La Studios, Malibu, CA
52:14 - 55:34 - Ty Dolla $ign performs Mac's song "Cinderalla" which features him
55:34 - 58:03 - Ty Dolla $ign plays guitar for Mac's song "Paper Route" while Chevy Woods, who's featured on it raps
58:03 - 1:01:14 - Ty Dolla $ign performs his song "Blase" *Walks through the crowd during part of this
1:01:36 - 1:04:38 - Vince Staple's performs his song Norf Norf
1:04:38 - 1:05:04 - Vince Staple's says a few words
1:05:04 - 1:07:39 - Vince Staple's performs Mac's song "Rain" which features him
1:08:36 - 1:12:56 - Thundercat plays bass guitar for Mac's song "What's The Use" and Vince Staples comes back out for a bit and raps parts of it
1:12:56 - 1:17:48 - Thundercat performs his song "Them Changes" and John Mayer comes out towards end (1:15:50) to assist with guitar
1:17:57 - 1:20:19 - Juicy J performs his song "Bandz a Make Her Dance" and says some words at the end (1:19:59)
1:20:21 - 1:29:17 - Video plays words from the following: DJ Premier (1:20:21), Tyler The Creator (1:21:18), DJ Jazzy Jeff (1:21:31), A$AP Ferg (1:47:02), Joey Bada$$ (1:22:04), Karl-Anthony Town (1:23:24), 6LACK (1:23:57), Casey Veggies (1:24:19), Dev Hynes (1:24:40), Pusha T (1:25:09), Donald Glover (1:25:28), G-Eazy (1:25:49), Amine (1:26:07), Dillon Francis (1:27:03), Rick Ross (1:27:24), Jason Sudekis (1:27:38), Pharrel (1:28:05), Lil Wayne (1:28:15), The Internet w/Syd speaking (1:53:44)
1:29:19 - 1:31:34 - Anderson .Paak says a few words
1:31:34 - 1:36:17 - Anderson .Paak performs Mac's song "Dang!" which features him
1:36:17 - 1:36:47 - Anderson .Paak hilariously thanks the band (The Free Nationals)
1:36:47 - 1:40:24 - Anderson .Paak performs his song "Tints"
1:42:05 - 1:42:47 - John Mayer says a few words
1:42:47 - 1:47:29 - John Mayer covers Mac's song "Small Worlds"
1:47:29 - 1:54:32 - John Mayer performs his song "Gravity"
1:54:40 - 2:02:22 - Zane Lowe comes on stage to say some words after asking for moment of silence for the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
2:02:30 - 2:05:02 - Miguel performs Mac's song "Weekend" which features him
2:05:02 - 2:10:22 - Miguel performs his song "Pineapple Skies"
2:10:55 - 2:14:17 - Rae Sremmurd performs their song "No Type"
2:14:17 - 2:14:33 - Swae Lee says some words
2:14:33 - 2:19:47 - Rae Sremmurd performs their song "Powerglide" *Swae Lee crowd surfs and walks through crowd, that roll at 2:15:42 lol
2:20:02 - 2:21:02 - Schoolboy Q performs Mac's song "Gees" which features him
2:21:02 - 2:24:37 - Schoolboy Q performs his song "That Part," says Mac was in the studio with him the night he wrote it
2:24:38 - 2:29:42 - Video Montage (Concert Rehearsals, Music Video BTS, other misc. BTS, Concert footage, Music Video clips, etc.)
2:29:48 - 2:35:55 - SZA performs her song "Love Galore"
2:35:55 - 2:36:29 - SZA says a few words
2:36:29 - 2:41:52 - SZA performs her song "The Weekend"
2:42:09 - 2:45:21 - Chance The Rapper performs his song "Blessings"
2:45:21 - 2:49:13 - Chance The Rapper performs his song "Work Out"
2:49:13 - 2:51:13 - Chance The Rapper performs his song "No Problem"
2:51:13 - 2:52:07 - Chance The Rapper says a few words
2:52:18 - 2:55:07 - Travis Scott performs his song "Goosebumps"
2:55:10 - 2:56:56 - Travis Scott performs his song "Sicko Mode"
2:56:56 - 2:56:08 - Travis Scott says a few words
2:58:17 - 3:00:58 - Video of Mac singing and playing an unreleased song on the piano
3:00:58 - 3:01:27 - An audio recording of Mac's voice plays in which he thanks the crowd for coming and wishes everyone a good night while spotlight shines on empty mic stand
3:01:27 - 3:06:27 - Mac's song "BDE" plays while a slideshow of pictures runs while everyone (artists, parents, brother, friends, etc.) comes on stage and hugs/talks. At 3:05:00 song changes to "Coming Back" by Domo Genesis feat. Mac Miller
3:06:27 - 3:07:42 - End Screen showing event graphic?
Finally, if you're still looking for more Mac Miller music after that I would encourage you to check out the mix we posted last week:
For a span of two years in the late seventies and early eighties, a real life bogeyman was stalking the streets of Atlanta. From 1979 through 1981, twenty-eight black children and at least one adult went missing from the city, presumed victims of a kidnapper that was quickly dubbed, "The Atlanta Monster." It became such an epidemic that Atlanta t.v. stations began running ads every night at 10pm, asking parents, "Do you know where your children are?" to remind parents to verify that their kids had actually made it home safely. The mayor of the city at the time, Maynard Jackson, offered a $100,000 reward for information on the killer, leading to the iconic photo of Jackson below sitting in front of the money (Muhammed Ali shortly after donated $400,000 to the cause, after saying that the original $100,000 reward wasn't even enough to buy a Rolls Royce).
Eventually the bodies of the missing children started turning up. The majority of the kids met the same fate: asphyxiation due to strangulation. The disposal of many of the bodies was also similar, their remains washing up on the banks of the rivers around the city after, it was theorized, they were dumped off of bridges by their killer. That fact ultimately led to the arrest of the man that police believed to be the Atlanta Monster, Wayne Williams, after he was caught dumping something off of a bridge at 3 in the morning. Williams, who was intent on creating the next Jackson Five as the manager of "Gemini" and who had aspirations of becoming a music mogul, claimed to be on his way to interview a teenage singer for his group and claimed to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He was ultimately convicted of murdering two adults, but the police announced that he was also the man behind the killings of the Atlanta children despite never succesfully convicting him of any of those murders. Williams to this day denies any involvement in the killing of the children, and many believe that the police were willing to pin the murders on him simply to be able to say that the investigations were succesfully closed.
The details behind everything that led to Williams arrest and the factors that may have led to a coverup would require an entire book to cover, but if you're looking for an in-depth telling of the entire story check out the podcast Atlanta Monster. Here's the trailer for it:
This story held some increased significance for me and this blog, because the era of the Atlanta Monster would have been during the childhood of many of the key members of the initial wave of Atlanta rappers. Artists outside of Georgia made occasional references to it, Prince's Annie Christian being the most famous example, but I was surprised to find that Wayne Williams and the child murders appeared only a handful of times in Atlanta rap lyrics. For me as a child just seeing the kidnapping episode of Diff'rent Strokes was enough to scar me, I can only imagine what growing up in a neighborhood that averaged more than one dissapearance a month would have done. But Atlanta was heading into an era of urban decay and would soon face the effects of the crack epidemic, so that may explain why the rappers that grew up during that time had other, larger, influences than the Atlanta Monster.
If you know of others add them in the comments, but here are the Atlanta rap songs I was able to find that referenced Wayne Williams and the child murders:
In the song, Gipp mentions knowing Eddie Duncan, the first adult killed by the "Atlanta Monster." The song also makes reference to the Chattahoochee River, where Wayne Williams was discovered by police allegedly dumping one of the victims into the river.
In The Ends, Andre 3k drops the line that he "grew up in the town where they were murderin' kids / and dumped them in the creek up from where I live," and references Wayne Williams' efforts to recruit neighborhood kids into his music group. Andre seems to have been the most impacted of any rapper from the area, as he also dropped references to the Atlanta Monster on Goodie Mob's Thought Process and on the classic Aquemini (h/t Genius).
The article cited in wikipedia was one I had written several years ago to track down the history behind the name "Biggie Smalls" and the many people who took on the moniker. There have been a few updates since that time - the biggest being that a photo of the white and/or Latino Biggy Smallz surfaced - so I've cleaned up the article and the youtube links, adding in some updates, and re-posted it below:
The first time I ever heard the name Biggie Smalls, it was on one of those old NBA "movies" they used to put out back in the early 90's that was equal parts highlight package and music video. The song, like the movie itself, was called Jam Session, and featured Biggie along with Heavy D and Troo Kula, one of the emcees that rolled with Bad Boy in its early days but never actually got a record deal with the label. A year later Ready to Die came out, and Big had changed his name to The Notorious B.I.G. It seemed like a poor marketing decision, as the name certainly didn't roll off the tongue quite the same way that "Biggie Smalls" did. There were rumors that Big had been forced to change his name due to a lawsuit from some white kid out in California, but that seemed rather unbelievable and the Internet hadn't quite evolved to where it's at today so it was impossible to track down any proof of it anyway. I hadn't given the name change much more thought until very recently, when I began preparing for an interview with Majesty, the brother of Tupac's friend and former Live Squad member Stretch. It turned out that there was indeed some truth to the rumors behind Big's name change, but the legacy of the Biggie Smalls name was even more complicated than that.
During the early 90's, there were at least four people using some variation of the name Biggie Smalls and, not altogether coincidentally, they all were affiliated in some way with Tupac and his Thug Life movement. Everyone is of course familiar with Christopher Wallace and the fact that Pac served as something of a mentor and friend to him up until the night that Tupac was shot at Quad Studios, but details on the other men carrying the mantle of Biggie Smalls have been hard to come by.
At the same time that B.I.G. was recording his debut album, there was a white rapper (or possibly Latino, details on this have been hard to nail down) out in California going by the name Biggy Smallz who had a loose connection with Tupac through producer Johnny J.
The discogs entry for Biggy Smallz claims that he was born in 1979, but I'm fairly certain that's incorrect as it's hard to envision someone that young rolling with Pac and his crew (if discogs' birthdate were correct, that would have made Biggy Smallz about 14 years old around the time that Ready To Die came out). The story seems to be that Tupac, as a favor to Johnny J, asked Christopher Wallace to change his name to avoid any confusion with Biggy Smallz (as it turned out, the confusion in names helped Biggy Smallz out, as his own records saw boosts in sales shortly after Ready to Die came out).
As far as I'm aware, only three songs were ever officially released by Biggy Smallz. The first, 1991's Save Mr. Perkins, came out on MRC Records, a label that apparently only dropped two records in its entire history. He followed that up two years later with the single Cruisin', under Bellmark Records. His final release, Nobody Rides For Free, came out as a single for Life Records. Here's the promo version of Nobody Rides For Free:
For many years the rumor mill suggested that this Biggy Smallz had been murdered shortly after that release (a rumor I passed along in the original version of this post), however further digging suggests that is not the case. Instead, at some point after his last release under the name "Biggy Smallz" he changed his name over to Shadow and very quickly renamed himself one more time to Shadowcast (presumably due to the fact that there was already another artist named Shadow at the time). Here's the one single he released under the name Shadow, which was produced by Tone of the Trakmasters (then known as Red Hot Lover Tone), and happens to be the one and only song that SEG Records ever put out:
Finally, there was one more Biggie Smalls, a man named Drik who grew up in Queensbridge with Stretch and The Live Squad and was a part of Tupac's Thug Life/Thugadon movement. There are virtually no details to be found on Drik, beyond the fact that he died at some point before Tupac, B.I.G. or Big D The Impossible. After Drik's death, Tupac dedicated God Bless The Dead to his "motherfuckin' Biggie Smalls," dropping the line, "the other day I thought I seen my homeboy Biggie saying 'Shit don't stop!'" Though Pac recorded the song a couple of years before Notorious B.I.G.'s murder (and obviously before Pac's own death!), it wasn't released until the late 90's. Predictably, conspiracy theorists argued that this was indeed a reference to Christopher Wallace, not Drik, using the line to further the argument that Tupac had faked his own death. Shock G of Digital Underground, who was a close friend of Tupac's, and the two surviving members of Live Squad have all stated that this was not some sort of prediction of B.I.G.'s murder, but rather a shoutout to Drik.
Occasionally, though, there are rap beefs that come out of left field and never really get explained. One that has held my interest for quite some time has been the dustup between The Fugees and Jeru the Damaja. It was a confusing one, because the Fugees and Jeru were, ostensibly, on the same side of hip hop's culture war of the mid 90's when "true school" lyricists were lashing out at the growing success of rappers focused on the excess of materialism. There was no buildup to the Fugees (and specifically Pras) calling out Jeru as a "biting Zealot" and a "false prophet" on Zealots:
Jeru then responded with his opening verse on Black Cowboys:
And that was, more or less, the end of the beef. As for what sparked it, the one response I've ever been able to find from Jeru himself on the subject was this interview with Breaking Wreckords Radio where he only goes so far as to say that the beef wasn't over the song Da Bichez without following up with an explanation of what was the cause. The Fugees, for their part, seemed to have been too busy with their budding global stardom to take time out to speak on the matter.
But I think that video at the top of this post gives at least a small clue into the origin of the dispute. The clip, which I believe is from Crazy Sam's Nervous Thursdays on Video Music Box, features Jeru and Lauryn Hill debating the level of responsibility white people have for black oppression (more or less, the discussion isn't focused quite tightly enough to summarize it in just a few words). This is, from what I've been able to find after 20 years of half-assed research, the first time Jeru and Lauryn had ever met each other. This is pure speculation on my part, but it's not too hard to imagine Lauryn walking away from the discussion with some level of frustration in being outshouted by Jeru and that frustration festering long enough to lead to the diss on Zealots.
It is entirely possible the two events are unrelated. If that's the case, if nothing else we can all hopefully appreciate the moment in time of Jeru and Lauryn Hill debating the topic of race with a young Irv Gotti and Method Man eagerly listening in the background.