In order to cleanse my mind of all of the violent, disturbing footage I've exposed myself to this week through firsthand youtube accounts of the incidents in Boston and Waco, I spent a little time this morning rummaging through the (relatively) innocent world of turntable videos. The payoff for my efforts was the discovery of the above clip from New Zealand dj Alphabethead, who goes to work on the Average White Band's Cut The Cake. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be hiding down in my bunker until the rest of this week is over.
Another week, another major single from Zilla Rocca premiered by a Big Name Magazine! Following up last month's drop of the Roc Marciano-assisted Youngblood, Zilla's latest single Stormy Monday debuted on XXL Magazine last night. Featuring guest appearances by Has-Lo and The Kid Daytona, Zilla has dedicated the song to, "dark wood paneled speakeasy's and sultry women who are good till the last drop." As with Youngblood, I had a hand in the release of this song so rather than attempt to write something objective about it I'll just direct you right on to the audio:
It's been a minute since I've had a chance to post something from Philly's Funk Fanatic My Man Shafe, but he's back with a new EP. The appropriately titled Funk features three new tracks that further develop his signature blend of soul, funk, and melodic rapping. First up is a sequel to Shafe's jam I'm Cookin'. This time around he's grabbed a classic break from The Gaturs' Gatur Bait for the remix:
Rather than do a full writeup on the EP (the Cliff's Note version: It's Dope), I got Shafe to sit down and answer a few questions about his approach to music and what he finds inspiration from. Mixed in with the interview are the two other tracks from the EP, Brothers - arguably Shafe's strongest track to date - and Too Cold.
In your own words, how do you describe your style musically? What's the vibe that you're going for when you start working on a song?
My music is soul 100%. It's coming from very deep inside. As far down as I can dig that's where my music comes from, so I know it's soul....I love funk as well so it goes in that direction, but if I had to use one word: SOUL.
Most of your solo music has a "live" sound and energy to it where it feels like it was recorded with the intent of it being performed in front of a live audience moreso than a lot of hip hop today that tends to be geared more towards solo ipod listening. Is that something you intentionally go for when you start writing a song?
You know I really don't. I just get in touch with what I'm feeling in the moment and go. That's similar to when I perform, I just grab that moment and express it. I feel like a lot of stuff today is either lowest common denominator type music, or artists aren't digging down as much. There's more music less soul, so it's good for a moment then dissappears. My music having as much soul & passion as it does really lends itself to the live audience because they can feel it, and connect.
When you first started rapping and working on your performances, were there any other emcees or groups that you studied or that inspired you? Or even non-hip hop groups? All your music has a strong funk vibe to it so I'm assuming some older groups had some influence on you. (Some of your songs sound to me like an evolution of what the Brand New Heavies were doing in the early 90's; were you ever into them?)
I never messed with the Heavies but I will now that you mentioned them lol. As far as the live shows I watched Black Thought & The Roots. Growing up and seeing them in the Philly area was a huge influence. I really really connected to Thought for some reason. I just knew the soul & skill he had was what I wanted to have when I hit the stage. It was like pure passion and it just hit home, I felt it. He's the Otis Redding of rap to me and I look up to both those artists as people I would like to emulate. Pure soul.
Your flow is really unique, the best way I can describe it is sort of a melodic version of Peedi Peedi. I've never heard any of your older stuff but from what I've been told your delivery was a lot more "traditional" back in the day. Assuming that's accurate, what was the turning point where you started to switch things up?
I never intentionally tried to switch anything, as I got better and more confident it began to come out differently. To the point now where it'll be raw lyrics but I almost try to sing them instead of spit them. I feel the hurt and the pain in the music and it helps me cope with the pain I have inside of me and it justs comes out melodic at this point. I always wanted to be deadly lyrically but be able to bring it out in a melodic, rhythmic way. So, something with deep meaning that was easy to listen to. I don't feel like many mc's, or any for that matter, take that approach.
From the footage I've seen of your live shows, you bring a ton of energy to the performance. What do you do before a show to get yourself mentally prepared and hyped up?
You know, right before I go onstage I just take a breath and remind myself to "let it go." Then, whether im freestyling or doing joints, I dig as far down as I can and bring out the most concentrated energy I have, and just go. Whether it's 2 people or 2000 I give every single ounce of my being to that stage, that performance. I have some really deep pain that only comes out in a few ways, performing being one of them, so I'm intensely passionate. It just means so much to me to be able to go onstage and vent. It's everything to me. Hence a lot of energy and soul comes blasting out.
Allow me to break my recent radio silence to plug the latest project from my man Zilla Rocca: The Weak Stomach EP. Highlighted by the above remix featuring Curly Castro, the EP includes remixes from Small Professor and Has-Lo, and a couple of guest appearances from Alex Ludovico (the only emcee to successfully combine Joan Holloway and Scott La Rock references, as he does on the outstanding track We Got Fangs) . This is a precursor to Zilla's upcoming single with Roc Marciano, Youngblood, but it should be more than enough to hold you over until that one gets released.
For the second year in a row, Hot 97 ran a month long "Black Fist Friday" series at noon this past February to celebrate Black History Month featuring various guest dj's playing hour long mixes of old school records. As Hot 97 has strayed further and further from its hip hop origins - Macklemore's Thrift Shop is the edgiest rap track you're likely to hear as the station grinds through its otherwise continuous loop of Rhianna hits during the day - Black Fist Fridays once again justified 97.1's top placement on my car stereo's list of saved radio stations. It is perhaps telling that Mister Cee turned to a series of former WBLS dj's to get the job done - namely: Kid Capri, Chuck Chillout, and DJ Scratch (the fourth guest dj being Clark Kent) - but nevertheless it was the musical highlight of the year for the station thus far.
The most notable moment of the series for me came during DJ Scratch's set. After an hour of cutting up various old records - including the source for All About the Benjamins (Love Unlimited's I Did It For Love) - he closed things out with a recreation of GQ's battle routine from the movie Juice:
In an effort to catch up on all the music I've been sleeping on in 2013, here's a trio of videos that came out recently that are worthy of far more than the meager handful of sentences I'm about to use to describe them:
Head nodding political rap that's based more in reality than Illuminati fairy tales? You don't hear that too often in today's hip hop, but the first single off of the homie Curly Castro's new album Fidel suggests that it's more than possible. The album drops today, so put down your OWS picket sign for a minute and grab a copy!
I can't think of a better endorsement for a rapper from Minnesota than getting Brother Ali to appear in your video and lip synch a lyric that you wrote. If you didn't know Mally was official already, consider Ali's guest appearance at 1:30 from the above video as confirmation of his ascendent career. And go cop Mally's album, The Last Great...!
The estrogen levels on this one are significantly higher than what would normally be found on this site, but I feel like I've been neglecting the handful of female readers in my audience for far too long. She may have changed her name to Kalae Nouveau from Kalae Allday but she's still got skills behind the mic that surpass just about every female emcee out right now.
I'm two days late on this (or five days, depending on whether you celebrate a man's life on his birthday or the anniversary of his passing), but in celebration of Dilla's legacy I put together a short mix of some of my favorite songs that he had a hand in creating. Prior to recording this it had been a couple of months since I had touched a turntable, so please excuse the sloppy cuts and ragged mixing. Jay Dee's skills as a producer should more than make up for my shortcomings as a dj:
Nothing Like This - J Dilla
Vivrant Thing - Q-Tip
1Nce Again - A Tribe Called Quest
Two can win - J Dilla
Let's Ride - Q-Tip
Workinonit Freestyle - The Roots featuring Peedi Crakk
Find A Way - A Tribe Called Quest
Ms. Fat Booty (DJ Soul / Dilla Remix) - Mos Def
The Saga Continues (Dilla Remix) - Redman
Whip me with a strap - Ghostface Killah
Song Cry (DJ Soul / Dilla Remix) - Jay Z
Got Til It's Gone (The Ummah version) - Janet Jackson featuring Q-Tip
Got Til It's Gone (Dilla Remix) - Janet Jackson featuring Q-Tip
Runnin' - The Pharcyde
Drop - The Pharcyde
Winning/Losing Intro - By Alex Ludovico
Last Donut Of The Night - J Dilla
This mix borrowed heavily from DJ Soul's Assorted Donuts, so if you don't already have that one I highly recommend grabbing a copy.
This may be a fairly straightforward chop of Al Green's Let's Stay Together, but when you're building off of a classic it's often best to keep things simple and let the sample do most of the work. As for the vocals, Jersey emcee Knowledge has come a long way since he was last featured on this site alongside The Cause. The duo are both under the age of 20 (meaning they were both born after the Jersey manufactured anthem Hip Hop Hooray was released!), so I expect we'll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.
This past Thursday I headed into NYC to see Zilla Rocca and his Wrecking Crew compatriots perform at DROM. They were opening for a kid I must admit I hadn't checked for previously, Jesse Abraham, who was having an album release party for his new cd I Am Water. Not surprisingly, Zilla, Has-Lo and Curly Castro (who recently signed to signed to Man Bites Dog Records) put on a phenomenal performance, assisted by the turntable work of Nex Millen, a performance that was highlighted by Zilla's re-Imagine-ing of John Lennon's I Found Out and the trio's ode to The Wire, Clay Davis.
What did surprise me, however, was the equally entertaining show put on by Jesse Abraham. My first encounter with Jesse was right before the show, and I didn't really know what to expect from the small dude that spent the majority of the hour before the set darting around the bar while rocking a gray hoodie 8 Mile style. Whatever doubts I may have had were dispelled as soon as he got on stage and took complete control of the audience, projecting way more energy than I would've expected from him. The high point came during his rendition of Yoga while Curly Castro put on a yoga display of his own at the back of the stage, followed up with a lengthy freestyle session over the Informer beat. He went through a few cuts from his new album as well, but the clear standout was his autobiographical Back Off: