Posts tagged 'hip hop':

The Get Down Brothers vs. The Notorious Three

This track is faux old-school hip-hop created for the TV show "The Get Down". It's a good fake, though. It sounds like it could have come out in the late 1970s. This show has done a great job of mixing older funk, soul and hip hop with newer tracks that fit right in.

The show's Get Down Brothers and their DJ Shaolin Fantastic are modeled on the Furious Five and Grandmaster Flash. It's best to not think too hard about that though, because Flash is also a character in the show, as Shaolin Fantastic's mentor. And since this track mixes in some old Flash tracks, even though the show's Flash had previously gotten on Shaolin Fantastic's case over a bootleg recording.

Or maybe Shaolin Fantastic, like Flash himself, is mixing up Freedom's "Get Up And Dance" (and I always thought the Furious Five were just playing kazoos, as weird as that image is).

In this show they play fast and loose with the musical connections, plainly having fun and including in-jokes and making it all work. Another track, the new "Set Me Free", becomes a disco anthem in the show. In the middle is a short drum break that Shaolin Fantastic works into his mix, to great effect. A religious-inspired song with a drum break the DJs love? Can anyone say "The Amen Break"? I knew you could.


Gil Scott-Heron, Work for Peace

If everyone believed in peace the way they say they do, we'd have peace.

Here in the USA we recently passed the 15th anniversary of our state of National Emergency. That's right. For 15 years now we have been officially in a state of emergency, continuously, 24 hours a day for 15 years. And counting. Gil Scott-Heron recorded this song more than 20 years ago and unfortunately it's as relevant as ever.

They took the honour from the honourary,
they took the dignity from the dignitaries,
they took the secrets from the secretary,
but they left the bitch in obituary.

After the September 11 attacks, this was probably justified. For a while. Fifteen years later it's business as usual. It's an emergency situation, everywhere in the country, all the time. "Terrorism" has replaced the old USSR as the excuse for unending, unlimited military spending. If one opponent falls, it's no problem, they'll find another one. Don't worry, the bombs will keep on falling, and it doesn't seem to matter where. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, and now Syria. Maybe we'll beat ISIS into the ground, maybe not. If we do, rest assured that some other enemy will be presented as the next target. Iran maybe? North Korea? There's no shortage of possibilities. Ever since Bush's cronies went to the UN and lied to the world to start a war this has been just how things are around here.

Peace is not the absence of war,
It is the absence of the rules of war and the threats of war and the preparation for war.

Gil Scott-Heron is probably best remembered for "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". It's an amazing and powerful song. But he wrote and performed a lot more that was amazing and powerful besides, so have a listen. I first encountered his music watching reruns of Saturday Night Live many years ago when they re-ran his live performance of "Johannesburg". In his flowing, poetic, often jazzy style, he pioneered political rap. He was a powerful, inspiring voice, sadly gone too soon.

Nobody can do everything,
but everybody can do something,
everyone must play a part,
everyone got to go to work, Work for Peace


De La Soul, Pain

De La Soul is Dead back, with their first new album since 2004. With all the weird and negative news this year, I'm so glad to have something like this come along.

Of course they never completely went away. There have been some guest spots on other people's albums, for example on Gorillaz' "Plastic Beach" album. But now they're back doing their own thing, and they brought their friends.

It feels like a rebirth of the group. That might be wishful thinking, but I'm hopeful. A couple of years ago they gave away downloads of all of their previous albums for free. Then came their incredibly successful Kickstarter project to raise money to fund a new album. And now, finally, it's here. The whole thing feels like breaking with the past and moving on toward the future. I don't know what their plans are but I hope more is coming.

I love how they made this album. Years of recording with studio musicians to build their own library to sample, free of legal issues. Working without a record label but getting the recording process financed directly by their fans. The Kickstarter project is the internet age at its best-- instead of fans hoping that some studio executive might greenlight the album, they can just directly help it happen.


The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel

I've been watching "The Get Down" recently so I've had Grandmaster Flash and early hip hop in my head.

"The Adventures..." features Grandmaster Flash at his best. Sugarhill released a lot of records with his name on them. But in the early 1980s it was way too risky to put out a record that contained someone else's music, even in small bits. Sampling was a dream. Literally, since such samplers as existed were extremely expensive curiosities rather than mainstream devices. Flash did it old school, mixing records with two turntables (a technique which he invented).

On records then, "Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five" was mostly the Furious Five with studio musicians. Flash was well-known to Sugarhill's customers from live performances, so they were happy to boost sales by mentioning him. I'm not sure how "The Adventures..." eventually got released, but it's a rare and amazing glimpse of Flash's technique.

Among many records making an appearance, Flash features Blondie's "Rapture", in which Blondie name-checks Flash. Flash is fast, Flash is cool. Take a listen.