General Jimmy

Writer / DJ / PR Manager / Fat Bastard

Archive for the category “Five for the Funk”

Five for the Funk – Salt Dogs turns One

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This weekend Salt Dog Slims and Bar 81 turns one. There’s a mahoosive hot dog competition kicking off in Salts from 5pm with the promise of free beer and the guarantee all weekend of joviality and japes wherever you stumble. Having been resident for near enough the entirety of that year I thought I’d throw some five for the funk love their way to celebrate, and pull up arguably the five biggest bangers that have been part of my repertoire since I started playing.

It’s been a load of fun along the way, and a good challenge adopting to a different kind of vibe than the all out rowdiness of Bumper and the mercurial fun of the Metropolitan (RIP), which were my other bar based residencies in the city of the past few years. Here’s to another year.

Everyone loves a bit of old classic rock and roll, and everyone loves this. Straight out of the American Graffiti soundtrack, this is a majestic two and a half minutes of hip shaking greatness.

Those stuttering stabs at the beginning make way for one of the most recognisable and gorgeous disco records, with the lyrics as playful and infectious as they get from the genre. ‘Doesn’t take much to make me happy starts an ode to love that is tailor made for Saturday nights. Corker.

Aggressive hip-hop is the last thing that works, so I tend to run with some of the records that have been recognisable samples such as Charles Wright’s ‘Express Yourself’, The Isley’s ‘Footsteps in the Dark’ and Lou Reed’s ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’.

This one though, famously used for the vitriolic cartoon ‘Gz & Hustlaz’ by Snoop back when he was a Doggy Dogg, is a personal favourite. It’s also just about the right side of weird.

Although it was sampled into a pop-house classic by Vito Lucente aka Junior Jack under his Room 5 guise, sound-tracking a Lynx advert en route to topping the charts in 2002, this jam was an eighties funk classic that made it onto compilations for Electric Chair and GTA, and prior to its ubiquity was a record the soul heads digged.

The bassline is gloriously seductive and the lyrics epitomise the carefree escapism that comes round once the working week is over. Whilst Room 5 would make the riff of ‘I like to party, everybody does’ as the centrepiece, the shrieking ‘I can’t wait for the weekend to begin’ would also become part of Micheal Gray’s ‘The Weekend’. Olly was there first, and best.

What a tune. The biggest thing that makes this amazing is the fact that not everyone gets onto it straight away when it comes on. There’s that wee bit of calm and then a surge of recognition from most people, but it’s never, ever, uniform. There’s always that kind of infectiousness though with people that even if you don’t understand a record, when you see plenty of other people get involved you kind of just go with it, especially as this isn’t a tune that gets played early on. And then slowly it gets more and more dramatic, and then that riff kicks in.

I love Fleetwood Mac and adore Rumours even more, I don’t think there’s been a DJ set in the past few years where I’ve not played at least one record by them and it usually comes off of that album. Everyone gushes about the Stones, but I reckon they’re the best living band at present. And this is the best record they’ve done.

Five for the Funk – Guru

It’s a sad week for Boston. Whilst the city is reeling in shock from the marathon bombings it’s also the anniversary of one of their strongest musical exponents death this week, and more precisely today. Three years ago rapper Guru, one half of legendary group Gang Starr, died.

The aftermath was a lot of guff dissing his Gang Starr comrade Preemo via the cryptic will cum chain letter administered by DJ Solar, and whilst the truth around that was murky at best one thing that wasn’t was the fact the duo made some serious music. They maybe aren’t the most influential or finest hip-hop group ever, but surely the most consistent, with every studio album rammed full of classic joints.

As well as that Keith Elam pioneered jazz focused hip-hop even more with his Jazzmatazz projects, as well as the occasional guest verse proving his clout over and over again. It’s only right that the monotone master gets some five for the funk love. Roll up…

‘Full Clip’

This was the first song that really got me into Gang Starr. They were on my radar as a teenager but this video was a permanent fixture on MTV Base in 1999 when sciving school was a necessity so I could stay up all night watching hip-hop videos. The cameos in the video, the shout out to Big L (again someone who I was just abotu to discover properly), and Guru

I copped the album shortly afterwards as well and realised the full scope of the group’s longevity and ability. I’ve been head-nodding to them ever since.

‘DWTYCK’ ft Nice & smooth

Lemonade is a popular drink and it still is. That’s all.

‘Loungin’ ft Donald Byrd

Gang Starr’s early work in particular was very much focused on exploring old jazz, both from a sample perspective and the way DJ Premier approached his production ethos. Along with the Native tongues crew they were repsonsible for the re-appreciation of the genre in much the same way the music of three to four years earlier had grinded out the funk licks of James Brown and Amceo Parker. Gugu took the ideology one step further though with a number of high profile cooloborations with high profile jazz musicians on the Jazzmatazz projects.

This record featured trumpeter Donald Byrd, and was endemic of the kind of blissed out mellow brilliance capable when the two genres collided. Guru also took Byrd on tour with another legendary jazz supremo, Roy Ayers. Whether it’s been Nas teaming up with his father or ATCQ showing their love, the combination remains a potent one.

Digable Planets feat. Guru – “Borough Check”

Digable Planets were another crew that dug jazz, and this remains one of Guru’s dopest guest verses. Rhymes and rhymes and rhymes, this is a great smoky hip-hop joint.

‘You Know my steez’

Whilst Guru could do aggression he was best when mellowing it out, and even better when he was doing the former by being the latter. And it doesn’t get much better an example of that than this absolute gem. A hallmark Premier production, the melancholy melody sounding butter over the splurging bass, was met by a lyrical masterclass from Guru.

There’s gems everywhere, from the way “Dropping lyrics that be hotter than sex and candle wax, while one dimensional emcees can’t handle that” shows how to be about one thing yet in style the same minute he dismisses emcees for lacking his intelligence, the whole thing is perfect.

Hip-hop have had few as great in an understated manner.

Five for the Funk – Big Daddy Kane

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In two weeks time Liverpool is going to get schooled by the don. Big Daddy Kane is coming to town and you better believe it. Alongside the likes of Kool G Rap, Rakim, Slick Rick and Biz Markie, Kane is part of the pantheon of truly great late eighties solo rappers. Everything about him is iconic, from his ultimate braggadocio rhymes to the ridiculousness of his garbs, he had it going on.

Any rapper stunting owes him so much, Biggie’s avuncular arrogance, Kanye’s fashionista flyness, Jay-Z’s smooth swagger – Kane paved the way for all this and much more. In fact Jigga’s debt stretches further, with his early 90s pre rocafella days spent acting as an intermediary hype man for Kane at his shows. His first two albums are absolute classics, and there’s the fact that Rakim, RA FUCKING KIM, cooled the prospect of beef with him. You know when the God thinks twice about entering a battle with you, you’re pretty good.

So in honour of this epochal event, encased in the soon to open East Village Club, five for the funk delivers five bits of greatness from BDK. Large.

‘Smooth Operator’

Mary Jane Girls’ ‘All Night Long’ is one of the most sampled records in hip-hop history, everyone from LL Cool J, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Redman and Ice Cube being among the fifty people in total who have used the saccharine soul 80s classic. I’ve even built a modest dj career off playing it in 90% of my sets of the past five years. But few have done it as well as on Smooth Operator.

While primarily a record in the classic Big Daddy batting off all competitors mould, he does deliver a few bars implying his acumen with the females, but it’s not as much as the title would have you belive. It’s less of a response to the anti-male diatribe of the same name from Sade than you might initially think, particularly as alongside the MJ Girls there’s samples from two of Marvin Gaye’s sexjams (‘Lets get it on’ & ‘Sexual healing’). Instead it’s just Kane doing what he does best, holding court like the don he is.

‘Raw’

This is the ronseal of 80s hip-hop. Marley Marl’s splicing of James Brown and Bobby Byrd just about manages to avoid being dated and Kane just goes, as you’d expect, raw. He’s an absolute animal on the mic in this, just a relentless barrage of skill that is the calling card of one of the greatest. An absolute monument of the genre.

‘Don’t Curse’ (Heavy D ft Kool G Rap, Pete Rock, Cl Smooth, Grand Puba, Q-Tip & Big Daddy Kane)

As posse cuts go this is up there with the best of them. The roll call features people who earned their stripes repping verse after verse in the Juice Crew, Tribe Called Quest and Grand Nubian, all coming together to show that they don’t need to swear to keep it going. It was of course an answer to the proliferation of Parental Advisory stickers which were rampant in hip-hop in time. It’s not the greatest 8 bars from Kane in his career, but he’s still smooth as ever and the track and video are amazing. Heavy D also looks ridiculous in prison style pyjamas, what’s not to love about that?

‘Any type of Way’

What marks Kane out from some of his peers is how graciously he’s aged. No rapper can ever maintain a scintillating appeal, but some slip from world domination to head in hands moments quicker than most. I’m looking at you KRS and Rakim. Kane however, has gone down the Slick Rick route of touring off the back of a legendary status and the odd track since his heyday and this gem from 2003, produced by DJ Premier, proves his mettle.

He’s still nice on the mic but rather than being on that arrogant tip here he is slipping into the paternal figure of hip-hop a man of his status should do. And his voice fits Preemo’s as ever on point production perfectly. The two recently joined up again for a nike commercial with the brilliant 28 bars, which features the genius closing gambit “I went on 28 just to raise the bars”. Don’t doubt this an emcee still with it.

‘Ain’t no Half-Steppin’

Still the one. This is just a relentless surge of look at me I am boss; put-downs, big me-ups, the lot. From a lyrical point of view it’s hard to think of many songs that deliver an aura of greatness quite like this, and the calling card ‘I’m awesome’ records of rappers, be them Biggie’s ‘Unbelievable’, Jay-Z’s ‘So Ghetto’, Big L’s ‘Flamboyant’ and so on, all stand behind this. Everyone is a butter knife compared to Kane’s machete faced with this.

The video is gloriously lo-fi, a reminder of the lack of real money in hi-hop at the time, when you get the impression that the combined cost of the tracksuits worn by Kane and his dancers probably outweighs the overall budget. That’s not to say he isn’t looking hella fresh, with a chain that probably cost the GNP of an eastern European country and a general persona that is dripping swag. The iconic BDK tune.

For ticket info hit here.

Five for the Funk – Party like it’s 1999

Five for the funk returns after a fortnight hiatus (bloggers have bank holidays too). And this time it’s all about one apocalyptic year. Nineteen. Ninety. Nine.

Remember the millennium bug? It had one hell of an impact on hip-hop, everything from Def Jam 2000 to the obsession with the impending apocalypse that the likes of Method Man and Busta Rhymes rapped frequently about cropped up. Will Smith used the year to go from playful pop to out and out wack with a helping hand from KCI and Jojo, and Puff Daddy reacted to the Lox destroying his street appeal by getting Buckwild of DITC to produce the greatest underground joint Bad Boy ever put out without Biggie behind it.

Most importantly though, 1999 was the year hip-hop got good again. Really good. Slick Rick did what the likes of KRS-one and Rakim had been incapable of in recent years, return with a scintillating degree of relevancy, the dirty south started to get really hot with the help of Mannie Fresh and an upstart from Detroit proved being melatonin deficient wasn’t a guarantee of being poor. That rapper in question, a certain Eminem, also brought with him maybe the most important development in hip-hop’s post millenium popscape… the return to prominence of Dr Dre. But most of all the music was just fantastic.

I recently linked to the Czarface album as they heralded the year as a golden age for hip-hop and whilst there’s better points historically for sure, this definitely stands up as one of the finest 12 months the genre has ever seen. Here’s five of the choicest cuts from that time period, and apologies in advance for the andre heaviness.

Slick Rick ft Big Boi ‘Street Talkin’

Few rappers go onto live up to their earlier work a decade afterwards. Nas did so last year with ‘Life is Good’, his second best album after Illmatic, but 1999 was a time when two of the biggest forces in late eighties rap appeared from the doldrums to capture the critical consensus once more. The first was golden age icon Slick Rick, who’s ‘Adventures of Storytelling‘ is an absolute classic. Peppered with star turns from big hitters of the time such as Nas, Raekwon and Canibus, it brought his sinister sense of humour back to the forefront alongside that butter flow. One of the standout tunes was Big Boi returning the star turn Ricky gave on the remix of Outkast’s song of the same title, with the glorious Street Talkin. So, so good.

Ghostface Killah ft U-God & Goldie ‘Cherchez la Ghost’

From 1993-1997 Wu Tang were flawless. Raekwon, GZA and Ghostface delivered classic debuts, whilst Method Man and ODB managed to put forward compelling visions of their personality which if not classic were still very good, not to mention a litany of guest appearances across albums from 2Pac, Mobb Deep and Biggie. Of that five only one managed to deliver on their sophomore, in fact he went better on it. Ghostface.

Supreme Clientele is the greatest non debut Wu solo album ever, no question, and I’d probably say it was the best solo joint full stop. RZA tearing through awesome beats, Ghostface’s patented gibberish and this record, an example of how to go R&B and stay grimy. U-God putting a ruff rider on his dick and busting right through them vying for Tony Starks and that dressing gown for the finest jaw dropping moment in the three minutes of bliss, as the Wu shows Bad Boy how to take an obvious disco sample and keep it street. Jiggy Y2K style.

Eminem ‘Guilty Conscience’

Slick Rick was the hot rapper from the 80s to come full circle, but undeniably Dre was the producer. Part of the story of how he clambered back to the forefront comes in lieu of this record…

Slim Shady had caught the attention of the underground with a runners up slot at the rap Olympics, a slew of underground bangers with Rawkus and the catchy ‘Just Don’t give a Fuck‘, but he really blew up with what seemed like a novelty single in the shape of ‘My Name is’ in early 1999. Dre produced it and has since said the plan was to make it as annoying as possible to ensure the word was out and follow it up with Eminem showing his true class. It was a tactical masterclass Jose Mourinho would be proud of and this record, the two of them sparring together on record, was the first of a series of relentless OMG moments from Slim.

The good/evil combination isn’t exactly original but the way it’s played out certainly is, Dre suddenly being reinvented as a paternal figure and then Eminem exposing the hypocrisy of ‘Mr NWA/Mr AK’ dishing out advice. If it had been a diss record it would of been a milestone, but for it to be something that he convinced Dre to do (and almost certainly ghost-wrote the lyrics that he responded with) it shows so much about the level of trust and respect Dre had gifted his protege at such an early stage, and the start of a glorious two years of shared creativity. It also shows as much as Em was a savagely humorous extortionist of questionable subject matter, he also utilised balance in his yarns, even if through the voice of overs. This would reach it’s staggering apex with Stan – incidentally introduced to the Slim Shady entertainment world in the second verse.

That subject matter was as disgusting as Eminem would become known for, advocating under-age rape, armed robbery and murder (even if done with delicious humour – the way he berates Dre’s explanation with ‘slipped, tripped, fell, landed on his dick’ a prime example), but at the time it was ridiculously exciting, unquestionably. Music fans very rarely get to live through super-stardom in real time (the percentage of Beatles fans on the planet around at their peak must be minuscule) but Eminem’s finest three years I lived through every step of the way and watched how the music only a few people in my school liked suddenly became omnipresent.

Snoop Dogg ft Nate Dogg and Xzibit ‘Bitch Please’

The Doctor again. Dre was ‘back’ through working with Eminem but he was doing so through the medium of a white trailer trash kid from Detroit and with a poppier focus; the next dawning of g-funk wasn’t hinted at yet. 1998 saw a blistering Dre production creep under the radar with the shape of old sparring partner Kurrupt on ‘Ask yourself a question‘ but one record snapped into focus and threw up the dubs. When ‘Bitch Please’ appeared on Snoop’s ‘No Limit Top Dogg‘ as one of three Dre productions, you knew this shit was back on.

Everything about this joint is perfect. When the beat kicks in with the drums and the low end rumbling it was seismic, I remember hearing this for the first time better than most milestones in my life. Xzibit, at that point an underground emcee with plenty of heat and no dodgy MTV show, drops the verse of his life which is littered with quotables, referencing his likwit connections, slick rick and Canibus in 24 breathless bars. He would go on to tread water for the majority of the rest of his career, but this was the reason why.

It was also the point where Snoop realised his future career, hot singles where the focus was on how he sounded over a ridiculous beat. His delivery here is this out there hybrid of crooner, pillow talk and street slang, completely alien to anything else and tailor made for the Dre sonics. And if that wasn’t enough Nate Dogg decides to turn up at the end and say ‘hey oh’ in the most amazing fashion. All four protagonists deliver resoundingly for what is a beyond brilliant masterpiece.

Pharoah Monche ‘Simon Says’

That riff. Those drums. The four note sample from Godzilla was inspired, and Pharaoh drifting brilliantly between his usual cerebral self and straight up club thug stance made the whole thing so much more accomplished. The added whut-whuts on the chorus deliver a broad chested swagger (that’s already evident in spades) and the lyrics flip between self-deprecating humour (“you sold platinum round the world, I sold wood in the hood”) and the clever way both verses end with 2if you holding up the wall then you missing the point” meant an emcee known for technical genius could dumb down with the best of them whilst still having that lyrical subtlety. This is a cat remember that no less an authority than The Alchemist cites as the greatest of all time.

The impact of the record was so much certain commentators even labelled it as the beginning of the end for Rawkus who suddenly saw a product rather than an artform, which is a delicious irony considering the impact it has when it sounds. It’s just brasher and louder than everything else going, M1 & Stic-Man aside. Big and clever? Only in the hands of the Pharoah. An anthem of epic proportions.

Five for the Funk – Dance Music Videos

FACT are currently doing an exhibition focusing on music videos, soemthing that runs till Sunday 26th May but with the weather being like it is now, probably as far as I’m willing to leave my flat this weekend (I live right by it). Part of the exhibition focuses on the history of dance, and so in honour this week’s Five for the Funk is all about dance music videos.

Don’t worry, none of the ones here are included at FACT (although artists and directors are, creativity in the realms doesn’t appear to be that spread out) and I’ve also thrown some love to one or two that aren’t particularly arty. And one that is just awful. Enjoy!

The Chemical Brothers ‘Star Guitar’

Whilst director Michel Gondry is rightly lauded for his masterpiece effort on Daft Punk’s ‘Around the World’ (featured at FACT), he took the same principle of focusing on the components of a dance music record to create this lush video for Star Guitar. The terrain and passing vehicles are among the visual juxtapositions that reference each introduction of sound the record weaves in.

It’s a delightfully subtle counterpart to the Chem’s stage shows of blistering audio-visual bombast as well, reflective of the fact the track itself was much more languid than their previous offerings. A thoroughly hypnotizing opus that flips the challenge possessed in visualising instrumental music.

Basement Jaxx ‘Where’s your head at’

Taken from round about the same time as Star Guitar, this riotous slab of loon-house simply wouldn’t have worked with a subtle and deft video. So they go for an absolutely nuts one, involving the fusion of pop stars with monkeys to create a musician/hominoid abomination. You could argue there is a meaning to all this as some critique of the music industry, but the best thing to do is just watch it and embrace the madness.

David Morales ‘Needin U’

This is never going to win any awards, either as a record or as a video, but this sums up the mainstream Ibiza experience of the 90s in a nutshell. A scantily clad Morales boards a train on which he sees Sonique and Judge Jules, and then proceeds around the island via villas, couples kissing on the beach and, of course, DJing at Pacha. The track is just incessant sunshine as well, not as raw as ‘The Bomb‘ but an undeniable summertime anthem. But he’s running a lot? What is it about dance music videos and running?

He remade it two years later with a vocal and a new video, this time eschewing those red trunks for an awful ribbed white long sleeved t-shirt, but it wasn’t the same. In fact the only remake worth watching is this one.

Darude ‘Sandstorm’

From the sublime to the insane and the feel-good, to the just downright horrendous. I’ll admit it, as an eighteen year old slowly putting puberty behind me I loved this record, but even then I was pretty baffled by the video. We see a DJ with terrible hair and even worse headphones sitting off by a public landmark, one can only assume this is pop-trance maestro Darude. Then a girl runs out with a silver briefcase clasped in her hand, only to be chased by a bald man and another woman. They all look like they’re dressed like lifeguards.

The chase goes on, occasionally interspersing the shots with barking dogs, Darude looking cool inside a car with some lime green wraparound shades and a series of brilliant slow motion snippets of them jumping. None of it ever relates to any rhythmic structure of the music, they do slow down slightly in the breakdown only to start running again before the beat kicks in again, and finally the bald man catches up his prey only to be double crossed by his partner who leaves him for dead on a train track. There’s always people running as well; why?

The two women skip off, yes skip, together hand in hand to be met by Darude at a private yacht, where they are seen lounging back with him in a brief pimp like clinch. Is the briefcase Darude’s record collection? The cure for cancer? Marsellus Wallace’s soul? Nope, it’s just evidence of electronic music’s capability to occasionally avoid creativity.

Daft Punk ‘Da Funk’

When this was originally released on Soma records in 1995 few would of predicted the position we would be in now, where a 13 second loop and a photo of two helmets can send the internet into raptures. However Daft Punk and of course Virgin behind them clearly recognised the bigger picture when installing Spike Jonze to direct this video accompaniment to the tough as you like house hip-hop hybrid. In the process, they’ve created arguably the greatest video accompaniment the most visually entrancing electronic music act ever made.

What makes it so enduring is the almost complete irrelevance the music plays to the track. The only link is the fact it’s playing from the boom-box of the protagonist, a human with a dog’s head called Charles. Said radio prevents Charles from following a potentially romantic get-up with an old friend he meets in a shop, but the total ambiguity about what it represent symbolises that even at an early stage, Daft Punk understood that restraint was the best way to create mystique – leaving a sea of questions rather than shaping the answers. Take note Darude.

The FACT exhibition runs up until Sunday 26th May. Full details here.

Five for the Funk – Italian-American Singers

Last week was the first time in a LONG time I went a calender week without DJing. Tonight it’ll be thirteen days since I last played records for other people, which I’m pretty sure hasn’t happened since June 2011. I’ve got a double header at my Saturday residency at Bar 81 above Salt Dog Slims starting tonight, and so rather than going on down the hip-hop tip like I’ve recently done with the Five for the Funk series, I felt it was a good point to showcase some of artists that I play here, specifically showing some love to the ones that crop up in my set at 81.

Considering the relatively small percentage of the population they made up for, Italian-American singers have certainly had a hefty grip on the pop charts from before the second world war. Much can be made of the fact the mob ran the jukebox syndicates which would account for their early exposure, but equally two of the biggest female mega stars of the past thirty years have Italian roots. There must be something in the pasta. Here’s a quick glance into the annals of Italian-american songwriters that do the do for me.


Dion ‘The Wanderer’

Before four uppity scousers and a shedload of other brits ‘ruined everything’, the early 60s pop landscape was all about clean cut crooners like Dion. The type of singer that the stand up guys that dominate the mob focused films would of loved, the ones that were true to them. The music was a whitened version of black music from the 50s but that didn’t matter, this was something white America could relate to, and a precursor of the likes of the Yardbirds, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones making an even bigger advancement on blues. Better yet it still stands up as a classic, a wedding tune that will make everyone dance.


Frankie Valli ‘The Night’

If Dion was creating an Italian focused rip off of blues, this was the motown soul counterpart. Frankie Valli and the Four seasons famously signed for the label and bombed catastrophically, but amidst the wreckage was this gem that never even got released in the states. It did see the light of day over here however, becoming a Northern Soul favourite and eventually making No 7 in the charts. Joining blues in the 50s and decades later house and techno, this is one of the records Americans undervalued that we loved. Their equivalent is Bush. Ouch.


Jim Croce – Bad Bad Leroy Brown

Classic slab of bluesy folk that’s great early doors, this is much more in the vein of 70s americana and the kind of track that no doubt sounds great coming on a jukebox in a bar in Nebraska where everyone wears plaid shirts. And what’s not to love about someone so mean finally getting their comeuppance?


Madonna ‘Lucky Star’

At the apex of her career Madonna was the dancefloor queen. Produced by Jellybean Benitez and, in the case of this song, Mtume producer Reggie Lucas, she had that post disco groove going on for sure. This 12″ edit of it is just accessible dancefloor dynamite.


Tony Bennett ‘Rags to Riches’

‘As far back as I could remember, I always wanted to be a gangster’

So opines Ray Liotta at the start of Scorcese’s classic Goodfellas. Much is made of Tarrantino’s glorious grip of soundtracking his films, but this is easily one of the finest juxtapositions of celluloid and music ever. Much is to do with the sheer class of Tony and the song, delivering the quintessential crooner performance, the thinly veiled metaphor of love and power shuffling by one another and a great backing band. An end of night anthem if ever there was one.

I’ll be in Bar 81 from 10pm-3am both tonight and tomorrow evening (15th & 16th March)

Five for the Funk – 1997 in Hip-Hop

This weekend is a big bad dollop of 1997 for me. Tomorrow, 16 years ago to the very day, one of the greatest of all time was gunned down, and in Manchester I am off to see easily the best hip-hop album released that year performed live in it’s entirety, Camp Lo’s ‘Uptown Saturday Night’. And seeing as 1997 was the first full calender year where I was in love with the music from start to finish this week’s instalment of Five for the Funk simply had to celebrate the year.

Turns out thought that 1997, when peering beyond the sepia tinted memories, was a weak one for hip-hop and probably the worst in the decade. Even though I was enthralled by the genre at the time the lack of being on the money (I was 15 and living in a RAF base in the Midlands) meant it was mainly old albums (Doggystyle, All Eyez on Me, 36 Chambers) that I liked (Camp Lo aside), and a confirmation of a look at this list shows rappers were more about sales, quantity and that horrible beast in hip-hop; the double album.

That said there was still some decent music this year, and none of those pesky double albums were classics in my eyes but they did throw together some great tunes. Here’s five of the best hip-hop videos and tracks from 1997…


Wu Tang Clan ft Cappadonna ‘Triumph’

They didn’t quite nail it with ‘Wu Tang Forever‘, but you genuinely do have to admire the Wu for their balls. I can remember the hype on UK and European MTV for this album and in turn this single, which still wasn’t that in tuned to hip-hop compared to the way it was with rock, and to announce the return of the whole clan with a lead single that was straight up lyrical wordplay at six minutes long was insane. The closest thing it had to a chorus was ODB screaming out that ‘Wu Tang was here for ever mutherfuckers’, and this was the record they were taking over the world with at the very inception of the shiny suit era in hip-hop. I mean come on! Stateside it sold over 600k in the first week and smashed it to the top of the charts. Killer figures from the killer bees, and that opening verse from Insepktah Deck.

‘Triumph’ was just that, the Wu knocking the shit out of the rest of the world. One of ten or twelve very good records on the album, although it might not be as dynamic as the likes of ‘Da Mystery of Chessboxin’, it was still a relentless slab of stark hip-hop. And nothing on TV looked so gully at the time. A grimy as fuck two finger salute at the staunch sound of selling out.


Notorious BIG ‘Hypnotize’

The Wu were the antidote to all this, but that’s not to say everything about the bling era of hip-hop was awful (even if it had been sent up brilliantly by The Roots). Timbaland and Missy were space ageing the shit out R&B, Will Smith managed to ride the bandwagon with a tongue slipped in his cheek and then there was this. Like a lightening rod amongst obvious samples and poor lyrical wordplay, this was the absolute bomb.

Biggie knew he was the epitome of the best of both worlds. The ugly as fuck fat boy who was so silky smooth he made women forget his appearance as their panties fell to the floor. The rapper that could make an album that featured a rags to riches radio joint side by side with tributes to stick-up kids and paranoia soaked suicide notes. And an absolute club and radio banger that had some of the tightest flows ever on it. It shone of the real Biggie, braggadocio to the hilt but gloriously self aware.

A genuinely brilliant record, and although technically a 1996 joint an anthem both sides of the Atlantic throughout 1997. And every year since.


Boot Camp Clik ‘Headz R Ready’

Wu weren’t the only hoodies and timbs NYC hip-hop crew bringing that rugged and raw vibe in 1997, so too were Boot Camp Clik. The collective consisted of Black Moon’s Buckshot, Smif N Wessun, Originoo Gunn Clappaz and Louieville Sluggah, and this was a tight record that featured a lovely nineties era drenched video. If you were one of those teenagers, like me, who lived for that one or two hours a week in 97 when Yo MTV Raps rounded up the best videos of the time, this was more often than not what would greet you.


Tha Alkaholiks ‘Hip-Hop Drunkies’

The West coast was flatter than usual between 1996 and 1999, but in the midst of it all was an underground antidote to the chronic flavoured riddims of the G-funk sound. And one of the better crews repping it were tha Liks. Their 1997 album ‘Likwidation’ is an underrated beast, straight up beats and rhymes tomfoolery from J-Ro, E-Swift and Tash, and this video sums up their vibe brilliantly.

An inspired pairing of their alcohol focused swagger with hip-hop’s fav substance abuser ODB, it flips a sample of Marley Marl’s piano riff off ‘The Symphony‘ to create a posse cut for boozers. Like the video for ‘Triumph’ ODB’s role is played by an actor, laying the groundwork for his troubled years ahead. He rips it up on here though, particularly with the “no disrespect to any architect who tries to perfect, oh what the heck” lyric, riffing brilliantly on the production of the song and his own role in hip-hop with a flurry of densely packed inner rhymes. An absolute genius.


Camp Lo ‘Luchini’

Look, I know I’ve given them loads of love recently, but still, this is THE ONE! Ski on beat duties looping Dynasty’s ‘Adventures in the Land of Music’, an amazing video that riffs Blaxploitation films and Dead Presidents, and two lyrically brilliant genius spouting braggadocio nonsense. Such an anthem. This is probably going to be an accurate image of how I react and look when I hear it live tomorrow.

Five for the Funk – De La Soul

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This week’s instalment of Five for the Funk comes in the shape of a De la Soul themed ensemble, down in no part to Madnice Maruaders bringing their DJ Maseo back to the city for a silly showcase in the hold of the Shipping Forecast Even though they’re not my favourite group of all time and ‘3 feet High…’ is overrated (more on that below), you cannot front on De la’s input on hip-hop and their DJ is someone who rocks hard.

Maseo’s world renown as a jock centres on being able to do most things adeptly (technique, musical knowledge etc), and one thing extremely well; bring the party. Hip-hop may be littered with light fingered assassins, beat diggin maestros and DJs who have showcased the turntable as a weapon far capable of outweighing the sonic possibilities of mere musical instruments, but hip-hop began out of one carnal desire. Make. People. Move.

Maseo does just that. His No Fakin appearances in the Zanzibar are the stuff of legend, and I can remember him playing a Chibuku party at Nation, 2005 I think, and the reaction afterwards ranged from those doffing their cap at a master to those scoffing because he played Beyonce. This was the DJ from a group that came to prominence in part from obvious pop samples, rocking a crowd, and there was chin-strokers kicking off about a great R&B record. It seems that certain hip-hop fans have no grasp of irony.

Anyway, big ups again to Madnice for bringing Maseo to the unfathomably intimate surroundings of the Hold for what will be an swaggering block party affair. Here’s my five favourite de la based party joints on this Friday in March. Party people, your dreams have now been fulfilled…

‘Oooh’ ft Redman

That paragraph’s closing line is the opening gambit for this absolute riot of a record. The video is a classic, a genius play on hip-hop’s bling culture which goes for out there weirdness rather than straight up parody. They transform the Wizard of Oz into the land of ‘Oooh’ complete with Brick City nightspot, a doff of the cap to the looting ringmaster at the centre of the track, Redman. There’s cameos from fellow new jersey emcee Rah-Digga and comedian Dave Chappelle, and it’s proof that this era of hip-hop could do big budget twists on what was aesthetically en vogue at the time without being formulaic – see also Hype Williams’ piece de resistance.

On the actual track, it’s one of the best meetings of minds of the era as hip-hop came out of the diametrically opposed factions of bling and backpack to realise they could work together. Redman steals the show, gifting a glorious party beat from Prince Paul even more crunk with some ridiculous hype man histrionics. Littered with humour drenched asides and pure charisma, he outshines Plugs One and Two with asides about fat chicks getting their fuck on tonight. Absolute party rocking gold.


‘All Good’ ft Chaka Khan

Coming straight off the same AOI opus as ‘Oooh’, again De la are outshone by their sparring partner but when said guest is Chaka Khan doing one of her greatest vocal performances, you can’t front. I realise that is one lofty statement but this record is nigh on perfect, a proper bumping beat with Chaka exuding class, heart and panache with every single syllable that echoes from her throat.

Pos and Trugoy come nice and correct on the lyrical tip as well, proving their class as hip-hop’s elder statesman with an intelligent grasp of disagreement (aimed at those that slept on them during the Buhloone and Stakes is High eras of the band) rather than hip-hop’s usual profanity littered ripostes.



‘B Side to Hollywood’

Not strictly a de la joint as only Trugoy appears, but this track off Camp Lo’s ‘Uptown Saturday Night’ is a gem, a real gem. The Eddie Bo loop announces the track before the three emcees share hook duties, and then each getting a verse.

Flipping the script from ‘Ooh and ‘All Good, this time it is Trugoy who steals the limelight, dumbing down effortlessly for an awesome combination of laid back braggadocio and off kilter silliness (cartoons, cereals and that all important ‘big spoon’ make an appearance) that affirms Dove as the Number one Tycoon. A record for real hip-hop heads to completely lose their shit too.

‘Say No Go’

The de la debut is one of those mythical records that critics value as era defining, a stone cold classic and elevated to the upper echelons of hip-hop’s critical canon. Although I can’t argue on the influence of it, it’s an assessment I don’t particularly agree with. It’s very good, but the skits skewer the feel of the album rather than add to it (and inflicting that particular thing on hip-hop isn’t something to be celebrated), and I’d argue the follow up was much better.

That said however, there truly are some brilliant songs side by side with all the game show shitness, real pop masterclasses rather than just straight up hip-hop bangers. This is maybe the pick of the bunch, that Hall & Oates loop combines with the storytelling genius of De la (they are at times worthy of comparison to Slick Rick) warning you not to take drugs. Awesome.

‘A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays’ ft Q-Tip & Vinia Mojica

When De la dropped second album ‘De la Soul is dead‘ with the dead daisy artwork, they were making a clear statement. You’d be stretching the truth somewhat though if you said that they made a complete musical departure from ‘3 Feet High’. Not only does ‘Say No Go’ proves they didn’t shirk issues, they also lambasted the hippes charge on ‘Me Myself and I’ and not everything on ‘De la…’ is darkness. Case in point this monster.

This record was extremely ‘3 Feet High’ in style, and to my ears is THE quintessential Native Tongues tune, either as an original or with this remix. The samples are great and plucked from the obvious rather than the obscure, Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’, the Larry Levan bolstered ‘Got My Mind Made Up’ by Instant Funk at the beginning and then the immortal riff from Frankie Valli’s ‘Grease‘ later on. Every emcee is brilliant, particularly Q-Tip with the boy meets girl playfulness. And Vinia delivers one of the greatest hooks ever…

‘Now is the time, to act a fool tonight, forget about your worries and we gon be alright. It’s Saturday, It’s Saturday!’

Five minutes of relentless, grin inducing escapism. On the early hours of Saturday March 9th, you’ll be able to catch the man himself dropping it.

Hall & Oates – Five for the Funk

Curve-ball to an extent for this week’s Five for the Funk – here’s five reasons why Hall & Oates are awesome in line with my two DJ gigs this weekend at Salt Dog Slims/Bar 81. Lambasted by the rock press at the time and still to this day as bastions of anti-cool and devoid of any traces of credibility, the duo had a handful of master-class records that more than made up for them not being the type of group you’d listen to their albums on repeat. And their tunes tear the roof off week in week out.

Feel the force of their song-writing genius without the need to lodge your tongue in your cheek with the below. And I don’t even have to mention the greatest fancy dress costume ever.


‘Kiss on my List’

A genuine gem of a record, lashings of cheesy vibes permeating every second but really it’s a great radio love song. One of the records that makes the duo really easy to lambast but when you think about it, also one of the reasons they’re also so endearing.


‘Rich Girl’

Prior to their 80s electro-funk reinvention, H&O didn’t really know where they stood in the pop landscape and consequently their efforts were quite far reaching and extremely hit and miss. One of the better jams from the seventies was this rocky ode to girls taking advantage of monetary assistance. Common themes in their records the dastardly ways of women.


‘Maneater’

Arguably the most recognisable and certainly the most commercially successful H&O record and all the better for the languid saxophone that kicks in, as worthy an addition to the 80s pop’s use of that instrument as George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’. It’s also warning the male sex about the predatory instincts of women; I was shit scared as a seven year old about actual women eating me as a consequence of this song. The truth, as Darryl and John opined, was much worse.


‘I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)’

Obvious but what a monster. Prince Paul lopped the groove to perfection on De la’s ‘Say No Go’ and whilst the use was celebrated by many as a victory for post-modernism and evidence of the producer’s wry irony, he contradicted this viewpoint in interviews – his reaction was really that he just liked the sound of it; evidence that the record was built with the dancefloor in mind and where it belongs. Also sampled by the likes of 2 Live Crew, Tech9ne, Heavy D and, er, Simply Red. Pop perfection.


‘You Make my Dreams’

Another record that everyone knows but for all the right reasons. This is as upbeat as it gets and the biggest H&O anthem, hands down. An unashamed floorfiller that is that right combination of being both a bit shit and awesome, which is Hall & Oates massive trademark.

Happy Friday everyone! I’ll be DJing at Salt Dogs from 10pm-3am tonight and tomorrow evening.

Busta Rhymes & the Flipmode Squad – Five for the Funk

First in line for Friday’s five for the Funk series is a look at Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad, in their late nineties heyday rather than the rather lame Conglomerate version. LONS might have been the original template for Busta to bring his madcap genius to the fore (case in point that Arsenio performance), but his late nineties crew were mad underrated as well, winning a source award and dropping a decent album in the form of ‘The Imperial’.

Although later line-ups would include emissaries such as Papoose and Noreaga, this was the genuine golden era of the group – alongside Busta they had one of the nicest female emcees of the period in Outsidaz’ Rah Digga, Ragga voiced Serious (who left before the Imperial was recorded and then went on to produce for No Limit) the pre-pubescent looking Baby Sham, the fairly wack on his own but decent enough to hold court in a crew Rampage the last Boy Scout, Busta’s greatest ever hype man Spliff Star and the quite simply amazing Lord Have Mercy.

Like Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 on crack, Lord had one of the greatest voices hip-hop has ever seen and a ridiculously short career. Anyone that makes you stop and listen more than Busta Rhymes on a posse cut nigh n every time he dropped a verse is a true star despite a relative lack of consistent quality, and the acrimony behind him leaving probably had something to do with said ability.

So here’s five of the best records the crew produced, from a point when Busta really was at his creative best. Enjoy.

‘Cha Cha Cha’

The quintessential Flipmode joint, Spliff Star sets the tone, Rah Digga drops her gravel voiced niceness, Busta has that madcap hook locked down and even Baby Sham does well. And the video has Busta as a matador! Awesome beat too, easily one of the best hip-hop tracks of the last two years of the nineties.

‘Everybody on the Line’

Following on from the flamenco theme of ‘Cha Cha Cha’, the other single off ‘The Imperial’ is also firmly rooted in that late nineties production mindset and the type of banger you can imagine being moodily lapped up in the Tunnel and on Hot 97 (it also made Westwood’s show on more than one occasion). You can also see Lord ripping it up on BET here as well.

‘We could Take it Outside’

As stated previously Lord’s sheer vocal presence often outweighed even that of Busta on wax, and arguably the greatest example of it is here. The Swizz Beatz production has that joyous 90s feel about it (his at the time futuristic strings were unlike anything else on the musical landscape), Rah Digga drops a trademark killer line (‘waiting on mine like I’m the LL comeback’) and then Lord just savages proceedings before Busta tries to claw the focus back at the end. A proper good posse cut.

‘Against all Odds’

Off the ELE album from Busta; and his apocalyptic fascinations get fed into by his crew brilliantly. The late nineties hip-hop obsession with the end of the world and the millennium bug was a bit silly though, wasn’t it?

‘Flipmode is the Squad’

Rampage wasn’t the best emcee but he could hold his own in a posse cut, and this one from his ‘Scout’s Honor… by Way of Blood‘ is certainly a great example of that. Boasting the same raw and at ’em bass driven production from DJ Scratch which was a big part of ‘The Coming’ era Busta, this is straight up mid 90s head nod brilliance. The frantic delivery, ODB style wailing, Serious’ rough hewn singing-cum-rapping, obligatory show stealing verse from Bus-a-bus and, of course, Lord Have, make this the kind of cut you imagine soundtracked weed smoking car journeys in NYC at the time.

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