General Jimmy

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Archive for the tag “A Tribe Called Quest”

Five for the Funk – Big Daddy Kane

BDK

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.

Thank God it’s Isley

Over the Christmas period I had a pretty thick and heady DJing stint at Salt Dogs, with four gigs in the space of nine days. One of the bands that kept popping up all over that period were the Isley Brothers, who truly are one of the greatest soul combinations in history.

Forming in 1954 as a gospel act, they then spent the next thirty years traversing a variety of genres and in the process became one of the most diverse bastions of longevity in popular music. Funk, Rock, Soul, Doo-Wop, even shades of disco, they had it all, and they can also lay a claim to a pivotal role in the Quiet Storm era which transformed radio programming. Basically they’re boss, and Ronald Isley’s voice is just butter. They’ve also been sampled on some of hip-hop’s finest moments, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Anyway I’ve been rinsing Ron and his siblings over the Christmas period, so I thought seeing as it’s Friday I’d share my five favourite jams from the group. Here we go…

One of their most famous records, this is the perfect combination of laid back soul, languid funk and hazy rock. And the outfits were always amazing on Soul Train.

More seventies rock soul crossover, Jimi grinding with Marvin vibes. And the outfits, again!

“Are we really sure, can a love that lasted for so long still endure?” As opening gambits go that’s a pretty heart wrenching mantra and if this doesn’t melt that iron heart nothing will. And Ice Cube licked the beat brilliantly for ‘It was a Good Day’.

The record that they made it big off, the 1959 finger snapping classic. Much better than every cover as well.

The absolute one! To be able to go from Shout in 1959 to being able to deliver this a full 24 years later is awesome, even taking into account the odd personnel change over the years. It’s been reworked brilliantly as a languid hip-hop jam, first by Tribe on the hootie mix of ‘Bontia Applebum’ and then even more memorably by the man like B.I.G. on ‘Big Poppa’. Both kept the bump and grind ethos of the original close to heart as well, either as a backdrop for Q-Tip to drop science on big butts or Biggie to proclaim he had more mack than Craig and in the bed, urging you to believe he had enough to feed the needy. Awesome.

#GJHH25 – The Mighty Mojo’s top 10 Hip Hop Albums of All Time

The next guest selector is Bido Lito scribe and Liverpool DJ the Mighty Mojo, a jock who was an institution in Bumper for a few years and now lays down beats in heebies on a Saturday and Santa Chupitos on a Sunday. I’ve chewed the fat with Mo about hip-hop at a ridiculously high amount of after-parties over the years so he was a natural choice to contribute… even if he took a bit more coaxing than I expected after he believed his choices would be too similar to the earlier ones made by Darren Williams.

Which was odd, because I didn’t consider Darren’s selections to subscribe that readily to the classic hip-hop canon (No PE, Dre, De la for example) and what Mo mustered equally only paid lip service to a few of them. Anyway; I’ll let the man himself breathe his voice, and be sure to check out his weekly discourse on his blog The View from the Booth.

To distill all of hip hop down to 10 albums is very tricky for me, and not just because I’m an indecisive bastard. A lot of my favourite hip hop artists never quite nailed it over a full album, hence the likes of Nas, Redman, NWA, Roots Manuva and A Tribe called quest aren’t represented. There are some obvious choices in here, but that’s because the main criteria is which albums have given me the most joy down the years. I accept that I could wake up tomorrow with a very different list, but right now, these are the pinnacle.

10. Labcabincalifornia – The Pharcyde
I discovered this off the back of the best video of all time (c) for Drop, and realised there was so much more to be had. Most people I know prefer the cartoon energy of Bizarre Ride, but to produce the difficult post-fame 2nd album they had to freshen up their style a bit. Songs like Something that means Something and the peerless Runnin’ are testament to how well they did it.

9. The Grey Album – Danger Mouse
Controversial! I know there are people who will never acknowledge the creativity necessary to produce an album like this, but as a man who has attempted to do something similar, I can tell you it takes a truly deft hand. The way he twists the Beatles’ work into a hip hop template while retaining a lot of the original melodies is remarkable. I like that I can still tell which Beatles song was used, and there isn’t one single track on which I prefer the original production. The Black Album is probably Jay’s most consistent set, but he could be singing nursery rhymes and I’d still love this album.

8. Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
This was a straight toss up with Dr.Octagon, but due to consistency across the whole album Deltron takes it. Dan the Automater, Del tha Funkee Homosapien & Damon Albarn may have received more praise (and pounds) for their Gorillaz work, but this is their best collaboration. The murky atmospherics are the perfect background for Del’s flow as he weaves his way through complicated themes of space and oppression. For some they may take the space opera bit too far, and they probably didn’t need 9 skits, but when they set about making tunes, they don’t fuck around.

7. Blow your Headphones – The Herbaliser
Some may argue against The Herbaliser’s hip hop credentials, but even a cursory listen would knock those complaints into a cocked hat. The best example of female MCs outrhyming their male counterparts, even the idea fragments such as More Styles are fantastic. Had more plays than every album on this list bar the top three.

6. Quality Control – Jurassic 5
A lot of people prefer the J5 LP, but to me that’s more of an EP, as there’s really only 6 songs on there. Plus Concrete & Clay is much better than Concrete Schoolyard. Quality Control is when they were at the top of their game, taking 4 MCs and making them sound like 1. Like Mos Def, the Jazz influence is integral to what makes them great – Jurass Finish 1st, Monkey Bars and Swing Set is the kind of hip hop your parents can tolerate, but isn’t Will Smith.

5. When Disaster Strikes – Busta Rhymes
I almost didn’t put this in once I’d seen Darren’s selection, but it would do a great disservice to a hitherto criminally underrated album. Despite greater chart success later on, this was when Busta was at his peak. The strength of Album tracks like Survival Hungry, There’s not a Problem my Squad can’t Fix and Rhymes Galore makes a mockery of the quality control of most modern LPs.

4. Doggystyle – Snoop Doggy Dogg
Over the course of my DJ career I have played every single track on this album, at least once. There is no other record I can say that for, of any genre. Probably in the collection of every single hip hop fan. Even those who detest what Snoop has become can’t deny the laid back genius at play here.

3. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 chambers) – Wu-Tang Clan
There is nothing new to say about this album, except to tell you that it was the catalyst for my introduction to a whole new world of raw, abrasive, discordant hip hop. And for that I am eternally grateful. Oh yeah, and GZA’s verse on Protect ya neck is probably my favourite in hip hop history.

2. Black on Both Sides – Mos Def
One of the best records of all time regardless of genre. Mos Def comes on like a cross between Marvin Gaye & Chuck D, intelligently dissecting the troubles of today’s society in a way that makes you want to move. I even love the OTT thrash-out at the end of Rock’n’Roll, although I’d be interested to see if his stance on the Rolling Stones has changed since he worked with the Black Keys…..

1. Hello Nasty – Beastie Boys
I could have picked ill Communication and/or Check your head for this list, but for sheer blow-your-balls-off impact, on it’s release and since, it has to be Hello Nasty. The depth and variety is pretty stunning, and I have played this album in full at many parties without ever needing to reach for the skip button. Super Disco Breaking, Just a Test, The Negotiation Limerick File, Remote Control, 3 Mcs & 1 DJ – so many straight up bangers, which contrast brilliantly with the poignancy of I Don’t Know, or the Beasties Britpop of Song for the Man. This isn’t a sentimental vote in honour of MCA – no other hip hop album has given me as much joy as this one.

Honourable mentions also go out to Outkast’s ‘Stankonia’, A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘The Low end Theory’, Kool Keith dropping weird science with ‘Dr.Octagon’, West coast polar opposites in Cypress HIll’s ‘Black Sunday’ and Ugly Duckling’s ‘Taste the Secret’ and finally, UK hip-hop selections from Braintax & Skinnyman with ‘Panorama’ and ‘Council estate of Mind’ respectively.

#GJH25 – Darren’s Alternative Hip-Hop Top Ten

To counter the indulgence currently being wacked out by my drawn out saga of releasing my top 25, I asked a few others to contribute their top ten. Darren flips the script not only in his choices, but also in our usual blogging techniques by offering a great selection brilliantly streamlined in comment.

10. 6 Feet Deep – Gravediggaz.
Perhaps the most surreal concept album ever conceived in Hip-Hop, but also one also producing some of it’s most highly creative beats.

9. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West.
Is he a member of The Illuminati? Why is the Album Art bizarre? Elton John’s on the record..!! Despite all these interesting questions, it will be remembered as one of the greatest artistic works in Hip-Hop history.

Kanye West POWER by Marco Brambilla (Director’s Cut) from ARTJAIL on Vimeo.

8. Illmatic – Nas.
Nas’ first ever long player has, due to the total brilliance, become something of a curse for his career as with each proceeding album leaves aficionados disappointed. Sort of how Wayne Rooney has never topped his début for Manchester United.

7. Midnight Marauders – A Tribe Called Quest.
Deliberately recorded from Midnight till 6am, the result was a unique sounding album that captures the collective at their zenith. Wide awake when the majority of their counterparts where sleeping.

6. When Disaster Strikes… – Busta Rhymes.
This album can only be described as perfect Saturday Night Warm-Up Music, ready for before the adventures begin. It’s just fun; something that’s sadly in very short supply within the genre & the lifestyle.

5. Doggystyle – Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Long before the Adidas contract & numerous other endorsements that he now promotes turned him into a brand, Snoop Doggy Dogg was a youngster with the aim of being the No. 1 on the Mic. When this came out he most definitely was.

4. Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill.
This entire album was in-fact intended to be the demo version, yet it was decided that it’s rough gritty sound perfectly suited the lyrics. At times, the imperfections are better.


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3. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – Wu-Tang Clan.
It simply should work having that many members then including tooo many samples from badly dubbed 1970’s English Kung-Fu Films.
An Aggressive but also silly combination, yet one executed perfectly.

2. Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde – The Pharcyde.
A group of four very young 20yr old stoners from Southern California that have concerns about women, marriage & weed make a masterpiece without realizing. It doesn’t matter it you’re from Los Angeles or Leeds, you’ll instantly connect with this album as it’s about the Human Experience.

1. The Score – The Fugees.
Inspired by the later work on Bob Marley, it impressed both the ghettos & the suburbs across the globe.
According to urban-myth, for some reason the album directed connected with the Chinese Population making it currently the most bootlegged album in history.

Agree or Disagree with my selections? Send me a Tweet at @DazAltTheory using hashtag #GJHH25

Ayah Marar Interview on Core Mag

“It’s very hard not to have traces of things that you love in the music that you create, and that’s all good, we’re revivalists after all. I was massively into Big Daddy Kane, Common, Tribe, Busta Rhymes, The Roots and Pete Rock.”

Just managed to speak to the ‘Queen of Bass’ Ayah Marar. You can read the interview over on Core Mag by clicking the above quote.

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