Thursday, June 23, 2005

come out and plaaaaaay

real bad boyz (fake 'nwa')

real NBA Wit Attitude (fake 'bad boyz')

It really hasn’t been clear whether or not the Detroit Pistons have truly been re-dubbed the ‘Bad Boyz.’ It makes about as much sense to me as calling the P Diddy-crafted semi-super-group Boyz N Da Hood the new NWA. But misappropriation aside, dem D boyz from Michigan and Georgia have been providing so much entertainment for a brother that I can’t, with good conscience, question the enthusiasm of the dubs. Tonight I have been given a choice of biblical proportions (at least relative to my entertainment choices this week). Tonight do I go to Boyz N Da Hood’s record release party at Club Exit or do I watch Game 7 of the slept-on NBA finals as the Detroit Bad Boyz make history (or become it). I know… some folk will probably head over to the Jeezy Breezy Geezy Deezy show after Billups holds for the clock rundown… but a Bad Boy Records album release party has ‘three song’ pain-in-the-ass (no mo’ show) written all over it.
I’ll be cheering on the fake Bad Boyz but bumping “Still Slizzard” tomorrow.

My itunes search for ‘Bad’ turned up an interesting mix of tunes and once I opted out of the Biggie and Badu joints I was left with these…

???- Do It If Yuh Bad (off of Nick Catchdubs’ excellent ‘Oh Snap’ mixtape)
Bad Boys (featuring K Love) - Bad Boys
Michael Jackson – Bad (chopped & screwed) (by Lt. Dan from King Of Whats Poppin
Kanye West & Consequence - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Paul Wall - Bad Boy Freestyle (screwed version)
P. Diddy & The Bad Boy Family - Bad Boy For Life
Shyne (feat. Barrington Levy) - Bad Boy Anthem
King Tee (Featuring Tha Alkaholiks) - Got It Bad Y'all

mash' ups

mashonda shines in blackout

Blame the great weather in NYC these days or blame a collection of medium hot singles or blame the Swizz Beats vibe that continues to entertain me but I’m on this Mashonda kick for the past few minutes (and apparently the Kitchen has taken Note as well). Like many other up-and-coming R&B divas (no promo) Mashonda’s been doin’ the do… meaning getting all the right MCs on her joints or vice-versa and repping on the mixtapes. It doesn’t hurt to have a Swizz resurgence beneath your wings.
The Game brings the needed gruff vocal tones to the extremely weightless “Back of the Club” a meta ‘club joint’ with a Swizz synth whine floating above the light-as-air-melody and brainless hook. The ‘get ya hands in the air’ Swizz-along doesn’t convince either. But add Fat Joe’s “Listen Baby” from his album and now we’ve got a couple joints working in tandem. Mashonda brings a seventies sound to the hook and Joe brings the perfect level of chilled thug rhyme to ride the hand-claps and wistful ‘remember when’ keyboard lines. The wind chimes and bells add to the warm weather breeziness but Crack brings it back to the gutter when he greets a honey’s arrival with the realization that she was just in time to break Joe off before his hotel checkout time.
The air stays clear as Kanye West joins her on “Hold me Down” and doesn’t ruin a joint that is almost interchangeable with his Brandy duet oh-so-long-ago.
The minimal track for ‘Shonda’s collabo with Jadakiss is overwhelmed by the mixtape host shouting over it but the simple ‘computer printout’ beepbeepbeepbeep forces a nice vocal rhythm on the hook and gives it a chilly futuristic vibe that counters the sentimental organ chords. The weird theremin-like wind-up to Jada’s verse is odd and nice but doesn’t distract from the typical thug-in-love vibe
The hardest guest MC of the bunch turns out to be an almost unrecognizable Remy on the “Used To” remix absolutely killing it far from softly.
Mashonda’s “Welcome to Harlem” jack starts out strong but doesn’t know where to go. The fuzzy off-key vocals remind me of Dynamitee or Res and I hope Juelz or Cam jumps on this one somewhere soon (Welcome to crack rock!... in the flesh?)
But the real joint to behold is “Blackout” with a below par Nas on an above par Swizz beat. ‘Shonda’s vocals are great on the tumbling tom-toms and claps as she does an MIA type squeal at the ends of her hook (“….make MEEEE!...Every time at least THREEE!”) that give way to Swizzpers of “blackout, blackout” and whoops that remind me of Hov on the Teairra Mari Rakim jack. Oh yeah, there’s plenty of comp, Shonda.
Now Teairra’s got arguably the best MC in the game (but just doing ad-libs), Nicole Wray seems to have a lock on the Mary J cracked vocal pathos, and Keisha Coles has genuine personality for days. But it’s nice to see that Mashonda doesn’t let any of that get in the way of a string of fluffy pop tunes that conveniently show up on shuffle during these lovely New York afternoons.

Mashonda feat Game (prod. Swizz Beats / DJ Finesse) “Back of the Club”
Fat Joe feat Mashonda (prod. Swizz Beats) “Listen Baby”
Mashonda feat Kanye West “Hold Me”
Mashonda feat. Jadakiss “Can’t Leave the Block Alone”
Mashonda feat Remy Martin (“Used To” (from White Chicks Mixtape)
Mashonda feat Nas (prod. Swizz Beats) “Blackout”
Mashonda “Welcome to Harlem” Freestyle

Saturday, June 11, 2005

marlboro country 'rap' tunes

smoke ‘em if you got ‘em

After most of the crowd broke North from SOBs after MIA’s show, DJ Marlboro pka Fernando Matta held down the Sounds Of Brazil just lovely. Waiting patiently for a mic he switched between the CD tables bringing the Favela flavors to a ridiculously small crowd (at least relative to images we’ve seen of parties down near the Cidade de Deus).

the rio deal

When the mic arrived he thanked the room (in Portuguese) specifically for supporting the music of ‘the poor people’ in Brazil and proceeded to hand out the booty (no culo). I got the “Proibidao Liberado” collection of ‘carioca funk’ and an eye-catching white mesh t-shirt with Marlboro’s radio station logo, ‘Big Mix: O Mane’ emblazoned as lovingly as my “Whut it dew?”-tee! Wifey crashed the boards to pull down a book called “DJ Marlboro Na Terra do Funk (DJ Marlboro In the Land of Funk)” by Suzana Macedoa for the Colecao Sebastiao series. It includes much ‘baile funk’ contextual information including a turntable timeline, transcriptions from Marlboro’s Big Mix radio show, lists of important DJs and MCs, a list of influential Miami Bass records, snap-shots of producers and fans of the music and even a collection of photos of pregnant party-goers(?). There are pages and pages of culture documented and, if your Portuguese is on point, you will get much more out of it than I did…which is actually quite a bit. The book also included a mix-CD of more favela funk including the Marlboro Medley, giving a taste of an earlier mix by the DJ.

Marlboro’s mix before the MIA set also, naturally, focused on the booty. He included joints that many of us first heard on Diplo's mix and the Favela Booty Beats compilation compiled by Daniel Haaksman. And the set was filled with exclusives, freestyles and one-offs that all contained that distinctive favela old-school-yard type monotone rap and cathartic karaoke crooning. The beats tap sources that would make Prince Paul chuckle, make Missy and Timbo smack themselves with a 'Why didn't I think of that?!?' and make P. Diddy revisit his 'sampling fund.' Loops of Madonna keyboards, 'Grease' basslines and 'Pink Panther' vamps are familiar and goofy but reinvented as serious beat experiments.

A gray-market karaoke-based music scene seems to have almost no chance to hurdle sample clearances into the mainstream. But then again... even the prophet Chuck D couldn't imagine a 'hip-hop record' before 'Rappers Delight.' (Can someone speed the crossover along and get that 'Pink Panther' mix onto the new soundtrack?)

Marlboro has been a force in the scene for well over a decade so it's hard for me to say if he's the 'Kool Herc and Bambaatta' of the scene who revolutionized what went into DJ crates... or is he the 'Red Alert and Marley Marl' breaking the latest joints and facilitating production for an undiscovered commercial audience ... or is he the 'Stretch Armstrong and Funkmaster Flex' becoming the next generation's source for 'street heat.' As hard as it might be to believe... it's quite possible Marlboro has taken on all of those roles.

What I appreciate most from the funk movement in Brazil is the clear enjoyment of the music without the American 'camp' that often accompanies 'retro' records. So if he's coming to your dancefloor please hit it without the chains of irony.

Here is a very informative interview with Marlboro by Andy Cumming from 2003.

DJ Marlboro E DJ Pirata - Feira De Acari (from Na Terra Do Funk)
MC Galo - Vacilou, Levou (from Proibidão Liberado)
Jr. & Richello - Preto E Branco (from Proibidão Liberado)
De Falla - Propozuda R n'Roll (from Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats)
Marcelo 2D - Batacuda (from Favela Chic)

And since we’re in the favela today… side note to clarify: I am not related to Rio’s Rocket…

Thursday, June 09, 2005

missing is action

MIA in Marlboro country?

MIA did her thing last night at SOBs and it was interesting to see that after all of the touring and hype and backlash and defense and hoopla… she has not changed her stage show one iota. And please note: 90% of that statement is positive… but now the 10% dis.
Hot damn, here we go again…
MIA, who has embraced and adopted ALL things ‘21st century beat culture,’ can’t rid her sets of the dead air between songs! The mixtape paradigm, in which she absolutely lives, allows songs to take a backseat to the overall vibe… this is PARTY music (and I’m not even trying for a pun there, Tiger) which demands ‘FLOW’. ‘Flow’ is on the ‘Piracy’ mixtape. ‘Flow’ is achieved by her DJs providing the mix immediately before MIA’s set.
In the midst of any song the crowd is with her… I’M with her… but then there’s an awkward transition to the next song as if we were still bound to some ‘rockist’ rulebook to ‘respect’each tune. But even a good ‘rockist’ knows that the space between songs should be used to engage the audience (pull up the people… please). Hey we know she’s “the cool girl” with ‘just-one-of-y’all’ appeal in that she can’t sing, dance or rap at any particularly high ‘technical’ level… so she better max out on the stage-presence and turn the charm up to 11.
Let me put it simply: If she’s not going to go whole-hog on the crowd hype then Diplo (or Andrew or whoever) should throw on some hot beats that mix out from each song and in some case mix into the next. She can do a few ad-libs/dance-steps over some of the hot beats and lay in the cut for others. Is that too much to ask for?
Perfect example from last night: DJ Marlboro got back on stage in the middle of MIA’s set and smoothly brought in that Eurhythmics loop and took over the sound system for minute. The audience seemed ready to see MIA work the Favela beats into her set… maybe kicking a Brazillian-style karaoke rap… switching between DJs, possibly… upping the energy with a ‘mixage-a-trois’ …
But no.
The dead air was brought in right after the DJ Marlboro section.
The energy and fun in MIAs songs deserve to be maintained for the whole show.

More on DJ Marlboro tomorrow…
but in-between time...

DJ Marloboro Medley

Friday, June 03, 2005

awesome dude

revenge of that good shit

I could sum up Devin the Dude’s vocal styling as Snoop’s reedy articulation and easy charm rolled with the storytelling precision and patented nonchalance of the old Kangol Krew but the chance to see him live at Rothko had the potential to reveal more secrets of his charisma. A show also has the potential to shatter an artists image by pulling back the curtain of the recording studio.

The Rothko crowd realized quickly… the Dude had bowls full of charisma to pass around. He literally puffed and passed with the front row. He simultaneously let a fan light his joint as he lit the mic. Devin blowed away any evidence of the hyper beats, over-the-top porn/camp and sexually aggressive posing presented moments before by the Spankrock crew.

Don’t get it twisted, pornography was still dominating the sound system but Devin brought his soft-spoken sex stories with a sly smile. Could anyone have anticipated a rapper with a voice that could only be described as ‘gentle’ ? As graphic as Devin gets, I wouldn’t call any of his freaky tales ‘threatening’ but I’ll concede to a smart lady’s assessment of the Dude’s raunch*if she presents it.

Devin strolled through some crowd pleasers ‘Fuck You’, ‘Boo Boo’n’, ‘Doobie Ashtray’ and ‘MoFaMe’ which showcased his vocal cutting/scratch… He would drop this ‘scratch’ throughout the set and it was one of his strongest techniques. Presenting himself as heavy lidded and languid in language Devin would bring in these precise ‘cuts’ to slice through the sleepy vibe.. if only for a moment. Another technique he demonstrated was a perfect-timing-rhyming apparatus… finishing rhymes just after the bar where you would swear there was no room to do so. Clearly, he’s perfected breath control… even while inhaling.

Right before the hilarious ‘Bust One Fo Ya’ (‘Ha Ha…’ ‘Hee Hee…’ ‘Ho Ho…’) Devin covered a song by another soft spoken artist. By adding a few lewd gestures during a straight James Taylor cover, Devin revealed JT’s pimp-hand...

Hey girls, gather round
Listen to what Im putting down
Hey babe, Im your handy man

Im not the kind to use a pencil or rule
Im handy with love and Im no fool
I fix broken hearts, I know that I truly can

If your broken heart should need repair
Then Im the man to see
I whisper sweet things, you tell all your friends
Theyll come runnin to me

Here is the main thing I want to say
Im busy 24 hours a day
I fix broken hearts, I know that I truly can

Come, come, come Yeah, yeah, yeah
Come, come, come Yeah, yeah, yeah
Theyll come runnin to me

Thats me Im your handy man

Devin’s set was waaay too short and inspired some grumbling but I look back on his hypnotic showstopping performance of ‘Anythang’ and immediately kill that noise. That unhurried groove was given so much room to breathe… flowing over a swaying crowd… the chorus hit home in a surprisingly profound way…

Anythang is plenty man and is better than nothin' at all

I thanked Matt Sonzola as he led Devin through the adoring crowd back towards a VIP loft (where Nas and Kelis supposedly chilled). HoustonSoReal and Oxy Cottontail have given me the best nights of music I’ve experienced in a long time. First Rapid Ric at Sway, then Devin at Rothko… and I hope I’m not blowing up Matt’s spot by mentioning a future visit by Paul Wall! And, as Catchdubs called it, this “TX/NYC exchange program” cannot be applauded enough.
Reign of the TX indeed.

*“the Dude’s raunch”… respect to SFJ’s better use of a bad pun