Tag Archives: 1998

Prince’s Crystal Ball: Celebrating 20 Years Since The Minneapolis Genius Opened His Musical Floodgates Of The Past

Prince hasn’t been with us for two years now. And there’s a lot talk about in regard to his vault of unreleased music at Paisley Park. It was one of the very first things I personally learned about the man in the late 90’s. Prince wasn’t releasing a lot of new music at that time. Likely because of his messy legal battles with Warner Bros. While the heat was dying down on that later in the decade,he actually seemed to be dipping into the vault quite a bit when it came to his newer releases. During this time, Prince also launched his earliest website and 1-800-NEW-FUNK phone service.

Prince offered up a multi disc boxed set that endeavored to officially release some of his most sought after material from his vault. The title track is full on psychedelic funk-with very tribal drum patterns and atonal flute at various points. “Dream Factory”,the Linn drum powered groove of “Movie Star” (which Prince proudly announces in the liner notes as “D’Angelo’s favorite bootleg”) ,the cinematic soul ballad “Crucial”,the demo jazzy funk groove of “Last Heart” and the acapella “An Honest Man” all derive from his massive 1986 era music production.

“Sexual Suicide” and “Good Love” derive from an unreleased album he’d credit to the name Camille-both utilizing strong hard funk,and the former with strong wah wah powered synths. “Cloreen Bacon Grease” heals from the sessions for The Time’s sophomore album in 1982-nothing but 15 minutes of funky drumming,bass and Morris Day humorously jiving lyrically. Because Prince was intending to release a triple album in 1986 with this same title,what surprised me is how much of this material gave from the first few years of him recording with the New Power Generation.

Some of these songs such as “Acknowledge Me”,”18 & Over”,remake of “P Control”, and “Poom Poom” are heavily bound to hip-hop beats . ‘2tomorrow” showcases him picking up on Miles Davis’s style of jazz hip-hop. A Shock G remix of “Love Sign” (featuring a clever sample of his own “DMSR” in the rhythm) has a G-funk friendly vibe. The NPG find some time to get seriously funky however on “Hide The Bone”,the stripped down “What’s My Name?”,’Calhoun Square”,the Sly Stone inspired “Make Your Mama Happy” and the P-Funk inspired duck face bass heavy “Days Of Wild (Free The Slave)”.

There’s also a clutch of ballads in the soulful, wah wah/horn driven “So Dark”,a wedding song for Maybe Garcia called “She Gave Her Angels” and “Goobye”. You also have the hard rock/blues shuffle of “Da Bang”-with it’s interludes of atonal guitars and the psychedelic soundscape of “Strays Of The World”. Prince is singing the straight up blues on “The Ride”,recorded live while “Get Loose” gets a live instrumental treatment without the industrialist electronics of the original while “Ripopgodazippa” deals with a modernistic pop/reggae rhythm-which has some heavily jazzy horn phrasings.

“Tell Me How U Wanna B Done” is a fast paced “hip-house” style dance number. This set was originally released in two configurations. Both added additional music to the 3 CD set. The store purchasable version added a new folk/blues based album called ‘The Truth’-and this is the version I own. The version only available over the 1-800-NEW-FUNK phone number also added a ballet Prince wrote and composted with Claire Fischer entitled Karmasutra. I never had this version of the album. But do have deep memories of an 18th birthday trip to NYC during the early summer.

Found this at the Tower Records in Manhattan. It felt very lucky to find this album,since there was never much talk about it coming out in record stores at the time. Musically speaking,this may be presented as an full album. But it’s actually an anthology style set. My only personal issue with it is that the songs are not presented in chronological order. With an artist as eclectic as Prince was,a sense of continuity in presenting his unreleased material showcased his musical evolution and experimentation.

On this album, a heavy JB style funk number from 1986 might be followed by a gruff rap/hip-hop number from 7-8 years later-for example. Honestly to me? It would’ve been more appropriate to concentrate on his often brilliant 80’s outtakes than showcasing so much from a then-present which…frankly haven’t worn well with age. But in terms of the funk,hip-hop/jazz,ballad and blues/rock exercises throughout this set? There are many treasures to be heard through this crystal ball.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Prince

R.Kelly Keeping The ‘R’ In His Music With His 1998 Double Album In Its 20th Year

Related image

During much of the 90’s, the success of R&B was largely dependent on how much alike (and how much of a party atmosphere) it had as opposed to any strong creative activity. Somehow, R. Kelly was one of a few who flourished as a standout artist during this time. That’s because he both resisted the contemporary soul/R&B/funk in its day and embraced it. One thing about this album is that it closed his first decade of recording by embracing the recently revived concept of the double album in the genre. Not only that but is also showed how the modern spirit seemed to resist the impulse of the double album itself.

The double album format was generally presenting a lot of quality music with extended runs. And little to no weak songs. This album might count as a slight revival of the format. Still, this album had many of the pros and cons of it’s era. Across 29 tracks and over two hours, this is probably one of the longest double sets-made for the CD era. Its main flaw was to fill nearly every available moment of space on the CD with music. Also as with all of R.Kelly’s 90’s albums, its uneven. Honestly, this would’ve made an excellent hour long single CD. And still been his best release of the decade.

But the fact it was so uneven was part of it’s charm. What the fairly generic 2-step style hip-hop/R&B (fairly new at the time) lacked in musical innovation they gained on in lyrical content. Songs such as “When A Woman’s Fed Up” and “Down Low Double Life” basically help the listener to understand the place modern women have in their failed relationships with “doggish men”-as R calls them-as well as their partial responsibility.
Musically by far two of the strongest songs here are the first two. “Home Alone” with Keith Murray and “Spendin’ Money”.

The two tunes here featuring Jay Z “We Ride”,”Only Loot Can Make Me Happy” and (to an extent) the Nas duet of “Money Makes The Wold Go ‘Round” all have a stripped down “nu-funk” late 90’s equivalents of the naked funk style. And they built on some thick, phat electric bass and excellent songwriting. There’s also two rather unique songs in the context of this particular album in the mid tempo, wah wah drenched “Suicide”,a scarily cinematic slice of slow funk concerning someone thinking the ending of a relationship as the end of his life.

“Dancing With A Rich Man” brings in light Latin dance ballad rhythm,keeping the “Spanish tinge” introduced from jazz to R&B and onward alive in his music. Of course, there’s also “If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time”-a completely Sam Cooke inspired vocal on a 60’s styled soul ballad and the more Motown flavored ballad “What I Feel/Issues” in direct counterpoint to the more obviously adult contemporary “I’m Your Angel” with Celine Dion. And also the addition of the epic gospel soul standard Kelly wrote “I Believe I Can Fly”.

So for sure ‘R’ has its lack of focus.  But in addition to allowing his musical unevenness to showcase the dual nature all classic soul artists tend to have, this album also shows how he tends to approach his albums in a similar manner to Persian rugs; he tends to leave one or more musical knot undone and flawed. Jus so the album has no chance of being perfect. It keeps his music human for sure. And sometimes it keeps things from being as good as they could be. No matter how one approaches this,  it’s still one of his finest releases.

Leave a comment

Filed under R Kelly

Anatomy Of The Groove: “Every Ghetto,Every City” by Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill might’ve started out singing with her musical family in South Orange,New Jersey. But initially,she was a child actress appearing on As The World Turns and Sister Act II: Back In The Habit. During high school her friend Pras Michel convinced her to join his band-followed soon by her cousin Wyclef Jean. The Fugees was born,and the young singer/rapper/songwriter was on her way to a solo career with her one and only solo album thus far in 1998 entitled The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. I posted my Amazon review of this album here already. Yet there was an incomplete part of the picture.

Lauryn Hill and her solo debut has been a consistent conversation point between myself and Henrique Hopkins. The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is often considered the beginning of the neo soul sound. At the time it came out, the original funk music of the 60’s,70’s and 80’s said more to me personally than even Hill and artists like her’s best efforts. Yet I noticed Henrique was planning on doing an article on a song called “Every Ghetto,Every City”. He doesn’t generally write on Andresmusictalk talk anymore. But he likely won’t mind me giving my own spin on this song.

A clapping,dripping intro starts the song off with a swirling Clavinet solo. Once Hill’s vocals-doing her own lead and backups pop up,the ultra funky drum shows up along with the hardcore bass popping along. This represents the majority of the song-both the refrain and chorus-separated mainly by differences in key.  The two refrains break the song down the clapping intro and the bass line-accompanied by a light organ swirl. That is basically the same way in which the song fades into its home recording type outro-with Hill’s second chorus leading the whole way.

“Every Ghetto,Every City” is essentially a 5+ minute mini autobiography of Lauryn Hill. She talks about the fun,inspiration and later difficulties she lived with growing up in the hood during late 80’s/early 90’s. Lyrically and musically,it shares many similarities to Stevie Wonder’s 70’s approach to funk-with its slow burning Clavinet based groove. She even references his song “I Wish” in the lyrics. Even though the use of the word “nigga” irritated me (I agree with Maya Angelou that even in baccarat crystal,poison is still poison), Lauryn Hill delivered on some seriously powerful funk for the late 90’s here.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Lauryn Hill

Andre’s Amazon Archive: ‘Aquemini’ by OutKast

Aquemini

 

Now coming a decade after Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions this album not only arrived as OutKast’s third effort but in a time when the sample-centric mentality was still a mainstay in hip-hop. Sometimes it was interesting,sometimes fun and sometimes it was just a yawn if done in an overly predictable way. One thing a friend pointed out to me,which I should’ve guessed looking at the liner notes was this album was a direct byproduct of an era when bands such as The Roots were really talking hip-hop music into a more instrumental than a sample/scratch oriented context.

What’s unique about this is how the Organized Noize crew who put the music on this album together. Especially towards the end of this album layored jazz/soul/funk songs such as “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”,the late 70’s synth/dance/funk polyrhythmic style of “Da Art Of Storytellin Part 1” and the rhythmically complex “Liberation”,featuring vocals by Cee Lo later of Gnarls Barkley fame all have a sound that could easily make one believe they’re built on samples but they aren’t;the music is 100% organic and very much rooted in the 70’s as well as contemporary and futurist as well.

This makes a lot of sense considering Dre and Big Boi’s state of mind at the time. Both spend most of this album trading rhymes and licks at a lightening pace all regarding the correlation of cultural standards from the more Afrocentric,revolutionary 70’s culture towards the more aggressive and uncertain atmosphere on the 90’s. Tunes such as “West Savannah”,”Hold On Be Strong”,”Return Of The G” and the infamous “Rosa Parks” (apparently with the lady herself taking a certain exception to her name being used) all pull these ideas together.

It blends tales for the nostalgia of this pairs youth with the reality of drugs,romantic abandonment,dysfunction and search for hope that linked both the earlier and modern era together. Sometimes,especially in the case of Big Boi the language used may be somewhat tart for hip-hop’s detractors but if you hear past that to WHAT is being said as opposed to how it’s BEING said there’s an important story told. “Synthesizer”,featuring George Clinton and the closer “Chonkyfire” both bring together both aspects of this album together in a great way.

It’s that somewhat more retro 70’s musical aspect as well as the slower,almost G funk,live instrumental variation on the old Bomb Squad soundscape style up front. This also clues you in to the fact OutKast are more than willing to transend generational barriers with their music:the chorus are beginning to feature the Leroy Sugarfoot Bonner styled drawled vocals from Andre’ that would define albums from Stankonia and the subject matter of their raps have become significantly broader. No two OutKast albums are particularly alike and many are more or less hip-hop oriented than others. This favors a period where they’ve found the middle ground and thankfully for us received a lot of well deserved respect for their efforts.

Originally posted on September 24th,2010

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW HERE!

Leave a comment

Filed under 1998, Andre 3000, Big Boi, Cee Lo Green, dance funk, G Funk, George Clinton, Organized Noize, OutKast, Southern hip-hop

Anatomy of THE Groove 6/20/14 Rique’s Pick : “Every Ghetto, Every City” by Ms. Lauyrn Hill

If, in today’s warp speed popular entertainment culture, The Fugees “Blunted on Reality”, is their “Stevie at the Beach” or even “Eivets Rednow”, and their worldwide smash “The Score” was their “Talking Book” or “Innvervisions”, then for member Ms. Lauryn Hill, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” would be her magnum opus, her “Songs in the Key of Life.” “Unplugged” might be her “Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.” But taking “Miseducation” as her “Songs in the Key of Life”, this weeks “Anatomy of THE Groove” feature, “Every Ghetto, Every City”, would be her equvalent of Stevie Wonders “I Wish.” Like that all time funk classic, “Every Ghetto, Every City uses an arch-funky groove to tell a soulfully nostalgic story of the artist days of growing up. Stevie’s took place in Saginaw, Michigan, but Hill grows up from a girl to a very talented woman in “New Jerusalem”, a very Old Testament nickname for the state of New Jersey.

The groove is one that caught my attention when I first copped the CD back in 1998. Hill and her musicians and producers waste no time laying a mean groove down. Just as Stevie dug back into an older, funky barrellhouse/stride/gospel/boogie woogie funk style for “I Wish” that recalled the older folks music of his youth, Lauryn Hill reaches back for a funky clavinet based groove to tell her story of growing up in the early days of hip hop. On closer inspection, she also adds some unique touches that hint at a unique merger of hip hop and instrumental funk that nobody has quite taken up in the same way. The groove is very siimple and funky, beginning with a funky clavinet riff, supported by a loud and upfront bass line. The bass line provides a lesson in playing funky bass with a lots of space, not taking away attention from the vocals in a modern Hip Hop/Soul situation. The bass basically lays down a funky two note groove based on the “One”, with some pick ups to lead you back to “The One.” Every four bars the bass plays a very funky James Jamerson inspired run. The drums hit a nice light swing in a manner similar to the way D.J Premier programmed his drum patterns. Every few bars, the producers add what sounds like a digital turntable scratch sound, a very popular effect in the late ’90s. In this context however, of a throwback funk groove, it works not just as a hip hop sound but also as a reflection of the antique nature of the groove, an appropriate touch like vinyl white noise.

Ms. Lauyrn Hill begins her tale of growing up in a manner similar to Wonder, “I was just a little girl/skinny legs and press and curl/my mama always thought I’d be a star.” She goes on to tell a story of the inner city we really no longer hear. Her inner city had kids stealing but at the same time, streets that nurtured her. The chorus strikes a note of universality, because as unique as her ubringing was, she sees flashes of it all around the world, “Every ghetto/every city/and suburban place I’ve been/make me recall my days/in the New Jerusalem.” She backs up richly soulful vocalizing, with hip hop shot outs, in effect serving as her own hype man, as Diddy was so famous for doing around that same time. This message of an experience that transcends ones specific place on the map was certainly needed in that time period of Hip Hops “East Coast/West Coast beef.” She goes on to talk about morning cartoons, and takes us all the way through the golden days of hip hop, talking about when “Self Destruction” dropped and emulating the famous Hip Hop break “Heaven and Hell is On Earth”, by the 20th Century Steel Band, who’s high pitched vocals have been heard on numerous hip hop cuts over the years.

“You know its hot/dont forget what you got/looking back”, she advises us on the funky eighth note driven bridge section of the tune. When this song hit, it affected me on several levels, bringing up thoughts of both the classic funk era, which I was born after, but who’s music I knew intimately, as well as the classic hip hop era, during which I was alive but heard the music in a blur, not always as music but as a soundtrack to bike rides, basketball games, baseball card trading, barbecues and games of hide and go seek, in Cross Color jean short outfits, of course. But I do remember very clearly, when Ms. Hill dropped this song and the nostalgic yet alive vibe it created. Funk like this doesen’t just live in 1978, or 1998, it lives each and every day it’s grooved. So “Every Ghetto, Every City” is my pick of the day, and you can be sure I wont forget what I’ve got looking back!

5 Comments

Filed under 1970's, 1980's, 1990s, Blogging, Funk, Lauryn Hill, Motown, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Stevie Wonder