Tag Archives: urban contemporary

Anatomy of THE Groove: “The Greatest” by King

King are an LA female trio who seem to be getting a lot “magazine time” in Rolling Stone, The Fader, Spin and The New York Times. The core of the trio are the Strother sisters Paris and Amber as well as Anita Bias. This gives the group roots in Minneapolis as their late uncle was twin city bluesman Percy Strother. Its the sister Paris who produces the music,while the songwriting is a collaborative effort between all the members. There sound is a mixture of dreamy,funkified 80’s style “Afr0-Chill” as it were-with a strong Afro Caribbean influence in their heavily rhythmic electronic approach to music.

Since the release of their debut EP The Story in 2011,they appeared on the HIV/AIDS benefit tribute album Red Hot+Fela a couple of years later-doing the song “Go Slow”. Right in between that,they collaborated with contemporary jazz maestro Robert Glasper on the song “Move Love” from his Black Radio. Their 2016 debut album We Are King was nominated for best urban contemporary album at this years Grammy’s. That inspired me to seek out and purchase the CD of it. So far in my listening,the song that speaks and sings to me most is the Muhammad Ali tribute entitled “The Greatest”.

An electronic Afro Latin conga drum percussion stomp opens the album,as the main rhythm of the entire song. A synth riser brings the vocals in on its sonic wave. This is accompanied on the ethereal vocal harmonies on the song with song tingling,high pitched melodic synthesizers. There’s also a more brittle synth spike right in the middle of the arrangement-which solos right before the second refrain. As the song progresses,further stabs of arpeggiated synthesizers rise up to the same aural level as the lead vocal before the song fades out.

“The Greatest” is an amazing tribute to late champion Ali. It talks about the man being a fighter both in and out of the boxing ring. Have to congratulate the Strother sisters and Anita Bias for focusing on such a strong African American hero at a time when anti black racism continues to rear its ugly head. The music of the song never loses focus of its strong Afrofuturism. The rhythm is full on Afro Caribbean. And its complex, jazzy melodies are sung in meditative,chant like harmonies. King prove on this, and what I’ve heard of their debut album,to be a strong contemporary African American musical voice.

 

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove 2/20/15 Rique’s Pick: “Sho You Right” by Barry White

In retrospect, the year 1987 was the most meaningful,
impactful and enjoyable musical year of my childhood. In that particular year, the sounds of the past, present and future came together, all providing musical enjoyment on the one. I recall in particular my dad taping radio broadcasts on the local soul stations to carry on a trip he was making to Liberia, West Africa on business. Liberians have always been fans of the up to the minute latest in soul, funk, jazz, R&B, Gospel and eventually, hip hop too! What makes ’87 so special for me is the fact that veterans such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, The Bar Kays, and The Commodores put out powerful, funky music right next to the Kings and Queens of the era such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Janet Jackson and Jody Watley. They were also joined by the beginning of the golden age of hip hop, with artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and N.W.A all dropping their ’70s funk sampling hip hop. Among the many artists who enjoyed comebacks that year was the Maestro, Barry White, who hit with today’s funky classic, “Sho You Right.” This song stands tall alongside cuts such as “Skeletons” by Stevie Wonder, “System of Survival” by EWF, and of course “Housequake” by Prince and “The Way You Make Me Feel” by M.J. “Sho You Right” would begin a comeback path that would peak with the 1995 hit “Practice What You Preach.”

One of the things I love about “Sho You Right” is it translates White’s classic rhythmic sense into the contemporary idiom of drum machines and synthesizers. It might have been jarring when an artist like Barry went electro. After all, he was a pioneer in bringing a rich symphonic layer to the primal pulsations of Rhythm and Blues. But one thing some fans miss is the fact that Barry White often had a powerful, Afro-Latin rhythm underneath his symphonic soul that could definitley stand alone when called upon to. This funky hump is present on the classics such as “It’s Ecstacy When You Lay Next to Me”, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More”, “Love Serenade”, “Your Sweetness is My Weakness” and countless other classics.

“Sho You Right” was based on a track White’s long time collaborator Jack Perry brought in. The Maestro himself played the many electronic instruments on the track. The song begins with a funky Carribean sounding drum roll which leads into a hard, semi industrial ’80s beat. Sometimes the industrial side of the ’80s drum machine programs can sound a little harsh to my ears, but on this cut its well modulated with more mid range warmth than usually heard on such a beat. The beat is centered around an eighth note drum kick that sounds like its main purpose is to lead you to the abnormally loud snare drum sounds on the 2 and 4. The kick drum is very syncopated and sets the stage for the multiple syncopations of the song. BW gives a shortened version of his classic love raps from the ’70s saying simply “Baby you got my undivided attention.”

A mean, strutting, jumping Afro-Carribean-Latin groove is introduced with keyboard horns playing on the “1” beat and the “3”. With the horns on the 1 and 3 and the heavy snare on the 2 and 4, the groove has the irresistible push and pull, jumpy quality. While I’m generally not crazy about synth horns, the horns here are wisely programmed like a horn section and restricted to a brief clipped horn burst, which heightens their effectiveness. In the background there is a synth guitar part seemingly played with some sort of bending effect that allows it to effectively mimic a real guitar. The groove breathes with vibrancy through its synthesized textures and BW and Perry introduce all kinds of fills, syncopations and Reggae style off beats that keep the groove vital and moving.

As far as The Maestro’s vocals? I always loved the way he slurred out his lines on this song. The lyrics are built around the line “Baby I’m relating” which was a finalist for the song title, with Jack Perry choosing “Sho You Right” out of the two song titles Barry presented him. The Maestro was back, turned on, and ready to relate!!!! This song along with many others was a soundtrack to many bike rides, basketball games and long weekend afternoons for me back in ’87 and ’88. And although I didn’t understand the sensual text of the lyrics, I surely understood the vitality of the groove! Proving that whether the Maestro is orchestrating men and women or machines, his wand will always direct something funky!

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Andre’s Amazon Archive for 12/27/2014: ‘Love Changes’ by Kashif

Kashif Love Changes

Almost since the very start of the 80’s Kashif had been one of the key innovators of a style known as boogie funk,which was very complimentary to the Minneapolis sound of the era as it created a cinematic dance/funk sound with electronic rather than live band orchestrations. His first three solo recordings were solidly in this style,with some wonderfully creative jazzy musical ideas present as well. By the time 1987 arrived,funk/soul music had suddenly moved on in such a significant way that there wasn’t much room left for the innovation of boogie to go that far forward anymore. Lucky for Kashif he was also expert at a type of sound that suited every period of the 80’s very well:the urban ballad. And that is largely where he focused his energies on this album. But in terms of the uptempo music? That was another story.

Kashif begins the album with the title song,a sleekly produced ballad with the talented,gospel drenched singer Meli’sa Morgan,who even does a bit of in studio patter with Kashif vocally. Towards the end of the album he turns up the class even more with Dionne Warwick on the elegant “Reservations For Two”. These songs remind me of Brenda Russell only with somewhat of a harder edge,which also defines his solo ballads here such as “It All Begins Again” and “Somebody”. “Midnight Mood”,featuring a solo by Kenny G (whose rather gutsy early solo records benefited heavily for Kashif’s imput) is a very inspiringly composed instrumental with some jazz-like bass/guitar harmonies around the middle as well. One of the highlites of the album as far as I’m concerned. With the slow,pounding go-go shuffle and guest spot by Doug E Fresh “Loving You Only” is only beat out by the Force MD’s and Keith Sweat as the earliest New Jack Swing type dance number.

“Fifty Ways To Fall in Love”,”Who’s Getting Serious?” and “Vacant Heart” are the main uptempo funk material here. They are well down and very much on the Jam/Lewis style of things but don’t possess Kashif’s more destinctive touch with uptempo music he’d begun with earlier in the decade. This album is one that finds Kashif looking to rediscover his musical identity,after his pioneering days of boogie funk had officially come to an end. He had the general musical ability and strong association with other popular talents that gave him a bit more breathing room than a lot of his contemporaries to reinvent himself in this way. The overall effect of this album is one of searching. Luckily though his personal songwriting stamp and way with melodies remained perfectly intact. So nothing on this albums comes close to being badly done in any way. It’s more a question of how smooth a ride the music is. But it’s at least a pretty all inclusive journey he takes us on.

Originally Posted On August 22nd,2012

Link to original Amazon.com review here*

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Filed under 1980's, 1987, Amazon.com, Boogie Funk, Funk, Go-Go, Kashif, Music Reviewing, quiet storm