I first heard Eminem when I was a young innocent sheltered kid living in a mining town in southern Africa. The slim shady LP was explosive and dipped in subject matter that turned all morality and sense of right or wrong on its head. He basically took a huge dump on all the judeo-chirstian indoctrination I was raised on. He did it in a way that combined sheer rap ability with a cartoon like wit that was unprecedented in Hip Hop. Marshall Mathers LP came when I was a relatively mature rap fan and it was the single give a fuck about Dre that opened an almost two year period when this album was the soundtrack to my adolescent years. If you ask me now i keep this album mostly for memories sake. So reading this noisy article helped me acknowledge the weird way music acts as a totem for periods in our lives. It manages to capture and help us relive how we felt, who we loved, what we hated and what we watched and listened too.
Its always intriguing to listen to a dj set done by an artist you admit and listen to because its a journey into their process.
I came upon this album way way after it dropped on April 2nd 1996. This was a weird period in the history of R&B an art-form that for many years represented the apex of black american music. In 1996 black music was under the hypnotic control of large major label glossy Hip Hop and equally decadent and empty highly sexualized 90’s R&B. This art form that was created by black, occasionally white and brown men born and raised on either the blues or church music, had evolved into an empty call to vain sexual encounters. In the midst of this decadent emptiness two records dropped by two distinctly different artists, that changed the vanguard. On July 5th 1995 D’angelo dropped the Hip Hop referencing soul epic “Brown Sugar” and then in 1997 Miss Badu drops “Baduizm”. These movements were the soul version of the native tongues movement, an attempt to capture a sound that was organically rooted in the past but grounded in the present. Maxwells Urban Hang Suite, was an album that unapologetically transcended time and space. The album was an adult in its exploration of adult themes about relationships. Yet its beauty was founded on its lack of overt sexuality but is founded on a mature exploration of committed relationships and not hook-ups. The lyrics are respectful to women, while still managing to serenade and in more ways than one excite women. Recently I have found myself listening to and buying a ton of early 80’s soul music by acts as remote as Syreeta, Ladies of the 80s and slightly big names like Patricia Rushen, Roy Ayers and rose royce, I began to realize how timeless this record is and was.
One sound that pervades this album is the sound of Quiet Storm radio, A sound credited to WHUR-FM in washington D.C an iconic station if ever there was one. The term Quiet Storm is attributed to a song of the same name by Smokey Robinson.
To this day after a late shift at work, there is nothing more soothing than hearing acts like Luther Vandross, Frankie Beverly & Maze or Anita Baker play as I drive home. This quiet storm sound is all over Maxwells Urban Hang Suite covering it in a unassuming representation of what love and relationships aught to be. This music avoids the cliches of acts like Chris Brown or any of these other newbies, its music thats sang in a tone reminiscent of early Toni Tone Tone on records like “Annie May”.
Born and raised in the church as a lot of soul-singers were Maxwell understood how to create music founded on a balance between secular and religious explorations of love between a man and a woman. Its music that is created in a way that appeals to couples but can be performed in public and not feel too individualized. As a young music geek, my attraction to this album was founded on the musicality on the record. Its built on steamy deep grooves, and drum machines reminiscent on some of Princes’ calmer songs. Its an album that has this pleading quality to it while also being vulnerable. One of the albums I was listening to while playing this was Marvin Gayes “I want you” a record produced with the assistance of Leon Ware who helped maxwell on this the song “Sumthing Sumthin”,
Then you also have the assistance of giants like Wah Wah Watson dropping in all the Wah Wah guitar sounds that gave the album a restrained-funkiness that made it very groovy and adult for urban radio. Maxwells Falsetto reflecting Curtis Mayfield, Prince and Smokey robinson in equal measure, but we cannot deny the Sade influence which came from the golden touch of Stuart Matthewman.
The song that had me losing my mind was ‘Till the cops come knocking” a song that sounds like the product of people whispering sweet nothings in their bedroom. Its pure intimacy is driven by subtle Wah Wah and an ethereal sounding background punctuated by deep bass lines and calm sultry drums.
The album flows sequentially in a concept built around a relationship that goes from introduction to sexual climax and ends with marriage.
I was inspired to write this when I heard the music of 4aD signed artists Inc who explicitly discussed the influence of Maxwell on there record.
These british rappers understand DIY in a way that american rappers take for granted. They go in on their videos achieving artistically interesting videos while creating music thats equally minimal but packed with emotive force.
The era of the tape gave birth to some of raps most innovative sounds and now we are in the midst of an internet rap renascence. First lil b opened the floodgates with his DIY minimal rap accompanied by equally effortless raps. Now we have a slew of post lil b rap crews and sounds all making music thats weird.
56 nights is a new mixtape future dedicated to DJ Eskimo who got locked up in a Dubai jail for 56 days. This song stood out to me. As usual Future is crazy inventive with how he deals with his cadence and how he focuses more on melody rather than clear inundation of words. Future doesn’t merely slur because his southern but he approaches the act of rapping the way a sax player approaches his instrument. In this case his words are an instrument that can be bent beyond recognition while still retaining an inventive melodic and rhythmic quality.
This song is on some frightening level hardcore. With a menacing pulsing base line accompanied by woodwinds, dizzying wha wha guitar pedals. Then Samuel T. Herring from the band future island creates an equally psyched-out vision of a man on a mission like a cat in a blaxploitation flick. The rapping from both oh no and alchemist is dark and hard as hell. Yet the starring performance goes to Earl who performs dizzying acts of dense hardcore unapologetic raps.
No words for the sublime nature of this joint. I meant the Isaac hayes sample makes it a ready made hit. But home girls urgent singing reflects a perspective thats I feel very connected to. She discusses a feeling i often have when I am around people sometimes when all the alcohol and crowds become exhausting and you sit alone in the corner asking what you are doing in that place.
Kanye and Danny brown have all created or hinted at interest in the grime scene. I have always felt these cats are rapp-iddy rappers in a way that american rappers haven’t been in decades. They always approach rapping with the kind of raw attitude, wit and inventiveness that informed early battle rap music in the states. But these english cats go a few steps further throwing in Jamaican patios and London street talk to create a dizzying uniquely menacing form of rap built over skeletal futuristic beats. Shutdown for me is a song thats been on repeat for the past two weeks. The video takes things even further burying you in the unique street style that avoids all the bloated boasting and gun touting of american videos, but manages to still be equally menacing.
It ain’t safe for the block equally sick with a hint of early 3 6 mafia cadence happening. I love this song as much as the first.
I saw Asap Rocky at the house of blues a while back. My friend criticized there music for being purely about swag. I always liked this cat since “Pesos” it was music with a new york swag but style and delivery that fused memphis underground rap with the purrp and lean sipping cadences of Texas. This dude in many ways ushered in the era of rap listeners that had broken with the idea of good rap only ever coming from the east coast. This song takes us back to his mixtape era. The beat has crazy bass and a seriously tripped out vibe that will lend it to dance floors and trunks of peoples cars.
Wow well firstly this mixtape is summer heat. But when i heard this song it was put on repeat immediately. T.I is rapping with a youthfulness that i haven’t heard in years. Him and thugga got chemistry like crazy. His slurring the shit out of his words on this one switching his timing and chopping it up like crazy. Thug on the chorus and his own verse are both as indecipherable as ever to be precise they sound so inaudible you might start thinking your high on something. But he is effective at making words sound exciting because they have been distorted beyond recognition. lil Boosie at the end of the song totally comes in with a scene stealing verse.
Totally feeling this tune. Firstly the sample which is an Isaac Hayes standard was also used by portishead to great effect. She has a great vocal instrument but rides the beat with a power and urgency that makes it beautiful. She also avoids the trap of singing about the hedonistic nihilism of present day youthful drug culture. She in a sense is making an existential statement standing away from the crowd and creating her own world
Ibeyi french sisters by way of Cuba. Take Hip Hop, African folk music (Yoruba via Cuba) and skeletal electronic drum music to create an eerie afrofuturistic concoction of haunting beauty. This performance was something that helped brighten an otherwise dark and gloomy sunday in the midwest.