Wednesday, March 29, 2006

black steel in the hour of chaos

Author/speaker Adisa Banjoko, Rahman of the San Quentin Project Trust, and (in the background) a hardcore lady that, much like Bone Crusher, is "Never Scared" (yeah, right!).

Adisa builds with Norteno inmates in a manner that turned out to be deeper than he would have known. . . (photos by Abraham Menor)

Here it is! I've been talking about the wild process of its creation for a month here on r2b: My only 1500 word feature story in history to spawn a 3000 word behind-the-scenes story as well!

"Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"(from SF Weekly)

In case you didn't already read my long-winded backstory, here's "Love From San Quentin" and "Love Aftermath."

Even with all of that said, there are still so many nuances to our San Quentin visit that got lost with editing and space constraints. . . we didn't get to thank the brothers that we knew by first name that were so amazing to us there (Rahman, Ernest, Leonard, and Kevin in particular). To squeeze it all down to a paragraph and a half was a wee bit painful. But thank heaven for bloggery!

Monday, March 27, 2006

a motor city party don't stop

[from Motown's Studio A: Stevie wuz 'ere!]

Congratulations to Paxahau, who have been awarded the contract by the City of Detroit to host this year's installment of Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival. It's a big responsibility that couldn't be in better hands.

If I ever have a spare lifetime, I want to be one of the ones who chronicles the storied history of this party. I've done my part to contribute to the narrative for the four years that I was able to go and connect with my techno soul brethren. The festival has provided me with some incredible moments. But it's the Underground Resistance family that have moved me beyond words.

I'm not going to be able to go, and will probably have to have a Detroit-themed pity party at my house (like we did last year), but that doesn't mean I won't be making regular visits to Techno Tourist and attempting to get a contact high off of their virtual excitement.

There's a site called D-I-R-T-Y that streams DJ mixes. I'd recommend listening to sets by the following DJs to get an idea of why I keep going back for more whenever I can: Anthony "Shake" Shakir, Recloose, Suburban Knight, Theo Parrish, DJ Assault, Titonton Duvante.

D-I-R-T-Y has mixes from some of my favorite electronic artists of all time, so I'll probably be hanging out over there for a while.

from the vaults: donna summer

I was unspeakably nervous before my telephone interview with Donna Summer. I had a strict 15-minute slot, so I overprepared in a way that I haven't before or since. She quickly put me at ease; she was so approachable and earnest.

When our time came up, she said, "I enjoyed speaking with you. Feel free to call my manager if you need more time."

I never called the manager . . . I was too shy to impose . . .

[originally appeared on CDNow, Summer 1999]

Donna Summer: Still Disco's Queen
By Tamara Palmer

In 1979, Newsweek dubbed Donna Summer "The First Lady of Lust" and "Disco's Aphrodite" in response to her orgasmic dancefloor anthems.

In the 20 years that have elapsed since then, Summer has transcended such daft tags with a multifaceted career that still has no end in sight. She has proven her musical versatility time and time again, from recording a number-one country hit for Dolly Parton to winning Grammy awards in rock, R&B, and inspirational categories. She is also an accomplished painter that has exhibited in galleries throughout the U.S. (she will have her debut show in Japan this summer).

For the last seven years Summer has been preparing Ordinary Girl, a musical based on her life for which she will rightfully assume the lead role, for Broadway. Earlier this year, she released Sing Me Sleep Mommy, a collection of modern Christian lullabies, and has recently emerged with VH1 Presents: Donna Summer Live and More Encore, a companion volume to the televised live performance recorded at New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom this past February. We shared a few minutes with this most passionate, real, and articulate icon:

What inspires you creatively?

Everyone. Everything. Everything I see. People that get around me very often for any length of time realize that I'm an extremely visual/audio person. I notice everything, just everything -- people's eyes, people's clothes, people's hair, people's personalities. I'm sensitive to everything around me so I'm constantly commenting on things. That's how I live my life. I recognize people and their talents and their gifts and try to somehow incorporate that into what I do.

So it's life itself.

Life! People and experiences. Sometimes I'll see someone on the street, and they'll be dressed a certain way or going to a certain place or be a certain type of person, and I'll just make up a whole story based on what appears to me to be. It may not be the truth, but it's just in my mind. I'll say, "Oh, that person is probably getting a divorce, or it's their first love."

You've worn so many professional hats in your career, from writing and singing to painting and acting. Is there a profession that in an ideal world you might like to slip on for a day?

I'd like to be an architect, and a landscape architect. Architecture and inventing, those would be areas . . .

But you're already quite an inventor of sorts.

Well, but in the sciences, like inventing things. Doing scientific experiments and creating ways to use things that exist that haven't been done. I do a lot of my own playing around with that at different times when I'm bored, although no one in the room knows what the heck I'm talking about! It's kinda tough; my husband's like, "I think I got ya. You're too up there. You need to come down to Earth. I don't get it!" I'm like, "All right, all right -- forget it."

What did you initially think of Giorgio Moroder's style when you started working with him? It was so unlike anything else at the time.

I didn't know anything else. I started first with Giorgio, and Giorgio and I inspired each other. The idea of "Love to Love You Baby," which is the precursor to "I Feel Love," really was something that I went to Giorgio and said, "Let's do this." And Giorgio came up with [simulates Moroder's entrancing rhythm track]. I think the fact that Pete Bellotte and Giorgio did not apply any major lyric to that song left it feeling very pop-syntho. And if we had made it very heavy with words it wouldn't have felt the same. Because we did that at first and we just looked at each other and said, "Nah, it's not gonna work. We've got to keep this thing as pure and simple as the music is."

The collaboration of the three of us -- Pete was coming from an English point of view, I was the American point of view and Giorgio was the European point of view. The marriage of the three of those things kind of spawned that. I think it was the marriage of the situation -- the sound of my voice, the way I sung it. I sang it emotionally, where a lot of times [when] you hear pop-syntho stuff it's very [simulates repetitive, noisy machine sounds]. There's no emotion in it. But I didn't do that. If you listen to the track, I really sang it with feeling. That's why I think it was very special.

You've been sampled and interpolated many times. Most recently by TLC on their Fan Mail album. They sang the "Love To Love You Baby" chorus in a lascivious track called "I'm Good At Bein' Bad." I understand you weren't too pleased by the messages in that song. How do you feel about sampling in general, and how did that situation in particular feel?

[Note: This was four years before Beyonce interpolated the song for "Naughty Girl" in 2003. . . ]

I don't mind sampling as long as there is an agreement: You can't use my voice in something that I don't agree on. I don't want to be a part of that; that's not what my message is in life. To become part of something that is not what you want is not right. It's really an infringement on your copyright. If somebody comes to you and asks you can they use your copyright, and they present to you one picture and when you hear it, it's another? That's where you have problems.

Has that happened?

Oh yeah, that's what happened. A lot of times, people will pitch to you what they want you to hear and you give them your approval, and then they change it. And then it's like, I didn't approve that. But they've got your name on a piece of paper and you have to prove that you didn't hear it that way. It's really a touchy situation -- I think it's kind of fun to have people sample things, but like I said, it just has to be used in the context of what I feel like I can live with.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

open all nite! is now open for business. I'm kickstarting it with an exclusive interview with E-40's dynamic producer son Droop-E along with some other pearls of wisdom from Yay Area greats.

Thursday, March 23, 2006!

I'll soon be opening the doors to yet another blog:!

It'll be just a lil complementary space in tribute to the Bay Area, with a lot of fun things to watch (bless YouTube) and a few fun things to read . . .

Until that happens, here's something fun I just found, a video clash between MC Hammer and E-40.

need more energy in your reading diet?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

bring the noise!

Chuck D pulls up to some tasty Country Fried Soul. . .

. . . As does Paris!

I interviewed them both tonight for part of a book about lyrics for my dear publisher Backbeat in London. Other songwriting luminaries in the book (which is by Rikki Rooksby but will feature contributions by several authors) include David Crosby, Lieber and Stoller, Nick Cave, and Robert Smith of The Cure. Chuck and Paris will be the lone reps for hip-hop, and what fitting candidates indeed! Given that Paris wrote 95% of the lyrics and produced the music for the new Public Enemy album Rebirth of a Nation, it was exciting to hear about how he had to put himself in Chuck's mindstate to write.

As much as I despise transcribing, it will be fun to get this interview down. As expected, they both had some amazing points to make. Chuck in particular was extremely conversant about notable songwriters from all genres, from Bacharach to Three Six Mafia.

I told Chuck it was a trip for me because the first rap concert I ever went to was Public Enemy in 1990 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, and here I was sitting with him and asking him all kinds of questions about his process. Gotta admit that the creative aspect of my job has been particularly invigorating lately!

My friends wanted me to ask questions about Flav, and I didn't because it didn't fall naturally into the conversation we needed to have. But I really just wanted to say one thing. . . "What do you think of when I say 'Hoopz?'"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

hustle and flow. . .

Originally published by SF Weekly 2006-03-15
©2005 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

E-40 blows up, and takes the rest of the Bay Area with him
By Tamara Palmer

Earl Stevens II is E-40, except when he's not. Sometimes they call him Dr. Scrill or E-Feezy or Forty Water. Pimpy E was his first alias, the one he took in seventh grade. There is also E-40 Fonzarelli (later upgraded to E-40 Belafonte), Earl "Jack Yo Slacks" Stevens (for when he's executive-producing something), Tom Fedi & Da Batch Breakers, Mr. Flamboyant, the Mail Man, and T.K.A. -- that's "Tycoon Known As" -- Charlie Hu$tle. In certain circles, he is known as the "Ambassador of the Bay" and the "King of Slang." In others, like that of 18-year-old producer Earl Stevens III, himself referred to as Droop-E, E-40 is often called "Pops."

"All he does is work hard and grind," says the high school senior of his dad. "It's starting to pay off now."

Droop-E is the new president of Sick Wid It Records, the independent label that Pops started in the late '80s as an outlet for the Click, 40's group with his sister Suga-T, brother D-Shot, and cousin B-Legit; since then, Sick Wid It has gone on to release albums from other family members, such as 40's cousins Turf Talk and the DB'z, and his brother Young Mugzi. Earl Stevens II has been a family man from the beginning, and over the years that family has grown quite large indeed, encompassing a hip hop scene that is, as you read this, exploding. Hyphy -- the Bay's hip hop youth culture defined by energetic dancing, car stunts, and playful, club-friendly jams -- is on the verge of going global.

Not since the demise of E-40's dear "booger from the same nose," Tupac Shakur, has mainstream hip hop been this interested in our Yay Area rap game. This is why, with his new album, My Ghetto Report Card -- released yesterday on hip hop kingmaker Lil Jon's BME Recordings, which is distributed by Warner Bros. -- E-40 is on the cusp of the greatest international success his nearly 20-year career has seen. So far the buildup to the album's release has included an MTV special (My Block: The Bay), a "new joint" spot on BET's 106 and Park countdown, nonstop airplay of the Lil Jon-produced single "Tell Me When to Go" (featuring Oakland's Keak Da Sneak) on national radio, and the kind of local-media feeding frenzy that occurs when a homegrown star finally gets his due.

Case in point: I'm at a Fatburger in Pleasant Hill, which has turned into an E-40 press camp on a day in late February. (Last year, the MC opened this burger franchise with Chester McGlockton, a former defensive tackle for the Raiders, and he has plans for nine more in the Bay Area.) Over a turkey burger and a chili dog, 40 brings me up to speed on his Report Card as -- get this! -- a Bay Guardian reporter, impatient for his interview time, brazenly eavesdrops on our conversation, writing down notes for what would become his paper's recent McStory on the artist. After years of listening to them, 40's records have filled my head with colorful metaphors on how to deal with this -- "Break [his] ass down like a 12-gauge and call [his] bluff," perhaps? -- but instead I chill.

If someone outside the Bay Area has heard of Vallejo at all, it's probably because of E-40, who grew up on the city's streets. As an up-and-comer, 40 went from selling the wrong thing for a minute (many of his records tell this tale) to selling his homemade cassette tapes in auto shops and barbershops, on street corners, at flea markets, and out of the trunk of his car. And he was good at it, real good: He parlayed hundreds of thousands of independent sales of his Sick Wid It releases into a major-label deal with Jive Records in 1994, which lasted a fruitful 10 years and 10 albums.

"I've been around since Kermit the Frog was a polliwog," says the rapper. "I've seen people fall by the waistline" -- yes, waistline; this is how the man talks -- "and it's just a blessing to still be in this game and have longevity like Mick Jagger or Ron Isley, you smell me?"

In hip hop, there's a large point of pride in representing where you're from. Thanks to 40's success, his otherwise obscure hometown is on the international rap map in the way that places like the Bronx, Compton, Houston, and Atlanta are. Even listeners as far away as Japan smell him. They know that Vallejo's Magazine Street is more than just a freeway exit on the way to Marine World; that it's a place they wouldn't want to run out of gas in. From 40, they've heard about such uniquely regional things as the '80s drought, Vallejo's Kaiser hospital, Pacific Bell, PG&E, Tommy T's Comedy Club in Concord, Oakland record store Moses Music, and countless other references.

But Bay Area topographical trivia is far from the only contribution the MC has made over the years. It's hard to find a major rap or R&B star who hasn't borrowed 40's phraseology (see 50 Cent name-checking his "Captain Save a Hoe," or Snoop Dogg's famous fa shizzling, verbiage that 40 and Keak Da Sneak originally popularized); his mannerisms (such as poppin' one's collar); his sound (40 dug up Roger of Roger & Zapp before Dr. Dre and Tupac used him for "California Love"); and even his business practices: 40's independent model of hustling records has inspired the tactics of Dirty South rap empires No Limit and Cash Money, among others.

"I don't call it ripped off, I call it donations," cracks one of 40's chief mentors, legendary rapper Too $hort (aka Todd Shaw), speaking from the Oakland video set of his own Jon-produced single, "Blow the Whistle." "You put it out there and it's out there. You can't say, 'I put this out there and it's mine,' you just put it out there as a gift to the world. From the first time you say it and the first time you do it, it's everyone's swagger. Every person who ever mimicked things me and 40 did, it was just a compliment."

Like Too $hort, 40 is uncharacteristically modest for a hip hop star. He knows he's a figure who's often been imitated and emulated, but his head hasn't swelled up to the point where he doesn't think about his local people, his "weepolation."

"I figure, the Bay is who made me, so I'm just giving back," he says. "When I got signed to a major label, I knew that there were rappers out there that wanted to work with me. I know how much of a big deal it is to work with somebody that you respect and love as a person coming up. And that's what I do. I make sure that I work with the local rappers, 'cause I know how it is. They're the rappers of tomorrow, and when you do that, the game will pay you back."

"A lot of Bay Area artists aren't really giving him his props for that," Droop-E says about his dad's commitment to supporting promising local talent and sounds. "Prime example: 'Tell Me When to Go.' He could have easily went with a [formulaic] single, he could have had anybody, any rapper on the first single. But what he did was he made a hyphy song -- a Bay Area-type track so that people would start looking at the bay more. And he didn't have to do that."

"You don't necessarily have to be that person who is on top for me to still be your friend or call you on your birthday," adds 40.

To hear 40 talk about it, this respect for the next generation is just a way of paying forward what he got from Too $hort. $hort has helped hundreds of people with their careers at all levels. In fact, it was $hort who once extracted Lil Jon from a bad record-company situation before he became the multiplatinum crunk hit-maker he is today, a favor that has come back to pay $hort, 40, and the Bay Area in spades.

"If Lil Jon just stands next to you, it's like a hit record," says $hort.

Which brings us to My Ghetto Report Card. "I made sure that I wasn't stuck in one time warp," 40 says, commenting on the constantly evolving style he brings to each new project. "I've always tried to readjust myself and push 'reset.' You have to be around what you wanna talk about, and it'll come to you. You have to do your homework."

Report Card's guest MCs and producers reflect 40's studious approach to ensuring his new album stands up to the best local as well as national releases out there: Besides Bay Area folks like Turf Talk, Too $hort, Stressmatic, and B-Legit, the LP features heavyweights from other regions, such as Kanye West, Juelz Santana, Mike Jones, Pimp C, and Bun B. And in addition to the infectious "Tell Me When to Go," which has launched hyphy into the national consciousness, there's also "U and Dat," a song featuring Atlanta "rapper turnt sanga" T-Pain that has significant buzz building in the South, and that could end up being a second single.

"I feel like a brand-new man; it's my second wind," 40 proclaims. "I feel like I've stepped it up a few notches and I ain't lost the beat. Like wine, it's better with time."

My Ghetto Report Card will go down in history as the album that helped Bay Area hip hop reclaim its place on the national stage. As Droop-E says about his dad, "He bust open the doors. Now all we gotta do is flood it."

Monday, March 06, 2006

from the vaults: björk

Burned in my mind forever. This is the conversation that sparked a professional interest in this genius artist that is still going strong today (but more on that at a later date). . .

[From UHF, November/December 1995]

Björk comin' on strong
by Tamara Palmer

Dressed in yesterday's clothing, Björk is still the epitome of style. Her wispy black hair is tied in a hurried knot which, while mimicking my own chosen coif of the day, manages to look artful rather than atrocious. She glances down at her shirt, a tight red cotton tee imprinted with a picture of a young boy holding a magnifying glass to his teeth. "It's my son," Björk says, referring to 9-year-old Sindri with quiet pride.

But being highly successful and a busy working mom doesn't bother her as much as it seems to trouble others. "I don't know why people always try to make a martyr out of me. Parenthood gives you a whole lot more than it takes out of you. Here's someone you can be completely honest with, be silly with, or just eat popcorn and watch Ren & Stimpy with."

BJÖRK'S ARRIVAL in Los Angeles does not go unnoticed. Sightings at everything from strip-mall Japanese vegetarian restaurants to local techno concerts are gleefully announced around town. One local internet site's traffic becomes so consumed with her visit that someone posts the suggestion it be renamed "örk."

My own initial encounter came on a surreal Sunday evening at Bossa Nova, a regular weekend wind-down at a frightfully upscale bar in Santa Monica. Resident DJ Jason Bentley stepped aside to give sonic control to Björk's new best friend Tricky, who bombarded the crowd with a novel mix of hip-hop, hard techno and guitar rock in a wildly impetuous half-hour set. The members of the English trio Massive Attack frolicked at the bar and watched their old collaborator rock the house, while Perry Farrell swayed to the deliciously dirty beat of Jane's Addiction, a gal-pal's eager arms locked around him in admiration. The center of attention thus occupied, it was left to Björk to slink around the perimeters, swathed in black rubber and trailed by nudges and whispers. Even out of the spotlight, she garnered an unusual amount of attention.

What's all the fuss? For the uninitiated, we speak of a most mythical creature in the world of pop music. The primed know Björk Gudmundsdottir - or simply Björk - as a woman who emerged from youthful stints in Icelandic punk bands like Kukl to lead the Sugarcubes, a band which has done more to put its native land on the map than anything since the Reagan-Gorbachev peace summit in Reykjavik. On second thought, it's fairly certain that in the Sugarcubes' '80s heyday, more eyes and ears were glued to the band's charismatic frontwoman, watching each wrinkle of her button nose and twist of hair in its crazy knots, hearing the sweet shrillness of every note she sang.

After the 'cubes spilt, Björk overcame the tricky hurdle of emerging as a credible solo act with the elegant Debut In 1993. Her latest CD, this year's Post, is a daring venture Into many musical realms, from a big band cover ("It's Oh So Quiet") and aggressive pop ("Army of Me") to hallucinatory love songs ("Hyperballad") and haunting odes of seduction ("Enjoy"). At 29, Björk is a seasoned and successful artist, as well as one with enormous critical respect.

"That doesn't mean I sing brilliantly or anything," she observes modestly. "Singing is one of those things that you can put anything into. Any experience that I have In my life I can put into my singing, and I still have only tried so little and I've still got so far to go. I'm not saying what I'm doing at the moment is perfect, not at all, but that is the field that I should put all my energy into."

Though praise for Björk's voice - a truly distinct cache of guttural emotion, plaintive melody, and brash ballsiness - has always been loud and forthcoming, she has been both aided and trapped by her outward style and beauty. The media's enchantment with her otherworldly looks have caused many to stop short of recognizing the intellect behind the allure of pigtails and maribou fur gowns, bowing to the pin-up doll mentality that plagues women in music. Instead of searching for brainpower, writers ask whether flannel is her favorite sleepwear, editors beg for her sexual accounts, and curious parties seek confirmation of rumors of an eccentric libido. When talking with Björk, such things become trivial and unimportant.

Today Is the last day that I'm using words
They've gone out
Lost their meaning
Don't function anymore
Let's get unconscious honey...

MADONNA SANG these words in her single "Bedtime Story," yet the pen which authored them rested in Björk's tiny hand.

Kicked back with her bare feet up on a table, quietly devouring chocolate ice cream from a paper cup, Björk explains how she casually outdid pop music's greatest manipulator. "When I was offered to write a song for her, I couldn't really picture me doing a song that would suit her. But on second thought," she says nonchalantly and with the barest hint of mischief, "I decided to do this to write the things I've always wanted to hear her say that she's never said."

With this admission, sneaking suspicions are confirmed. Björk is not really the woman so often dismissed as the trippy, vapid, eroticized elf from another planet. All style and no substance? Not here. Her style lies not in her whimsical paper dresses or baggy trousers, but in her substance.

Björk is a woman in control. Post is a milestone in that she produced much of it on her own, allowing longtime friend Nellee Hooper, whose credits include Soul II Soul, Massive Attack and Madonna, to join in at times. "My biggest challenge is to create a song on my own and that's kind of where I'm going to be headed at," explains Björk. "I think the next album is going to be when I've learned all the things that I can do all on my own now."

Björk's interest in her own work - in her art - is audible in the enthusiasm and tone of her voice, a charming blend of Icelandic gusto and British politeness. She begins at the beginning, with a discussion of whether she believes she's actually found her true calling.

"I admit it's simple to be a singer because it's sort of obvious what your mission is," she says. "For a lot of people it's more abstract what it is they're best at. Sometimes it's quite hard to figure out where to channel all that energy. I think sometimes the world is full of race car drivers who want to be dentists and dentists who want to be race car drivers. I want to be a singer and I am a singer. I'm very lucky and that makes me humble."

Though suggestions of Björk being a sex-crazed nymphet have hopefully been cast aside, there is nonetheless an undeniable connection between her singing and her sexuality, evinced at times by her own analogies. "I don't think you can rehearse singing. It's like rehearsing sex, like going to your boyfriend and saying, 'OK, let's first rehearse for half an hour and then have some sex," she explains matter-of-factly. "I went to a singing teacher a few years ago and what she was trying to teach me was to sing standing still. That makes absolutely no sense to me, it's like having sex while standing still!"

Watch Björk perform and you'll see that standing still is not on the agenda. Swimming, karate and kung-fu training keep up her amazing stamina. But the artistry of her singing still takes precedence over stage gimmicks or mere entertainment. "It's a question of priorities, isn't it?" she asks. "The great thing about pop music is that people can do it for 900 different reasons. Some people can do it just to bring a political message across, some people do it because they want everyone to love each other, some people do it because they want to look sexy, everyone can do it for different reasons. People who do dance routines, they probably do it a bit more for entertainment.

"I admire multi-talented acts like Janet Jackson and that lot, but I just don't see how she's got time to do all this," she goes on. "It's the old-style American way, which is definitely a culture that I don't come from. You can really see it on MTV and all the pop musicians from the U.S.A. They keep dancing in the videos like idiots from beginning to end where in Europe, they don't. it's just not in the culture.

"I'm too busy singing, you see. It's not that one thing is wrong or right, just that different things make different people happy.

"But then again," she beams, "I'm just learning to tap-dance tomorrow for my new video." It seems that video director Spike Jonze has convinced her to take a poke at herself in a new video for "It's Oh So Quiet," a voracious '40s-era swing number. "I'm really chuffed, like, 'Whoa! What a challenge!' But that's kind of stupid enough, really. It's definitely not to look sexy or be sort of '80s-grab-my-cunt. No way."

Reminder: Please fill out our Björk survey here and, if you are a real enthusiast, join the Think Tank.

For some listening, there's the fan-made Björk Remix Web Archive. And check out this mash-up by a dude named Beau: Missy vs. Björk vs. Musical Youth. Funny!

teemoney blends!

Now, three and a half years almost to the day since I made 'em, I've figured out how to make some of my own blends/mash-ups/remixes available for download. (I've never claimed to be anything but a bit slow. If I was more technologically advanced, I'd probably have put out a CD by now.)

They are recorded straight off of turntables. These first two are my favorites even after so long.

Click, listen, and please tell me what you think (besides that the sound quality isn't so hot)!

"Earth Wind & Flav"(EWF + PE)

"The Dr. Has Freckles"(Orb + Freckles)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

oscar does the gangsta walk

My new favorite Academy Award winners!

just bein' honest

SF Weekly asked me for my 10 favorite Bay Area albums of all time, which is very hard! Below is the text submitted to the paper, followed by some new honorable mentions. It's funny, cuz it seems as though 1990 and 1996 were my favorite years musically. I'm not stuck in a time warp, though I'm one of those people that roots for groups like Tony! Toni! Tone! to come back . . .

Here’s some of my odd favorites from growing up and marinating in the Yay Area’s funky music stew. While these might not be the meat and potatoes of others, they still stick to my ribs. This isn’t a high-falutin’ music critic chart--as OutKast’s Andre3000 says, I’m just being honest.

1. Digital Underground – Sex Packets (Tommy Boy, 1990)

The debut from the Sons of the P (Funk) still pokes out like nipples for its humorous freakiness. DU opened for Public Enemy at Shoreline Ampitheatre in 1990: Seeing what I’d later learn was Tupac Shakur humping a blow-up doll to the title track really sealed the deal for me.

2. Pointer Sisters – Break Out (RCA, 1984)

Damn, I wish the Pointer Sisters were still busting out electro-jams like “Automatic.” R&B has never been that cool since. These Oakland sisters were really very much quite hyphy back then. I even love the bigger hits like “I’m So Excited,” “Jump (For My Love),” and the “Neutron Dance.”

3. Tipsy – Trip Tease (Asphodel, 1996)

The debut album from a group of San Francisco-based digital knob twiddlers is still the invisible soundtrack to the cutest little cartoon you never did see. It’s so bright and buoyant that it is a sure-fire mood elevator. Elevators should be so lucky to have such cute and bubbly tunes.

4. 2Pac – All Eyez on Me (Death Row, 1996)

Along with solo joints like the passionate, post-prison missive “Ambitions Az a Ridah,” some of our most distinctive underground rappers are featured—not just LA folks like Snoop and Dre. It’s great to hear E-40, B-Legit, Rappin 4-Tay, Richie Rich, Dru Down and C-B0 in one spot, though DU is sorely missed.

5. Sly & The Family Stone – Greatest Hits (1990, Epic)

Yeah, I wasn’t around when Sly originally did his thang and have this current impression of him as a platinum mohawked crazy. But this is one hell of a Greatest Hits. To name a few gems, it’s got “Everyday People,” “Dance To The Music,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again),” and “Stand!”

6. Huey Lewis & The News – Sports (Capitol, 1983)

I’d be lying to myself (and to all you fine people) if I didn’t come clean and simply admit that I got a lot of singing practice belting out these tunes along with Huey at age nine. “I Want a New Drug,” y’all. I’m just sayin’ . . .

7. E-40 – In a Major Way (Jive, 1995)

E-40 is pretty consistent to me; I like all of his albums, but this is the one that made me a fan. It’s got several of his most enduring songs (including “Sprinkle Me,” “1 Luv,” and “Sideways”). And, whew, smell what he’s cooking on the cover, too? That shit’s raw.

8. Journey – Escape (Sony, 1981)

Steve Perry had the shiniest hair. I wonder what type of hair products he used? And did you know Randy “American Idol” Jackson used to tour with Journey as a bassist? Journey rocked and did us proud with this masterpiece. I never stopped believing—until I had to, that is.

9. Pete Namlook and Jonah Sharp – Namlook IV (Fax, 1994)

This is a live recording from Germany’s Namlook and SF’s Sharp (known for his ambient-jazz experiments as Spacetime Continuum). I was lucky enough to be in the house (at the old King Street Garage) and it remains a treasured time-capsule of the San Francisco rave scene at its most chill.

10. Jefferson Starship – Red Octopus (RCA, 1975)

My father owned this album as well as Volunteers (back when they were still the Jefferson Airplane). Volunteers had the kick-ass cover art and the gatefold that had all kinds of stuff to look at, but Red Octopus had the fly, textured cover. And “Miracles.” Starship wins.

Honorable mentions:

Digital Underground's Future Rhythm

The Tino's Breaks series

Consolidated's Friendly Fa$cism

Meat Beat Manifesto's Actual Sounds + Voices

The Coup's Party Music and Steal This Album (everything they do really)

Single Cell Orchestra's Dead Vent 7

Too $hort's Life Is

Voice Farm's self-titled album

Hawke's Namaquadisco

Spacetime Continuum's Double Fine Zone

The Twitch remix series (all of 'em)

The Infinite Posse's A Stereo Couple

last (for now)
least . . .

Woody Woodman's Live at the Finger Palace

Thursday, March 02, 2006

life is . . .

respond2bass is starting to heat up with some unexpected action! I really thought that the San Quentin yarn was going to last us all for a while, and everyone would have to get their freaky tales from elsewhere as I continue to unravel that experience in my head and through countless phone calls with the Bishop. But, alas, it was not to be, for less than a week later I received another unexpected, can't-miss opportunity: A personal invitation from Too $hort to watch the filming of his new video for "Blow The Whistle."

"REALLY? CAN I?!?!?" I completely lost my cool over the phone when he suggested I come check it out. It was a very generous offer, especially since we had already conducted a good telephone interview (the fruits of which will probably emerge in print in a month or two, so I'll save the juice). I didn't necessarily need more, but I obviously jumped at the chance.

It was much easier to pick out what I was going to wear to this shoot, versus the fashion trauma that was going to prison. This time it was my favorite DJ shirt, which says "No Requests" on the front, and "I Don't Care if It's Your Birthday" on the back. (What DJ can't relate to that? Can I get a witness?) And, cuz the man's got soul, my "School Girl Funk" heart locket. Again, as with San Queezy, I left the booty shorts at home. Thankfully, everyone else did too. It was clear who the featured females were, but several of them were certainly more casual, laid-back and, frankly, more fly than the New York and Miami model/stripper chicks that live on BET.

The video was shot at club Mingles in Oakland's Jack London Square, now a bustling destination which I hadn't been to since, oh, junior high or so (when it wasn't quite as such). It was directed by Bernard Gourley, who also did E-40's recent video for "Tell Me When To Go." Apparently I have trouble following direction(s), so I had to wander around the area a bit with my ear to the ground for some bass -- which, of course, is something I'm used to doing, but it got a little frustrating for a minute there before I called Ground Control for assistance.

Soon enough, I was soaking up the early afternoon, outer Mingles environment, which included a van full of youngsters who pulled up, filmed a video to a rowdy song (something about "Dead! Beat! Dead! Beat!"), and then peeled off as fast as they came. Clyde Carson from Oakland's The Team (one of my newer local favorites) passed out cans of his new Hyphy energy drink. Unfortunately I didn't get one because I wasn't willing to jump in with the vultures, who couldn't get enough of it. Bishop says it tastes like grapple (the grape/apple genetic disaster). I'm still recovering from drinking CRUNK!!! so I'll have to approach the Hyphy with caution. Maybe I could handle it better, since I'm a Yay Area native.

"Blow The Whistle" is a really cool song -- I can still say that despite having listened to it on infinite loop for so many hours today. It was produced by Lil Jon and is a brilliant fusion of old-school $hort with new-school hyphy sensibility. Jon's been an avid fan of the Bay Area forever, but has particularly been soaking in these recent almost crunk-esque sounds; his mind-meld of the two is en pointe.

I also like it because it reflects $hort's dual citizenry of the South and West in more ways than one. I didn't get tired of the continual playbacks of him shouting out, "Bun B -- that's Texas, baby! Ball and G -- that's Memphis, baby! $hort Dog -- that's Oakland, baby!"

Too $hort is blowing the whistle on the fake motherfuckers, and throwing light on the real ones.

I wasn't allowed to use a flash on the set. So I didn't get a knockout shot of $hort even though I was there for 9 1/2 hours, which was a bit of a blow to my wannabe photographer ego. However, I did manage to get some good hyphy action shots (which will come in another post, along with an explanation of what that is) as well as snaps of the real $hort Dog:

He's already got the pimp swagger down, and he's only three.

I'm just sayin'. . .

How many years do you think it will take before $hortie fits into this hoodie?

Or starts Dirty Mack'N?

Aaand this is what happens when you ask a video girl to take your picture. Nah, just kidding, she was actually pretty intelligent. I was the dumbass and forgot to take it off of the 'no flash' setting since the battery was right about to fizzle. I suppose only die-hard fans will recognize Mr. Shaw in this picture. Its warm fuzziness is starting to grow on me, actually. You can't read it, but his shirt says, "Love is for Suckers." Awww.

Check out Too $hort's "Blow The Whistle" via this link to Dub CNN's news archives. And, if you missed it before, check out the unpublished excerpt of my interview with $hort from CFS over in the "Yay Scholastics" department at Pacific Standard. More with Teemoney and Too $hort soon . . .