Friday, May 13, 2011
I used to work for this incredible old school record industry lifer, the kind of guy who was closer to a mob capo than an executive. There was no question he was involved in some dirty business, but he always walked away clean. His occasional stories about lawsuits in Texas and strongarming oldies stations used to leave me speechless in his office. He put out his first record when he was nineteen or twenty, the Soul Survivors “Expressway to Your Heart” and hasn’t strayed from the record business since.
He used to have this thing about sequencing LPs, he said you should put the best song first and the second best song last, and the rest didn’t really matter. He also said, playing live, you should reverse that, and save the best for last. Anyway, his energy was always so quietly menacing and untouchable that it didn’t even occur to me to contradict him, but even then I thought he was wrong. I always liked records that start a little slow and then rage for the last 2/3rds: Folk Roots New Routes, Purple Haze, Youth of America. What I like even better, though, is figuring out when artists use patterns. The best example of course is Metallica.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Completely in love with this mix by Statik Selektah & Lord Sear of early 80s NYC jams. We get into a lot of stuff like this on tour drives, I think the Odyssey record (15th song in) has been a regular for at least the last few tours. Change you might remember from the mix we did for Friendship Bracelet but their song featured here has the added great surprise (for me anyway) of being the sample source for my single favorite Janet Jackson song "It's All For You" (seriously this song is the best). The other exciting moment like that for me was hearing Unlimited Touch's "Searching to Find the One" which was sampled by Bon Rock for the old school killer "Searching Rap" which obviously spelled out the relationship in the title. I didn't know.
Highest recommendation! Summertime!
Monday, April 25, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
It's a little tough to make out, but the red text along the back of this guy's sweatshirt reads "Queensbridge." Starting around my 18th birthday, no place on earth has captured my attention like Queensbridge. Six blocks of public housing edged along the East River, Queensbridge is America's largest housing project, the contested birthplace of rap music, and home to an unfathomable number of geniuses. I liked Nas pretty well, but it was Mobb Deep's The Infamous that brought QB to life for me, and for a few years there I could be counted on to buy any record with even the most tenuous connection to it. Any marginal rapper that could claim QB, I was in. Any guest verse by Nas, or Tragedy, or Mobb Deep's Prodigy or Havoc, I was in. I think the most ridiculous thing I bought during this time was the debut album by kiddie rapper A+, for Prodigy's verse on "Gusto." It's kind of crazy because I can't even remember how I spotted the guest appearance, like I must've just spent all my time flipping through rap CDs scanning the credits. It was worth it though, that period between The Infamous and Hell On Earth had some of Prodigy's craziest lyrics, and his assessment on "Gusto"--"It's like a bad dream, and I can't wake up/but at the same time I love it and I can't get enough"--was savage.
Last year I realized I could get off the F train at the Queensbridge stop and walk 10 blocks to PS.1, which saved a couple of transfers. Even though the train lets you out at the edge of the projects, and 2010 is pretty different than 1995, I was basically trembling with excitement and anxiety when I got off the train. In the mid-90s I read every article about Queensbridge I could find, and they all included the same moment where the journalist realized he or she was being watched from the rooftops, by like Large Professor and Cormega, who wouldn't let the interview if the writer seemed shook walking through the projects. Passing through the station doors I had to check myself from looking up. I overloaded my brain with expectations and ghost hunting, imaging how many of my idols passed through the same space.
I guess a big part of it is realizing that I couldn't imagine a situation where I'd end up in a room with Mobb Deep. I definitely wasn't trying to sneak backstage at shows and even if I did what would I say? They just seem untouchable, like beyond a movie star or the Rolling Stones or anything I could imagine. So it was a strange magic to find myself at Powerhouse watching Prodigy tell stories about how sickle cell anemia turned him into an child who never smiled, or about his team blocking the exit of a club so Jay-Z couldn't leave without a confrontation. Stranger still to find myself in line with a copy of Prodigy's autobiography for a quick hello and autograph.
Another surprise was the appearance of Havoc, who sat at the table beside Prodigy and added his autograph to his partner's book. You couldn't get anything else signed so I guess that it was the best option. Prodigy told this intense story about doing an instore in Baltimore and rolling up to the spot to see a line of people outside in the cold waiting to buy the record, how the fans all looked like they had put on their best outfits and didn't look like much. And Prodigy got out of the car with three chains on, rings on all his fingers, feeling like a total jerk, rubbing his money in their faces. Wondering why they'd even want to give him money. And so he doesn't wear jewelry anymore, and had this nice hat/button down shirt combo. I couldn't think of anything to say but "thank you" and "it's an honor" and get my book and head out. And now I have this, and I can't stop looking at this document of a moment I thought would never happen: