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hip-hop

Browsing

As mentioned in the last post, 1991 was an amazing year for music. While Nirvana was tops in rock music (and probably music as a whole), A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory was an instant hip-hop classic and the best rap record of 1991.

Like Nirvana following up Bleach, A Tribe Called Quest took things to another level with their second album. ATCQ’s 1990 debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is a classic as well, but The Low End Theory fine tunes everything from their debut and pushes their style to new heights.

My love for A Tribe Called Quest started with that first album, specifically the songs “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”, “Can I Kick It?”, and “Bonita Applebum” — all of which were in high rotation on MTV and Yo! MTV Raps at the time. ATCQ was a truly groundbreaking group, incorporating jazz and R&B with laid back, conversational lyrics. Between ATCQ, De La Soul, and Disable Planets, I found my favorite hip-hop style — one I still prefer 30 years later.

Over the next few years I wore my The Low End Theory tape out — it was my go to for almost every situation: skateboarding, playing video games, running track in high school. It was my soundtrack for the very early 90s.

Let’s dig in to each track:

Excursions

Excursions sets the stage for the whole album — great lyrics over a jazz/bebop influenced track. A great opening and introduction to ATCQ.

Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listenin’ to hip-hop]
My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop
I said, “Well, Daddy, don’t you know that things go in cycles?
Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael”

The beat samples “A Chant for Bu” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

Buggin’ Out

A great song and Phife Dawg’s coming out party as a world class MC. The video for this track can be seen below with “Jazz (We’ve Got)”.

What an opening:

Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this?
The five foot assassin with the roughneck business
I float like gravity, never had a cavity
Got more rhymes than the Winans got family

The bass is sampled from Jack DeJohnette’s song, “Minya’s the Mooch”. The drums were sampled from Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Spinning Wheel”.

Rap Promoter

Rap Promoter is another track from ATCQ taking issue with the music industry (you’ll sense the theme by the end of the album.)

If there ain’t no dough then there ain’t no show
So take your roly poly fat promoter (ass)
To the Chemical Bank, and get my cash
If you wanna see the people scream and laugh
You best Quest, you ask the Quest, you ask real fast

From Genius:

“Rap Promoter,” is a pointed jab at the monetization of rap music in the music industry. Q-Tip warns up-and-coming rappers about venue promoters and their shady tactics of scamming money out of them.

The drums were sampled from The New Birth’s “Keep on Doin’ It”. The guitar sample is from Eric Mercury’s “Long Way Down.”

Butter

Phife Dawg takes this track with an autobiographical look at his girl problems:

1988 senior year at Garvey High
Where all the guys were corny but the girls were mad fly
Lounging with the Tipster, cooling with Sha
Scoping out the honeys—they know who they are
I was the b-ball playing, fly rhyme saying
Fly girl getting but never was I sweating

The drum beat was sampled from Chuck Jackson’s 1968 rendition of “I Like Everything About You.”

Verses from the Abstract

Q-Tip takes this one solo (well, Vinia Mojica is featured on the chorus) with a very jazz/funk influenced flow that has since influenced many MCs:

I’m moving, yes I’m grooving cause my mouth is on the motor
Use the Coast in the morning to avoid the funky odor
Can’t help being funky, I’m the funky Abstract brother
Funky in a sense, but I play the undercover
Once had a fetish, fetish for some booty
Now I’m getting funky in my rap and that’s my duty

The drums were sampled from Joe Farrell’s 1974 track “Upon This Rock”. The background instrumentation on the hook was sampled from Heatwave’s 1977 song “The Star of a Story”.

Show Business

A cautionary tale about the record industry. The song was also the first song on the album to include guest artists/groups. For this one it’s Lord Jamar and Sadat X of Brand Nubian, as well as Diamond D of D.I.T.C..

Yo, I gotta speak on the cesspool
It’s the rap industry and it ain’t that cool
Only if you’re on stage or if you’re speaking to your people
Ain’t no-one your equal
Especially on the industry side
Don’t let the gains just glide
Right through your fingers, you gotta know the deal
So Lord Jamar speak, because you’re real

The drums are sampled from Aretha Franklin’s 1971 song “Rock Steady”. The bassline is from The Fatback Band’s 1974 track “Wicki Wacky”. The guitar break is a ssample from Ferrante & Teicher’s 1969 song “Midnight Cowboy”. Other samples were taken from James Brown’s “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” and Gerson King Combo’s “Mandamentos Black.”

Vibes and Stuff

Some more great lyrics and flow from Q-Tip and Phife Dawg on this laid back jazzy track.

Here I am ghetto, full with a lot of steam
Think I gotta, I think I gotta, I think I gotta scream
Cause that’s how good it feels child
Let your hair down, so we can get buckwild
Do your ill dance, don’t think about the next man
We must have unity and think of the bigger plan
Division we will fall, we must stick together, see
I’d like to take this time to say what’s up to Kool G

The song samples Grant Green’s 1970 song “Down Here On the Ground”.

Infamous Date Rape

1990 was an important year in the discussion of rape, date rape, and rape on college campuses in the United States. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg add their social commentary in this song, along with some casual jokes (maybe too casual for 2021) about sex in general:

Listen to the rhyme, it’s a black-ink fact
Percentile rate of date rape is fat

The drum samples are from Jackie Jackson’s 1973 song “Is It Him or Me” and the keyboard sample was taken from Cannonball Adderley’s 1972 song “The Steam Drill”.

Check the Rhime

One of my favorite songs on the album and a hip-hop classic. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg use call and response to celebrate their roots and how far they’ve come together:

Back in the days on the boulevard of Linden
We used to kick routines and the presence was fittin’
It was I, The Abstract
And me, the Five Footer
I kicks the mad style so step off the frankfurter
Yo, Phife, you remember that routine
That we used to make spiffy like Mr. Clean?
Um… um… a tidbit, um… a smidgen
I don’t get the message so you gots to run the pigeon

The hook samples Minnie Riperton’s 1975 song “Baby, This Love I Have” and the horn sample comes from Average White Band’s 1976 song “Love Your Life”. The drums were sampled from Grover Washington Jr.’s 1975 song “Hydra” and Dalton & Dubarri’s 1976 song “I’m just a Rock N’ Roller”.

Everything is Fair

Look at Miss Elaine who runs the fast lane
Barely knows her name, struck by fame
She just got a Benz, she rides with her friends
Gotta keep her beeper in her purse to make ends
Rollin’ down the block, checkin’ out the spots
She winks at the cops, always give her props
She knows she’s the woman, can’t nobody touch her
Hangs with the elite, makes her papes from the gutter

From Genius.com:

“Everything Is Fair” is a social commentary about crime and survival in New York City in the early ’90s.

The hook was sampled from Funkadelic’s 1976 song “Let’s Take It to the People”. The drums were sampled from Willis Jackson’s 1972 song “Ain’t No Sunshine”. The bassline was sampled from Willis Jackson’s 1972 song “Don’t Knock My Love”.

Jazz (We’ve Got)

Another one of my favorite jams on this album. The lyrics are top notch.

Stern firm and young with a laid-back tongue
The aim is to succeed and achieve at 21
Just like Ringling Brothers, I’ll daze and astound
Captivate the mass, cause the prose was profound
Do it for the strong, we do it for the meek
Boom it in your boom it in your boom it in your Jeep
Or your Honda, or your Bimmer, or your Legend, or your Benz
The rave of the town to your foes and your friends

The video combines two songs: “Jazz (We’ve Got)” and “Buggin’ Out” from earlier in the album.

The drums were sampled from Five Stairsteps 1968 song “Don’t Change Your Love”. The keyboard sample twas taken from Jimmy McGriff’s 1972 song “Green Dolphin Street”. On the beat, three samples are manipulated on the turntables from The Dells 1972 song “Segue 2: Funky Breeze/Ghetto Scene”.

Skypager

ATCQ’s commentary on the importance of pagers in the early 90s. I know that probably seems crazy to younger people, considering what we have now. But yeah, pagers were a thing well into the 90s.

Those who don’t believe, see you’re laid behind
Got our skypagers on all the time
Hurry up and get yours cause I got mine
Especially if you do shows, they come in fine

The drums were sampled from Sly and The Family Stone’s 1967 song “Advice”. The jazz sample heard in the hook was taken from Eric Dolphy’s 1960 song “17 West,”, featuring jazz bassist Ron Carter.

What?

A short, uptempo track with many rhetorical questions from Q-Tip.

From Genius:

The sparse track entirely consists of a loop of the Paul Humphrey song called “Uncle Willie’s Dream” (1974). The track’s bouncy momentum culminates into a group shout of “What!!” that leads directly into the album’s crown jewel posse cut, “Scenario.”

Scenario

Another classic and my favorite ATCQ song. What a way to close out the album. The song was my introduction to Leaders of the New School and Busta Rhymes, who went on to massive success as a solo artist.

The verses and interplay between everyone involved is simply quite amazing. I could quote all of the lyrics — they are that good — so check out the Genius page to read along.

The drums on “Scenario” were sampled from The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 song “Little Miss Lover”. The bassline and other elements heard throughout were taken from Brother Jack McDuff’s 1970 song “Oblighetto”.

This album is now over 30 (?!?!) years old, which makes me feel very old… but I am very happy that it has stood the test of time. It may not fit with current radio play and trends, but it is truly a classic record that is 100% listenable today. It’s hip-hop, creativity, and lyricism at it’s finest. A true piece of art.

Playlist

Since A Tribe Called Quest is this month’s featured artist, we’ll focus on hip hop from 1991. Enjoy! Listen on Apple Music.

  1. Check the Rhime by A Tribe Called Quest
  2. Mistadobalina by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
  3. If My Homie Calls by 2Pac
  4. Mind Playing Tricks on Me by Geto Boys
  5. How I Could Just Kill a Man by Cypress Hill
  6. Check the Technique by Gang Starr
  7. The Choice is Yours by Black Sheep
  8. I Shouldn’t Have Done It by Slick Rick
  9. The Creator by CL Smooth and Pete Rock
  10. Case of the PTA by Leaders of the New School
  11. Can’t Truss It by Public Enemy
  12. OPP by Naughty by Nature
  13. Live at the Barbecue by Main Source

Totally Digging

Here are some new releases I’ve been listening to and enjoying:

  • Sour by Olivia Rodrigo (Listen)
  • Perfect by Mannequin Pussy (Listen)
  • Between the Richness by Fiddlhead (Listen)
  • The Off-Season by J. Cole (Listen)
  • Seek Shelter by Iceage (Listen)
  • Just Until… by Cordae (Listen)
  • Thank You for Being Here by cursedtheknife (Listen)
  • Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast (Listen)
  • Unscrew My Head by Ekulu (Listen)
  • Path of Wellness by Sleater-Kinney (Listen)
  • GLOW ON by Turnstile (Listen)
  • CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST by Tyler, the Creator (Listen)
  • Piecing it Together by Free Throw (Listen)
  • Distant Populations by Quicksand (Listen)

And some older releases that have made it back into regular rotation:

  • Red Medicine by Fugazi (Listen)
  • Copper Blue / Beaster remastered 2xLP by Sugar (Listen – Copper Blue and Listen – Beaster)
  • Show Me How You Disappear by Ian Sweet (Listen)
  • Crush by The Doughboys (Listen)

Follow me on Last.fm to see more!

Musical Moving Pictures

Damien Rice – Back to Her Man

Ashes Live 3/5/95 at Chamber of Sound (Full Set)

Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – Like I Used To

Frightened Rabbit – Full Performance (Live on KEXP) (RIP Scott… been 3 years and still hard to watch.)

Liz Phair: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Dinosaur Jr. – Live on KEXP at Home

Vince Staples – Tiny Desk Home Concert

Elsewhere

LIVE MUSIC?!?! Since the last issue I had the pleasure of attending two concerts: an indoor show with the twin bill of Japanese Breakfast/Mannequin Pussy and an outdoor show with Wilco/Sleater-Kinney/NNAMDI. Both were very good.

The Japanese Breakfast show was thankfully vaccine + mask required, which definitely helped us relax. It was truly amazing to see live music again. Before the pandemic I definitely took it for granted. I’ve seen hundreds of bands over the years and the thought of standing in a hot sweaty room, packed in with other people was not appealing any longer, in most cases. That show 100% changed my mind. The best part of that show is we took Lu and two of their friends and they were blown away by Mannequin Pussy. Such a great, in person experience to give young kids.

Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World – Michigan Fest 1997 (photo by me)

Quick Note from Jason: This month is the first issue published from my brand new site at  OneLastWish.club. If you subscribed to the email via Substack you are all set – no need to re-subscribe, in fact you can manage your subscription by clicking Login on the new site.

If you subcribed via RSS or read issues by visiting the Substack site, you will need to update your links. This will be the permanent home for One Last Wish from here on out.

I’m super excited about this for a few main reasons:

  • I can own my content and not worry about Substack going away or changing for the worse.
  • I can publish other posts, without having to include it in a newsletter.
  • I can offer a way to support the site through Cash App and PayPal tips.
  • I am looking into offering perks for supporters, including record giveaways and other benefits. (More on that once I can finalize details.)

The monthly issues will always be free and found here on OneLastWish.club.

Thanks for reading and following along. Last month was the most successful issue to date, so I really appreciate all of the interest.

Onward to issue five! (I hope it’s worth the wait – it’s a long one.)


Believe the Hype: Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet

While Living Colour was my first true experience with overtly political lyrics, the next logical step, given my love for hip hop, had to be Public Enemy. My first PE purchase (and the focus of this issue) was the cassette version of Fear of a Black Planet – released in April of 1990.

Public Enemy was formed in 1985 by Chuck D and Flavor Flav. Fear of a Black Planet was Public Enemy’s third studio album — a followup to 1988’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and 1987’s debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show. The album is certified platinum by the RIAA and both “Fight the Power” and “911 is a Joke” both reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart.

My first exposure to Public Enemy was music videos off the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album via MTV’s Yo! MTV Raps. Songs like “Bring the Noise”, “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Rebel Without a Pause” certainly sold me on Public Enemy – they were the real deal.

In addition to MTV and their first two releases, Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee had a big impact on me – not only as the debut of “Fight the Power”, but the overall message and power of the Lee’s work. It’s still one of my favorite movies to this day.

The absolute peak of my Public Enemy experience was at the 1994 University at Buffalo Fall Fest during my freshman year of college. There you would have seen eighteen year old me, up front for PE, getting a high five from Flavor Flav after he came to life out of a casket on stage early in their set. It was an otherworldly experience I will never forget.

Now that we have a little backstory, let’s dig in to my focused listen:

1. Contract on the World Love Jam

PE was no stranger to criticism, so what better way than to open your third album with samples of that criticism. Face it head on.

From Genius.com:

“A lot of the samples on ‘Contract’ came from me taping radio stations, taking bites of interviews and commercials. Sometimes I might go through the dial, just sampling at random, keeping it on a cassette, listen to the cassette, and say, ‘Well, being that I’m the lyric writer, how should I arrange these fragments so they’ll add up to a kind of a song?’ That’s how ‘Contract’ came along.

2. Brothers Gonna Work it Out

The first full song kicks off Fear with PE’s classic sound – driving bass, borderline caucaphonic noise, and that classic hip hop beat. Chuck D’s lyrics don’t hold back either:

History shouldn’t be a mystery
Our stories real history
Not his story

and:

In 1995, you’ll twist to this
As you raise your fist to the music
United we stand, yes divided we fall
Together we can stand tall
Brothers that try to work it out
They get mad, revolt, revise, realize
They’re super bad
Small chance a smart brother’s
Gonna be a victim of his own circumstance
Sabotaged, shell-shocked, rocked and ruled
Day in the life of a fool

At almost 14 and questioning everything I’d been taught, Public Enemy could get you hyped and teach at the same time. It’s exactly what I needed at that age… and still enjoy today.

3. 911 is a Joke

Probably one of PE’s most recognizable songs (and video) – this was Flavor Flav at the top of his game. Only he could deliver this message:

4. Incident at 66.6 FM

Chuck D on this track:

“Incident At 66.6 FM’ was actually a live radio interview that I did at WNBC in New York before a show we did with Run-DMC at Nassau Coliseum. Those people you hear in the record actually called the station.

5. Welcome to the Terrordome

This song was Chuck D’s response to the Professor Griff anti-semitism controversy and the media focus.

Never be a brother like, “Me go solo”
Laser, anesthesia, maze ya
Ways to blaze your brain and train ya
The way I’m livin’, forgiven, what I’m givin’ up
X on the flex, hit me now
I don’t know about later
As for now, I know how to avoid the paranoid
Man, I’ve had it up to here
Yeah, I wear got ’em going in fear
Rhetoric said and read just a bit ago
Not quitting, though signed the hard rhymer

Musically the song is a banger, with samples from James Brown, The Temptations, Kool & the Gang, and The Jackson 5. So damn good. Chuck D is in attack mode lyrically the whole damn song too. It’s a treat.

6. Meet the G That Killed Me

From Genius:

Dabbling a little in the homophobic territory of early ‘90s rap on this controversial skit, Public Enemy speaks on the then recent subject of AIDS in the black community.

7. Pollywannacraka

8. Anti-N***** Machine

Chuck D’s commentary on how the police system, government, and laws work to censor Black Americans – whether it’s literally censoring music, voting, or the taking of one’s life at the hands of the police. Still very relevant 30+ years later, as we watch George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and sadly many others… as well as Republican controlled states rush to make voting more difficult after the 2020 election.

9. Burn Hollywood Burn

A criticim of Hollywood and the treatment (and stereotypes) of Blacks in media:

Hollywood or would they not
Make us all look bad like I know they had
But some things I’ll never forget, yeah
So step and fetch this shit
For all the years we looked like clowns
The joke is over — smell the smoke from all around

And an interesting annotation from Genius.com taught me something new:

Stepin Fetchit (the name is a variation of the phrase “step and fetch it”) was the stage name of the black film actor Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry. He played the “laziest man in the world” in dozens of movies in the 1920’s and 30’s.

10. Power to the People

This feels like a song that was made to take the listener out of Side A. Not necessarily a throw away song, but not one I’d target to listen to on an album this good.

11. Who Stole the Soul?

PE jumps back into side two head first. The song focuses on the continued attack on Black people’s soul – their creativity, home, family and livelihood. All while having to experience holidays and other symbols of America that have some relation to slavery and the plight of Black Americans over the generations. That in itself has to be soul killing.

We choose to use their ways
And holidays notice some of them are heller days
Invented by those that never repented
For the sins within that killed my kin

The song features samples of The Beatles, James Brown, and the Magic Disco Machine.

12. Fear of a Black Planet

The title track – another song that is still relevant today, with the increasing popularity of white nationalism and white supremicist ideas/policy.

13. Revolutionary Generation

This song deals with America and the black community’s poor treatment of women.

Cause I’m tired of America dissin’ my sisters
(For example, like they dissed Tawana)
And they try to say that she’s a liar
My people don’t believe it, but even now they’re getting higher

Another historical tidbit from Genius:

Tawana Bawley is an African-American woman who accused 6 white men including police officers of raping her. The judgement and racial stereotypes that ensued from the media and, ahem, whitey caused people to think she lying.

14. Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man!

Another Flavor Flav jam. Love it – he was certainly on his A game this record.

Runnin’ for your life, by the knife
Runnin’ from your wife, yikes!
You should’ve stuck with home
Off your mind to blow your dome
It was you that chose your doom
You built the maze you can’t get through
I tried to help you all I can
Now I can’t do nuttin’ for you man

15. Reggie Jax

A freestyle from Chuck D – very Run DMC in flow – with some references to previous songs and recycled themes/phrases.

I’m here to live for the love of my people
Kickin’ it all about rebuildin’ so all the children
Avoid the self-destruction
So long I’m gonna do y’all a favor
Cause I got the flavor yea yeah

16. Leave This Off Your Fu*ckin Charts

17. B Side Wins Again

Musically, a driving bass line and PE’s patented style help make this one of the better tracks on Fear. Featuring samples from Kool & the Gang and the Commodores. Lyrically, the song pulls no punches:

And the suckers on the right get cynical
Cause the record’s to the left and political
And you search the stores
Attack the racks with your claws
For the rebels without a pause

18. War at 33 1/3

This song aim to challenge the status quo and the history taught by schools and the media – whether it’s portraying Black people as the enemy in the media or simply not given them credit for playing a major part in building the country:

Can I live my life without ’em treatin’
Every brother like me like I’m holdin’
A knife alright time to smack Uncle Sam
Who don’t give a damn, look at the flag
My blood’s a flood
Without credit
Black and close to the edit
I fed it, you read it, just remember who said it

There are a lot of theories as to why the song is titled the way it is – one is a reference to the speed of the song, which is way faster than most PE songs.

19. Final Count of the Collision Between Us and the Damned

20. Fight the Power

One of PE’s best and well known songs. Chuck D on what inspired it:

I wanted to have sorta like the same theme as the original ‘Fight the Power” by the Isley Brothers and fill it in with some kind of modernist views of what our surroundings were at that particular time.

The lyrics definitely hit hard:

As the rhythm’s designed to bounce
What counts is that the rhyme’s
Designed to fill your mind
Now that you’ve realized the pride’s arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make ya tough
From the heart
It’s a start, a work of art
To revolutionize make a change nothing’s strange
People, people we are the same
No we’re not the same
‘Cause we don’t know the game
What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved let’s get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness

The music is anthemic, featuring samples from James Brown, Bob Marley, Rick James, Sly and the Family Stone, Trouble Funk, Afrika Bambaataa, and many more.  The classic PE sound.

Then there’s the video. I definitely remember watching that on Yo! MTV Raps:

Listening to these songs and prepping for this issue, I couldn’t believe how good this album was – even 30+ years later. This was Public Enemy at it’s creative peak. It Takes a Nation of Millions may be their breakthrough and an important album on it’s own, but the confidence PE exudes on Fear is just palpable.

One of my favorite things about Public Enemy and music in general is it’s ability to teach and experience empathy – whether it’s political in nature, a culture you may not have much exposure to, heartache, or immense joy. Listening to and experiencing someone else’s feelings is one of the most crucial life skills in my opinion. I imagine as this project ages, that will become even more clear with each new issue.

In terms of this album specifically, I know it set the stage for who I am in terms of my beliefs and interests. It’s certainly what helped open me up to punk/hardcore music, reading books by folks like James Baldwin, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and having an interest in politics/social justice in general. I know I will be forever grateful to Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and Public Enemy.

Playlist

This issue’s theme is 1989 + 1990 — 30 of my favorite songs from these two years. Enjoy the playlist on Apple Music.

  1. It’s Funky Enough – The D.O.C.
  2. Turnover – Fugazi
  3. Personal Jesus – Depeche Mode
  4. Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
  5. Fight the Power – Public Enemy
  6. Velouria – Pixies
  7. Here’s Where the Story Ends – The Sundays
  8. Happiness is a Warm Gun – The Breeders
  9. Shake Your Rump – Beastie Boys
  10. Stop – Jane’s Addiction
  11. Cave-In – Codeine
  12. Fourth of July – Galaxie 500
  13. Modern Man – Bad Religion
  14. Sweetness and Light – Lush
  15. Slow Down – Brand Nubian
  16. Graveyard Shift – Uncle Tupelo
  17. Ball and Chain – Social Distortion
  18. Jackin’ for Beats – Ice Cube
  19. The Humpty Dance – Digital Underground
  20. Waiting Room – Fugazi
  21. I Left My Wallet in El Segundo – A Tribe Called Quest
  22. Wave of Mutilation – Pixies
  23. About a Girl – Nirvana
  24. I Wanna Be Adored – The Stone Roses
  25. So Wat Cha Sayin’ – EPMD
  26. Picture of You – The Cure
  27. Sound System – Operation Ivy
  28. Soul Craft – Bad Brains
  29. Gas Face – 3rd Bass
  30. Start Today – Gorilla Biscuits

Follow me on Apple Music.

Totally Digging

Here are a few recently released albums (well more than a few – it’s been a good few weeks!) I’ve been listening to:

  • Family Album by Lia Ices (Listen) — she returned to more of an indie folk sound on this album, but the great songwriting remains.
  • Clothbound by The Sonder Bombs (Listen) — for fans of Beach Bunny and Paramore. Solid all around.
  • Collapsed in Sunbeams by Arlo Parks (Listen) — awesome bedroom indie pop. Been looking forward to this for awhile.
  • Uppers by TV Priest (Listen) — post-punk in the vein of The Fall, Gang of Four, Nick Cave and newer bands like IDLES and Shame.
  • Ignorance by The Weather Station (Listen) — a mix of Broken Social Scene, Fleetwood Mac, and Talk Talk. Super good.
  • Stay Gone by Calyx (Listen) — a mix of Lemuria, Husker Du, and Swearin’. Fast, noisy, chaotic, and sometimes catchy punk. Like it a lot.
  • Pastel by FRITZ (Listen) — a little shoe gaze, dream pop, and alt-rock all mixed into one — think Alvvays crossed with Hatchie. Love it.
  • Little Oblivions by Julien Baker (Listen) – to be honest, I haven’t put as much time into this album and I really want to focus on it. The songs I have listened to are everything you would expect from someone as talented as Baker. I am pretty confident this will end up on my year end list.
  • Life is Not a Lesson by Glitterer (Listen) – fuzzy grunge pop from the bassist of Title Fight. One of my favorite releases from the last few weeks. Perfect spring time, driving with the window down, turn it up loud music.
  • The Shadow I Remember by Cloud Nothings (Listen) – sounds like Cloud Nothings and that’s perfectly fine by me. Saw them in 2017 opening for the New Pornographers. Super good band.
  • Show Me How You Disappear by IAN SWEET (Listen) – One of my favorite albums so far this year. I saw her in 2017 supporting Ted Leo. I liked her debut Shapeshifter a lot, but this one is better. Quirky, well done indie pop. Please check it out!
  • Driver by Adult Mom (Listen) – bedroom/indie pop similar to what the Crutchfield sisters do in their solo work, Waxahatchee, and PS Eliot. Like it a lot.
  • As the Love Continues by Mogwai (Listen) – one of their best albums in years.

And a few older ones on repeat:

  • Ices by Lia Ices (Listen) — more of an electronic sound than her other albums. The songs features lots of loops, a tropical feel at times, and general happy sound all highlighted by her awesome vocals. Perfect for the winter doldrums.
  • An End Has a Start by Editors (Listen) — Strangely I wasn’t familiar with this band prior to seeing it highlighted on an acquaintances Instagram feed. Interpol crossed with Frightened Rabbit and The National. Right up my alley.
  • Luca by Alex Maas (Listen) – psych-rock/indie folk from the singer of The Black Angels. Some really great moments on this album.
  • Left and Leaving by The Weakerthans (Listen) — a classic from one of my favorite bands. I picked up the vinyl as well.
  • Population by The Most Serene Republic (Listen) — one of my favorite live bands. Quirky indie-pop similar to Broken Social Scene.

Musical Moving Pictures

Arlo Parks Live on KEXP at Home

Beach Bunny – Good Girls (Don’t Get Used) on Jimmy Kimmel

Lemuria @ The Fest 17

Lia Ices – Live

Manchester Orchestra: A Black Mike to the Surface

Elsewhere

The Most Serene Republic – 2008 – Buffalo, NY at Soundlab (Taken by me)

Oh, live music. Someday.

—-

That wraps up the fifth issue. Feel free to send me feedback, questions, ideas — anything. I’d also love if you shared this newsletter with anyone you think would enjoy and encourage them to subscribe.

See you next time.

— Jason

My First Album

As we start this newsletter journey, I felt the natural place to start was at the beginning. For me, the true joy of music, discovery, and finding my own taste started with Run-DMC’s Raising Hell.

Not only was was Raising Hell the first cassette I bought with my own (10th birthday) money – purchased at K-Mart in Lockport, NY shortly after release in 1986 – but it was the first album I listened to repeatedly, memorizing all of the lyrics. It was also the first record I bonded with friends over: my friend Alex and I would listen repeatedly in his bedroom or while playing Sega Genesis – we’d each take turns being Run or DMC, nailing our parts as we went through each song.

The love of Run-DMC evolved creatively as well – we eventually started writing our own raps as Run-PVD (as creative a name as you could expect from a 10-year old) with our friend Eric. We even performed in the hall for our 5th grade student teacher the following school year.

The discovery of Hip-Hop was universe expanding for me in many ways – especially after a childhood of exposure to classic and yacht rock via my parents. Run-DMC led me to LL Cool J’s Bigger and Deffer, the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill, and the Fat Boys’ Crushin’. From there: Public Enemy, Slick Rick, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Erik B. & Rakim, Nas, BDP, 3rd Bass, Black Sheep, Digital Underground, the D.O.C., Geto Boys, Ice Cube, Young MC, and Digable Planets. I was hooked.

Highlights From My Focused Listen & Reflection

Tracks

1. “Peter Piper” – 3:23

Wow, that drum and cowbell combo, sampled from Take Me To The Mardi Gras by Bob James, is so iconic. The lyrics, relying so heavily on nursery rhymes and fairy tales, made for a relatable introduction (for a 10-year old, at least) to the album.

2. “It’s Tricky” – 3:03

We are not thugs (we don’t use drugs) but you assume (on your own) They offer coke (and lots of dope) but we just leave it alone It’s like that y’all (y’all), but we don’t quit You keep on (rock!) shock! cause this is it…

As a ten year old, drugs and alcohol weren’t really a thing yet, but these lyrics did influence me as a young person. I didn’t drink alcohol until I was 21 and I’ve (still) never done drugs. Hardcore music and straight edge helped me get through the teenage years, but hearing this early on definitely had an impact.

Easily identifiable samples: Mickey by Toni Basil and My Sharona by The Knack.

3. “My Adidas” – 2:47

One of my favorites. This song definitely sparked my desire for Adidas in elementary school. For the record, I had black with white stripes.

Got a pair that I wear when I’m playin ball With the heel inside, make me 10 feet tall

4. “Walk This Way” – 5:09

Given my childhood to date, I was obviously familiar with Aerosmith, so this song was a weird mix of familiarity and something so new.

The Walk this Way video sums up my relationship with music and Run-DMC as a whole for me at that point in time: my parents were obviously Aerosmith playing their music loud and I was rebelling against it, experimenting with my own tastes, and putting my own spin on things. Such a good video.

5. “Is It Live” – 3:07

6. “Perfection” – 2:52

7. “Hit It Run” – 3:10

Now how devastating can an MC be? My name is Darryl, but you can call me D Hit it Run!

One of the hardest/toughest songs on the album. Run kicks it with some fast, aggressive beat boxing, while DMC’s rhymes don’t hold anything back… it’s certainly a precursor for modern day Hip-Hop music.

8. “Raising Hell” – 5:32

The title track continues the momentum started on Hit it Run — this time with an awesome metal-influenced guitar riff. Had Walk this Way not been a single, this track would have gotten way more attention.

The lyrics to start the track were some of my favorites:

Kings from Queens from Queens come Kings We’re raisin hell like a class when the lunchbell rings The king will be praised, and hell will be raised S-s-s-suckers try to faze him but D won’t be fazed So what’s your name? D.M.C.! The King is me! Your High-ness, or His Majesty! Now you can debate, you c-c-c-concentrate But you can’t imitate D.M.C. the Great!

9. “You Be Illin’” – 3:26

Man, this song! I vividly remember doing this song with Alex in his dining room area. Such fun, corny lyrics… how can you not enjoy this song?

(To)day you won a ticket to see Doctor J Front row seat (in free!) no pay Radio in hand, snacks by feet Game’s about to start, you kickin’ popcorn to the beat You finally wake up, Doc’s gone to town Round his back, through the hoop, then you scream “Touchdown!” You be illin’

10. “Dumb Girl” – 3:31

11. “Son of Byford” – 0:27

12. “Proud to Be Black” – 3:15

Lyrics and other goodies from Genius.com

Listen to Raising Hell on Apple Music:

Open in Apple Music

Listen to Raising Hell on Spotify:

Buy the Vinyl

Support your local record shop! But if not, here are a few online options:

What was your first record, cassette, or CD?

My November Playlist

I love this idea from Merlin Mann and Do By Friday: the “Follow Your Nose” playlist…

  1. Pick a song you love and start a playlist
  2. Go to the artist’s page and view the Related Artists/Fans Also Like section – then pick a group you aren’t familiar with…
  3. Go to their page and start listening to their top songs & add one you like to your playlist.
  4. Repeat 2 and 3 from that artist page, building out your playlist until you are bored or hit an artist where you can’t do #2.

Almost like a choose your own music musical adventure. So much fun!

Here’s my first attempt in Apple Music.

November, without a blush

  1. Without a Blush by Hatchie
  2. Lucky Girl by Fazerdaze
  3. Show Me How by Men I Trust
  4. Persephone by Yumi Zouma
  5. Shadow by Wild Nothing
  6. Nausea by Craft Spells
  7. Dreaming by Seapony
  8. Please Be My Third Eye by La Sera
  9. Found Love in a Graveyard by Veronica Falls
  10. Capricornia by Allo Darlin’

Feel free to follow me on Apple Music. I’d love to see and listen to your playlists!

My Favorite Recent Releases

Short Songs for End Times by The Casket Lottery (Listen)

Their first album since 2012. I vaguely remember seeing this band when we lived in Seattle in the early 2000s, though I wasn’t ever a super fan. This release however, was exactly what I needed at the moment it game out. Their sound is a good mix of post-hardcore and emo — think the almgamation of The Get Up Kids, Sparta, Thrice, Snapcase, and Grade. I only wish more of the bands I loved in the 90s and early 2000s released new, better recorded material like The Casket Lottery.

Side note: I rediscovered the band Small Brown Bike while listening to this, so that’s a bonus. They’ve been on rotation ever since. Check out The River Bedand Dead Reckoning.

Collapsed in Sunbeams by Arlo Parks (Listen)

Not officially out until 2021, but based on the collection of singles that have been released, I’d guess this album will be on many “Best of 2021” lists. Part bedroom indie pop, part R&B… all super talented songwriter.

Closer Than They Appear by Lyric Jones (Listen)

I love smooth jazzy beats and loops — classic hip hop. Lyric Jones delivers that and more on one of my favorite hip hop releases from 2020.


Hopefully you enjoyed the first issue! Feel free to send me feedback, questions, ideas — anything. I’d also love if you shared this newsletter with anyone you think would enjoy and encourage them to subscribe.

Until next month! (I’ll be tackling my “Best of 2020” picks next issue.)