Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Big Sam's NYC Sullivan Hall Review

Oh, Big Sam!! You ripped us up GOOD!!!!

Big Sam's Funky Nation's New Cd: King of the Party

New York City was NOT prepared for what hit it Friday night. How do I know this? Because EVERYONE I know who attended Friday’s show was crying from the pain on Saturday after we danced OUR ASSES OFF!!!! Big Sam’s Funky Nation rolled in hard and strong to Sullivan Hall for the Album Release Party of their fourth studio album, King of the Party this past Friday. OK! I am just going to say it: Big Sam is…STRAIGHT UP…the King of the Party. What an amazing, fun, fantastic performance!

I was unable to make it for the opening acts as I had a previous engagement uptown with a group of my favorite girlfriends. Yes, just sometimes, I make room for things other then music in my life. S0, I quite literally arrived at the venue as the The High & Mighty Brass Band was wrapping up. SORRY H&MBB!!

As I entered the venue, I walked up to the right front of the stage and there they all were; the lovely members of the NYC Funk Live Group who were able to make it out that night. I was immediately bombarded with hugs, introductions and smiles. Apparently, I had missed a hell of an opener as they all seemed energized. My good pal, Russ, says “I wasn’t sure of the set list, but I got this for ya,” as he hands me The High & Mighty Brass Band’s set list from the stage!!! Enjoy:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Deftones Album

A good friend told me last week to check out the two new singles from Deftones: "Diamond Eyes" and "Rocket Skates," off of their "Diamond Eyes" album which comes out May 4. Boy, do I owe him one! These tracks are off the chain, definitely up there with the band's best. I first heard this band when they got signed to Madonna's Maverick label and their single, "My Own Summer (Shove It)," got a lot of airplay. At the time, they were lumped in with other nu metal and rap metal bands, partially due to Chino's unfortunate "rapping." Most of those bands are gone thankfully, but Deftones keeps moving. Their bass player, Chi Cheng, is unfortunately still in a coma after a car accident in November 2008. Chino Moreno, their lead singer, states they now have two bass players while Cheng recuperates. If you are new to the band, you should check out these two new singles, as well as some of my personal favorites: "Rapture," "Beware" and "Kimdracula" from "Saturday Night Wrist;" "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" and "My Own Summer (Shove It)" from "Around the Fur;" "Bored" from "Adrenaline;" and the entire brilliant "White Pony" record.

Deftones Website

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stephanie White and the NJ Philth Harmonic

This is a great band with a long name. We first heard them at Webster Hall back in 2007 as part of a Battle of the Bands and we've also seen them on bills with fellow New Jerseyites Defending Champions and Hyphen-One and Daylow. The band's CDBaby page describes them as "a sexy fusion of R&B, rock, reggae and jazz with a delicious pop." We think that's a fair description. Stephanie has a great, powerful voice and is backed by a strong band featuring a horn section, guitar, bass and drums. Rob LaFalce, the drummer, also handles most of the songwriting for the band (which is more than I can say for a lot of drummers I know). These guys tour a lot along the East Coast and you should check them out. Definitely peep their single, "Cheat on My Best Friend." Always good for a sing-along.

Stephanie White and the NJ Philth Harmonic Myspace

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mos Def, Whosane, Ski Beatz - "Taxi"

Check this out: The first clip is of Mos Def working with Ski Beatz on this new song "Taxi". The next is the completed song (just audio) with Mos Def and Whosane. I'm feelin the song but it's also cool to see it in progress before hearing the whole thing.

Wu - Massacre

Once again, Wu-Tang Clan has renewed my love for real hip-hop music all over again with this release from 3 of its best: Method Man, Ghostface and Raekwon. Twitter has been all over this one for a couple days. Even other artists were tweeting about it, Questlove, for example. The best thing about this is that Wu-Tang is back to putting out multiple quality albums in a row. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 came out last year and was dope. Then Ghostface did his R&B album, which was a failed experiment in our opinion. (Ghost, you're the best, but we weren't feeling that one.) And now, Wu-Massacre comes out to completely crush the game.
Standout tracks include "Gunshowers," "Youngstown Heist," and "Smooth Sailing." There was some debate in our office over "Mef vs. Chef 2." The verses are hot, but there isn't the battle feel that we got on the first "Meth vs. Chef" on Method Man's first "Tical" album. "Criminology 2.5" is also good, but I have to wonder how many times you need to recycle the same beat, title and feeling of a great song. "It's That Wu S**t" is also a good track, which reworks the "Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz" hook.
Wu-Tang was once the freshest, most dynamic, different group out there with consistently great work. I remember being incredibly excited to be the first kid I knew to cop "Enter the Wu-Tang" and my friends and I used to debate which members would be the first to put out solo albums and whose would be the best. I think it's safe to say that the excitement is back.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

5 Major Misconceptions about Hip-Hop

1. Today's hip-hop music is mostly crap.
Okay, this is largely true. But not entirely. If you listen to the radio (I try not to), or watch the 10 minutes a day when MTV isn't playing reality shows (I don't), you'll hear a lot of crap. Here at the Early Show, we listen to some of everything and you can tell by what we've posted about so far. When it comes to hip-hop, we like the established artists, we like the popular artists and we like the newer, underground folks. We've been huge fans of Jay-Z since Reasonable Doubt. We loved Lil' Wayne around The Carter II and whichever DJ Drama mixtape had "Cannon" on it. Swizz Beatz puts out some good stuff. Sometimes. But all of these guys also put out some crap BECAUSE THEY CAN. People buy it no matter what because it's what's "hot in the game right now." Please. In my opinion, Lil' Wayne and his Young Money clown posse set hip-hop back several years with their Grammy performance. Profanity doesn't equal quality and, for the love of God, pull your pants up.

2. Hip-hop music only uses samples and/or over-simplified synthesizers and drum machines.
Again, there is some truth to this. But it's not always a bad thing. Go back for a second to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. We'll wait. There was a lot of creativity in sampling back then. Folks like De La Soul, Public Enemy, Biz Markie and the Beastie Boys had some sick productions where they'd take pieces of 8-10 songs and make something new and unique with them. Then the artists they borrowed/stole from found out how much money they were making. Now no one can afford to do this. So today's producers either sample one old song and let it ride, or over-do it with the synths and drum machines. It sure would be nice if some of these producers knew how to play some instruments.

Oh, wait a minute, some of them do! First off, all respect is due to the Roots. They've been doing this live hip-hop thing and making it work for longer than anyone else. (I'm not talking about the whole Jimmy Fallon thing right now.) But the Roots are not the only ones doing it. I saw a couple of great shows in the mid-90s by Common and the Fugees with live bands behind them. A lot of MCs just ask the Roots to back them up, because it's easier. On the local NYC scene, there are tons of bands doing the live hip-hop thing. Going back to the early 2000s, we had the Higher Circle and Alter Egos doing it. These days, we have BR and Timebomb, the Ideas, LAW and Planet 12, Dujeous, Hyphen-One and Daylow out of New Jersey and Swift Technique holding it down for Philadelphia. Flobots is doing their thing in Denver. There are probably more out there we don't know. Holla if we missed someone good.

3. Hip-hop is male-dominated and misogynistic.
Male-dominated? Yes. But there have always been some dope female MC's in the game: Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, Salt 'n' Pepa, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Missy Elliot, Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown, Jean Grae, Bahamadia, M.I.A., etc. You can make arguments that some of them had male ghost writers and that some of them used their bodies and sexuality as a crutch but I'm not making that argument. And I just heard a piece last night on NPR (what? I know.) about newer female MC's they heard at this year's SXSW: Kid Sister, Invincible and Malaga. All of them were doing innovative stuff.

Misogynistic? Yes, unfortunately. But not everyone. Step past the radio crap and you'll hear men and women writing some positive, conscious lyrics where you can tell they actually gave some thought to relations between men and women as well as other real-life issues that don't include Cristal or diamond jewelry.

4. Hip-hop is one-dimensional.
I think I've already made my point on this one. I can disprove this misconception just by listing some of my favorite hip-hop artists of all time: OutKast, the Roots, Mos Def, Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul, Brand Nubian, EPMD, MF Doom, Cee-Lo, Lauryn Hill, A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim. Need I say more? How many dimensions is that?

5. Hip-hop is dead.
The funny thing about this one is most of the people who say it continue to make hip-hop albums (I'm looking at you, Nas). Back in the day, De La Soul called their second album, "De La Soul is Dead." And they were basically stating that the style they brought on their brilliant first album of Daisy-era, hippie stuff was pretty much over. And if you think about it, the people who have created every kind of American music have gone on to completely evolve it and remove themselves from the older sub-genres. Sometimes the creators and their fans leave the music altogether to other people. I'm talking about jazz, blues, rock, and now hip-hop. Commercial hip-hop is just that: commercial. And yet, it's still ignored by people who base their ignorance on these 5 misconceptions (I'm talking to you, L Magazine. Is indie rock really the only music worth listening to? Jeez.)

I had to read this book once for an economics class (got a C minus, thank you very much) that stated that in a global economy, there was less of a need and less market for talented musicians in different parts of the world because everyone now has access to the very best worldwide. They used opera as an example. Everyone can buy Pavarotti, so they don't need their local opera singer whose name I don't know. The same seems to be happening with hip-hop. Everyone can buy Young Money or Gucci Mane, so they don't have to look for quality in their local market. But it's high time that they do.