Archive for December, 2009
Canibus is a trouble-maker, there’s no doubt about that, but rarely did he cause as much trouble as when asked to guest on LL Cool J’s “4, 3, 2, 1” from his 1997 “Phenomenon” album. Dropping bombs all over his verse, and directly challenging LL on his own record, Canibus had to re-record his offering before the simmering beef bubbled over. Follow the easy links to hear the original incendiary.
But whatever the case with beef real or imagined, the response from LL himself was one of his most venomous rhymes, a controlled aggressive response show-casing why he still considered himself to be Greatest of all Times. Featuring Meth, Redman, DMX and Canibus, here was a fitting return to form from Ladies Love, even if the album itself did not fully retain the standard throughout. Oh, and Erick Sermon murders the production, a posse cut of explosive power.
If you’re ever on the look out for the biggest drop in music history, you could do a lot worse than moving direct to one minute and four seconds of perhaps the most infectious ragga jungle tune of all times. You won’t be able to either stand still, or keep a massive grin off your face. It’s simply impossible. Jungle and drum’n’bass are of course renowned for their massive breaks, often centred around the Amen, but the tune in question here is Shy FX and UK Apache’s “Original Nuttah” and I defy anyone to quarrel with the conclusion drawn above.
Because whether or not you favour more underground sounds from these scenes, only ever flirted with the darker end of this dance music spectrum, or have no declared interest in it whatsoever, I would still say that this tune has blown you away at one stage or another. From the long-drawn out half toasted, half chanted intro, to the rave horns lighting up the backing track, from the very opening bar this record is massive. But at the afore-mentioned intro of the break, it moves into a rarefied realm of pure genius, and unleashed onto any dancefloor should bring about absolute mayhem and joy. It is immense, a pure ruffneck anthem that sounds as fresh today as it did on release fifteen years ago.
Incidentally how can it really be 15 years since this track blew-up? My aching bones will give me the answer to that question, but even now I can’t resist a pogo and quickstep to this baddest of the bad, a tune that typifies all there is to say about the distinct UK flavour of this hybrid style. Purists may be bigger fans of Shy FX’s earlier work, notably the Carnival slaying “Sound of the Beast” of a year earlier, or indeed his work since with T-Power or even wonderful production work with Dizzee Rascal on some of the latter’s recent offerings. But for sheer nostalgic joy there is little better than the original. Bad boys inna London. Quite.
To some extent we have seen it all before. The tortured perfectionist, burrowing away in the isolated studio, wondering if the concoction he has spent years perfecting is truly the magical elixir, while secretly perhaps harbouring doubts and insecurities that it might actually be heavily criticised and irrelevant, rather than critical and vital to the moment. But the return of Dr Dre is always truly cause for celebration and deserved anticipation,a nd always vital.
“Detox” is the Dre album first mooted as long ago as early 2004, and the over-10-years-in-the-making follow-up to the much heralded “2001” (released confusingly in 1999), itself a 7 year sequel to 1992’s truly classic release “The Chronic”. Such stats would appear to be the work of some lethargy, but of course we know that Dre has been more than active behind the boards for any number of projects since, and that the long wait for “Detox” is as much to do with his other work schedule as much as his famed perfectionism. That having been said, the time is ripe and rumours still persist of a release.
And if anyone wanted further proof of quite why this would be cause for such excitement one need look no further than the last full Dre album, and in particular the massive “Forgot About Dre”. It doesn’t matter if some of the lyrics were ghost-written, it doesn’t matter that Dre’s production is one of direction over collaboration, bringing in and utilising others’ skills and sometimes beats, it doesn’t matter that the original intention behind the track was to have it as an Eminem and Snoop collaboration, and it doesn’t matter that “2001” has some weak moments throughout that stop it being a bonafide classic. What matters is that “Forgot About Dre” is simply a master class.
A master class in Dre’s orchestrally-minded, tight, drum and synth-led composition. A master class in Dre’s laid-back but forceful lyrical delivery. A master class in Eminem’s tongue-twistingly acidic and downright hilarious story-telling, of witty, dark, straight-up banging hip-hop. It is just a brilliant tune from the first note to the last, and worthy of its Grammy, and any other plaudits coming its way.
The rapping is strong throughout, the video an interesting and winning concept, but it is Dre’s opening verse that is key. Delivered with venom and the confidence that comes with knowing that you are spitting way above anything else available at that time, it is just killer. I mean, really. Who the hell else could bring it with the lines “Ya’ll know me still the same ol’ G, but I been low key, hated on by most these niggas, wit no cheese, no deals and no G’s, no wheels and no keys, no boats, no snowmobiles and no ski’s”.
The same person who can remind us all of the roster of artists he has brought through over the years, and know that he is a true living legend, that’s who. And this really might be his last album, for rap is a young man’s game and Dre has nothing he needs to prove to anyone. Ever. Like he says himself, give him one more platinum plaque and fuck rap, you can have it back. Forget about Dre? Sometime never.
Herbie Hancock’s recording career is so varied, so rich and so long that it is impossible to generalise or even begin to do it justice in a short posting. We know of course about the extreme funk of the Head Hunters records, of the excellence of his straight jazz work with Miles Davis, and later with the same quintet minus Miles as VSOP. We know of the electro genius of Futureshock. We know of the sublime jazz-soul of “Maiden Voyage”. But there is so much more, and as I say far too much to even begin to scratch the surface of his genius.
And so rather than delve deep I thought I would simply pick out a gem of a tune from a somewhat under-rated period of his career, the electronic disco funk of “Ready Or Not” from 1979’s “Feets Don’t Fail Me Now”. Dismissed by many as an unimaginative and slightly pedestrian four-four disco cash-in, this album actually has a couple of real highlights, and “Ready Or Not” is certainly one of them.
Featuring none other than Ray Parker Jr and Sheila E, amongst other session luminaries, this tune has some dated elements in the electric wah-wah and occasional scream of the guitar, Hancock’s synth runs and vocoded harmonies, and yet it doesn’t sound dated as a collective. Rather it just bounces and bounces on, burning up the floor as it goes. With a bassline fatter than Fat Albert (who Hancock of course famously sound-tracked years earlier), this is a monster from a forgotten period.
Pop-oriented it might be, but a man can’t be serious all the time. And whether more traditionalists were ready for it or not is irrelevant. Hancock has always challenged boundaries and expectations. Even the very best have to get down with their bad selves sometimes, and just burn the disco out.