Friday, March 29, 2013

Ecstatic Ecstatic

I've been a big fan of Mos Def's The Ecstatic since it dropped in 2009. If you have slept on it, or assumed that it was some mediocre, half-finished release, rearrange your thought processes and listen to it at once. Of course, it would be easy to assume the worst about the album, considering it seemed to have no label support, nor a single, nor any kind of promotional strategy to speak of. But it's just downright excellent.

Sixteen tracks, almost half of which are produced by Madlib, one by Dilla, a bunch of great beats by Preservation, and Mos rhyming about geopolitics and history and love. And Brooklyn. It features a guest verse from Slick Rick, who seems to be rhyming from the middle of a war-torn Baghdad (and trading verses with "a young Iraqi kid" who wins the battle with a declarative "Get the fuck out my country!"). The whole thing starts with Malcolm X and winds its way to a finale of an interstellar boogie that fades out into beautiful piano. Somehow it all holds together. And, by the way, the cover image is taken from Killer of Sheep, a movie I have referred to on this blog before.

Unfortunately, Mos Def's attitude toward performing is not as razor sharp as the production of this album. I wish he would have just performed The Ecstatic from beginning to end and then left the stage. But oh well. Here's a review of his performance from March 15 at the Shrine, which appears on Passion of the Weiss.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I Just Can't Stop It

I have added ever so slightly to my two-tone record collection by joining The Specials with The English Beat's I Just Can't Stop It (1980). "Mirror in the Bathroom" was the only track I'd heard for a while, thanks to John Cusack and his awesome kung fu, but a few years ago this album was sitting around an apartment I moved into in Providence. So it holds special nostalgic value for me after listening to it for the year after I graduated from college.

"Stand Down Margaret" is a reminder of the social/political context of Thatcher-era Britain. And "Tears of a Clown" is just a great ska cover. Also, one of the fun things about buying records from the 80s is you get to read the inserts that advertise the pre-internet merchandise you can buy if you send a check or money order. Records as historical artifacts and such.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Questlove Radio One DJ Mix

I saw this on the Style Matters blog. They must be some pretty awesome wedding DJs to put something like this up on their site. See how many hip-hop songs you can spot over the course of this set for BBC Radio. There were many original sources here that I'd never heard. It's funny how with some rap songs it is clear that the production is sample-based, while with others the sample is unnoticeable. I'm pretty sure the inspiration for "So Fresh So Clean" is halfway through this set, but I still can't figure out if OutKast used the original or not on the record.