Sunday, January 29, 2006
Maxwell's House #2
It's with great pleasure we return to the early work of Grand Puba. After the Masters of Ceremony dissolved, Puba hooked up with Dante Ross, who was recruiting new skool artists for his Elektra imprint. Puba had recorded a handful of solo tracks, but not enough for a full blown album. Ross persuaded Maxwell to collaborate with label mates Derrick 'Sadat X' Murphy and Lorenzo 'Lord Jamar' Dechelaus, who were also struggling to produce an lp's worth of debut material.
The group better known as Brand Nubian were then born, the first track to be released was "Feels So Good b/w Brand Nubian". This came out in 1990, but only created a minor buzz as hip hop was still being dominated by the west coast sound of NWA, Ice Cube, Above The Law etc. At the turn of the year, hip hop started to head back East again, with the emergence of new skool artists like K.M.D., Leaders Of The New Skool, Main Source & Black Sheep. A new laid back, jazz/funk sound with conscious lyrics was being created, and coincided with the Nubian's 2nd single "Wake Up". The song combined an afrocentric agenda, along with the feel good sound of Roy Ayers' "Everybody Loves The Sunshine".
Brand Nubian became front page material in the hip hop press during 1991. They gained the illustrious 5 mics award in The Source for their debut lp "One For All". Their 3rd single "Slow Down" went #1 in the billboard R&B and Rap charts, as well as #1 in Yo! MTV Raps' hip hop chart.
At the end of 1991, Grand Puba announced his departure from the Brand Nubian project. Maxwell citing his desire to have a shot at going solo, and took the group's DJ 'Alamo' K Jones with him. Elektra wanted to cash in on this publicity and released a remix single of "All For One b/w Concerto In X Minor". Puba met his contractial obligations by appearing in the video, which acted as one final hurrah to close out a very succesful 18 months for Brand Nubian.
Enjoy the videos!
Brand Nubian - Feels So Good (video)
Brand Nubian - Wake Up (video)
Brand Nubian - Slow Down (video)
Brand Nubian - All For One Remix (video)
Monday, January 23, 2006
The English Patient #1
Alrighty then, I get a lot of people asking me about old skool UK Hip Hop, which is kinda referred to as Britcore these days. The name Britcore throws up images of 150pm hardcore beats, nasty-ass rhyming and the likes of DJ Supreme scratching his records until the needle wore out. The reality of UK rap in the late 80's/early 90's was that only a handful of acts adopted a hardcore stance along the lines of Hijack, Silver Bullet and so on. There were plenty of other styles that were being persued at the time. You had a selection of underground emcee's rhyming over tight soul & funk breaks such as MC Duke, Overlord X, Bello B & Mc Mell'O'. Then there were crews adopting a more ragga hip hop feel like London Posse, Demon Boyz, Asher D & Daddy Freddy. In addition you had the likes of Derek B, Wee Papa Girl Rappers & Cookie Crew attempting top 40 chart assaults, with a commercial edge to their music. Over and above that you had the likes of Blade, Katch 22, Gunshot, Stereo MC's and the Ruthless Rap Assassins experimenting with new concepts, in order to push the legacy further forward.
Unfortunately the major record labels of the day didn't see a sustainable future in UK Hip Hop, as they sought to jump onto the next bandwagon. Independant labels came and went as the recession of the early 1990s began to bite. "If it aint hurting, it aint working" was the Tory Party line way back then. It was beginning to feel like 1981 all over again; no money, no decent jobs and no fucking decent music. Fortunately UK Hip Hop was given an opportunity to start over in the late 1990's, allowing 'The Patient' to recover and spawn a new generation of artists that we know and love today.
B.R.O.T.H.E.R. - Beyond The 16th Parallel (video)
Hijack - Hijack Airwave(live video)
Sunday, January 15, 2006
The Native Tongue #1
We're taking a journey back to the late 1980's now to focus on the work of The Native Tongues collective. The Jungle Brothers were the first of a selection of new skool artists at that time to embrace new concepts of sound, lyrics and style. Replacing gold chains with african pendants, lifting sound samples from less obvious recording artists and dropping conscious lyrics without militancy was the order of the day. Baby Bam, Mike G & Sammy B dropped their debut lp "Straight Out The Jungle" to a warm reception in 1988. The title track along with songs like "On The Run", "Behind The Bush" & "Black Is Black" were typical of their organic approach to rap. They also took time out from the consciousness and had fun in the studio with label mate Todd Terry, in order to create their worldwide dancefloor hit "I'll House You". This move won them as many fans as it did critics, but undetered they continued collaborating with other artists to raise there profile. Their UK label mates the Stereo MC's, remixed a number of their singles keeping the Native Tongue momentum going with killer versions of "Black Is Black" & "Because I Got It Like That". The JB's featured on a remix of De La Soul's "Buddy" along with Q Tip, who had also guested on the SOTJ lp. De La Soul & ATCQ mirrored the JB's with ground breaking debut albums, and Warner Brothers sought to capitalise on the Native Tongue popularity by funding the JB's sophomore lp "Done By The Forces Of Nature" in 1989.
This lp was a creative masterpiece but was unfortunately overshadowed by the worldwide popularity of "3 ft High & Rising". DBTFoN also suffered from a lack of obvious singles for the pop market. The profile of the Jungle Brothers begain to fade as they were considered less marketable than the other members of the Native Tongues. Queen Latifah, Monie Love and A Tribe Called Quest all had successful chart hits, while the JB's seemed unable to do the same. This lead to Warner mis-handling the JB's third lp, which was released about 2 years after it was recorded and fell on death ears in both the pop and underground market.
Mike & Bam were released from WB and decided to hook back up with their indie UK label Gee St. This led to a series of broken beat lp's which were more popular with the dance/club scene than traditional hip hop heads. A sad way to go out, but at least they were back in the business of selling units and making money.
Our featured song is "In Time", which is a b-side only track that can be found on the UK release of "Black Is Black". The track is a re-working of "The Promo", the latter being the close out track on there debut lp. Enjoy the videos too, it'll be a long time before you see them on TV again!
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Maxwell's House #1
Now we flip over stateside for some more 80's/90's realness courtesy of a long time favourite of mine - 'Grand Puba' Maxwell. Known to his parents as Maxwell Dixon, he first surfaced on the New York hip hop scene alongside his group "Masters of Ceremony". Their only lp (Dynamite) featured a hip hop/reggae crossover sound, aided and abetted by Dr Who, DJ Shabazz and Don Baron. It spawned a series of singles that were popular on the underground circuit, including "Cracked Out", "Redders Posse", "Sexy", "The Master Move" and "Dynamite" (the latter being an all time favourite of mine from back in the day).
Encouraged by his modest success, Puba decided to go solo and was promptly snapped up by Dante Ross at Elektra Records. Unfortunately for Maxwell, the recording of his lp wasn't going well. As a result, Ross suggested that he hook up with label mates Brand Nubian, who were also recording a debut set but struggling to pen an lp's worth of tracks. The result of the collaboration was outstanding - "One For All" - a generation defining album for hip hop's afrocentric new skool. The 5 mic rated debut spawned turn of the decade classics such as "Wake Up", "Slow Down" and "All For One".
At the end of the project, Puba and Nubian went their seperate ways. Grand Puba started rolling with SD50 and finally dropped his debut lp "Reel to Reel" in 1992. Although it had a feel good party sound, fans of the afrocentric style of hip hop were naturally disappointed to find Puba's conscious rhymes of old noticebly absent. Undetered, Maxwell continued to stay busy grabbing guest spots on lots of other projects at that time, as well as ghost writing for his cousin Pete Rock on the seminal "Mecca & The Soul Brother" lp.
The remainees of Brand Nubian (Sadat X & Lord Jamar) put out two more lps before losing their sense of direction. Although they did manage to produce a hip hop classic 12" in the form of "Punks Jump Up To Get Beatdown".
Sadat X went onto to perform some succesful solo and guest work, while Jamar faded away, but not before guesting on The Artifacts "Collaboration Of Mics"; a classic posse cut alongside Lord Finesse.
Grand Puba wanted a second stab at a solo lp and received a warmer reception for his somophore effort "2000" - confusingly released in 1996(!) The singles "I Like It" and "A Little Of This" got mad airplay on MTV, and went someway towards re-instating Puba's reputation as versatile emcee.
Rumours of a Brand Nubian re-union at this stage were rife, especially after Sadat guested on Buckwild's remix of "I Like It", and Puba/Jamar appeared on X's "The Lump Lump" remix. In 1998 the full re-union was official and "Foundation" was dropped to a mixed reception. The main problem being Brand Nubian's insistance on using old funk samples way past their sell by date.
Brand Nubian decided to take a break once again, only to reform in 2004 and drop perhaps their most disappointing work to date, namely their 5th lp "Fire In The Hole". Puba found time drop one more album in between these final BN lps in the form of "Understand This", released on Koch records in 2001. It featured a nice selection of tracks, one of the best being "Up and Down".
I hope you enjoy the below selection of Puba rarities; big shout out to Kore321 for the "Sexy" video - make sure you check Kore's blog in the links section, as he has a slammin selection of old skool videos.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion #1
I'm going back to my roots me'babbers and kicking some classic Bristol Hip Hop & Dub choons from the 80's & 90's. Some media type labelled the sound "Trip Hop" and the rest is history.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
The Real McKoy.....
Live and direct from the jazz cafe, once again! Brit Soul and Acid Jazz veteran Noel McKoy supported Roy Ayers in Camden Town on NYE. Armed with a new band, new songs and new lp to promote, the former JTQ front man didn't disappoint.
Noel debuted a nice selection of new songs from his forthcoming lp, including the moving "Tumbling Down" and the lively "Old Skool", together with his 90's soul classic "Family".
After a bit of heckling, the main man revealed to me that his band hadn't rehearsed his other acid jazz classic "Fight" as yet, so it was missing in action on the night. But never fear, as well as some video from the night, we proudly tip our hat to the Mckoy legacy.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Happy New Year!!!!!!
Fresh for '06 you suckas!
Well NYE @ The Jazz Cafe was hot butter, Roy Ayers and his band played his "Rover Tin" of family favourites and didn't disappoint. Highlight of evening was Roy's play on the lyrics to We Live In Brooklyn, replaced with the humourous "We Shop At Tesco, Baby!"
First live media on clawdada is the New Years Eve countdown live and direct from Camden Town.
Hope 2006 brings you joy, prosperity and a dope soundtrack to your life.