RIP to Malik B., a founding member of the Roots.
He was 47.
Somebody stop 2020, please.
Toasty Taranna #19: Sonic Boom #3: Roots – Legendary EP
Y’all know I do love me some Roots. This 5-track EP was an essential grab. Some of the tracks were recorded live* at the Palais X-Tra in Zurich, Switzerland on May 6, 1999, and it’s a Roots party! There are also 3 videos in the enhanced content. What’s not to (?uest)love?
Hit It Or Quit It? It’s the Roots! HIIIIIT!
73 Table Of Contents – (Part 3)
74 The Ultimate*
75 The Battlestar ?uestacula (Part 3 – The Search For Scratch)
76 The Next Movement*
MPEG1 The Next Movement
MPEG2 You Got Me
MPEG3 What They Do
Kudos to you if you clicked on this one! I know a bunch of you are dyed in the wool rawkers, so the hip hop may not do much for you. But I’ve got a real melting pot going on around here, and rap is just another of the components of my complete breakfast, so for me a post like this ain’t much of a surprise.
I know what I like when I hear it, and I was idling wondering if I could make a Top Ten artists list. Sure I can!
Now, I know that these are tricky waters. Some will say “where is Public Enemy, or Run-DMC, or Grandmaster Flash…” or any of the other classics. Or there’ll be newer artists or whole genres of hip hop I’ve skipped, etc etc. Well, those are surely great too. But this is my list of what I would choose to put on, when the mood moves me. Many were considered. And so it goes.
Alright, here we go:
1 The Roots
2 Wu-Tang Clan
3 Beastie Boys
4 Jurassic 5
5 A Tribe Called Quest
8 Mos Def
10 Notorious B.I.G
11 Honourable mention goes to: Eminem*
12 The artist I most need to get to (but haven’t yet): Talib Kweli**
13 The new artist I most want to try: Kendrick Lamar***
14 The one I should probably include but I just don’t feel it when I hear him: Jay-Z****
* Eminem has a lot to say, and he pulls no punches. But I can’t do his anger all the time, so he doesn’t hit my 10 list because sometimes he just makes me tired.
**And by extension, since I’ve already included Mos Def, I should also get to Black Star.
*** I have no idea if this is a wise decision, his is just a name that keeps coming up.
**** This is probably an unpopular choice, but so what. I don’t dig Jay-Z enough. Go make your own list.
Based on that Top Ten list, you can tell I like it when rappers have something to say, and I like it jazzier and with a sense of fun. I don’t have any time for violence for the sake of violence, which is why 2Pac and Biggie sit at the bottom of the list – only about half of their stuff is brilliant for me. I also have zero time for a lot of the empty, plastic, boastful rap that seems to be popular ad nauseum.
What are your faves? Do you agree with this list? Disagree? Are you ambivalent?
My list is a total sausagefest, so if anybody can recommend any great lady rappers that might fit my likes, drop a comment!
Do you have suggestions for any other acts I need to check out? Let me know!
Here’s another total score from my foray into the corporate world of 333 Yonge Street HMV in Toronto during our trip there in June. I got this CD, brand new, for $5. That’s criminal!
Roots – Things Fall Apart
Man, how many times have I played this CD? A whole bunch. I already owned this, but my copy somehow got pretty scratched up so, for $5, I replaced it right quick.
If you’ve heard this album, named after the Chinua Achebe novel, you’ll know what I mean when I use the word classic to describe this. The incredible flow, the mind-blowing music from the band, the clear messages within. I have always loved the Roots, for their instrumentations and their songs, and this one is a giant in the catalogue of their greatness. Add cool guests like Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, DJ Jazzy Jeff… heck, even a pull quote from Mo’ Better Blues to open it up. All of it. Classic. One for the ages.
This is a band that has something to say, and they’re saying it so creatively, so strongly, it’s impossible to ignore them, or this album.
So this is short blurb, I could sum it up in 4 words: I love this album. Hard to believe it’s 16 years old (as I write this). It sounds fresher than anything new that’s just out there now.
If you don’t already have it, get your copy now.
This record came with alternate covers. My first copy was the crying baby one (below, bottom left – click to enlarge the image). I ordered it online, used, and that’s just what I got. As a dad (twice over), it bothered me, so I turned it inside out. Mind you, the regular version cover (of a riot in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, above) isn’t any better. Actually, all of the artwork options for this record were very well done, provocative and strong and unsettling. This album is the real deal all around.
Platinum Blonde – No Regrets b/w Hey Hey You (7”)
Last September, my lovely wife and I got away for a couple of days for our wedding anniversary. Sharp-memoried KMA readers will recall we went to Mike’s town and saw Big Rude Jake play a fantastic set in a pub. While in town, we went to Orange Monkey Records, and the man there played me a these Platinum Blonde tracks, as we’d been talking about them (their CDs are on my Grail list – see top of page for everyone’s lists!). I love d the tracks straight away. The 7” is hard to find, he said.
Time passed, it’s now January. I recalled hearing those songs, wanted them again. Found them on the Youtubes, they’re still fantastic! I sent it to a few friends, and so far responses are positive! Of course, the search is still on for the 7”. I found one online, $10, not bad. But it’s a UK seller and shipping is same as buying the thing. $20 for one 7”… I dunno, it is rare, though… Anyway, point being if you’re reading this and haven’t yet heard these tracks, hie thee to the Tubes Of You (if not buy the 7″!) and check them out. They’re great fun!
Roots – The Tipping Point*
A needle hits vinyl and we’re in. A delicious record from one of rap’s premier acts. It isn’t in a hurry, but it flows like nobody’s business. It’s smooth, funky, a record where a real 70s feel can flow into spy theme music and then into a sweet soul jam with ease, and an old school speed rap like Boom! makes sense in the picture too. I read complaints about it being bland, commercial, too short, lacking an overall vision… fools. This is The Roots. They do what they do, and never once have they disappointed.
Roots – How I Got Over*
The Roots roll back with another sweet soul excursion, each track proving they are inventive and superlative players. I really felt this one, the songs going deep into all the threads that make up life, love, and everything. Lots of guest stars here, including Monsters of Folk, Joanna Newsom, John Legend and so on. This was so good, I played the thing twice in a row!
Ani DiFranco – Swing Set EP*
EP for the track from To The Teeth (1999). Love the funky jazzy sax of Swing (Radio Set). It’s there on the album version too. Next is To The Teeth (Shoot Out Remix), gunshot noises leading into a version with drums and funky effects on the guitar. Woody Guthrie’s Do Re Mi (live) is next and it’s brilliant (as you can imagine it would be). When I’m Gone is a gorgeous late-night contemplative track with great guitar. And finally it’s Ani’s cover of the classic Bob Dylan song about Hurricane Carter. I think I paid $0.99. Shame, it’s worth a ton more.
Ani DiFranco – Like I Said: Songs 1990-91*
Collecting tracks from her first two records, this is a mindblowing compilation of brilliance. More remarkable, since we basically expect excellence from her now, is that this early period was when her future wasn’t so ensured. Of course, going back knowing what we know we can say ‘of course it was,’ but when she boldly struck out, it was hard work, fearless intelligence, talent and her own wits and determination against the world. I can’t recommend this disc enough.
* Bought during last year’s trip to Toronto with Mike.
First up, a very Happy Birthday to my lovely gorgeous wife!
Next up, an admission: I knew I had to shut off the Killer Be Killed CD, difficult as that was to do, so I could have some music I could write about for today! So, we cleaned up the house to some of this, then I spent some time culling through boxes of old crap for disposal, during which I heard the rest! Oh, and it still hasn’t stopped snowing.
Beck – Odelay
The timing here is great, given the recent Beck conversation over on Geoff’s excellent 1001albumsintenyears site. Over the years, I have owned a few Beck records, all earlier stuff. At a certain point I drifted away from his music, probably just my tastes changing. I found this copy of Odelay for $2 in our thrift shop, snagged it for nostalgia, and was still pretty impressed by it now, in 2015. It’s certainly of its time, not sure how it would go over if it was a new album right now, but I’m glad it’s here. Lots of strong songs, funky ideas. Neat!
Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With The Arab Strap
I truly don’t know how this CD ended up in my collection. To be honest, I don’t tend to listen to this kind of music very often. It certainly is a busy record, lots of instruments in tight arrangements. The songs are very light and airy, very pop. The songs are stories, and I love the accents. But there’s an edge to the stuff here, so don’t let the sweet confection of it fool you.
Benny Goodman – Swing-Sation: Benny Goodman
I’m a swing fan from childhood, grew up hearing the big band stuff at my grandparents’ place. It’s in my blood, and I’ve said many times I was born in the wrong era, missing this music I love, but then those were war years so lucky me I wasn’t anyway! Benny Goodman, of course, was one of the big stars of that era. I don’t usually like the clarinet, but this sort of music is the one place it works (to my ears). And this being a compilation, all the hits are here, like Stompin’ At The Savoy, One O’Clock Jump, Sing, Sing, Sing, and 11 others. For me, this is bliss!
Betty Wright & The Roots – Betty Wright: The Movie
I love The Roots, and pairing them with Betty Wright is a genius idea. This is funky, soulful music, and Wright’s voice is gorgeous. Another key here is that The Roots play all the instruments – this isn’t manufactured and knob-twiddled R&B like alot of the crap out there, no sir, this is the real deal. All of the current divas should be using this as a textbook on how good R&B can still be made now, in the tech age. This is a really great CD. Throw it on and find yourself pulled deep into it and loving every minute!
This is another disc I ordered with my Airmiles points, same time as the Steve Earle (see previous post). I hesitated to order it. You see, I know that there is a version out there for about $18 that has three bonus tracks on it, and I like both of these artists enough to want those extra tracks. However, it’s hard to say no to free Roots and Costello, so here it is. Maybe one day, when Mike and I are in Taranna on a record shopping trip for example, I’ll find the bonus version in a used shop. For now, I get to hear the album proper and that makes me happy.
Walk Us Uptown is the first single, and it’s a helluva groove. The lyrics are pure Costello. It took me a few listens (I had it on the youtubes before I got the CD) to realize I had to lay back and let the song come to me. I couldn’t work to hear it. Now it makes perfect sense and I love it. Sugar Won’t Work is a sweet soul song with Costello warbling over the top of it. Its strolling pace and dextrous bass work are great. Refuse To Be Saved is pure Isaac Hayes-style funk. Yummy.
Wake Me Up is such a simple tune, I wasn’t sure at first that it would work. But it’s in the very simplicity that lies this tune’s strength. Maybe not the album’s strongest track, but if it was the only song you heard from the album, it’d still shine. Tripwire is a sweet love song that is so slow and drawn out that it feels like it could fall apart at any minute. Stick Out Your Tongue is another slow creeper, which I thought would work well late at night but I always do this late at night and, well, it’s cool but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Maybe I need wine. I dunno.
Come The Meantimes brings back the shuffle, it’s a cool tune but I could have done without the bell they hit, at unpredictable intervals. It’s weird and distracting. I spent the whole song waiting for it to come and that’s not cool. (She Might Be A) Grenade finally makes me realize they’re going for the slow jam, the candles-lit slow dance on this whole record. I get it now. That I got halfway through the album before I figured it out is a bit alarming, but there you go. …Grenade is a solid tune, knowing now what I do. Cinco Minutos Con Vos has some sweet vocals from La Marisoul, and still carries that slow groove torch.
Viceroy’s Row and Wise Up Ghost do more of the same. In a good way. Now it’s expected, I like it even more. And hey, I’ve also realized something else: This album is supposed to be taken as a whole. It’s not a jumble of ideas thrown together. I get that now. It’s a whole-picture thing.
But wait, there’s one more track! If I Could Believe is a sweet piano tune to close out the record. I like it. Very pretty.
I’m not totally sure how I feel about this album, yet. I need more listens. You see, I love the Roots. And Elvis Costello has his moments, GREAT moments, for sure. In my head, if I asked myself what would happen if this group of artists got together, I’m not totally certain I would say this album is what would happen. But it did. Blue Note released it. It came to my house for free from Airmiles. It’s in my iTunes. I played it all the way through and there it is. Something nags at me, though. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe I was hoping for more? But more what, exactly? ALSO: Where is Black Thought? I know I was tired when I played this, but I didn’t hear him utter one word the whole record! Weird.
This is a great late-night slow down album that you’ll wanna throw on the hi-fi when you’re wanting to sex up your partner(s). Light some candles. Drink some mellow wine. Turn the lights down low and get it on, baby, yeah!
Oddly Enough, Zellers Makes My Day, Part 1
I was in Zellers for highly unrelated reasons today, but of course I gravitated towards the CD bins where they sell Baha Men albums by the fistful to people looking for novelty coasters. Too often, I am completely disappointed by my time spent digging through the kids’ bible music and weirdo yoga relaxation CDs, but today I found two gems that shouldn’t even have been there at all.
Some of you know that my TV is not hooked to the outside world. I haven’t lived with cable for over 13 years, so I miss everything (by choice). For example, a show called Rock Star Supernova, where Jason Newstead, Tommy Lee and Gilby Clarke are looking for a lead singer of a new band they’ve formed. I don’t know (or care) if it’s still going, but they made a CD and I bought it because it has Newstead on it. I don’t know the singer, but whatever. This is a really sweet find. I will review it shortly.
Oddly Enough, Zellers Makes My Day, Part 2
You’ll recall that, recently, I was on about what was surely the Hot Hot Heat’s song being used in an ad that’s played at my work. As a result, I heard from one of the band members and that conversation went on for a while and even revealed the band’s work on a NEW RECORD!! I hope that tidbit of news makes you as happy as it makes me!
Anyway – and sorry guys but it’s what happened – I also found a copy of HHH’s “Scenes One Through Thirteen” in the same bin. I couldn’t believe it was there. So undeserving. But, hooray! I didn’t have this one yet! So of course I rescued it and brought it to a warm and safe home here with me. I will be reviewing it soon as well. I can’t wait to hear it!
Props To Bif
This paragraph will go to show you just how out of the loop I really am (and how little music news I read, apparently). You see, I had no idea about Bif Naked’s recent battles with cancer. So I was shocked by the news in the paper, and thrilled to learn all in the same moment that she is getting better and is ready to rock again.
Much power to you, Bif. You go, girl!
A Hip Correction, The First Single, and a Concert Attendance Update
First off, a correction: I had erroneously trumpeted the new Hip album’s title in these pages as “We Are All The Same.” Later, I have come to find out that the correct title is “We Are The Same.” Apologies to anyone and everyone.
I heard the first single, Love Is A First, on the local rawk radio station the other day. As has happened with the last few new tracks on the past few new albums from the band, it didn’t initially grab me. I wondered why they chose that particular song out of an album full of surely great tracks. And then I realized the damn thing was totally stuck in my head, and better still it was playing over and over. Sneaky bastards, those Hip people. I’ll betcha the song will be even better live.
And on that note, we will not likely be attending the local Hip show here, in June. I know, I know. I love them to pieces. But I just can’t hack their crowds. I must be getting old. Besides, rumour has it that the venue hadn’t even given permission for the show to happen there before the radio began blaring the dates and times. Something odd about the whole thing.
Jimmy Fallon’s House Band?!?!
OK, so I followed a link on Pitchfork and watched Public Enemy play their hit Bring The Noise for the millionth time, this time on Fallon’s show. Stranger still, this great performance was also celebrating Flavor Flav’s 50th birthday. Folks, the dude with the clock around his neck is 50! Imagine.
What floored me even more was reading that the Roots are Fallon’s house band for the Late Show. Uh, what? This established, headlining act is trapped in TV-land now? I just don’t know how I feel about this, but my gut says it ain’t good. Do you care? Does it matter? I dunno. I always liked The Roots for being individual, real, different. And now they’re supplying drumrolls for late night schtick-humour gags. I dunno. I just dunno.
The Roots – Rising Down
There are some really sweet grooves on this disc, and I’ve always loved that the Roots use live instruments in their music. More rap acts should try it. Anyway, it’s a shame that this is such an angry record, both politically and socially in the lyrics, and in the tone of the music as well. Even the cover art is dark. Rising Down has something to say, and it’s worth hearing, although by the end I was pretty tired of it. It’s no Things Fall Apart, but it’s still damn good.
Killers – Hot Fuss
This is a fun record that makes me think of summer. Somehow, I want to be at the beach when these songs are playing. It could be the swirl of influences to be found layered in these tracks (even if a lot of it is shameless 80’s revivalism), or it could be the irrepressible result of this effort. Or it could be I’d just rather be at the beach. Hm. Still, this is a very tasty debut.
Killers – Sam’s Town
Sophmore efforts are so hard. Do you keep to the formula that worked on your debut? Do you try to grow and see what happens? Sam’s Town does a bit of both, and succeeds quite handily. The sound remains from Hot Fuss, as does the fascination with synthesizers and music that recalls huge hair. But the band’s inability to sit still pushes them further and further towards the horizon, too. A worthy successor.
Killers – Sawdust
Interesting that they already had enough material for a b-sides disc so early on, but it speaks to their ability to whip out track after delicious track of post-punk passion. Still, it’s awfully nice of them to release it to us, rather than uselessly stockpiling it. There’s a bunch of covers, and some import only stuff too. If you’re a fan, you have this already. But if you just got on this bus, you’d be hard-pressed to tell it’s not an album of new material. It’s that good.
Killers – Day And Age
This latest release is a culmination of their past attempts to forge a sound of their own from the vast pile of their influences. On Day And Age they’ve finally gotten it perfect. This disc is its own party and you’re all invited. Highly recommended.