MUSIC

B.B. King is dead, long live his blues

The longer we live the more people we’ll see moving on from this crazy world. It’s inevitable. Many will be famous, others closer to home.

Late Thursday word began to spread of the passing of blues guitarist B.B. King at the age of 89. Whether you dig the blues or not, you most certainly know that King ranks among the greatest guitar players of all time.

Born in Mississippi in 1925, his music was a reflection of his upbringing. It connected with people of all walks of life and backgrounds, such is evident in videos below featuring U2 and Big K.R.I.T., and it’ll continue to inspire and live on for countless generations to come. Just as it should.

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Ice Cube (1990-1994) – Spotify Playlist

The four albums that unleashed the solo career of Ice Cube onto the world are a treasure in the history of hip hop.

Whereas stereotypes have largely perpetrated rap in certain ways over the past couple decades, the initial era of the former backbone of N.W.A. is worthy of revisiting as he’s helped legitimize social concerns for an entire group of people.

Once you get past the menacing attitude of the production and equally intimidating delivery of the emcee, there’s lots of depth to peel back within each album. Ice Cube in the early 1990s comes complete with commentary matching the times, which can be tough to digest upon first sitting if hesitant to soak it all in.

There’s scathing tracks about corruption of law enforcement and the prison system, and government degradation and racial tension, and tales of street life and sexual relations. It’s all packaged with punk rock bravado from a ghetto-American point of view.

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Roots Manuva – “Stolen Youth”

I’ve always been attracted to the imagery of the music video. Too bad they don’t get much play anymore on television.

But the beautiful thing about the technology of the world today is that the music video fan has taken over where the big-budget directors have left off. So take that, MTV.

The “Stolen Youth” track by Roots Manuva has gotten the DIY treatment by Karina Tolmacheva and Balazs Kajcsa, each of whom captured its essence in different ways while adding to how powerful the song already is on its own.

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Run Them Jewels Fast

El-P and Killer Mike have been delivering the goods as Run The Jewels for more than two years.

On “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” they employ former Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha for additional social commentary on one of the most outstanding tracks from their new album Run The Jewels 2. They then took things to an entirely new level with the release of the music video this week.

Described as “an artistic, playful, yet painful look at the modern day struggle between our everyday citizens and law enforcement,” the visuals brought to life by AG Rojas are powerful.

At its conclusion it’s as if each side has decided it’s far too much hassle to be hassling each other in the first place. Decide for yourself…

Playlist: Beck (1994-2014)

I never intended to make a post that’s in any way associated with the Grammy Awards.

Hell, I hardly even pay attention to the Grammy Awards, unless I’m wandering aimlessly on social media and happen upon the typically ridiculous placement of artists in categories of which they have no business earning an award.

But then Kanye West blasted Beck for winning album of the year, for an album I admittedly dismissed upon its release much in the same way I did Sea Change in 2002. And although I own multiple albums by both Kanye and Beck, I found West’s response to Beck’s triumph as equally annoying as nearly every other music fan.

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Digital Underground lets the contradictions run wild in Future Rhythm’s “Want It All”

There will always be a special place in the hearts of old school hip-hop fans when it comes to a collective like Digital Underground.

While Dr. Dre was turning Parliament-Funkadelic samples into gangster rap soundtracks, Digital Underground used the P-Funk sounds of the past to keep the party jumping with a much less serious vibe attached to it.

My go-to album in the Underground discography is Sons of the P from 1991, but I was recently reintroduced to a hidden gem that was released long after many fans had lost track of Shock G and his Humpty Hump stylings.

In 1996 Digital Underground released the vastly mediocre Future Rhythm album with a track called “Want It All” buried at the end. It’s everything you’d expect from the crew: funk, humor, creativity.

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Hanni El Khatib grooves out on new “Moonlight” album

I’m not even sure how to pronounce his name. Guess I’ll learn soon enough though after spending Tuesday’s release day listening to the San Francisco native’s impressive new Moonlight album.

It’s the third release for Hanni El Khatib since debuting with Will The Guns Come Out in 2011. Head in the Dirt followed two years later with an assist from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, so you can imagine what some of these new songs might sound like: bluesy guitar-driven grooves accompanied by boastful drum sounds that carry a shadowy mood throughout.

Having never heard either of those previous albums I had no preconceived notions before giving this one my full attention. And after having had my fill of Auerbach and the Keys over the years I can say I was hardly surprised when I read about their connection after spinning through this for the first time. Moonlight possesses some of the signature sounds of The Black Keys but comes to an end before drowning in that style.

Standouts include the title track, “The Teeth,” “Chasin’,” “Mexico,” “Servant,” and “Two Brothers.” But don’t just settle for the official album. Be sure to check out the Moonlight album mixtape by J.Rocc for a different twist that’ll keep you going until the sun comes up.

New film analyzes origins of “Dixie” and its relationship with the South

The history of the song “Dixie” is the subject of an Intersection Films production bearing the same name by Ryan Kelley and Trent Reeves.

It’s a documentation of the origins of the song, its relation to the South, and the people who’ve preserved it in some form or fashion throughout each passing generation.

It’s also a look into how “Dixie” became a rallying cry for those opposed to the desegregating times of the late 1950s and 1960s and the connection it began to have with that of the Confederate flag.

Was “Dixie” in fact written by Dan Emmett of Mount Vernon, Ohio, who went on to pioneer the blackface minstrel shows of the mid-1800s? Or was it a nearby family of former slaves – Ben and Lou Snowden – who taught him the tune that he would eventually make famous?

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Blueprint relives worst shows of his music career in “What a Night”

There’s always been something about the uneasiness and embarrassment of others that makes the rest of us cringe with curiosity.

Such stories serve dual purposes in that they entertain on one hand and fascinate on the other, as though we can relate in some form or fashion. Or maybe we’re just intrigued by the kinds of far-fetched circumstances we’ve never had a chance to experience ourselves.

Blueprint offers up these types of stories to help quench such an appetite as he shares the most awkward moments from his life on the road in “What a Night,” a book about the worst shows of his music career.

Although Blueprint’s been known for different things at different times in his life, first as a computer programmer, and most notably a producer, emcee and musician, it’ll take some time before his work as an author of books reaches those aforementioned levels.

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Music from the vinyl collection: Bobby Womack, Johnny Cash, Gang Starr, The Stepkids

I considered rushing out to local record stores Friday morning to pick up exclusive Black Friday vinyl music releases. Then I started flipping through my existing collection, deciding instead to stay home and spin the stuff I already own.

Albums by Bobby Womack, Johnny Cash, Gang StarrThe Stepkids randomly made the rotation. Sample some of the best tracks from each below.

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Playlist: Big Boi of Outkast (2003-12)

When it comes to Outkast it seems Andre 3000 gets all the attention. Hardly ever does Big Boi get brought up in the conversation, his efforts often overlooked by the majority of “fans” of the group.

Consider how critics compare the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below double album for proof. But go back and listen to those early Outkast albums and be surprised at how great Big Boi sounds alongside his more recognized partner.

Then once you’re done with that dive into the Big Boi Spotify playlist below, which I’ve compiled using tracks from Speakerboxxx (2003), Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010), and Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (2012), among a couple of other oddities.

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From The Collection: The Cars – “Candy-O”

Here’s something many people may not know about me: I’ve always been a closet fan of The Cars. Call it a guilty pleasure or call it crazy, but there was something formulaic I liked about this late 1970s, early 1980s group. Was it New Wave? Was it Punk? Maybe it was a little bit of both, with a whole lot of synth pop rock mixed in there to help even things out.

While the band’s first album The Cars (1978) is packed with everything anyone needs to hear when discovering them for the first time, it’s their follow-up Candy-O (1979) that I’ve found myself spinning most in recent years. The groove of the title track is reason enough to give this one a listen.

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Playlist: Wu-Tang Clan solo & affiliate compilation (1997-98)

By the time Wu-Tang Forever was released in 1997 the Wu-Tang Clan were the undisputed leaders of a genre otherwise dominated by coastal beefs and southern cocaine rap. Forever reconnected its members for a double CD that showed the group at their peak following a string of standout solo albums, which I compiled into a 26-track collection back in May.

What followed in the wake of that release were a flood of side projects that incorporated countless affiliates of the group and set the stage for a second dose of solo albums from key members. But before those rolled out near the end of 1998, often overlooked projects during the two year period from 1997-98 featured countless tracks worthy of revisiting.

Missing from this compilation is tracks from Sunz of Man The Last Shall Be First (1998) and La The Darkman Heist of the Century (1998) because neither is available on Spotify. Killarmy Dirty Weaponry (1998) was produced by 4th Disciple and Mathematics but does not feature official members. All songs in this list are produced by RZA unless otherwise noted.

Let me know what you think. The third installment will be released before the end of the year.

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