dirty martini

old music for new people

before they were famous August 28, 2007

memorex.jpg

 sometimes things take a little time to get right. i’m not talking britney spears in a meringue dress growling her way through early 90s hits on the mickey mouse club, or a pre-makeover jennifer lopez looking butch on in living color.

these are the early recordings that got feet in doors. some of them are better than others. that’s my disclaimer right there.

download here

luther vandross – the second time around (1976)

luther was originally part of a group, called ‘luther’. ooh, premature diva anyone? this song was from the first of two albums in 1976 and is standard mid 70s soul. he also sang an ad for kfc around the same time…soul food indeed.

alicia keys – sexy thing (1997)

a very young ms keys contributed this track to the men in black soundtrack. she sounds more or less the same but had developed a more unique tone by the time of her debut four years later.

ashanti – can’t stop (1997)

not sure how ashanti clung on for five years to make the leap from low budget debut to murder inc and innumerable collaborations with ja rule. these days an artist is stuffed if they don’t create a buzz on myspace within five weeks.

biggie – party and bullshit (1993)

nice lumberjack’n’fire-in-keg era hiphop. a year later, ‘ready to die’ was released and the rest is sad history. no doubt he would be the biggest rapper in the game if he were still alive. 

leona lewis – private party (2004)

recorded with ludacris before her appearance on x factor 2006, it makes you wonder if the music industry just sits back and waits for tv to tell them who to sign? well, good for her for going the proper route and being too nice to do anything unsavoury to get ahead.

usher – call me a mack (1993)

usher was only 14 when he recorded this for the poetic justice soundtrack and it shows. did usher’s early foray into the adult music business inspire his preference for older women? you’d think he could do better than a he-woman though.

john legend – hurt so bad (2003)

i think i might prefer jl’s early work to his current album. hmm. or maybe live just suits him better. he did several live sets before releasing a studio album.

janet jackson – young love (1982)

if a jackson couldn’t score a hit in 1982, you would assume it was because the music was poor. janet’s first two albums are quality post-disco soul but i think people were just expecting something a bit more groundbreaking. which ‘control’ certainly was.

mariah carey – weakness of the body (1986)

well, the leona lewis story seems to be repeating history to an extent. mariah was certainly active for several years before her debut and whitney was recording since the late 70s. maybe this is the secret to a long lasting career. rihanna’s stuffed, then…

anthony hamilton – total xtc (1996)

…but hopefully this bodes well for anthony, whose 90s debut was totally overlooked. the style is more conscious of its time than his successful later efforts, and not as well thought out, but very listenable.

prince – just another sucker (1977)

19 year old prince recorded this track as part of his then band 94 east. could have easily slotted into one of his later albums. must have sounded amazing in 1977 – to those few who actually got to hear it.

destiny’s child – killing time (1997)

this is a nice but unremarkable slow jam from the men in black soundtrack, but those vocals and harmonies are there. i miss the original lineup. wish some unreleased material would surface, that would be interesting.

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90s male r&b groups – don’t call them boybands May 13, 2007

male soul groups in the 90s were destined never to replicate the success of their pop counterparts. pop requires a manufactured yet individual, who’s-your-favourite type image. soul groups are usually quite similar. only fans can tell the difference. there’s no cute one, sporty one, fat one, funny one – and if there is, it’s real not a product of an over-zealous marketing department.

what also set these groups apart was their ability – robbie williams and jordan knight couldn’t hold a candle to these vocalists. the mass market, for the most part, seemed slightly threatened by this fact. they succumbed to some of the music, boyz ii men’s ‘end of the road’ a notable example, but swept the rest under the carpet where it couldn’t draw unflattering comparisons with their pin up popstars.

check out the b list and the c list too. and now, the z list.

ten boybands who could actually singdownload here



guy – do me right
kings of the new jack swing era, comprising teddy riley, aaron hall and his bro. pioneers of the sound in the late 80s they deservedly held the crown as the scene took off. aaron went to moderate solo success a few years later, and teddy



blackstreetbooti call
…from the ashes of new jack swing, teddy riley created blackstreet. possibly the biggest true male r&b act of the 90s, they had huge success with their first two albums and collaborated twice with swv ,who were somewhat their female counterparts. started to fall off after a tinny duet with weak-voiced mya for the rugrats movie. dave hollister has become a credible yet underappreciated solo artist.

boyz ii men – please don’t go
clean cut boys who met at performing arts school in philadelphia. first achieved worldwide recognition with ‘end of the road’ in the video for which they sang earnestly whilst wearing knee length shorts. the group sold itself on heartfelt ballads and released few uptempo numbers. their wholesomeness possibly allowed member wanya to get away with a relationship with then-underage brandy in the mid-90s.



jodeci – come and talk to me
jodeci were the bad boys of r&b from 1991 to 1996 and provided a sleazier alternative to boyz ii men. kci hailey has long been tarred by his troubled relationship with mary j blige. despite the group being a sorry shadow of their former selves today, their swing mob collective did launch the careers of missy, timbaland and ginuwine amongst others.

tony toni tone – my exgirlfriend
raphael saadiq and co were always the slightly less sleazy and more conscious act of this genre. several successful albums in the early to mid 90s then raphael went solo, and the other two…anyone’s guess. raphael has since discovered a penchant for very young girls and is rumoured to be dating joss stone, 23 years his junior. which goes to show its always the quiet ones you have to watch….
hi-five – i like the way
sweet new jack swing for the ladies, this hit the top of the billboard on release in 1991. the group split in 1994 and never really strayed from this tried and tested formula. now back together and releasing an album – how old must they be now???


mint condition – so fine
along with tony toni tone, revered as one of the more talented and credible groups from the 90s. originally tried to appeal to the new jack crowd but their harmonies were more suited to classic soul and they had many hits in this genre. still recording today, minus keri lewis who left the group to produce, most notably for his wife, toni braxton.
112 – only you
bad boy creation that went global thanks to a remix featuring then hot rappers mase and notorious big, shortly before his death. they have since made a living as members of the bad boy family despite possessing not much vocal talent and zero individuality. but their willing participation on infinite tribute songs keeps them on the payroll and in the recording studio, intermittently.

another level – be alone no more
uk lads who cheekily, like all good authentic cockneys, nabbed their name from a recent blackstreet album. bobak kianoush, dane bowers and the other two were fairly hot uk property in the late 90s. bobak mumbled alongside dane‘s surprising vocals and er, the other two who no one can remember. dane then disgraced himself by following victoria beckham around like a puppy dog for several years after a one-off uk garage collaboration.

jagged edge – let’s get married
twins brian and brandon are often credited for distracting letoya and latavia from the destiny’s child duties whilst touring together in the late 90s. the group have had reasonable success ever since but have the odd knack of making their songs impossible to pinpoint by year. i often hear a track of their and think its old, only to discover its new. hmm.

 

hiphop love songs April 26, 2007

…collective sigh of relief, one blogger isn’t getting into the whole don imus thing. quite frankly, I don’t know enough about it. more interestingly what it does seem to have triggered is renewed interest in the crusade against misogynistic and violent hiphop lyrics, a cause currently championed by russell simmons.i’m not going to delve for examples of russell‘s back catalogue that contradict this stance. it’s not big and it’s not clever – people are perfectly entitled to change their opinions.

what i’m not clear on though, is why they think the campaign will work this time round. the number of hiphop devotees has multiplied more than every other genre since the mass media last rallied in the early 90s. then, they targeted just a handful of rappers, including too short, tupac and snoop. because that was more or less the scale of the ‘problem’, a couple of record labels, a lot of overblown egos and scores to settle.

in 2007 its a whole different ballgame – they’re not attacking a subsection of underground culture, hiphop is now popular culture. no doubt, the campaign will hold up tupac and biggie‘s deaths, which now happened more than a decade ago, as proof of hiphop beef taken too far. and they were far from an everyday occurrence, the isolation of the incidents involving these tragic figures is exactly what has created their legend. far more people die on the streets every day than have hiphop icons over the last 20 years. and i’m pretty sure most of the street incidents happened to the kind of person who was going to get caught up in that world anyway. listening to eminem in your bedroom does not magically transport you out of the suburbs to the kinds of places where you might face those kind of kill-or-be-killed decisions.

perhaps the real shock factor in these deaths was borne out of a naïve assumption that a celebrity can more effectively shield themselves from someone who wants to kill them than the average member of the same community. that they were granted some kind of immunity and had transcended their circumstances through fame, rather than in fact becoming more vulnerable and a greater scalp.

what we should remember is that genuine hiphop tries to reflect real life. nwa didn’t just rap about compton to entertain you, that’s where they’re from and who they are. they were trying to give their community a voice, not suggest that their reality is anything like yours and that their actions and reactions would be acceptable within other contexts.

in the worst neighbourhoods, shot or be shot is an almost daily dilemma. tupac and biggie‘s deaths weren’t the shocking result of fiction overstepping the boundaries of storytelling, rather a sad indictment of a lifestyle they glorified for cash rather than broke out of. there wasn’t any fiction involved and their late material implied an acceptance of their fate.

so, those that should know better are regrouping to decide how to remove offensive content from hiphop. instead of convening to tackle the real life incidents that inspire it. then the rest of us can pretend its not happening anymore. great, well done.

ten non-offensive hiphop classicsdownload here common and mary j blige – come close
2004 cut from ‘electric circus’. common recognises that relationships can be hard and require sacrifice, but worth saving…

guru – when you’re near
king of non-offensive hiphop, guru and then-acid jazz ingenue n’dea davenport from the brand new heavies flirt back and forth in 1993.

guerrilla black – you’re the one
even g’s get it bad sometimes.

common and jill scott – 8 minutes to sunrise
now this one could really be messy – common has woken up next to his best friend’s girl.

foreign exchange – all that you are

how many men actively try to treat their women right?

ll cool j and boyz ii men – hey lover
ll
pioneered the hiphop ballad with ‘i need love’, then in 1995 he went one better and recruited r&b crooner boyz ii men to assist this tale of an unobtainable crush.

roots and erykah badu – you got me
new relationships are hard…especially when you meet in paris and are worried the spark will fade once you get home.

pm dawn – set adrift on memory bliss

best use of a sample ever. end of.

ali and gipp featuring letoya – almost made you

these relative newcomers are doing their thing, with ex-dc starlet letoya on board.

ll cool j – around the way girl

how come someone as fine as ll never gets his dream girl?