dirty martini

old music for new people

around the way girls May 17, 2008

female rappers are still seen as a bit of a novelty sometimes – but they’ve been in the game almost as long as the men.

the principle change since the 80s has been that female rappers no longer are required to dress like rottweilers in order to be taken seriously. like the new jill swingers of the early 90s, who were forced to rock the then unlikely pairing of lumberjack shirts and doc martens with visible underwear and heavy matt makeup. this was way before all saints made boyswear cute.

if they have anything in common at all with the female rappers of the 90s and 00s, it would be with jean grae and missy rather than foxy brown and lil kim. this was resolutely not about sex – it was about competing with men on a level playing field, rather than resorting to stereotypes.

roxanne vs roxanne was thankfully, not as intense as east vs west coast but at the time it was every bit as sincere. i don’t think girls are as bothered about which coast they’re from…this is why we run things.

download here

b-beat girls – for the same man

carmen – throw down

finesse and synquis – soul sisters

jamaica girls – rock the beat

jj fad – supersonic

le tigre – we like the cars that go boom

neneh cherry – buffalo stance

the real roxanne – bang zoom

roxanne shante – roxanne’s revenge

salt-n-pepa – i like it like that

two sisters –  b-boys beware

wee papa girl rappers – wee rule

 

you always take the weather with you April 5, 2008

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in the uk we’re probably more obsessed with the weather than is healthy. because our weather is SO CRAP.

evidence:

  • weeks where the temperature ranges from 4c to 18c so you don’t know what the bleep to wear
  • summers which are hot, but humid rather than sunny
  • summers which are sunny and then way too hot
  • rain – last summer we even tried to blame rihanna

download here

alexander o’neal – sunshine

nice 80s mellow track from mad mr neal. was ‘interpolated’ in the 90s by jay-z and foxy brown. how does a camel always manage to get a female compadre? foxy, mary, beyonce…

cloud one – don’t let this rainbow pass me by

quality 70s/80s soul.

level 42 – sun goes down

cod-reggae from a band that only ever would have sold in the 80s. you could get away with anything back then.

love unlimited – walking in the rain with the one that i love

these girls were part of barry white’s love unlimited orchestra until he allowed them to sing. hence their catalogue is an odd mix of vocal 70s soul and instrumentals. this was sampled by letoya luckett for ‘you got what i need’.

madame x – cherries in the snow

vanity-esque mid-late 80s artist. so, sounds a bit like prince, a genre close to my heart. cherries in the snow is also the name of a revlon lipstick and a book by emma forrest.

miss thang – thunder and lightning

answer records did exist in the 80s – this was a reply to oran juice jones. the genre wasn’t invented by sporty thievz.

neneh cherry – kisses on the wind

first woman not to hide her pregnancy on totp in 1989…and became a grandmother in 2004 at the age of 40.

new edition –  can you stand the rain

post-bobby and once their voices had broken, this was a great turn of the decade slow jam.

oran’ juice jones – the rain

synth soul classic with actual rain noise in case the point about rain wasn’t quite clear…gotta love the 80s…

rah band – clouds across the moon

quirky semi novelty soul. about someone whose man has flown to the moon. yes, the moon.

rotary connection –  i am the black gold of the sun

one of the best chillout soul classics ever featuring minnie ripperton. shameful admission – i thought nu yorican soul’s 90s cover was the original at the time. well i wasn’t born in 1971…

tony toni tone – it never rains in southern california

ok, again…i thought this was an original. tony toni tone are another group who can pull off cover versions.

 

i love 1980: the new decade January 1, 2008

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happy new year!

this is the first of a series of posts showcasing some classics and hidden gems from back in the day.

fast forward to 1981 and the last days of disco

download here

busta jones – keep on making me hot

nothing like busta rhymes : )

carl carlton – she’s a bad mama jama

carl wasn’t fond of clothes, as evidenced by a google image search…this song was later sampled by foxy brown and blackstreet.

chaka khan – clouds

one of my favourite chaka joints.

diana ross – i’m coming out

unknowingly became a gay anthem. for screamingly obvious reasons.

dynasty – adventures in the land of music

dynasty the group arrived at the same time as dynasty the tv show.

eighties ladies – turned on to you

their name gave them a rigid best before date – and as it turned out they just about lasted 1980.

george benson – give me the night

heart fm classic.

hi gloss – you’ll never know

uk soul band who had a few minor hits.

inner life – moment of my life

i bet this burned up the dying days of studio 54. makes me want to watch ‘the last days of disco’.

jammers – what have you got to lose

one of those hidden gems.

jermaine jackson – let’s get serious

its a long way from this to celebrity big brother…

michael mcdonald –  i keep forgetting

blue eyed soul that paved the way for warren g and nate dogg’s ‘regulate’.

odyssey – inside out

more subtle than their bigger disco numbers.

prince – dirty mind

defined a new sound for the new decade. and er, this decade too.

young and company – i like it

a classic from the crossover days between disco and boogie.

 

the tarantino soundtrack that never was September 5, 2007

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as clever as tarantino’s movies are, the best thing about them are definitely the soundtracks. i had the pulp fiction and reservoir dogs soundtracks before i’d even seen the films. i wish i could say the same about kill bill – I spent the entire movie trying not to look at the screen.

he clearly loves the blaxploitation genre and attempts to recreate these films for a more mainstream audience. a difficult task – the 70s were cool, much cooler than the 90s. you could be forgiven for thinking that everyone was cool in the 70s, but you would be wrong. but the music, the artwork, the fashion all suggest a time when people had confidence, took care over their appearance and knew they looked good.

quentin tarantino himself is enjoyably nuts. i loved him on american idol, he is to that show what ricky gervais is to the x factor. you just don’t expect them to be such huge fans – surely they have better things to do – but they clearly love it. my newfound likihng for quentin was in jeopardy though, with that whole shar jackson affair – one degree of separation from kevin federline is definitely five too few. 

its hard not to visualise a potential tarantino scene when you hear most 70s soul and funk now, they’ve become so synonymous. but here are some tunes that for me conjure up images of samuel l jackson, ‘fro and gun intact, and make me want to go buy a clapped out orange ford capri.

download here

archie bell and the drells – soul city walk

the musical representation of an afro.

bill withers – the same love that made me laugh

bill is a soundtrack favourite, but i can’t remember this one being used yet. can imagine this in a scene where someone is tied up in the boot of the car.

bobby bland – ain’t no love in the heart of the city

intro credits theme?

bobby byrd – hot pants

for the obligatory dance scene set in smoky underground drinking den with pool tables.

james brown – the boss

i think this has already been used in a cockney gangster movie, but guy ritchie is no tarantino, as enjoyable as lock, stock and two smoking barrels may have been.

jerry butler – don’t rip me off

ideal for the scene where everyone is too stoned to realise their gun/cash/car is beiong lifted by somene they thought was on their side…

lyn collins – put it on the line

much sampled and a departure from lyn’s usual northern soul thumpers.

o’jays – 992 arguments

‘backstabbers’ would have been an obvious choice. too obvious. if you have even a passing interest in 70s soul then you should have it already.

philip mitchell – i’ll see you in hell first

no not that phil mitchell. although wouldn’t steve mcfadden would be great in a tarantino movie? with a touch of green corrective foundation perhaps. i suppose the whole ‘who shot phil?’ thing was an attempt at tarantino style. i really wanted one of those ‘i shot phil mitchell’ t-shirts.

rasputin’s stash – middle man

any one of rasputin stash’s tunes could fit a tarantino soundtrack, but middle men play a vital role in most of his plots, so…

swamp dogg – that ain’t my wife

more soulful than the artist name and title suggests.

willie hutch – pimps players and private eyes

willie actually contributed to a lot of blaxpolitation soundracks, including foxy brown, which is where this track comes from. but not many people will remember that so maybe its time it was recycled!

 

90s r&b – i collaborate therefore i am August 22, 2007

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there’s power in numbers. in fact, the perfect hook-up with the hottest property can launch (or relaunch) a lacklustre career.

in the mid 90s, duets and artist collaborations became less of an event. naturally, you would collaborate with labelmates, but a strategic feature spot could mean opening up your music to a whole new audience. the most popular hook up was r&b and hiphop, but some puff daddy collabos in the late 90s saw hiphop push the boundaries by mixing it up with rock bands, a trend jay-z has carried into the 00s.

so, for the r&b girls and boys looking forsome instant street, the most ubiquitous featured rappers of the 90s? jay-z, ll cool j and biggie by a mile, although a young foxy brown gave them a run for their money.

and if a hiphop act wanted to smooth things down? total, swv and mary j blige at your service.

the idea hasn’t slowed down at all, in fact, the standard r&b album has at least four collaborations and some albums (timbaland) are built entirely around that principle.

90s hook ups – download here

blackstreet and swv – can’t get you out of my mind

two of the biggest r&b bands of the 90s – worked so well they did it twice.

blaque and destiny’s child – she ain’t got that boom

how much hair can you fit in one room? one more member and they could have been an 80s jheri curl soul act. a subdued performance from beyonce on this one.

busta rhymes and zhane – its a party

not the most obvious hook-up to spring to mind but it worked.

jay-z and foxy brown – sunshine

jay-z and foxy collaborated so often you gave up trying to work out who was guesting for who.

junior mafia and aaliyah – i need you tonight

a mishmash of r&b, hiphop and 80s throwback hook and sample. shouldn’t have worked quite so well.

keith sweat and kut klose – get up on it

inevitable feature spot. on occasion the whole r&b don with cooing girl group could seem a little mysogynistic. there were worse examples though.

ll cool j and boyz ii men – hey lover

ll likes it both ways – guest features and inviting others on to his tunes, I mean.

mase and total – what you want

individually, not great. together it worked.

method man and mary j blige – you’re all i need to get by

one of the originals and a good example of how an r&b feature spot doesn’t need to water down the proceedings.

smooth and 2pac – p.y.t.

proto jay-z and foxy. 2pac must have rated young ms stokes as he didn’t guest spot with just anyone.

 

in the air tonight June 6, 2007

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if you’re in the mood, or trying to attract someone’s attention, you might text the name of your loved one to one of the numerous music channels and get a request played. but they need to be aware that you’re doing so or they’ll be watching one of a hundred other channels – which misses the point, and the element of surprise. this was one of the good things about local radio.local radio djs were smooth. they played soothing sounds that you wouldn’t normally hear on daytime radio. they didn’t try to be cool – if it was popular, they played it.people do still listen to the radio, and its a lot less tricky in these days of dab stations, which have removed the need to stand in front of the radio holding the aerial up at funny angles to get a decent reception.

twenty years ago, if you sent out a similar request on a late night radio show, you could be reasonably certain that either the intended recipient or at least one of their friends, would hear it. the song we chose for our dedication was most likely sophisticated beyond our years. even though we did have younger artists in the 80s, like five star, new edition, debbie gibson and countless others, most soul music was adult. we were listening to artists singing about relationships, emotions and situations we couldn’t possibly understand.

so, as a result, instead of the obsession with youth that appears to start as early as age ten nowadays,we actually wanted to be older. thirty, to be precise. thirtysomethings were glamorous and the had the kind of lifestyle I looked up to. they went to clubs, restaurants, had exotic holidays, exciting friends and dramatic relationships. john hughes movies aside, most popular 80s tv shows and movies, bar those specifically produced for kids, focused on older characters, not those that still lived with their parents.so ironically, I wanted to be the age I am now, twenty years ago, and now that I am, I’m made to feel like I should want to be younger. but i don’t – the thought of being someone who didn’t grow up in the 80s and experience real life terrifies me much more than getting older.

late night dedicationsdownload here 

alexander o’neal – if you were here tonight
his first solo single, and classic.

anita baker – caught up in the rapture
apparently inspired mary j blige to become a singer.
controllers – stay
typical 80s slow jam.

eugene wilde – gotta get you home
later sampled/covered by foxy brown and blackstreet.

force md’s – tender love
later covered by cockney soul boy kenny thomas.

freddie jackson – rock me tonight
what happened to freddie?

gap band – yearning for your love
one of those songs you’ve heard before…but didn’t realise.

george benson – in your eyes
from smooth jazz to weepy ballad.

gregory abbott – shake you down
very popular last dance at many an 80s club.

isley brothers – choosey lover
this was later covered by aaliyah.

janet jackson – let’s wait a while
slightly different version from control the remixes – more tinkly.

kool and the gang – cherish
anyone from the uk remember anton singing this on popstars the rivals?

luther vandross – so amazing
vintage luther. tribute version by beyonce and stevie wonder.

melisa morgan – do me baby
prince cover, actually think i prefer this version.

midnight star – slow jam
one of the first 80s slow jams – covered later by usher and monica.

 

just let your soul glo April 29, 2007

sometime in about 1984 surfaced a phenomenon that would last well into the late 80s – jheri curl soul.borne out of the post-disco movement, curl soul was a more electronic style that made use of damn near every new sound available. jheri curl soul identified itself in a number of ways –

  1. the hair, obviously. before eddie murphy and co satirised said hairdo in ‘coming to america‘, the jheri curl was big business. cue glistening curls and plenty of grease-stained sofas
  2. the bands often resembled an extended family photo – it was not uncommon for groups to have more than five members
  3. a glitzy name – bonus points for inclusion of the word ‘star’ or ‘band’ and for translating your name into fauxfrancais: atlantic starr, five star, midnight star, the sos band, the bb&q band, royalle delite, club nouveaux, intrique
  4. if you can’t convince your family to join in, or are a norman-no-mates, a duo is your best bet – rene and angela, aurra, ashford and simpson
  5. reflective and/or brightly coloured silk suiting must be standard issue, and don’t forget those shoulder pads. essential for the moody yet inviting, hands on hips pose favoured by many of said bands
  6. allude to yet more glamour and excitement in your lyrics. recommended themes are – gold and silver, notoriety, electricity, being the finest, a freak, turning someone on, having secret affairs, taking your clothes off
  7. sprinkle liberally with tinkly sounds, synths, squelchy basslines and hyperactive drum patterns

for all that, the music should have been shit. but it was amazing. yes it was manufactured, so what. it sounds positively organic next to the late 90s robo-pop of the backstreet boys and britney spears. nothing quite sums up the 80s and a sunny day as effectively as this glossy, aspirational music. nothing made me more desperate to grow up and go to a real club so i could pretend to be one of these perfect specimens.

but since i was ooh, a good 8 years from being able to slip into a club with fake id, i danced in front of the tv in my pixie boots and silver dress, hair piled high and as much makeup as i could get away with. i strutted and pointed and pouted, to my parent’s amusement.

ten jheri curl soul classicsdownload here

midnight star – midas touch
midnight star comprised nine members. the exact role of each is unclear, but they all sported the prerequisite curls and loud suit, so contributed in some small way to the band’s success. this ode to all things gold was their biggest uk hit, in 1986.


klymaxx – the men all pause
pioneering ‘curl soul. klymaxx were a six-piece girl band in the traditional sense – they all played an instrument. this track was from their 1984 album ‘ meeting in the ladies room’.


lillo thomas – sexy girl
textbook 1987 example of the genre. associate of kashif and paul laurence, lillo was an olympic calibre athlete before an accident in 1984 forced him to pursue an alternative career.


the sos band – no one’s gonna love you
exquisitely produced track that almost sums up the genre. lovely bells, swooshes and that bassline. if it sounds familiar, it was sampled by r&b singer maxwell for a remix of his first hit ‘ascension’ in 1996.

rene and angelai’ll be good
slightly scary example of the curl’n’suit combo who had several sizable hits in the mid-80s. this 1985 hit was later used to good effect by jay-z and foxy brown.

jermaine stewart – we don’t have to take our clothes off
song that we delighted in singing at brownies, because we thought it was rude. from the poppier end of jheri curl soul and in fact, jermaine had unnaturally straight hair. perhaps in protest? can’t have been any easier to maintain…


atlantic starr – silver shadow
active throughout the 80s, atlantic starr are best known for ballads ‘always’ and ‘secret lovers’. this track was only released in the uk, where it prospered on the back of the club scene ignited by loose ends et al.


kashif – i just gotta have you
a big part of the 80s soul scene, producer kashif‘s own releases aren’t as well known as his work for others, including disco queen evelyn champagne king, george benson and dionne warwick, amongst others.


mac band – roses are red
a good example of the simple but effective lyrics used in many jheri soul cuts. this track still gets played out today.


the jets – curiosity
this polynesian eight-piece family act first rose to fame in 1987 with the poppy ‘crush on you’ led by then 15 year old vocalist elizabeth. since their late 80s success, younger siblings have replaced those retiring, from a pool of seventeen candidates.