dirty martini

old music for new people

neo soul pioneers October 25, 2007

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 it would be easy to assume that neo-soul artists started to emerge in retaliation to the commercial and ostentatious r&b scene we’ve had since the late 90s.

 in fact, neo soul’s inception was much earlier, sometime in the early 90s. suddenly there were artists who weren’t new jack swing, they weren’t 8os, and they didn’t really complement the g funk scene. their closest contemporaries were the jazzhiphop and daisy age movement, but this sound was based on a classic soul sound updated for the new decade.

polished, note perfect vocals and overproduced instrumentals were replaced with more organic sounds and melancholy vocals. one of the things i really love about neo-soul is that whilst the lyrics are generally more intelligent and so better crafted than most r&b, there is an honesty and accessibility that speaks directly to you.

download here

d’angelo – brown sugar

one of the few comnmercially successful neo-soul artists. the naked image on his second album didn’t hurt.

des’ree – feel so high

default brit nominee des’ree started her career with this track in 1992, and has bubbled under ever since. last year she took on beyonce after she rerecorded ‘kissing you’ without permission. can’t wait to see how that one turns out…

jazzyfatnastees – unconventional ways

girl duo formed in 1992, originally with four member but now going strong as a duo supporting the likes of jill scott and alicia keys.

jhelisa – friendly pressure

didn’t receive that much attention on release but was revived a few laters with popular uk garage mixes by sunship.

lauryn hill – ex-factor

who knew the girl hailed as the saviour of soul would end up looking and acting like a circus freak? she had everything going for her, maybe the pressure to deliver another ‘miseducation’ was just too great?

lynden david hall – the jimmy lee story

sadly departed, and i’m glad he had that cameo in love actually or he might have been forgotten in a decade’s time. criminally underrated.

me’shell ndegeocello – if that’s your boyfriend

as difficult to categorise as pronounce, i heard of me’shell years ago but never quite got round to hearing her music until recently.

oleta adams – rhythm of life

best known for ‘get here’ but this was actually her first single in 1990.

omar – something real

a later track from omar lye-fook, who all but invented neo-soul with ‘there’s nothing like this’.

rahsaan patterson – crush on you

later reworked by lil kim and biggie. rahsaan has been a consistent figure since the early 90s.

seal – future love paradise

i never did get why seal rereleased ‘killer’ a year after adamski’s original version with him on vocals. i still think of ‘killer’ as an adamski track and cetainly this track and ‘crazy’ were a millions miles from the rave scene.

shara nelson – one goodbye in ten

not sure what happened to shara. after rising to fame with massive attack, she had commercial success with her first album in 1993, then promptly disappeared.

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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?