‘NY Loves Dilla’ at Inaugural Event Hosted by Ma Dukes

dilla

Words by Korby Benoit

Since my earliest experiences listening to acts like Run DMC, The Fat Boys and UTFO the sound of hip-hop always made sense to me.  No one had to explain it to me or tell me that this was the “cool” music to listen to. Hip-hop has provided my musical foundation and my entry into the world of the arts.

In the spring of 1996, I was a high school student attending the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. By that time, I was a hip-hop geek who took great pride in his TDK and Maxell cassette collection of rap radio shows. I used to record Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito, The Underground Railroad with Jay Smooth, and DJ Evil Dee on Hot 97. Nevertheless, it was another Hot 97 show that introduced me to James Dewitt Yancey a.k.a. Jay Dee the artist later known as J Dilla. Future Flavors was the show and it was hosted by two of the genre’s most important and influential producers, Marley Marl and Pete Rock.

As I recall, at some point during their mix, Marley and Pete got on the mic to announce they were about to play a remix by Jay Dee. While I don’t remember if this was a remix for De La Soul, Busta Rhymes or Keith Murray, I do remember the level of excitement in the voices of the two hosts. I remember enjoying the song and like hip-hop itself, the sound just spoke to me. Yet this time in a way that was a little different; The sound was more melodic and the bass groove was simply groovier than anything I’d ever heard. At the time, it sounded like hip-hop from the future. Later I learned that Dilla was also responsible for Pharcyde’s “Runnin,” which was already one of my favorite songs in their catalog. It was evident that the producer had emerged with a new sound that rap luminaries and fans loved and longed for.

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New Track from Bun B ft. Talib Kweli, 88-Keys & Colin Munroe

bunbProduced by K Salaam and Beatnick, pick up this Collector’s Edition Version of “Don’t Die” with Bun B, Talib Kweli, 88-Keys & Colin Monroe.

Download from K Salaam & Beatnick:
“Don’t Die”

 

 

Giant Step’s Resident 42: Peter Bjorn And John, Melo-X, Omar, Maiysha and Phil Asher

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Photo of Phil Asher © Jaecyne Howell

A most curious thing occurred at the office one day. Ambling down the halls I happened upon a bin of unwanted swag. While it’s usually chock full of crap like cookbooks by convicted felons and posters of small-town yokels named Lil’ No No, this time teetering at the top of the heap were three albums from artists that apparently no one else in the office cared about: 88-Keys, Peter Bjorn & John and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ roiling SNL performance the week before was the highlight of my recent sojourn to Boston and I’ve been diggin’ the shimmery, disco gloss they’ve slathered on their signature reckless glammy rock. I’m all over the way the slightly sinister opening strains set up the rumbling and unexpectedly groovy “Dragon Queen.”

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Giant Step’s Resident 37: The Roots, Q-Tip, Estelle and More

By Mawuse Ziegbe

The holiday season is always a sickening deluge of parties, stiff “holiday cheer” (which I temper with stiff drinks) and a glut of obligations. In a year of highs (getting my own column, fluffing an increasingly enviable Afro) and lows (finally ending that relationship, trying not to strangle yokels at the day job) I needed the festive distractions of the silly season more than ever. I spent Thanksgiving in the ER grappling with my mother’s decaying health taking breaks only to try to coax her into retiring and to bitch about the lack of beer in the hospital gift shop. At dinner, I looked after my mother during one of those large family gatherings attended by old African aunties and uncles who think “my writing career in New York” is a euphemism for “hooking on Hunts Point.” I returned to New York only to field calls from relatives who dropped clumsy hints (“why don’t you move back to Boston and take of your mother?”) about how I should handle the situation. Hello stress-related acne.

Managing her health crisis from another state, doctors regarded me like a crackpot with reverse-Munchausen syndrome. After rattling off a list of concerns M.D.s would respond “well she looks just dandy! We sent her off with some Halls and a smile. To do any conclusive tests we’ll need her consent and $20,000 for a new vending machine in the break room. Where are you calling from again?” Doctors would announce to colleagues that I was her daughter from New York as if I wasn’t interested in her well-being but instead looking for the right moment to steal her wallet. Between witnessing my ever-fabulous mother (we used to get mistaken for sisters until, well, I moved away) fade into a shadow of her former self and dealing with residents who act like they got their book-learnin’ from the Fisher Price School of My First Malpractice Suit, I needed some cot-damn holiday cheer.

The only fete I could drag myself to was the Okayplayer and Frank 151 bash at B.B. Kings. The lineup was like The Roots Present Everyone They’ve Ever Met – EVER. Melle Mel milled about in a white suit that can only be described as “pimpalicious.” After a tepid set by Tanya Morgan featuring 88 Keys and a jazzy appearance from Alice Smith, Res and Talib Kweli satisfied fans with “Get By” and “We Got The Beat.” When The Roots began rocking the frenetic thump of “You Got Me,” we knew it was time for an extra special female guest. Out came Estelle with a completely uncalled-for bowl cut. Despite the “Family Ties” hair, she delivered a dubby version of the classic Roots joint and segued into her dubby single, “Come Over.”

After The Roots performed Fela Kuti’s “Beasts Of No Nation,” Bilal, looking and sounding like the bastard love child of Melvin Van Peebles and Prince, howled his way through an epic rendition “Soul Sista.” Q-Tip performed “Manwomanboogie,” “Gettin’ Up” and a few gnarly freestyle bars. Pharoahe Monch and Black Thought joined in and then, smooth as pie, Q-Tip swapped drumming duties with ?uestlove. So then, it’s ‘Tip on drums, Thought on the mic and my jaw on the floor. I left around 2 AM with the plucky tones of The Roots’ “Next Movement” as my traveling music.

I dread it every year but in 2008, I learned that the holidays can always be worse. So bless The Roots, a band that has given me countless memories that don’t involve congested shopping malls and tense family moments. Bless the friends who have been able to slip in a festive distraction here and there. And bless my ma, whose wallet I hope to make off with come Christmas morn.