Tag Archives: A Tribe Called Quest

Personal Soundtrack

9 Jan

The Song

 

Nuthin’ To Do by Common

In 2013’s world, Common is a suave, well-built character actor with a velvety voice who occasionally lays down above-average rap verses on the side.  That’s a bit of a departure from the Common of nearly twenty (holy shit) years ago, who climbed to the top of the underground hip-hop scene behind hungry, sensitive, and brash verses that found the sweet spots on top of and within iconic beats from the legendary Chicago producer No I.D.

Common’s early records are head-spinning combinations of a warm, laid-back and funky production aesthetic paired with wordy, breathless, and at times frenetic lyrical verses.  The apex of this period is Resurrection, and within the underground hip-hop world at the time of its release, Resurrection was monumental – the match between Common and No I.D.’s vintage productions was a match made in hip-hop Head heaven.

What makes Resurrection so noteworthy, apart from Common’s performance, which is compelling, is the career-defining production from No I.D., who produced nearly all of the record.  For No I.D., Resurrection represents not only the producer’s best body of work, but also a clear example of the producer’s musical signature, and of the aesthetic contributions he made to hip-hop that continues to influence the genre today.

No I.D. is often referred to as the godfather of Chicago hip-hop, and he has long been a mentor and partner with Kanye West.  One listen to Resurrection, and you know exactly where Kanye got the inspiration for many of the production touches he used to propel his stardom and influence the global music scene.

The production of Resurrection sounds almost timeless, forever encapsulated in a fuzzy cloud of old jazz and soul samples, dusty drum hits, and undeniable grooves bubbling from the low end.  Everything comes off sounding like a fresh vinyl record even if the tracks are streaming through a computer.  It’s a warm sound that still manages to hit hard and get heads nodding.

“Nuthin’ To Do” is a standout track on Resurrection, presenting a strong example of the album’s best qualities.  The old-school sample of choice on this track is a smoky saxophone, sounding out and glancing off into the ether while the bass line keeps things tight with the drums and the record scratches at just the right times. This is the sound that Kanye rode to superstardom, and it’s still influencing him today – and the work of every other hip-hop artist out there aspiring to be the next Kanye.

No I.D. was doing it way before everyone else, and he was doing it the best on Resurrection.

The Activity

The mournful bleat of Miles’ horn trickles out through an unknown and unseen window, crawling over brownstone bricks and finding your ear just as you set your head back and close your eyes against the Day.  Right now the Day is earning the mental capitalization you’re giving it with the aggressive heat and humidity it’s tossing around like a statement of purpose and power.  The temperature has hovered just above 100 degrees for several hours, and with the sun sitting firmly in the highest part of the sky, things show no sign of abating anytime soon.  You half-crawled over to this front stoop solely because of the light shade its steps offered; the vinyl explorations of jazz icons is the least of your concerns as the sweat cools momentarily on your forehead.

As you collect your breath and allow your body temperature to retreat from dangerously high levels, the sluggish aura of the city begins to lull you into a hazy state unique to days like these.  Before you know it, the brassy blows from Miles and Co. have taken over every other sound around you and now brush against your face lightly with the force of a light breeze.  Every blast from a sax sets you off even further from reality, a fact that you don’t begin to appreciate until you next open your eyes.

Your first indication that things are not entirely normal comes with the young couple walking hand-in-hand across the street from you.  His denim overall and snap-back combo could probably be overlooked as a forward-thinking fashion throwback, but the distinct patterns of her dashiki and bold beats of her boxy boombox are noteworthy.  The thing she’s holding is enormous, and as you look around your side of the street, is not alone.  There are shiny metallic boom boxes everywhere – in open windows, on front stoops, cradled under arms of every passersby.  And with another blink, you realize that they’re all playing the same music.

Upon the recognition of the deep musical grooves now completely surrounding you, you also start to notice that each sonic beat is accompanied by the appearance of vibrant stripes and squiggles of color on the urban landscape.  These bits of color squirm around, diverging from and bumping into each other with patterns that are completely in sync with the music of the moment.  You haven’t seen anything like this since the glory days of Tribe and Common Sense, and it’s not a bad way to spend the day.

Hot Routes: Week Two

7 Sep

Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Two

The second week of Hot Routes welcomes the National Football League into the mix.  Making game predictions for the first couple weeks of football season is a dicey proposition, at least for the way I approach things, because the lack of in-game action makes it hard to get a good feel for the makeup of teams.  Every year, there are some teams that just don’t have ‘it’ – despite whatever hype they’re getting from the national media, you know they’ll crumble when it counts, or will get roundly beaten by a team no one saw coming.  And on the flip side, there are some teams that do have ‘it’ – an edge, a confidence, maybe just an overall feeling that things are going to break in their favor this year.

When you can find teams on both ends of the ‘it’ spectrum, whose true selves are preferably under the national radar, then that’s when you can start to build up a successful wagering run.  To find those teams, you need to pay attention to games.  Which we are currently in short supply of.  So let’s do the best with what we’ve got:

Oklahoma  State (1-0) @ Arizona (1-0)

The pick:  OK State (-11)

The track:  Clique by Kanye West, Jay-Z, Big Sean

The latest hard-hitting banger from Kanye’s upcoming G.O.O.D. Music album features a menacing beat underlying verbal boasts from Big Sean, Jay and ‘Ye.  As is becoming the norm, Kanye steals the lyrical show with his all-over-the-place third verse.  Mr. West covers being neighbors with Tom Cruise, muses on his own depression, and even dips into national security with a George Tenet name-check.  This particular clique offers a lot of entertainment value.

Also looking to provide some entertainment value is the match-up between Arizona and OK State in the desert.  OK State’s dismantling of Savannah State in their opener should be kept in perspective, but it at least serves as a reminder of the Cowboys’ ability to maintain their offensive firepower in 2012 even after the departure of QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon.  On the other side, Arizona has some offensive tricks of their own behind their enigmatic head coach Rich Rodriguez.  The problem for Arizona is that they still have a ways to go in the Rich-Rod era to match the explosiveness of OK State, and their defense most certainly won’t be able to contain the Cowboys for very long.  Arizona might score some points, but I don’t think they can come within two touchdowns.

 

Nebraska (1-0) @ UCLA (1-0) 

The pick:  Nebraska (-5.5)

The track:  Angels (Shiny Objects Rework) by The xx  

The xx are favorites for remix artists, and that’s been especially apparent in the run-up to their new album Coexist.  The new tracks are great, and assorted artists have rushed out to put their own spins on minimalist slow-burners like “Angels”.  One such artist is Shiny Objects, who made a play-date with “Angels” and brought their synthesizers along with them.  The result is a funky, pounding groove straight out of a 1980s teen slasher flick.

On the game side of things, it can be tough to get behind either team in this one.  You’ve got QB Taylor “Tribal Tat” Martinez with Nebraska, and then the overall ‘bleh’ factor that is Jim Mora, Jr. and recent UCLA football history.  I’ll take the Cornhuskers – Tribal Tat Martinez looks like he’s a much-improved player this season, and Nebraska looks like they can make a decent amount of noise in the Big 10 this year.  UCLA is getting way too much credit for beating up on Rice, and Nebraska should be favored by at least a touchdown here.

 

Wisconsin (1-0) @ Oregon State (0-0)

The pick:  Wisconsin (-7)

The track:  Lyrics To Go (Tumblin’ Dice Remix) by A Tribe Called Quest

Wisconsin smashed on Oregon State early last season to the tune of 35 – 0.  And yes, that was in Wisconsin, and they had current NFL phenom Russell Wilson behind center.  But Oregon State is still Oregon State, and Wisconsin is still too good of a team to not put a hurting on the Beavers.  Wisconsin will also be coming in to this game with the extra motivation of proving that their underwhelming performance in the season opener was just a fluke.

After a (presumably) rough beating at the hands of Wisconsin, Oregon State players can at least look forward to a nice little Saturday/Sunday relax sesh.  They can rehab their various bumps and bruises, burn some of that Oregon green, and vibe out to the jazzy goodness of Tumblin’ Dice’s take on “Lyrics To Go.”

 

Georgia (1-0) @ Missouri (1-0)

The pick:  Missouri (+110)

The track:  Earthforms by Matthew Dear

Taking a bit of a chance with this game.  On paper, Georgia should be the favorite, and since the spread is only 2 points at the time of this writing, that should appear to be the best pick.  Georgia, however, seems to be a bit overrated this year.  For whatever reason they’ve been given a lot of respect despite not having a great track record in tough games over the last couple of years.  Missouri, on the other hand, is going to be incredibly fired up at home, in their first game as a member of the SEC.  Things are going to get straight bananas in that stadium on Saturday, and Georgia is going to have to step up and handle it.  I’m putting my (fake) money on Missouri riding that home-field emotion.

If Missouri is in need of some extra half-time entertainment on Saturday, they could always turn to Matthew Dear.  “Earthforms” sounds as if Dear has been going through some of his old Fatboy Slim records lately.  The track rides a tight little bass line and could soundtrack a dance scene in any number of teen comedies from the mid-90s.  Just get some high schoolers, some choreographed dance moves, and you’ve got yourself some mid-game entertainment.

 

Arizona Cardinals (0-0) @ Seattle Seahawks (0-0)

The pick:  Seahawks (-3)

The track:  Disappear Always by Wild Nothing

Moving over to the first week of the NFL, this first game up between the Seahawks and the Cardinals looks almost too good to be true.  The Hawks are riding a lot of momentum from a preseason in which they looked good on both sides of the ball and found themselves a breakout star QB in Russell Wilson.  The dark horse contender buzz around Seattle is steadily building.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals dragged their feet in deciding to go with John Skelton as the starting QB over Kevin “party ‘stache” Kolb, giving a clear signal to everyone that either option is not ideal.  The rest of the team doesn’t look very promising either.

The NFL picks this week are going to be tracked by two songs from Wild Nothing’s recently released album, Nocturne.  This album is a great collection of blissfully rocking tunes.  A standout section comes with the two-track swing of “Disappear Always” and “Paradise.” “Disappear” starts things off with a shimmery electric guitar line that propels itself forward into an instrumental breakdown before giving way to “Paradise,” an expansive track that features a strummed guitar hook distilled from the pure essence of Sunny Beach Days.  Nocturne looks to be a welcome weekend soundtrack choice.

 

Miami Dolphins (0-0) @ Houston Texans (0-0)

The pick:  Texans (-13)

The track:  Paradise by Wild Nothing

It’s normally a risky move to go with large spreads in the first week of the NFL season.  The 2012 Miami Dolphins, however, have a had a pretty rough preseason and have had most of it played out on Hard Knocks.  The leaders of the organization did not look particularly effective in their TV appearances, and the poor team performance in preseason games only emphasized the downtrodden vibe surrounding the team on the eve of the regular season.  When Chad Johnson, the mouthy receiver who just got arrested for a disturbing domestic violence incident and who is no longer on an NFL roster, comes across as one of the more compelling characters of your franchise’s preseason, you’re in trouble.  The Dolphins are in for a rough season.

Still shimmying to Wild Nothing.

Last Week’s Record:  2 – 2

Overall Record:  2 – 2