Tag Archives: Hiip Hop Heads

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.

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