Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sliver: Common - The Light

In my efforts to make myself more motivated to make moves with this manuscript (did you appreciate the alliteration), I keep coming up with crazy concepts for my blog as if someone actually read it. The better to serve my ego. And maybe interest someone in Acccra. Inspired by a Jeopardy answer (or rather question), I intend Sliver to be a series that extrapolates on a single piece of a greater whole. I thought of using the name Exegesis, because that is what theologians do in reference to the Bible. But that is more about finding the true meaning behind scriptures. I'm not exactly trying to find meaning, just pointing out why something is hot on a bunch of levels. Whether it is a track off an album or a scene from a movie, it will be an in depth thing that's very small. The longest I can see it being is a suite of songs, maybe 4 or 5 if they're related somehoww. No more than that though.

For the first installment, I offer a study of The Light by Common. I know of three official versions to commercially available by at least vinyl: the original from the album Like Water For Chocolate, the remix featuring Erykah Badu, and the live version recorded with Erykah Badu and Bilal at Dave Chappelle's Block Party. The original and remix were produced by the late J Dilla then still rolling with the moniker of Jay Dee. The remix was a more slowed down adult contemporary version that was good in its own rights. The live version was a festive affair that turns into a funk jam with Bilal expertly wailing all over the scales with an expert band led by ?uestlove and James Poyser.

But the original is the launching pad for it all. Actually the second single from the album, it was the song that vaulted the Chicago bred emcee into gold selling status for the first time in his career. He was always known amongst the hip-hop cognoscenti as one of the best, but until this song, it had not translated into commercial success. But a respectful and playful love ballad proved to be his ticket. After a slight departure in Electric Circus, he has linked up with Kanye and is now platinum. The Light is still his most popular song. It's evident at each concert when the crowd loses its mind. Even the thug can spit those words and feel good about them, without feeling like the sappy cornball he really is.

Like most of Common's lyrics, they are as thoughtful as they are clever as he lets us in on a letter to his beloved. In his intonations and even word choices ("ticky ta ticky ta ticky ta ta ta") we are in tune with the letter as the pen hits the ink. Another big appeal for this song was the adult content that Common deals with in a respectful and honest way. He lays out his hopes and ideas about love, while also acknowledging the sexual tension that naturally develops. Yet, he is never crude in all his honesty of their passion. He also evokes a need for a work ethic and faith in Divinity ("Close to the Most High"). Throughout, his rhythm is so good, you could nod your head to his flow alone.

However, it must have been influenced by the amazing beat laid down by Dilla. As always an amazing driving bass lines and unbelievable alive snares accompany a piano based sample of Bobby Caldwell's Open Your Eyes. The true beauty comes when you listen to the Caldwell. The hook in Common's version is really a spliced up version of the second verse. When Common rocks his verses, he is actually rocking over the original version's driving piano hook. Most producers leave the hook from the original and make that the hook in the sample but the reversal is so subtly clever. Also in the original's hook, Caldwell sings "let me show you the light." In this way, since this piece is actually the foundation for each verse, you also realize the light is being shown in each verse. And to conclude, he somehow makes a coherent signature with the remaining unused parts of the second verse he uses for Common's hook. It really is magnificent.

So I know that was a raving mess, but man that's what that song can do, especially when you see how deep Dilla freaked it. I hoped you enjoyed the first installment. I'm sure I'll go raving mad on another song in like two minutes.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Extended Play: Holiday Postponed

So in my ongoing series of new features, I decided to celebrate my shiftlessness by leaving my iTunes playing all day. I listen to music all the time but I don't feel my Last.fm truly reflects my obsession. So I will jump from playlist to playlist today and let the shuffle work it out. You get to see the resulting playlist. Enjoy! (Parentheses indicate the playlist I was playing at that time)

(Good Morning Sugar)
Busta Rhymes & Eminem - I'll Hurt You (Interesting beginning. I wish Eminem would just rap sometimes and not make beats. He really is nasty. And so is Busta
Da Bush Babees ft. Mos Def - S.O.S.
Mariah Carey - Always Be My Baby
Little Brother - Feelin' Alright
Justin Timberlake - Cry Me A River
SWV - Rain
Earth, Wind & Fire ft. Raphael Saadiq - Show Me The Way
Tony Toni Tone - Anniversary (I think the shuffle is feeling Mr. Saadiq. And is choosing the longest songs too)
Noreaga - Oh No (Now that's a change)
Faith Evans - Love Like This (This is the first time I've heard it without Fatman Scoop all over it in a while)
Rakim – It’s Been A Long Time
Ali Shaheed Muhammad ft. Stokely Williams – Banga (Like a progressive 90s black music reunion. The former Tribe Called Quest DJ/Producer called up the former front man and studio drummer for the R & B group Mint Condition. Thank you VH1 Soul for reminding me this existed.)
Talib Kweli ft. Black Thought & Pharoahe Monch – Guerilla Monsoon Rap (Before Kanye was a household name, he did produce beats for the lesser people.)
Black Moon – Two Turntables & A Mic (Buckshot has an unmistakable charisma and Evil Dee was always underrated.

1528 – Pause for reading break

1543 (Ultimate)
Donny Hathaway – Love, Love, Love (A discovery I made way too late. His voice was amazing)
The Perceptionists – Love Letters (Now the question is if the next song will include the word love)
Craig David ft. Mos Def – Seven Days (DJ Premier Remix) (I think I jinxed it)
Fantasia – Surround U (That Swizz Beatz can sure make some soulful music. Fantasia always reminds me of Mary J’s passion and style but with Macy Gray’s voice.)
Common (Sense) – Thisisme
Teairra Mari – Make Her Feel Good (Why did Roc-A-Fella sign her and Rihanna at the same time? Tragedy. She had promise. I actually liked her more than Rihanna at the time. Dirty young mouth though. And now Rihanna is the good girl gone bad. What’s up with that?)
De La Soul ft. Common – The Bizness
Mos Def ft. Faith Evans – Brown Sugar (Extra Sweet)
Erykah Badu ft. Lenny Kravitz – Back In The Day (Puff) (I have a very crazy dream. I think that there should be a supergroup to include these children of awesome musicians: Erykah & Andre 3000’s son Seven, Common’s daughter Omoye, Angie Stone & D’Angelo’s son Michael, and Lenny Kravitz’s daughter. That would be the best soul group ever. At least potential wise)
The Creators ft. Consequence – In And Out (What a brash young man. Some clever rhyme schemes though)
Original Cast of Rent & Stevie Wonder – Seasons of Love (An amazing song with an added quality with a Wonderful presence. He’s like the Magic Johnson of music. I swear he makes people around him better. There’s more of a reaching, a passion in this rendition.)

(Random Whims – Not a real title)
Consequence – Don’t You Forget ‘Em

De La Soul – Do The Damn Thing
Kindred The Family Soul – As Of Yet
Mos Def – Very Well Rokness
Thicke – The Stupid Things (I came across a review of his first album the other day and they said it was pure bunk. True it may not have translated to the mainstream but this whole album was a banger. Some people need to relax and not expect the second coming of the Beatles)
Common (Sense) – In My Own World
John Legend – Each Day Gets Better
Loon ft. Jamie Foxx – No I Ain’t Gangsta (Jamie Foxx is the funniest crooner ever. Not that his singing is bad; actually he’s pretty good. His ad libs are just silly)
Common – Testify (Shuffle is loving some Common today)
Mario – Let Me Love You
Bahamadia – One-4-Teen (J Dilla Remix)
Erick Sermon ft. Keith Murray & Redman – Music (Remix) (Man where is Def Squad?!?!?!)
D’Angelo – She’s Always In My Hair (The mic on my computer does not want to cooperate)
Clipse – Hot Damn (Remix)
Mary J. Blige – So Lady (Shuffle must like Raphael too)
The Roots ft. Mos Def – Double Trouble
Common ft. Bilal & Jill Scott – Funky For You
Erick Sermon & Slick Rick – Why Not? (Okay this was during the O’Nasis period for Sermon for whatever reason)

1800 – Around the time I stopped paying attention to the stupid mic

Colombia beating America was on. We suck but at least we make chances now. Too bad we don’t convert them. Anyway back to the music since I finally showered and it is 9:00 in the evening. Though Argentina – Paraguay is enticing.

2100 (Ultimate)
Little Brother & Pete Rock – Give It To Ya

(Recently Added)
Sa-Ra – Tracy (ft. Rozzy Daime) (The 80s are back and hard! Whoa what a trip)
Yo La Tengo – Did I Tell You (Folky love songs sometimes are appropriate. I’m really not sure I typed that. I’m questioning my position in life right now.)
Bobby Valentino – Can’t Wait ‘Til Later (Nobody leaves a Bobby Valentino enlightened, but you will have worked up a sweat in some way. He really knows how to rock the mid-tempo club hit)
Sa-Ra – White! (On The Floor) (These guys are on something really special)
Laura Greene – Moonlight, Music, & You (Amazing how early rock is so funky. That’s probably why everyone is in love with Maroon 5. It’s toe-tappy)
Dave Matthews Band – Crash Into Me (Oh the days of my youth. Takes me back to my counselor days at summer camp.)
Yo La Tengo – Night Falls On Hoboken (These guys were made for the soundtracks of Gen XY coming of age films)
Dave Matthews Band – Too Much (I really just had to)

(100 Greatest R & B Songs of the 1990s)
Mariah Carey – Emotions (Nostalgia made me take it back)
Shanice – I Love Your Smile (She really sang “Free to paint my toes all day”)
Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing) (Why did this girl disappear)
R. Kelly – Gotham City (Whatever you may think of the man’s character, he is a musical genius. He made a compelling song about a fictional place. I mean I swear the cat grew up and Batman was his damn hero. Like he chills at the club with Bruce Wayne.)
D’Angelo – Lady
Wyclef Jean – Gone ‘Til November (Why does everyone in the world know this song?)

2232 – I feel like reading so I will end here. Hopefully when I view it later, my Last.fm profile will be a bit more to my liking.