Holy crap! You mean there’s another influential band from Queens whose uniformed look also contained leather jackets and just straight out rebel attitude? Yes, I referred to Run DMC as a band. Seriously, Run DMC could rock out with the best of them. Their album “Raising Hell” and the videos I posted for the Jam Master Jay tribute proved that.
Yes kids, before he was Reverend Run, Diggy and Jojo’s dad and had the reality show on MTV, Run-DMC was paving the way for rap to breakthrough to the mainstream and was the group that your parents and probably grandparents by now were bumping on ghetto blaster and rocking fresh Adidas in a B-boy stance. They were probably cooler than you when they were your age, pretty scary thought, huh? Seriously…look through their year book, you would be surprised. Actually, you’ve probably heard this song in a ton of commercials and on the radio during this time of year…well; it beats “White Christmas.” But c’mon, how can you go wrong with a track that samples the horn riff from the Christmas themed soul classic “Backdoor Santa” by Clarence Carter and laced over a big beat from probably a DMX drum machine.
I probably lost you at the “rocking fresh Adidas in a B-Boy stance” part, huh? Anyway, let’s get to the breakdown of the video.
You have Santa is rapidly tapping a Simon Says deciding whose naughty and whose nice until this elf comes in and puts everyone on the naughty list until he comes across Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay. The first verse is pretty much Run explaining how he found Santa’s wallet and gave it back to him and got some money back for it. In the second verse, DMC is pretty much describing Christmas at his place. The video wraps with Run and DMC rapping in unison with Jam Master Jay on the turntables and DMC wrapping it up with the final verse.
In conclusion, this is another classic that you should have on your playlist especially during this time of year.
The Ramones…where do I start with these guys? In a nutshell, they were four dudes from Forest Hills, Queens, New York who all had a musical admiration for bands like the Stooges, the Beatles and Mad Magazine that played instruments and started a band that played stripped down no frills anti-corporate rock that was akin to stuff like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. But also when put together they became as volatile as a bleach and ammonia cocktail in a badly ventilated room. Seriously, if they had “reality tv” back in the 80’s, they would’ve made a show worth watching. Like most other influential bands, the Ramones were ignored for most of their tenure and three of the core members have sadly passed on due to health or drug related issues. But, you can hear their influence or inspiration with most of the pop-punk bands of the 90’s and 2000s and now in a lot of commercials. I’d expatiate on this, but it’s a moot point that would just equate into rambling.
So, let’s focus on the holiday gem from 1989’s “Brain Drain” album, “Merry Christmas I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight.”
I remember seeing the video on one of those holiday themed video countdowns on MTV, I’m not sure if it was Adam Sandler hosting, but for some reason I keep thinking it was him. Seriously, post a comment if you remember this special! The video starts with a couple arguing with a stereotypical New York accent and consists of cuts of the band and the comical antics of a couple quarreling. Interesting enough, the video clocked in at 3:29, whereas the actual song is 2:05.
For seasoned fans of the band, you’ll notice that this is a little more medium paced than their usual songs. But, it still has all their hallmarks such as repetitive sing-a-long lyrics, low almost crooning with a thick Queens’s accent vocal from Joey and three chords with some Chuck Berry influenced slides from Johnny. Okay, kind of off topic but isn’t it sort of ironic that Joey Ramone who was Jewish was singing a Christmas song? Anyway, the difference between this and their usual sound is since this is a holiday song; you’ll notice it’s been sweetened with some synthesizer pad, bells.
In closing, if you’re a fan of the Ramones or goofy holiday songs and cheesy videos then you’ll enjoy this song.
The slower, shuffle solo by Joey Ramone
Sorry folks, when I think of blacks in rock post-Jimi Hendrix…I think of 24-7 Spyz, Bad Brains, Living Colour and Funkadelic! Yes, just because it’s promoted that Lil Wayne likes Nirvana, it doesn’t make him diverse; it gives him better than I expected taste though. Honestly, if I could find out more about his personal musical interests, I’ll probably be more susceptible to his music in general. Its artists like him that where his back story is a lot more interesting than his musical efforts. To me at least…Anyway, enough digressing and let’s get to Lil Wayne’s “I Am Not a Human Being.”
To re-hash an older story, I find a video on Youtube that looks like it was shot with a black light giving the video an “episode of the X-Files directed by Hype Williams” vibe…which is kind of cool when you think about it. Theme wise, it’s a continuation of Lil Wayne’s Martian gimmick a la Ziggy Stardust, Kool Keith and reminiscent of Marilyn Manson’s video for “The Dope Show.”
The video consists of brief cutaway images of money and Martians that will have a self-proclaimed “conspiracy theorist” who happens to lack a sense of humor probably lock themselves in their closet in sheer terror…and then continue to smoke bad weed. Another part I liked was Wayne chanting throughout parts of the song proclaiming “I am not basic!” The irony about that line is that I can imagine a lot of “basic” people chanting that part as a mantra for their intellectual posturing.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for trippy lyrics and guitar hits over a hard and heavy live drum beat. Interesting enough, “I Am Not a Human Being” is made up of leftovers off of “Rebirth”, maybe if this was on “Rebirth” I would’ve bought it or legally download at least.
Coldplay…where do I start with these guys and what can be said that hasn’t been said before? After some light research, I found out that they’ve actually been around for a while. Members Chris Martin on vocals and piano, Jon Buckland on guitar, Will Champion on drums, and Guy Berryman on bass came together in 1996 while attending the University College of London. The Safety EP was issued shortly after their first gig at a Manchester festival for unsigned bands. The band’s breakthrough was in 2000 with their hit single “Yellow” off of the Parachutes LP. To be fair, I liked “Yellow” but maybe the constant exposure of “Yellow” and “Clocks” burnt me out and also the fact I was more into heavier guitar sounds. I got tired of their dull hybrid sound of U2 and Radiohead.
In fact, I put bands like this under the label of “heroin rock” or “Ambiencore.” Either way, it gave me the nods.
Actually, whenever I even heard the mention of Coldplay I would say “I hate Coldplay! If you misunderstood I’ll said it in Spanish! ‘No quiero Coldplay!’ “And whenever I would listen to the radio and hear the DJ say “and here’s Coldplay’s–” instant dial turn on my end. But, on one fateful day, I heard this boastful, orchestral intro that lead into this four to the floor drum beat into a song that just took me on a majestic ride. It turns out that song was called “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay. In fact I even found myself fist pumping at the thumping drum breakdown/ vocalizing outro at the end. This was before I even heard of Jersey Shore mind you.
Interesting enough, the band ended up getting into a lawsuit with a few other artists because of the similarities to their compositions. Songs such as “Song I Never Wrote” by Creaky Boards, “If I Could Fly” by Joe Satriani and “Foreigner Suite” by Yusef Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) oddly enough sound similar, but most of the cases have been settled out of court; in fact Creaky Boards later retracted his plagiarism statement after finding out that their song (Songs I Never Wrote) was recorded after Coldplay recorded Viva la Vida. They also realized that they’re both Legend of Zelda fans and were both inspired by the music within the game.
In conclusion, Coldplay is another group that I had to grow into and I’m glad that I have; besides I’m a sucker for Legend of Zelda.
Check it out here
Coldplay-Viva la Vida
My Chemical Romance…you know the scene/*emo looking guys who look like a precursor to the characters in Twilight? I remember these guys from when they really broke through back in ‘05. Where do I start on why they annoyed me so much? Well let’s see, Gerad Way’s whiny cross between Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 and Robert Smith of the Cure masturbating with a cheese grater pained warbling that he calls singing irked me. The overall sound from the band instrumentation-wise sounded like a vague, uninspired pastiche of goth-rock, arena rock, pop-punk production music and they look liked their wardrobe consisted of too many bargain’s from Hot Topic and RuPaul’s makeup bag.
But to be fair, songs like the Black Parade, I’m Not Okay (I Promise), Teenagers and their covers of classics by the Misfits have grown on me over the years. In fact, listening to it again, it’s not bad; I guess it was more of a jarring effect at first because I wasn’t in the right head space when first listening.
I mean, listening again “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” isn’t bad; the imagery is amusing to me at least. For example
“Well if you wanted honesty, that’s all you had to say.
I never want to let you down or have you go, it’s better off this way.
For all the dirty looks, the photographs your boyfriend took,
Remember when you broke your foot from jumping out the second floor?”
I mean, to me it’s like she got caught cheating and instead jumps out of her bedroom window instead of facing and accepting responsibility for her teenage philandering ways. Well, that’s just my interpretation at least.
Hopefully by now and if you’re not totally infuriated you can see past my light hearted ribbing of the band, you can see that I do enjoy them rather than actually saying that I’m a fan or let alone be a part of the fans known as “MCRmy.” In fact, I think “Teenagers” is a great sing-a-long to jam on.
I’ll give ‘em credit for writing some catchy, in some cases intricate and amusing tunes and just the song titles alone are worth a dry chuckle.
Check out I’m Not Okay (I Promise) by My Chemical Romance
*yes, the “emo” reference is my lame attempt at getting their goat, because I know how much they think emo is garbage.
Honestly, I better keep my mouth shut on this whole subject of artists that I don’t like. Just simply because whenever I make candid remarks regarding an artist’s musical output I have less than an interest in, I usually end up helping cover a story for my sister’s more pop-urban culture site and the artist’s she covers sometimes are the previous focus of my ire and criticism. But to be fair, they end up being cool people though and they impress me with their personal taste in music.
Now onto the neurotic overanalyzing of “No Hands” by Wacka Flocka Flame, Roscoe Dash and Wale.
Actually, I first heard this song on Wale’s online mixtape “More about Nothing” but the song went under the title, “The Guilty Pleasure (No Hands).” Obviously, I’m a fan of Wale or else I wouldn’t have downloaded the mixtape in the first place. At first, I was quite resistant to the song, but I guess another thing that won me over was when I saw that hilarious and inappropriate Eddie Long/No Hands video mash up that took the internet by storm. I’d post the video but it’s hard to find now due to copyright claims from WMG.
After a few listens and analyzing the track, I enjoyed the simple yet effective classical-informed production by Memphis producer Christopher Gholson, better known as “Drumma Boy.” In fact, I’ve even learned how to play the orchestral-esque bass line to “No Hands” on electric bass. Only thing that I’m trying to figure out is how Drumma did those really fast hi-hat rolls that kind of sound like a blackjack dealer shuffling cards.
In closing, don’t expect me to have Wacka Flocka Flame’s “Flockavelli” or anything by Roscoe Dash in my playlist any time soon, I can’t deny the fact that this track is a guilty pleasure of mine.
I’m closing this week out by focusing on UK production duo, Digital Mystikz. Around 2002, Digital Mystikz members Kala and Coki started to create music together that was a combination of their respected influences that wasn’t exactly made for commercial consumption but something that they enjoyed themselves. But after sharing their compositions with “FWD” resident DJ Hatcha, Hatcha felt he could incorporate their tunes into his DJ set. Months later, Hatcha played Digital Mysticz’s “Pathways” at London night club “Plastic People” with positive feedback from the record. With their sparse beats, vocal samples, and dub-influenced brand of 2-step, their music was connected to a part of similar sounding by other producers called “dubstep” and thus this record and the duo became connected to the sound. Hopefully, the brief synopsis has you up to speed. Although they’re some other great productions that I could feature by them, I’m going to finish this week with one of the tunes that kicked off what we now know as dubstep titled “Pathways.”
“Pathways” was released in 2004 and was written by Digital Mystikz member Mark Lawrence, but better known to fans as “Mala.” Sound wise, with “Pathways”, there’s a sparse yet still very apparent 2-step beat that’s commonly used in garage, a vocal sample and a violin line that gives the tune a dramatic edge and the very important sub bass. It’s really more or less an instrumental 2-step/garage track that’s very much rooted in dub; the echoed siren kind of gives it away.
Even though I’m still new to dubstep, I can definitely see and hear that this is a missing link between what we know as 2-step/garage and dubstep.
Well folks, in conclusion for this week of the sparse, meditative, audio universe we know as dubstep. For anyone that wants to get into either understanding the history of dubstep as a fan or as someone trying to produce it and trying to understand the basics, I definitely would say this one of the tracks that you should start out with and discover more. Have a great weekend, peace.
Beni Uthman or better known Benga is a 23 year old dubstep producer from East London and one of the first waves of dubstep producers in 2000s. Benga started making tracks on his playstation game system and then graduated to Fruity Loops after his parents bought him a computer. He was inspired to join the grime/garage scene after hearing the productions of producer “Wookie.”
He frequented a record store called Big Apple Records in Croydon, South London and was introduced to fellow producer Skream and together they recorded and collaborated on various projects that caught the ear of grime/2-step fans and DJs such as Francoise K and Mary Anne Hobbs.
With dubstep, it sounds like, to me at least a soundtrack to some weird dream. For example, with 2007’s “Crunked Up” off of “Diary of an African Warrior” sounds like some odd carnival/circus with clowns in makeup that look a cross between Violent J of rap-metal group Insane Clown Posse/The Joker from the Dark Knight performing parlor tricks while some dude that looks like the Marvel comic book character Dr. Strange plays the calliope…wow, I have to stop letting my “really” personal thoughts seep into these reviews.
Anyway, “Crunked Up” is an example of why I consider dubstep as crunk’s younger british cousin. After repeated listening, I’m still enamored by this compositions use of sub-bass, intricate drum programming, calliope-y sounds and synth pad and the rapid fire drum rolls really are hypnotic.
I would recommend this for anyone that’s looking for something that sounds like what you could explain as “post-crunk.”
Y’know how they say that marijuana is a gateway drug? Well, I see remixes as a gateway to different forms of music that one might not be usually accustomed to. Kind of like a peak into a different world that the listener might not be exactly used to. In this case, I’m going to use the Skream produced dubstep influenced remix of LaRoux’s “In for the Kill” as an example.
Honestly, I wasn’t really familiar with the original song, let alone the remix; I mean looking back I probably heard the song in passing when watching Entourage or just channel flipping and heard the song in the commercial for the video game “Bayonetta” but I just didn’t all around pay attention to it because it didn’t grab my interest. But, I’ve been on this dubstep bender recently and one song they recommended was “In for the Kill by La Roux ( Skream’s Let’s Get Ravey mix).”
Also, I wasn’t that familiar with La Roux; first thing I thought of was the wrestler from WCW.
So, I click on the song and the first thing I hear this melodic synth line with this vinyl crackle, then this deep bass tone and this echo-y vocal just had almost hypnotized. The arrangement is quite minimal; seriously, first verse and chorus…nothing but slightly wobbly sub-bass, echo-y vocal and high pitch synth. It’s so simple, but it just kept my attention throughout the song. Then when you think it’s over at 4:05, it picks back up with this hardcore break beat vibe at 4:10 and rides it out to the end. I had this thing on repeat for a little bit, in fact I even tried learning the song by ear. With me, that’s a big honor for any song.
In closing, for the anal retentive dubstep purist, this might not satisfy them. But, it’s hard to satisfy types like that. But, for the ones who are getting into dubstep, I definitely recommend this song to start them off.
I’m still new to dubstep, but I thought I’d talk about producer Gary McCann, aka Quiet Storm but now known as Caspa. Well, it seems that Caspa’s career in music actually started out due to a debilitating shoulder injury that cut his budding basketball career short. Even though sports was more of his main interest, he grew up in a very musical household and enjoyed “jungle/drum and bass” but due to the injury he quit basketball and was quite depressed until he re-focused his attention on music. In 2004, Caspa released his first effort with a tune called “Rubber Chicken.” Which features the wobbling bass sound that is quite popular within dubstep.
Anyway, with the composition “I Beat my Robot” I have to say, I’m more or less hypnotized right now by the impact of a track with such a bare minimum of synth-bass and a shuffle-y 2-step pattern. As monotonous as it might sound, it keeps my interest throughout the whole song. The light build-ups and atmospheric synth makes me feel like I’m in a trippy dream or something that was left off the Saw soundtrack. Seriously, I’m feeling this track. Enjoy.