A few years ago around 10 or 11 pm, I was listening to “Decipher Hip-Hop” on WPFW. There was an advert for a hip-hop band called “The Cornel West Theory.” The name caught my interest. Over the years, I’d arbitrarily do a search on their music. Just recently, I found out that they were the house band at Bloombars. Saying that I was proud of them would be an understatement.
For anyone that isn’t familiar with ‘the Cornel West theory”, here’s some bio information from their site.
“the Cornel West theory” is a Washington, D.C.-based ensemble, proudly born from the hip-hop aesthetic, but not bound by limitations of any genre. It’s an eclectic amalgam of spoken word, lyricism, instruments, electronics and vocals, which draw from genres ranging from home-grown go-go to jazz to rock to hip-hop. This “musical theory” is best understood as an artistic wavelength that hits you aesthetically, emotionally and intellectually. With the blessing of Dr. Cornel West, the Princeton University professor and renowned author, the band takes its name from his prolific writings and philosophies, which have shaped contemporary thought throughout the world. Inspired by D.C.’s rich musical history and the struggles of poor people worldwide, the ensemble formed in 2004 in response to social oppression everywhere. Winners of the 2008 Washington Area Music Association’s Wammie for Best Hip-Hop Duo or Group, the Cornel West theory released its debut album “Second Rome” in 2009.
The ensemble consists of Rashad Dobbins, Yvonne Gilmore, Tim Hicks, Sam Lavine, John Wesley Moon, and Katrina Lorraine Starr
Their new album “The Shape of Hip-Hop to Come” features vocals from Cornel West dropping gems of knowledge throughout the album. West’s role is reminiscent of George Clinton on Funkadelic’s first album. At first listen, the band’s sound was very reminiscent of bands and artists like Massive Attack, Public Enemy, MF Doom, Arrested Development and Saul Williams. Also the sample-based production is what I imagine if the Bomb Squad took LSD would sound like.
Here are some of the tracks that I feel stuck out
“Type 1 Change”
This clocked in at 5:00 with a structure that seamlessly goes through more than one song. The style goes from gospel organs to live drums and some keyboard riff straight out emceeing to something that’s well…“Type 1.”
“DC Love Story”
Almost every rapper and rocker has a song about their hometown From the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Jay-Z. This track is pretty much describing what it’s like growing up in Washington, D.C.
This was a change from the album’s jazzy yet lyrically intense to a more rock-ish edge. This is an aggressive fusion of go-go/rock and rap. The delivery is reminiscent of Atlanta hardcore band Amul9.
In closing, if you’re a fan of Massive Attack, MF Doom, Public Enemy, spoken word and music that challenges you should enjoy “the Cornel West theory.”
I want you guys to check out Renee Ruth’s “Electric Eye.” The song is about a girl feeling stagnant and insecure about her station in life. Instead of a female lead in the video, they used his cat “Penny.” I really enjoyed the videos combination of charming imagery and catchy songwriting. Well, enough of my meandering, check out Renee Ruth’s “Electric Eye.”
Did anybody notice Sleigh Bells sampled a Funkadelic song?
On July 31st, 2011 at 1:00 am ET/10 pm PT, the classic MTV show 120 Minutes returned with Matt Pinfield returning as host. The show wasn’t bad; it featured a video from “Jeff the Brotherhood” and other indie rock fare. Then the video for Sleigh Bell’s “Rill Rill” came on. I didn’t pay attention to it but then after it droning on in the background the song sounded familiar…no pun intended. At first I thought “Lola” by the Kinks? No, it wasn’t the Kinks. Then I realized that it was Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That?” off of the “Maggot Brain” album from 1971. Since this was a sample, I was curious and went to see if the Sleigh Bells gave George Clinton and Ernie Harris got a writer’s credit for their song “Rill Rill.” Well, sort of…the band Sleigh Bells did give Ernie Harris and George Clinton a songwriter’s credit. Trouble is that they have given the wrong “George Clinton” a writer’s credit. In this case, they credited film composer “George S. Clinton” with the sample. They should’ve credited the song to “George Clinton Jr.” if they were trying to compensate George Clinton. To be fair, I can understand the mistake but bottom line I really feel they should’ve done their research.
Check it out for yourself.
Sleigh Bells-Rill Rill
Funkadelic-Can You Get to That
Hey folks, I just got this video of Toronto alt/pop singer songwriter Novie. She’s recently collaborated with New York animator Gavin C Reed and created an animated music video for her song “Funk 3 (Get Next to You)” The song is featured on her debut EP “Whatcha Doin’ Baby.” The video fuses Japanese anime, computer animation that compliments the moody, yet poppy feel of “Funk 3 (Get Next to You” by Novie.
In closing, if you enjoy Gorillaz, animated music videos, chill alt/pop music then you’ll enjoy this.
*Gasp* Kanye West sampled Otis Redding? This is amazing! This is incredible! This is…not the first time that somebody sampled Otis Redding. I mean, “Try a Little Tenderness” alone has been sampled by Masta Killa on D.T.D. and Young Black Teenagers on “Tap the Bottle” For clarification, I have nothing against sample-based music at all. In fact my favorite rappers have used a…how to put this eloquently a “shitload” of samples that where some productions verged upon being considered an urban equivalent of Edgar Varese’s “Musique Concrete.” I’m just not just seeing the unnecessary “dick hopping” that hip-hop’s doing right now over an awkwardly sampled Otis Redding cover.
Yes folks, “Try a Little Tenderness” is a cover of a ballad written in 1932 by “Irving King” (or James Campbell and Reginald Connelly) and Harry M. Woods and performed by the Ray Noble Orchestra with vocals by Val Rosing. Personally, the Otis Redding version is more appealing than the original.
To be fair, I’ll point out the good in the track. There were a few amusing lines from Kanye West like “sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive.” Aside from that, I didn’t see this as anything more than just a studio “outtake.” But in comparison to the dreck that passes for rap now and that cover of “Try a Little Tenderness” by Chris Brown I can see how this can be considered re-invigorating.
In closing, if you aren’t a fan of Jay-Z or Kanye West…this might make you dislike. If you’re a fan, than you’ll have this on a constant loop.
Life and Times Otis
The 54 Needs a New Lead Singer!
Atlanta based rock band The 54 is looking for a new lead singer. Here are some songs off of their Reverbnation page. If you feel that you’re a fit for the band’s sound. Why not give it a shot?
I got a copy of “Audio Arcade” by Lerix. This is kind of a “geek chic” album. The best way to describe it is to imagine “Outkast” ghostwriting for nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot and sprinkled catchy hooks throughout the album. The theme is reminiscent of another rapper on the west coast by the name of Task1ne whose similar content wise (ex. “geek” culture references) I enjoyed most of the album but these are the songs that really caught my ear.
“Here’s to the renegade/ to the outcast. They used to doubt but now I think they figured out fast ‘ha ha’ we got the last laugh.” The hook pretty much sums up what the song about. I can definitely relate to it.
“I Got This”
Nice violin riff and the Spider-Man reference caught my attention.
“I’m no good”
Lerix laments about the split between him and his girlfriend. The allusions to songs by Jay-Z, Kanye West and Notorious B.I.G. to reiterate his point were a nice touch.
Passion of the Mike
Is he spitting rhymes over Daft Punk’s baroque influenced electronic jam” Verdis Quo?” Who am I kidding? I’m a sucker for Daft Punk samples.
In closing, if you’re into East Coast rap, Lupe Fiasco and other nerd tinged rap music then I would recommend “Audio Arcade” by Lerix for you.
On June 27th, 2011 I did a three part interview with professional wrestler “MVP.” This was the first time I’ve done an interview in years especially an interview worth publishing it. Originally, it started out as a formal interview with a few short questions…but by the time we got into talking about bands like Bouncing Souls, references to jazz fusion, wrestling etc. I admit I forgot I was doing an interview and it felt like I was talking to an old friend. In fact, we ended up talking for 2 hrs and 20 minutes! The interview topics include less talked about interests that include his love for hardcore/old school punk rock, his love for stand-up comedy, the differences between Japanese pro wrestling and American pro wrestling and other little interests that give you a little more insight into the mind of “MVP.”
What’s the story behind “Holla to the World?” How’d it come about?
Growing up, I was always a fan of music. My mother was white, my father was black and I lived in Miami. So I was exposed to all types of music. I was born in 1973 so I watched the evolution of rap and hip-hop and I remember it in its infancy when there was no rap music to be found on the radio and even black radio stations played the occasional rap song but there was no rap station. A lot of the rap music I got back then was from my friends from New York when then would come down and bring mixtapes with DJ Red Alert, Hot97, Kiss FM. But I had an appreciation for music of all types. In 6th grade I remember it vividly. I heard Run DMC for the first time. In my 6th Grade class I had some free time I was bored and I wrote my very first rap and at P.E./Recess whatever you call it. I was standing behind the P.E. shed and read it to a few of my friends and Mr. Strong Clarence Strong who’s a really good guy he caught me and I was scared because there were a couple of bad words and I thought I was going to get in so much trouble and he read it. But I didn’t get in trouble and I was shocked and he actually gave me props for being a 6th grader. I always enjoyed rap music and became a decent little freestyler and as a kid had visions of being a big rap star like how Biggie talks about…
It was all a dream I used to read “Word Up!” magazine?
Yeah that’s it! *laughs* I remember those days and I used to dream about the same thing. I wanted to be like Slick Rick and halve all the gold chains and girls going crazy for me and once I made it into the WWE I used to ask Cena about his album and he’d buzz me on certain things. I met Baby Bash of Cyclone through Rey Mysterio Jr. and Bash put me in touch with DJ Ice aka Mickaël Zibi. We collaborated on my entrance music VIP Ballin or whatever WWE named it. He produced it, I wrote it, we recorded it and sold the rights to the WWE and that was to be my entrance music. At this time I bought a bunch of equipment and converted one of the rooms in my house into a demo quality studio and just started recording stuff. I actually wrote “Holla to the World” on a plane to a pay per view. Dwane Sweazie is one of Mickaël’s artists and I like his work a lot and asked him if he wanted to drop a verse on this thing and it just took off from there. I finally decided you know what? I want to make a move and start releasing to the public. Because I initially wanted to release stuff for me, I have stuff I had written in prison and a few notebooks that I still saved and always wanted to know what it would sound like if I did a song. I said man “let’s run it let’s do it. I released it as a free download. Last time I checked it had like 33,000 listens and several thousand downloads. I’m shooting a video for it this week. Heh, here’s the life of a” balla.” I’m shooting a video Wednesday, Thursday and heading to Japan on Friday. But that’s how it came about. I liked the sound of it; it was good enough to put out.
Are people surprised to know that you can rap?
Oh yeah, lots of people. People are actually shocked! It’s funny because most people see me as MVP “the professional wrestler.” I’m also a pretty good writer and what I’ve let some of the people read they’re like “man, you wrote that?” I’d like to think of myself as a renaissance man. There are a lot of things that I can do that people don’t know about but they find out that I have an interest in something and I’m able to do something they’re like “man, I thought all you did was wrestle. Well that’s what you get for thinking! *laughs*”
Is it true that during your time with WWE that there’s an unreleased track featuring you, John Cena and R-Truth or is that just speculation?
The track was never completed. I actually have in my audio vault a few John Cena freestyle that he did here in my studio. We collaborated on a track that my cousin produced. It has this real slide blues guitar on it. It’s just a cool ass beat. We called that song “Urban Desperadoes” I let John hear it and John loved it. He did 16 and I did 16 and had this brainstorm that had you, me, and Truth are the only guys that had our own theme music that we perform. What if we had a WWE produced track released and pushed by the company that featured you me and Truth titled “Urban Desperadoes.” I played it for (Exec. Producer) Kevin Dunn and he loved it. “Truth” wrote his verse but never recorded his verse but before we actually had an opportunity to finish it and release it I made the decision to leave the company. So, it’s just sitting in my vault.
You mentioned that you live in Houston, TX now. Have there been any rappers in Houston that have been trying to reach out for you to get on a track with them?
Working with Mickaël Zibi he’s produced Baby Bash, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Z-Ro. It’s funny because Z-Ro is probably the most respected underground artist in Houston. Z-Ro’s is amazing. I was in the studio recently and he talked about us collaborating on something in the near future. There are a number of Houston area rappers I’ve rubbed elbows with in Mickael’s studio and nothing definitive but a few guys have expressed interest.
Heh, MVP and Bun B would be awesome!
That would be!
A lot of people might not be aware but Busta Rhymes did a song with Fishbone called “Psychologically Overcast.” Since you’ve mentioned that you’re a fan of Fishbone, you rap and if the opportunity was given, would you like to get on a song with them?
Are you kidding me! *laughs* you just made me think of that song. I met Dre Gipson awhile back and he and I hit it off and we stayed in touch for quite some time and I had the opportunity to meet Angelo and Norwood and they were all cool. To me these guys are mythical in stature and I feel like I’m not worthy to be a track with those guys but if the opportunity presented itself than I would bend over backwards to something with Fishbone. I read in an interview with John Cusack that his estimation that Fishbone is one of the most underrated bands of all time. I have everything by them and I would jump at the opportunity to do anything with them.
That’s another common thread between us I’m more into Bad Brains and 24-7 Spyz, but all and all we pretty much dig the same bands though or are at least aware of them.
Y’know, when I was 14 and really just starting my street life and gang phase. I was working at a drug store at 163rd street Mall in Miami. The manager was a guy named Wes who was a skinhead. At that point, I didn’t know the difference between colorblind skins and racist skins. HE was already in his 20s. He would take me with him to shows. At first I was intimidated by the scene these doc marten wearing punks. It kind of threw me off. He took me to a few shows. I’m not gonna lie I was kind of shook. But at first I didn’t understand the whole genre just yet. At that time, all I listened to was Public Enemy and Eric B. and Rakim and I was entrenched in hip-hop. I’m on my black power phase. He was telling me about Bad Brains I’m like “Man, black people don’t make that garbage, man” but the rule was his car, his music. So I had to listen to Black Flag, Bad Brains, Angry Samoans, Agnostic Front. Initially I hated that stuff but I don’t care what kind of music you listen to. If you’re forced to listen to it after awhile you find yourself recognizing songs and bobbing your head and going “It’s not so bad” and then he turned me on to Bad Brains and he said “these dudes are black dreadlock Rastas” I said “You’re pulling my leg he said “No I’m telling you!” He gave me a cassette tape…*witty tone* now for your readers a cassette tape is a piece of plastic that has a magnetic strip inside…wow I’m really dating myself *laughs* But on one side was (Bad Brains) “I Against I” and the other side there was Red Hot Chili Peppers “Uplift Mofo Party Plan” and it did not take me long to be absolutely mesmerized by both sides of the tape. I don’t know what happened but I fell in love with Bad Brains. This was before alternative music and alternative sections in record stores. I went and bought everything Bad Brains had at that time. I still have my copy of the “yellow tape” from the ROIR sessions. Then the Quickness album came out and I still have that around vinyl somewhere. My mom sent me to live with my aunt in Texas. There were these guys out there that had a thrash band and they got me into Fishbone. Then from all of a sudden there was this whole genre of music that I feel head over heels over and I guess that looked like me *laughs* that made this music made it intriguing too. ‘Cause I was always a Hendrix fan but then it was this new sound and aggression and Fishbone their sounds so eclectic. (Fishbone goes) from punk, ska to metal and Bad Brains from them go seamlessly to Pay to Cum and then I Luv I Jah, it was an audio rollercoaster!
So you got into this around 14. I started playing guitar around 14 and felt like I was the only black guy that digs rock. After Hendrix it wasn’t that much heavy guitar based music except for Living Colour once in awhile. A band that restored my faith in rock–
I’m sorry; let me interject something because this is pretty interesting. At the time I got into Bad Brains I would tune into Headbanger’s Ball and 120 Minutues because I wanted to see Bad Brains. I wanted to see what they didn’t look like but they did play (Bad Brains videos) at that time. But I saw the video for Cult of Personality and I saw Living Colour for the first time and I thought “Is this Bad—oh that’s not Bad Brains it’s Living Colour…okay cool.” That video and that song threw me for a mental loop I wanted and had to have that song. I remember going to Speck’s music store for 2 weeks asking “the Living Colour album come yet?” she say “not yet” and one day she saw me she smiled and was just pointing and I went over and picked up that cassette and listened to that cassette nonstop for 2 weeks. Corey Glover’s vocals and Vernon Reid’s—his style—I never called myself a guitarist and never got very far but I understand the nuances and the differences between guitar playing and what Vernon Reid plays so out of context of what you’re standard guitarist do breaks so many rules and I remember looking at tablatures and trying to play and looked at it like “That’s impossible! How can you play that? This has got to be a mistake.” So Living Colour is another band that opened the door for me and I discovered them looking for Bad Brains and then got into Fishbone and 24-7 Spyz and these groups they’re still rotation.
You mentioned that you met Randy Savage backstage at a GWAR and Misfits show in Florida. Noticing you’re timeline, we dig a lot of the same bands. Are people surprised by your vast taste in music?
All the time…all the time! Whenever I sit down and talk with people about music people expect me to know about soul, funk hip-hop based on appearance etc. they’re like “you should know that” but whenever I talk about my love for jazz and Thelonious Monk, Chet Baker, Charles Mingus they’re like “what do you know about that?” or my love for hardcore or old school punk. People are shocked. C.M. Punk and I talk about music and we’re on the same page. One day I was sitting down with Lars (Frederiksen of Rancid) in catering and he goes “Hey! Punk! MVP knows what’s up!” C.M. replied “of course that’s why he’s my homie!” So, people are shocked; I get a kick out of it. I remember being with my best friend “Bert.” He’s like a big brother to me. When I was about 12 or 13 and he was flipping through the radio but I remember liking the song and wanting to say “Hey leave that!” but I was worried about him criticizing my choice in music because he’s somebody I looked up to so I didn’t want to make a bad impression. He put it back on there, and I was glad he put it back there I was scared to say something. He said to me “Man, don’t you ever let somebody tell you what you can like. Don’t let anybody dictate you what’s cool.” I never forgot that and that allowed me to embrace music. When it was in prison, it was especially tough because I like rock music and I don’t allow myself to be relegated to one any one particular genre. There would be times where I would be blasting some rock on my radio and dudes would be like “aw mane you like dat ol’ cracka shit, man? You lissen to dat that white boy shit, dawg?” So yeah people are shocked all the time.
I saw where you tweeted about getting kicked out of a Fugazi show for moshing. Would you mind elaborating? Also, did you get the $5 back?
That’s what I’m pissed off! If I see fucking Ian Mackaye! He owes me money…
I know that Ian MacKaye is known for kicking people out of shows and giving their money back. I was at this Fugazi show. My younger brother who shares a similar taste in music…he’s actually a big country fan. I don’t know how that happened! But…
I think I saw you mention him; he’s kinda into Hank Williams III?
No, that’s me. I’m not into the mainstream pop country; I’m more into the outlaw country. “Rope in the Wind” is not really for me. My younger brother is bigger than me actually. He’s a state champion amateur wrestler, tough kid, good looking and cool as hell. At the time he was also a cop too. I wasn’t even moshing that much. I was about pushing 270 and he was 240-250. I was standing around keeping an eye on him and a few skinheads. Then you had the trendy black horn rimmed *whiny voice* “ewww you’re touching me you’re moshing!” in the crowd. Ian MacKaye said something to the crowd like “watch out” “take care of each other.” Then he stopped the show and said I want these guys thrown out. Security surrounds me and my brother. My brother was on that cop shit and indignant and they roughed him up with a bloody nose. We could’ve fought and took out a bunch of guys. But he’s a cop and I’ve only been out of prison for a couple of years and I didn’t want to stir anything up and I was a security guard at a club in South Beach. There were cops outside and my brother identifies myself as a law enforcement officer. But we were in Broward County…my brother was a cop in Dade County. So, we didn’t get arrested but the cops weren’t very helpful. We didn’t go until we saw the head of security. After a while he finally came out and I asked “What did we do to get thrown out?” The security guard said “you guys were fighting” “Well, who were we fighting?” I asked. The guy stared at me looking stupid “tell me who we were fighting?” I was a tank at the time and my brother was no joke. “If we were fighting, you would have to back this ambulance up because there would be somebody out here going for a ride…were we fighting each other? Where’s the guy that we were fighting?” Ultimately he said “Ian Mackaye said ‘throw those two guys out!’” It infuriated me because we were the only two black guys on the floor. I wasn’t even moshing, there were other guys that were moshing but we were the only two that got thrown out. Others were booing as we got thrown out. We got thrown out of the Fugazi show; we didn’t get out money back and were assaulted. So FUCK Ian MacKAYE! FUCK FUGAZI! If I see that motherfucker he owes me $10-15 for the concert!
This is kind of twisted irony…you’re familiar with Go-Go right?
Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye were the only two white guys in the go-go scene, in fact Minor Threat played their final show with Trouble Funk. It’s kind of ironic that the only two white guys at a go-go end up throwing two black guys out of his show.
By him!!! I mean it’s tough because I want to respect him because of his contributions to the hardcore scene but the way things went down. But they way he behaved I can’t forgive him! It would’ve been a funny story if we got out money back because he’s known for throwing people out but we didn’t even get our money back. On the other side, I haven’t met Henry Rollins but he’s somebody I want to meet. He’s a huge inspiration. When I was in prison, I used to write a lot of lyrics and a lot of rap and hardcore lyrics because one of my other dreams is to front my own hardcore band.
I used to envision myself onstage with black shorts, sneakers, no shirt and with the microphone cord wrapped around my wrist. I fancied myself being a “black Henry Rollins.”
Ice-T tried that! *laughs*
Kind of…I’m a fan of Ice from the “6 in the Morning” days before he blew up with “Colors” and I still have his vinyl and I dig what he did with Body Count.
I understand totally. When I first started writing, some of my biggest inspirations were a hodge podge of guys like Paul Heyman, Henry Rollins, Gil-Scott Heron and George Carlin.
When it comes to comedic deities you have to mention Carlin and Pryor…
Tune into part’s 2 and three coming soon! We speak on comedy and pro wrestling next! Also check out his new website http://mvp305.com
“MVP? You mean the dude from WWE raps?” Yep and he’s good at it too. In fact, music was one of his first loves. Oh yeah, he’s in New Japan Pro Wrestling now.
MVP grew up in Miami and grew up in a household where he was exposed to all types of music. He was born in 1973 and watched the evolution of rap and hip-hop. He grew up in a time where there was no rap music to be found on the radio and even though black radio stations played the occasional rap song remember there weren’t any stations dedicated to rap and r&b. A lot of the rap music he got was from friends from New York when they would come down and bring mixtapes of DJ Red Alert, Hot 97, KISS FM. In 6th grade, he heard Run DMC for the first time.
During a lull in his 6th Grade class he had some free time I was bored and I wrote my very first rap and later at recess he was standing behind the P.E. shed with a few friends and read it to a few friends and one of the teachers Mr. Strong caught him and I was scared because there were a couple of bad words and he thought I was going to get into trouble. Strong read it. But instead of getting into trouble he actually gave the young MVP props for being a 6th grader and writing that well.
The song “Holla to the World” is a song that came about on a plane ride to a pay per view. Dwane Sweaze is an artist that MVP‘s work he enjoyed a lot and asked him if he wanted to drop a verse on it. Lyric wise, it’s pretty much giving a glimpse into the life of MVP. MVP has a flow that’s kind of melodic and combined with a raspy tone that’s that complements the composition. Composition wise, the synth pads give it a chill atmosphere that reminds me of Pharrell produced “Excuse Me Miss” by Jay-Z.
In closing, it’s a decent effort at be on the lookout for the video to “Holla to the World.”