Bikini-clad vinyl nerdery, rap music, and assorted tomboyisms.
You got a 100 50 20 10 dollar bill, put your hands up
Siiiingle laaaadieeees, I can’t hear you.
(because this week’s treasures are in my headphones)
Blond hash (hybrid), add to your choice of smoke, $10/gram!!! says the sign in the window of my hometown dispensary. I’m not a smoker, but I appreciate the news. Through my brother and Black Hippy songs, I stay up on weed prices just so I have something to talk about at parties, along with my old standby topics “Lakers: Yes” and “Do you think I am pretty, y/n.” $10 is a pretty good deal for a blond hash hybrid, right? A gram’ll last you a good month or two, right? Aw, I have no idea. In any case, it’s hard to beat ten bucks for anything blond and that is my completely unbiased opinion. NEW PATIENTS RECEIVE A FREE WAX SNAP!, promises the sign a little farther down, in smaller print. It’s getting really good now. There’s some thirsty sign-writers at this dispensary. Plus “wax snap” sounds like a record-scavenging term, so I approve.
$10 is enough to fix you, regardless of your pleasurable substance, if just for a little while. It’s not like I’m a fiend or anything, but I strongly believe that getting served doesn’t need to be expensive. When I went to my hometown to visit my mom last weekend, the ten bucks in my pocket could’ve gone to Starbucks (iced Americano plus an extra shot, plus a muffin), or blond hash to add to my smoke like the alluring dispensary offered. But none of these are fixes for me. So like always, I took my ten bucks to the local shop, just up the street. Records. Recordsrecords. Sometimes I swear I must have glaucoma because of floaty things in my eyes, but I’m not a weed addict. I’m not any kind of addict. I’m not at all like Nina Simone with her beloved Valium, or Rick Ross with releasing recorded pieces of garbage constantly into the universe; now those two are addicts. I can quit anytime I want to. Also I was just holding it for a friend, I’m quitting on Monday, and I need to borrow $20. Until then, here’s my cute little hometown mini-haul: 4 selections for $11! Exhilarating!
I’m good for that $20, by the way. And if you can spare $25 you’d really help me out of a jam.
Stanley Clarke, Journey to Love(Nemperor, 1975). $3.
Stanley Clarke was from Philly and had great facial hair, just like Freeway. He was also famous for playing the double bass, which, as someone with a license plate that says “MORE808,” is a phrase that makes my blood pump faster. DOUBLE BASS. This is like saying double small-of-my-back caressing or double piles of $100 bills to me.
“Thanks to L. Ron Hubbard for his never-ending inspiration,” it says just above Stan’s big beautiful face on the back, prompting a good, firm What in the fuck? from this little lady. I read it out loud to myself in the store just to make sure it was real. Stanley was clearly drunk when he wrote his thank yous, because everyone knows L. Ron Hubbard maybe supported Apartheid and was probably a bad person. This information is easily accessible. Stanley meant to shoutout Freddie Hubbard, I decided out of pure stubbornness, because that’s how I live my life. But after a minute of straight confusion I just gave in, succumbed to the weird Scientology juju, and shouted out THE GOD Isaac Hayes. Who am I, after all, to judge someone else’s spiritual truth? Get ’em, Stanley Clarke, with your religious beliefs that creep everybody out. You’re in good company. (Stanley learned Scientology from Chick Corea, like how Prince learned about being a Jehovah’s witness from Larry Graham. Stan and Chick are the jazzy, dad’s-record-collection version of religious-indoctrination music friends.)
Journey to Love is called a classic by the dads of the world. How silly. Calm down, dads. The album’s just your basic cleaning-the-house record (side B especially), with some perfectly nice guest appearances (Jeff Beck, George Duke). What really sells this thing is “Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra,” the world’s clunkiest title for a song that happens to be the source of some good breaks—like the part at this exact moment, from Endtroducing…, and the one in that song by the King of Detroit/my heart, Danny Brown (“Guitar Solo”). “Hey, glasses-wearing production wizard Quelle Chris, where’s that loop from?,” I almost asked him about a hundred times on Twitter right after I got The Hybrid, but stopped because I am shy. I hoped I’d find out the answer at the guitar solo. And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what happened.
(Guitar solo by David Sancious.)
“Song for John II” has a pretty, 9-note piano snippet that would make for an excellently emo break. C’mon, producers. And the plinky sounds at the beginning of the title track sound like the “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” break even though, yes, I am aware of the actual sample source. Any mention of Bone Thugs in 2012 means I’m either talking about Rocky’s flow, listening to KDAY’s lunchtime hour, marveling at how much Delonte West looks like Bizzy Bone, or complaining about the current lack of sing-song rap. I’m also complaining about the continued presence of Khalifa on my car radio, and about the stereotypes that seem inherent to rapper profiles (in which the profiler marvels at the fact that the rapper being profiled is actually an intelligent human being who is careful with his money.) Grantland, I adore you. But the “You mean to tell me Waka’s not a complete moron?” story angle is not compelling. Waka loves his mom, I assume. He watches Sportscenter, goes to CVS or whatever the Georgia version of CVS is, and is not a Vice Lord. This description also fits me, my mailman, and everyone reading this, probably. Adult Swim, emoticons, the mall, McDonald’s, all normal everything: WE ARE ALL WAKA, except for the part about having beautiful hair and being 7 feet tall. His normalcy is not surprising. Plus he has zero felonies, which is good, because having even one thing in common with Chris Brown or Scooter Libby makes you less of a man. Listen, I’m not against rap. I’m not against rappers. But I am against those thugs.
ANYWAY. Stanley graduated to soundtracks in the ‘90s, a classic hustle for every family man in the industry who is middle-aged and tired of touring. Stanley also briefly worked on the music for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (!), a fact which delights the 9-year old girl inside of me. (The show also received musical contributions from Danny Elfman and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh—a fact that I should’ve known in preparation for my upcoming Jeopardy! appearance, even though Devo is more Cash Cab than Jeopardy!)
[Stan later did the music for Roll Bounce (with Nile Rodgers!). I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’ve seen that film, but this has less to do with my choices in viewing habits or my weakness for Bow Wow’s seductive eyes and 5’2” stature (swoon) as it does with VH-1’s rerun habits. The film has a scene where all the boys are watching Meagan Good put on her skates and “Love to Love You Baby” is playing. It’s seductive as hell, not because I want to make out with Meagan although that would be just fine, but because I want to be Meagan. Listen, guys: we all just want to be gazed upon like in corny urban youth life lesson movies, or kicked game to while a song plays, like in the “Every Little Step” video.]
Jeopardy! Fact: Nemperor Records was started by the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, who carried on a love affair with speed and benzos that ended badly. Re-routing your brain chemicals is probably the only way to live when you’re gay and it’s illegal to be gay in your home country, though. The closest I can come to understanding this kind of anguish is when I think about the world we live in and the fact that there are monsters out there who have the nerve to sell their old Zapp and Bunny Wailer records to local stores.
Personal goal: Well, go on a journey to love, obviously. It’s the best kind of journey upon which a lady can possibly embark.
Vanilla Fudge (ATCO, 1967). $5.
This goddamn band had the arrogance/cluelessness to do a droning, nonironic cover of “Shotgun,” so I am kind of mad at them. And their “Eleanor Rigby” is long and rambl-y, like how I can be with blog posts sometimes. Vanilla Fudge is worth having based entirely on their version of “Bang Bang,” beauuuutifully looped by the Alchemist, who then had to go fuck it up by getting mushmouth Lloyd Banks to say some rhymed words over it. The song is apparently from a video game called Saints Row, with which I am unfamiliar because I am a lady, but I looked it up and its basic premise is “cartoony gang violence and cornball voiceovers,” which explains the whole Banks connection.
They take on “People Get Ready” and “You Keep Me Hanging On,” which is pretty gutsy. I respect guts. But I’m not sure what’s supposed to be appealing about slowed-down, droning covers of Mayfield and Motown songs–and even in the producing hands of THE GOD Shadow Morton, whose echo chamber I would like to live in forever and ever (oh hello, Organized Noize!), they still can’t get it right. Am I being too hard on Vanilla Fudge? Hm. Probably. It’s my high standards. No apologies. But to keep things in perspective, I’ll point out that The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” Morrison’s droning exercise in how to sound bored while describing sex, was #1 in the country when this record came out. Drone, drone. People like terrible music, what can you do. But then, Aretha’s “Baby I Love You,” a song that is not droning or terrible in the least, was riding high on the charts too. Jerry Wexler never produced droning stuff, you guys, plus he’s one in a long line of musical production gods for whom I would convert to Judaism if asked. Ain’t no doubt about it, baby I love him.
Madlib used “Eleanor Rigby” in a Lootpack’s “Crate Diggin.” “Never Top 40,” he says in the song, “just that raw addict vintage.” I do not subscribe to this philosophy, since driving around in the Prius with the radio on is one of my life’s great pleasures. But arguing with Madlib about music is like arguing with me about hips, meaning: don’t do that. Respect the master. I’ve reached my saturation point with regard to various popular-culture touchstones in 2012; I’m good when it comes to holograms, hearing that goddamn Gotye song again, and seeing Tebow’s stupid face. I’m never ever good, however, in terms of seeing enough Madlib interviews. Just found this one, in which he does his impression of an adult human Earthling doing earthly things (haircut, dinner). He slips up at the end when he admits he can restore his body’s power supply on 2 hours of sleep per night, which is of course how they do on his home planet. Otis, I see your outer-space glow under your human skin suit. Nice try.
“For best results observe the R.I.A.A. high frequency roll-off characteristic with a 500 cycle crossover.” OBVIOUSLY.
Jeopardy! fact: The note above is pretty common on records from the ‘50s and ‘60s, when different record companies used different EQ compensation curves. Turnover is where the bass boost starts, I just learned; rollover is where the treble cut starts. Preamps had controls that adjusted accordingly for proper sound. Today, most records use the standard RIAA curve. This newly-acquired piece of knowledge could very likely mean that I have reached my nerd apex. This is big for me! Buy me a drink next time we hang out.
Change the curve standard when it comes to hips, you feel me? (Pretty sure you do.)
MORE FLOUNCE TO THE OUNCE.
Shield me from the harsh rays of the sun, O Dayton funk gods!
(And for Zapp/bikini-clad rap-break nerd continuity, somebody please mention Biggie mumbling “somethingsomething, nice breasts in the west” in the comments or I’ll be really disappointed.)
Zapp(Warner Bros., 1980). $1.
There are those dudes, the car-aesthetic nerds of the world, who probably love Daytons more than me. Curren$y for sure, and maybe Trick Daddy. Who loves Zapp more than me, though? Nobody! Nobody. Except maybe Dam-Funk and Quik. Nobody else, though. Yes I’m still watching Quik’s “What’s in My Bag?” often, and living, absolutely living for the moment at 01:52 when the interviewer asks him what kind of equipment he listens on and he goes, “Oh, my system?” and does the old-man lean complete with the hand on the hip and the attempt to suppress how excited he is about what he’s about to describe. Love him. Quik’s aging really well, too, right? He’ll always look like he’s 25.
Zapp came out in the summer, when the average temperature in Dayton is 83. That’s perfect weather for driving around while being bathed in talkboxy bass. In LA we know about it. We know Zapp. It would normally be unnecessary for a Los Angeles County lady to purchase this album, since “More Bounce” plays on local radio between 6 and 8 times daily. However, when that resident sees a copy of it for $1 at the local shop, well, she would be a fool not to buy it. Apparently it was produced by a William “Bootsy” Collins (?) whom I will be Googling shortly. I’d like to find out more about him, see if he worked on any other albums. Recorded at United Sound Systems in Detroit, Michiganit says in tiny print, upside down, on the back cover, like I’m not going to notice. That studio is legendary—John Lee Hooker*, Marvin, Aretha. Summon those spirits, Bootsy!
“Make it Zappy. It’s about that mowf.” I wanna say CHUUUCH but I’m far too schoolteacherish to pull it off. I’ll just stick with Truuuue, true.
“So where’s that mowf at right now?” the back cover wants to know, prompting a Whoa, HEY! You don’t know me like that from me every time I see it. Every time.
Known for its Ohio players (Kyrie Irving, Jim Brown), its Ohio players (Faze-O, The Pretenders, Slave, Bone Thugs), and its Ohio Players (from Dayton, just like Zapp), it’s a red state that holds no allure for me outside of its contributions to my record collection. But the power of Roger Troutman is evident when you consider that last year we voted to make “More Bounce,” a song done by Ohioans, the official song of LA. It narrowly beat out “Welcome to the Jungle” (meh), “It’s Funky Enough” (which it is, obviously), and “Whoop Whoop,” because that beat and Kam’s beautifully bright white tshirts represent the best of Los Angeles in such a fresh way. (Sorry, Cube.) Roger Troutman also deserves accolades for beating the tremendous odds stacked against him by being born with the name Roger Troutman.
The radio version of “More Bounce” cuts out the first few minutes, and really, you’re not missing much. The fact remains that I LOVE a song that bosses me around and calls me “mama” like ‘70s men used to*. Getgetgetgetgetgetonnnnn the dance floooooor, baby/Get dowwwwwn, mama. YES, MASTER, WATCH ME GET DOWN; is this good for you and are you enjoying what I am working with? I just wanna please the song. I let the song slap me around a little bit. I’m even willing to shut up about various ridiculous things (like my theory explaining why Southside gets a whole extra whoop), just because “More Bounce” tells me to shut up. Sometimes I try to talk back but then the song grabs my shoulders and says stuff like You gon learn, Logan. You gon learn.
*In 2012 we get “mami,” which just isn’t as good.
Jeopardy! fact: The NCAA banned the use of the word “player.” Not only is this insanely dumb and insulting to our intelligence (they’re student athletes, says the NCAA, emphasis on “student”! Pay no mind to the revenue generated from TV and licensing deals!), the ban made it hard when I tried to request “Baby Come Back” from the DJ during Kentucky’s post-victory party back at Kidd-Gilchrist’s place. “Pplayer” (the spelling according to the back of Zapp) is still fine, luckily, and it sounds just like Slum Village’s “Playyyy-errrrrs.” I’m still not convinced it isn’t. I’m aware of the alleged sample source, but I don’t care. I’m stubborn.
I know alllllll about Jamaica because of Sly & Robbie, and my ex-boyfriend Lennox from Belly. It’s a terribly frightening paradise with floaty basslines and crushing poverty, sexy dance moves, ass, super dope soundclashes, class warfare. Lots of easy-to-fetishize qualities; you get the idea. My life in Echo Park can’t compete, but still, who wan ramp wit me? NOBODY, since I got this piece of round black vinyl containing gorgeous music. BUNNY WAILER 2 BUCKS, I sent in a jubilant text to my brother when I found this magical object. Not bragging; just sharing the good news.
The title track sells the whole thing. It’s beautiful. (The blackheart man in apt. 680 these days is Willard Mitt Romney, although I suppose he’s more DepravedIndifferenceMan, or maybe just ArrogantMan.) And that Tommy McCook flute to open: whyyyy hasn’t someone chopped and looped it?
The song’s about the weirdo in the neighborhood who’s either quiet and misunderstood but ultimately gentle (Boo Radley) or quiet and really fucking paranoid (George Zimmerman). Bunny and Peter have similar voices, with Bunny’s being a little lower, I guess? I like the lower registers of musical gentlemen, nice baritones—Kool AD, Rakim, Bun, whatshisname in The National. They all sound stern, like they’re giving me daddy lectures when they catch me sneaking into the house at 2 AM. Love it.
I could do without most of side B. And Bunny’s “Armagideon” is not as lovely as Willie Williams’, which causes a small amount of disappointment. Still, Blackheart Man is a treasure. Find it. You got your Iyaric lessons, standard; floaty basslines, songs about glory and trains. Snatch it up if you get the chance, if only so that you can join the club started by that random YouTube commenter in which we all sit around and talk about how disturbingly proud we are to have Blackheart Man on vinyl.
It’s got all the credits you’d expect from an Island record in the ’70s—last names like Barrett, Tosh, Blackwell. There’s Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall on saxophone, who lacks a pop-culture sax-riff moment (RIP Greg Ham!) but nonetheless makes his presence felt by stealing both the show and the DJ booth in Rockers. Knowing what’s best for the crowd because he is a magical shaman psychologist, he plays “Queen Majesty,” a 1) Curtis-Mayfield-written 2) plea for romance despite socioeconomic differences that 3) has the loveliest chord progression I’ve heard all week, which is basically every element that a great song could possibly contain, other than maybe 4) some Rick Rock production? Although the greatest moment in Rockers is Kiddus I in the studio, the club takeover is one epic movie scene. SWOON, THOSE CHORDS. “Queen Majesty” interlude, yall.
Go on. You’re not so busy or heartless that you can’t let the whole thing play.
Personal goal:Find a version of Rockers without subtitles. I understand overstand their inclusion but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Bemoaning the RapGenius-ing of this great country is my new party-conversation topic. My opening argument is that it’s turned us all into a bunch of needy, dumb babies. I close with “When Doom gets a verified account, I’ll consider giving it a chance.” Then I turn and sashay off.