You know that this music thing is really my thing, like I would be doing what I do even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. I guess it’s a compulsion, but that doesn’t really explain the connection that I have to music properly. But I just get a sense of indescribable enjoyment out of it, much like the way my sister Zoe Strauss describes her connection to the visual in this short film about her. The thing is I’m nowhere near as smart or talented as her… “Through the Lens of Zoe Strauss“ from Ted Passon on Vimeo.
But yeah man – sometimes there’s just something that hits you hard. Sometimes you hear something that instantly connects with you and there’s no way of putting it into words. So you’ll just have to listen. This past Thursday I did a show in Atlanta with my dudes Kon & Amirand the homie Injex from Sound Table. The night was over and I was standing in the back yard when I heard a song coming through the crack of the door that was so beautiful and haunting that I immediately had to rush in and see who it was. Injex was on the decks just playing 45s after hours and I walked in the booth like “Yo son what the eff is this?” The record was just ending at the time and, at the same time I was walking up, both the bartender and the last dancer on the floor simultaneously walked up, all three of us individually demanding to know what the record was. He showed me the 45 and it was so on. The next day in my hotel room in Montreal I was able to get a copy online (from the homie James Pants as a matter of fact!)
It was The Three Degrees. This is like a record that I should have known, but I didn’t. Sometimes things fall through the cracks and you miss joints, and this is one of them. The Three Degrees are a female vocal group from Philly and pretty much the “first ladies” of the TSOP organization. Mostly known for their songs “When Will I See You Again” and “The Sound Of Philadelphia” they went through a few variations of their lineup throughout the years but regardless of the members they always had one of the most distinctive vocal stylings of all time. Like top shit, eclipsing many of the more notable and supreme names in music history in my opinion.
This song came from their first album which predates TSOP, the 1970 “Maybe” release on Morris Levy’s Roulette imprint. The album was helmed by Philly producer Richard Barrett, who decided to lead the girls debut record off with an album cut buried deep on the first album by Cleveland rock outfit James Gang, “Y’er Album.”
The song was written by the great Joe Walsh and honestly, even though I have “Y’er Album” I never picked up on this cut, probably gravitating towards some of the more drum-laden tracks. But listening to the remake made me realize how incredible of a song it is. However I definitely feel as though the original is eclipsed by the remake, with Barrett’s orchestration being so lush and rich but never heavy-handed, coupled with absolutely perfect harmonies. This song floors me. It’s flooring me right now as I type while I listen to it.
Okay just want to be clear here, Breakbeat Tuesday isn’t just about “breakbeats” and whatnot, it’s just about joints and heavy tunes. But since I know a bunch of folks out there like their drums and breaks and whatnot, here’s a joint from the first James Gang album that sort of fits the bill.
I had a great weekend in Atlanta and Montreal. Big shouts out to everyone that I ran into, rocked with, partied with, broke bread with etc. Those are 2 cities that I have mad love for and, no matter how many times I visit them, I’m always wanting more. Well it looks like I probably will be vising them more often from here on out. Big shouts to Injex and the whole Sound Table crew, my homies Kon & Amir, Applejac, the Red Bull organization, Brendon, LA Riots Daniel, Michael & Tyler from Classixx, DJ Arock, Hatchmatic, Shaydakiss, DL and the cities of Atlanta and Montreal for showing a brother mad love.
Here’s a really good song and video from rapper Jasiri X from Pittsburgh. As someone who was born and raised in Philly it’s interesting that I’ve never made it out west to The City Of Steel but I’ve always heard great things about it. There’s an old saying that “between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is Alabama” and trust me, in rural PA that is somewhat the case. So these dudes breaking shit down in this manner kind of makes sense to me. So peep the game and then think about this for a second…
The video was produced by Paradise Gray aka Paradise the Architect from X-Clan, which is one of my favorite rap groups of all time. Now just so you know whenever I see anything with John Carlos and Tommie Smith I’m instantly receptive, so I immediately dug this video. And I really like this song, the music and (aside from some pretty glaring homophobic rhetoric that almost negates the content entirely in my mind) the message.
The thing that really hit me the hardest was how in the video Paradise uses clips from modern day rap videos and juxtaposes them against clips of old minstrel shows and scenes from Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” (which is highly slept on in my humble opinion.) Now I would be truly surprised if there was someone reading my site right now that doesn’t understand the power of the minstrel show. How this “innocent” form of entertainment was actually a by-product of a deeply seeded culture of racism in our country and a ploy to help perpetuate racial inequality as well as propagate racial myths, stereotypes and Jim Crow laws. Now I definitely feel as though they have a point, but at the same time there’s definitely room for mindless bubble-gum music out there. But when does an artist start toeing the line and go from being innocuous entertainment to being the manifestation of this nation’s racist heritage?
I dunno, man… I guess that’s somewhat subjective. Like Arthur Lee said, everybody’s got to live, you know. But I just wish that there was room for music that had content like this as well as just some joints that you could shake your ass to. Now what was the last “socially conscious” rap joint that got play in the club? I’m gonna have to put that question up on my twitter and see what happens. But you have to admit, T-Pain PLAYED HIMSELF so hard at the end of that video oh lawd…
So that’s just some food for thought. But instead of ending with that, let me end this with some music – which is what I know best! One is a somewhat obscure remix by Paradise, and another is a cool remix by Ali Shaheed Muhammed of the Dark Sun Riders project that’s an extension of X-Clan. And I leave with this question: “WHAT’S YOUR HIGHER LEVEL IF YOUR SHIT AIN’T REAL?”
Happy Birthday Curtis Mayfield. There was only one and there will NEVER be another. The master storyteller and, if James Brown is the Godfather of Soul, then Curtis is the Grand Uncle, and the true Conscience Of Funk. Tonight in New York I will be spinning at SubMercer – 147 1/2 Mercer St. – playing all sorts of Curtis tunage. This is including but not limited to early stuff, covers, productions, tributes, samples and more… Come through!
The homies who have the Memory Lane show on UStream had me as a quest on their show last night. It’s a pretty great concept – they come over to a DJs house and broadcast him spinning live from home, audio and visual. So here’s 90 minutes of me hanging out playing rap vinyl and 45s in my house while drinking beer and sweating profusely. Shout to my wife, Pete, Skizz, Julie, DJ Eclipse and the rest of the Memory Lane gang.
DJ Stuart "Re-Work V2"
Wet "All The Ways" (Branchez Remix)
De La Soul "Beautiful Night"
With You "Ghost" feat. Vince Staples (Major Lazer Remix)
Tall Black Guy "The Heart Of The Town"
KRNE "I'll Be Good"
Drake "With You" Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR
Christopher Cross "Ride Like The Wind" (Joey Negro Dub Disco Mix)
BAKERS DOZEN BONUS
Club Cheval "Discipline"
Mura Masa "What If I Go"
Kate Bush "Why Should I Love You?"