Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The best house band, EVER?!!!??!

So, considering that my mans 'n 'em VNL and I had more than a few minutes to kill at the recent Mos Def/9:30 show; we chatted it up on a range of topics. One of which, I was really surprised to learn of having been a big fan of Conan O'Brien's over the years, and his late night show.

I'm eager to see how Jimmy Fallon will do, taking over the reigns for the late night slot (...I think he's a great fit), yet had NO idea that the nightly house band will be none other than The Legendary Roots Crew?!!!??!

This AP piece seems to do the story justice, and goes into great detail, so I direct any interested readers that way (and...maybe I'm just typing to myself here anyway, haha!?!); but, I'm super excited about this.

While it, at times, likens the newly acquired role for "Philly's Finest" as a form of 'selling-out,' a la Paul Shaffer and Kevin Eubanks (or even equivocates it to Miles Davis resorting to playing on a "subway platform"), and speaks of warnings of negative experience from Branford Marsalis to ?uestlove; I think it will be a good thing and is a very smart move for The Roots to stay in the spotlight and greatly increase their, already universal, fanbase.

Before 1993, I had no idea who Max
Weinberg was, even as an aspiring percussionist. I knew vaguely of "The Boss" (...and no, not Officer Ricky), Bruce Springsteen. And, aside from the black dude who played the sax in the E Street Band (Clarence Clemons), I couldn't tell you any of his other band members (until The Sopranos, of course).

Late Night with
Conan O'Brien absolutely brought the likes of Max, The Weinberg 7, and trombonist Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg into our homes and hearts, so much so that the crew was instantly recognizable to myself and millions of others during their recent Super Bowl half-time performance.

So, this move for The Roots should introduce them to a whole new group of fans. After all, if you like ANY kind of music, and can appreciate/carry a tune, you're bound to LOVE them. And who knows...maybe in a few years, once all of the Janet Jackson titty-malfunction, and Prince's guitar-fallic-symbol shadow controversies have blown over; the billions of viewers for the 2014 Super Bowl can be treated to an amazing Roots Crew half time set!?

I, for one, definitely WANT MORE!!!!!!!!

MOS(t) DEF(initely), LAME...

So, things are straight strugglin' over in my corn3r, right now. Life stress has hit the max, my most important personal relationship has taken a hit, and to add to the pile o' $hit, I'm now a recent casualty of the great recession of '08/'09; and was laid-off last week. But like my boy Vic has reassured me: "Being unemployed is what's HOT in the streets, right now..." So, at least I'm still 'cool,' I guess : /

Anyway, as I'd already purchased tix first-thing, and had not left the house nor my room for that matter since I was given my walking papers last Wednesday, I figured it was time I ventured outside for some fresh air, and a nice hip-hop show courtesy of "First name: Dante, last name: Beze" or otherwise known as Mos Def.

I'd already braced myself for the worst, considering that tha 9:30 club had greedily (let's face it, it all comes down to the dough...) added a second "later" show.

In PJ Urquilla's review, he " credit" to tha 9:30 club, for this. But, as a die-hard fan, I find it a bit shiesty that they even attempted to fit-in a second show (plus, isn't there a midnight 'curfew' in DC for 'all ages' shows?? AND, where's my opportunity for a second Lily Allen show, ehh!!?!), which in the end, gives the 'bigger' fans who didn't sleep initially and acted on tix first, a sub par experience. By any 'second set,' the artists, DJs, hypemen, engineers...fuck it, even the bartenders and bouncers are all more relaxed and know what to expect. I think that this would always be the case, and unfortunately it all came true for the 1st, and it seems 2nd show, as well.

As I wasn't there for the 2nd show (again, for the low-down, see PJ's review), and can only attest to the 1st show's experience, I'll only speak on that...but, I was highly disappointed.

From the get-go, I could already tell that the tour's opening (and, for an hour-and-a-half unexpected intermission's...) DJ was timid, at best. Assuming that he 'understood the crowd' and fans that a Mos Def show would bring, I'd expected a lot more of the Rawkus and Soulquarian type sounds that we'd all have loved to hear, while waiting around aimlessly. Instead it was a handful of standard random '90s underground hits, and more than a few ALT-finger-snappin' tracks, and even a '98/'99 R&B group Next, remix (...I mean, really!!?). Apparently, the 2nd show was treated to Mos voicing-over a bit of Outkast's "SpottieOttieDopalicious" instrumental (although maybe in essence, just a hidden sound-check...), while we in the 1st show heard it more than once, and initially on repeat for what seemed like 15-20 minutes. And, while some find it a respectful "nod" to the DMV to drop the staple of Chuck Brown and other Go-Go music tracks, at any DC area hip-hop show...I
find it to be somewhat of a lowly insulting cop-out. It's like opening sets in NYC with the standard Rakim tracks, or Philly with the Roots...for those of us 'in the scene,' it gets super-stale and expected after a while. And, while I love dude, and hope for him to get us out of this many times do we need to be reminded by out-of-town-artists, who is in the White House now??? We live here, and we KNOW this...

The evening seemed saved with the opening act, Philly's Hezekiah, straight ripping it; with the help of his DJ (who really should've stayed-on for the unexpected intermission) and the funky blasts from the back-up pipes of Sax/(electric flute/clarinet?)Trumpeter duo, "Me So Horny." (<-- LOVE the name!!) Hezekiah and Co. did more than their share of getting the crowd warmed up, but then it would be a chilly hour-and-change before we'd even hear Mos' hype-man assurances that he was "on the way."

I know we can't hold Mos responsible for a late Continental flight from NYC, cause I know how that can be...but, it was very poor, as his fans who wanted to see him first (...and more, lets face it, we stepped-up and bought or tix, on time) to be treated to nothing more than a glorified sound-check session. Although we could hear him, and the music levels were 'fine'...we were subjected to constant lamenting from Mos on the state of sounds in the venue. He had his back to us for most of the show, chatting it-up (bitching) to his two DJ/Soundmen (...really, you can't just have dude #2 run the MPC from side-stage??).

And, even his attempt to blast the 9:30 engineers for unknowingly having the 1947-1951
Maya Deren, Haitian-Voodoo DVD, Divine Horsemen, accidentally stuck on repeat for the first scene, for a good 20-30 minutes. The fact that he even became aware of this, with the jumbo-tron screen up-above-and-behind him, is proof that he had his back to us, his fans, long and often enough to notice. Plus, by this point; I think we'd all had enough of the chicken neck wringing, and goat-blood letting for the evening, so keeping it on repeat may not have been such a bad thing, after all.

Ahhh, I have enough going-on to dwell on the negative, so I will just leave it at that. It was a very disappointing experience. I've loved Mos since the days of Soundbombing, and have defended him from naysayer’s, peeps around the way in Brooklyn, and even former classmates of his who've always clowned him and my respect for dude; but, my days of all of that may be numbered.

He straight rocked it at the old DC Nation venue with Black Jack Johnson (...please bring that sound BACK!!!), and killed it this past summer; on his own, as well as teamed-up with Q-Tip at the Rock The Bells show. Perhaps I was simply expecting too much from someone who I felt was one of "real/underground" hip-hop's brightest and 'Mos' talented stars?? But, who knows, the clouds must have just been extra thick the other night, on 9th & V...

Monday, February 9, 2009

2009 DC Dilla Event - Dilla's Nite/Kev Brown's B-Day!!

So, as you can see, I've been kinda slummin' on the bloggin' tip. A lot going on in the personal life, work's been killer, and the DC area has been dealing with enough lately regarding our new Prez's (big-up to OBAMA!!!) stimulus package, and coming down from all of the incredible inaugural excitement.

Just when it seemed like we had nothing to get hyped about in this area until our perennial/obligatory 4th of July BBQ/Party (...MAN, summer '09 seems years away, don't it??); it's time to celebrate the life, legacy and AMAZING (<-- I try to only use that word when truly applicable...) catalog of James Dewitt Yancey, a.k.a. Jay Dee, a.k.a. J Dilla, a.k.a. Dilla Dawg!!!

For the rest of my life, Feb. 7th - Feb. 10th, and which ever week(s) those days fall on, will be Dilla Week, to me!!! Last year's was spent between BKNY's Donuts are Forever and DC's unmatched XM Radio event featuring Dilla's Moms, Pete Rock and Talib Kweli (see post below!!).

Washington, DC's Red Lounge is already the jump-off every Tuesday night, featuring resident DJs 2 Tone Jones, and my mans Roddy Rod. The cherry-on-top tomorrow, is that there will be Dilla's music on BLAST, all night long. Plus, it's also one of the DMV's greatest producer's, Kev Brown's B-day, so be sure to wish him a "Happy 30-somethin'!!!" And as always, one of the area's GREATEST MCs (as in skillz on the mic...AND...awesome Master of Ceremonies) Grap Luva of INI and brother to legendary producer Pete Rock, will be in the building to keep things moving all night.

Not that it's anything new, but I've been specifically filtering the Jay Dee tracks on my iTunes, all week. I seriously can't wait to hear some more, among his great fans, some of the area's best Hip-Hop/R&B/Soul artists, and LOUD as F*&<, just as it was always meant to be played.

So, just like Dilla said: Turn it UP!!!

Dilla's Nite/Kev Brown B-Day
Tomorrow, Tuesday 2.10.09
9:00pm - Until
Red Lounge
2013 14th Street, NWDC
$7 Cover, or FREE if you go HERE and cop a T-Shirt and bring proof of purchase!!

(Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, the mother of the late James “J Dilla” Yancey, is currently battling Lupus/Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP or Moschcowitz disease), the same disease that took her son’s life. Proceeds from the purchase of this shirt, as well as the DC event will go towards Ma Dukes. So, show your love!!!)

[red+lounge+flyr1.jpg]The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Saj’s Hip-Hop Corner: Dilla Tribute

Re-postin' from '08...all respect due to the "King of Beats..."


Ain’t it a bitch when your iPod (…or other jankier version of mp3 player) conks-out on you!? And1.gif, it’s in that very moment of having that condescending “iPod sad face” looking back-up at you, that you realize that you’ve most likely lost a lot, if not all, of those classic tracks that you never backed-up/took from friend’s libraries/actually paid for??

Well, a version of this happened to me, only it wasn’t with any kind of mp3 player, and the machine that was lost cannot ever be actually restored or backed up.

The date of my “crash” was February 10, 2006, and it wasn’t an actual piece of hardware in my possession that was destroyed, but rather a world of musical genius that was taken from all of us, much-much too soon.

James Dewitt Yancey, better know to the masses these days as Dilla (…but also as Jay Dee/J. Dilla) truly first touched my life back in 1995 with The Pharcyde’s release Labcabincalifornia.

As a long time Tribe and Pharcyde fan…I would continue to be effected by the genius of Jay Dee, often disguised to me as The Ummah. Only with Dilla’s notoriously humble attitude and mind state; myself, like many others wouldn’t ever truly get to realize what we had “Got til it [was] gone,” to quote the sample-hook from his 1997 remix collaboration with Janet Jackson.

There was not one single Jay Dee produced track on The Pharcyde’s sophomore effort that did not completely rock my world. And to my pleasure, every singe Jay Dee remix from the maxi-12” I was to purchase later-on in 1995 (Runnin’, Y?, She Said) would be even more impressive. All the while, in my adolescent and blissful ignorance I’d assumed that it was most likely Imani, Booty Brown, Fatlip or Slim Kid Tre that was to receive credit for the amazing sounds, thumps, and kicks that you could hear coming out of my bedroom, headphones or car speakers for the next 11 years. Only, it wasn’t.

Without knowing who the specific wizard behind the magic, was…his concoctions were still obviously apparent to me. A Tribe Called Quest’s 1995 single Glamour And Glitz from The Show soundtrack had those precise keys, bangs, claps and kicks to it that I’d grown to recognize and love instantly…who was that?!?

Then, with the future release of the Tribe’s fourth album, Beats, Rhymes and Lifea-tribe-called-quest-beats-rhymes-life.jpg

I was still unaware who the actual beatsmith to all of my favorite tracks actually was. With Beats… having the most shout-outs (…in comparison, by album) to this mysterious “Ummah,” I, at least, had a starting point. But again…similar to my hunch regarding the Pharcyde, I’d naively assumed that The Ummah must have been composed of existing group members Tip, Shaheed…maybe Phife…Jarobi, possibly. But again, Jay Dee eluded me.

The wool, unfortunately, would not be pulled from over my eyes for another 3 years. Even as I blasted works that I’d already owned…Jay Dee’s beautifully crafted Janet Jackson remix, or pulled out that Keith Murray Enigma CD that I’d purchased at the old Tower Records in Lincoln Center,7.jpg as soon as I’d hit that mesmerizing and blatantly obvious Ummah creation, “Dangerous Ground” at the listening station; I had no idea that it was Dilla’s genius making my headphones bump-and-kick to every beat.

Although it didn’t do much financially for the artists…believe it or not, I had Napster to thank for my introduction to Jay Dee. I had put my T3 (…strange coincidence, for all my SV fans out there…) connection to use HARD, once I had my off-campus apartment; and like any good Tribe fan, set out to obtain every bite of music available, at the time.

Now, for all my bloggers/DJs out there…there can be no bigger pet peeve than mis-labeled tracks or information. But, to this day, I wish I could personally thank the user who had mis-labeled a number of Slum Village’s yet to be released Fantastic Vol. 1 tracks as being those of ATCQ.

From this moment on, track by track, beat by beat, verse by verse; I would finally become aware of the source to these amazing songs that would dominate my life, probably forever. It was Jay Dee…dilla-anthology.gif

From my low-quality version of random Fantastic Vol. 1 cuts, outtakes and white labels, I’d make it my mission to find, purchase, own, and at the very least hear all of this musical genius’ work.

I was even fortunate enough to see Tribe and Slum Village perform together back in 1998 at Georgetown’s McDonough Arena. For an opener, and even with all of the wasted and privileged students in the audience, chatting-away and passing time until a recognizable Quest song came on; Baatin, T3 and the maestro Jay Dee still had a way of commanding the entire arenas attention. In their coordinated and colorful (yet, still cool looking…) Abercrombie Sport outfits, and gut-long iced out chains; the trio went through every banging track of their yet to be released Fantastic Vol. 2.

That would be the first and last time I ever saw Dilla.

So, back to the jump…you can imagine (…if it hasn’t already affected you…) how I felt that fateful February day in 2006, when I’d learned that the musical genius that I’d grown to respect, promote, and love was taken from all of us.

To be honest, I’ve almost felt a little bit guilty of the, at times, selfish feelings I’ve had when it comes to the loss of Jay Dee. Sometimes I feel like, some force of evil came into my life and not only “jacked my iPod’s memory,” but also went digging into the crates of records and CDs that I’d obtained over the last 15 years; located the ones that had the most wear and use, and the ones I loved most; found the source of those beautiful creations, and villainously took it away from all of us. I literally feel robbed when it comes to J. Dilla and his work.

The bittersweet upside to the legend of Jay Dee, however is the notoriety and fame his legacy continues to receive after his physical passing. Since that very week in 2006, there have been countless concerts, fundraisers and tributes to the talents and genius of James Yancey…from DC, to Detroit, Denmark and back.9.jpg


Most recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a tribute held up at Brooklyn’s South Paw, and MC’ed by Phonte of Little Brother with non-stop-Dilla-tunes spun by a number of artists including Jay Dee’s old friend and fellow Detroit native DJ Houseshoes.

The10.jpg night was literally electric with the crowd becoming more and more enthused with each and every track.Fans, MC’s, DJ’s and producers alike could be sighted all around partying in unison to Dilla’s music, around every corner and on both floors…From Dice Raw to Evil Dee.

But even that magical night in Brooklyn, as close as it came, could not top what I was11.jpg about to encounter a few weeks later.

I had been out of the area traveling. And to my surprise came back to the DC area in the week following Presidents Day, with news of a local Dilla Tribute. There have been more than a few good ones in the area, mostly affiliated with Pookies Gallery, and held either at Mirror’s or Liv. At these gatherings you’ll find the usual suspects, good music, good times, good people. But the event that was about to bless DC this time, was on a whole new level.

We, in the DC area (DMV, if you’re down…) are fortunate to have the XM Satellite radio studios right in our backyard. The amazing artists that come through the facility is like a literal who’s-who of the music business, regardless of what type/genre of tunes, news or information floats your boat. When I’d learned that there was going to be a live taping of a J. Dilla tribute, featuring some of my most favorite local (…and don’t take that to suggest sub-par, because DC is on FIRE, right now…) artists, Talib Kweli, the legendary Pete Rock, and Mrs. Maureen Yancey, Jay Dee’s mother??? I HAD to be there…


Of course, even though I RSVP and attend just about every single Pookie’s event, I was somehow left out of the loop on this, and had to get in via my boy who works for Red Bull/Red Bull Music Academy, a main sponsor of the event (…GOOD look, Vic!!!).

Dilla was smiling on me that evening, and even though I’d missed Vic’s text at 6:59pm, telling me to get to the studios in NE, DC in 45 minutes; and I didn’t see it until 7:26pm. I jumped into the nearest cab in Rosslyn and paid dude double to make it happen…and it did.

You could feel the energy, just walking into the waiting area. A lot of beautiful people who enjoyed the same beautiful music created by a legend. There was definitely “that feeling” in the air. And, to be in the presence of two of hip-hop’s most recognizable names, and Mrs. Yancey (…quite possibly one of the sweetest women on Earth)…it really was beyond words.12.jpg

The most meaningful, and in retrospect blatantly obvious realization of the night actually and appropriately came to me via Mrs. Yancey. At an earlier Dilla tribute in DC in 2007, I was fortunate enough to hear about an occasion when Grap Luva of INI and Pete Rock went to Detroit to visit Dilla. This story is retold from Pete’s perspective again, as well as from that of Mrs. Yancey (I invite you all to check out the broadcast here…it’s AMAZING!!!).

13.pngBut, the statement that truly hit home was when Mrs. Yancey recounted Jay Dee’s admiration and the level of prestige that he held for Pete Rock.

As a hip hop fan, I too hold Pete on the same level as Dilla did, (…and for me, that’s the same level that Dilla is on…as one of Hip Hop’s greatest). To see Pete Rock, accepting the praises and admiration that Dilla was unable to convey in the present day, via Mrs. Yancey…was simply incredible.

So, now-a-days I have my Black Milk, Flying Lotus, and Kev Brown to turn to, when I want that good music fix that up until 2006…I thought only Dilla was able to provide. But, if this most recent tribute is any indication of the influence, collaboration, and artistic creativity that his legacy has inspired in a lot of us…we’re all in for a real treat.