Singer Destani Wolf has a new EP called Peek Away and on it she does a song called “Uprising”. She had some friends to put together a remix so Headnotic of Mission:/Crown City Rockers fame put it together, brought in Raashan Ahmad to drop a rhyme and this is the end result.
Releasing one of the best albums in recent years, Raashan Ahmad is back with a brand new song that will remind you of the greatness of the outdoors. He calls this song “Blue Skies”, upped to his Soundcloud page this morning, have a listen to it now.
As promised, Kat O1O has relased the second volume of her MeowMIx Retrospective, featuring various tracks she has taken part in in the last 15 years, including contributions from the Mission:/Crown City Rockers collective plus Eric Krasno, People Under The Stairs, DJ Day, and more. Miss Ouano promises more music in the near future, so let’s see what she’ll come up with next.
(If the download link is unavailable on the player above, click to the Soundcloud page for the MeowMix Retrospective. Vol. 1 can be downloaded by heading here.)
In pop radio, the question “how long has this been going on?” was raised by the band Ace, featuring vocalist Paul Carrack, who would later help in giving Squeeze and Mike + The Mechanics hits. In 2013, “How Long” is a question raised again, this time by Raashan Ahmad and perhaps the song has the same addictive qualities as its distant pop song cousin. Ahmad brings in Geoffrey Oryema to try to come up with some answers. The song is taken from Ahmad’s great album Ceremony (Jakarta) (my review of which can be read by clicking here), and the video was directed by Charles Brandon Hayes.
Upon getting this album for review, my initial assumption was that this was Atheist, the old speed metal band. Exploring things a bit further, I learned that it was not a group, but an individual named Atheist. He was not metal, but hip-hop. On top of that, he is from Salt Lake City. While I know SLC has been a stop for many hip-hop artists, I wasn’t aware of any rappers from the area, and my stereotypes had to do with me assuming SLC wouldn’t be a place that would be rap friendly. I was proven wrong, and I’m glad I was.
Topanga is an album that I had to sit through a bit in order to figure things out. I’m hearing a guy who sounded decent on the mic and had some clever lyrics, but I wanted to be sure if this guy was legitimate. Atheist himself even touches on the stereotypes that exist for his city, and that opened him up a bit more. The album reflects on his life so far, including his upbringing and the things he experiences on a regular basis, but what holds true is his sense of humor and that he isn’t afraid to poke fun or mock not only himself, but his surroundings to show that despite the assumed differences, we are essentially the same. His definition of “old school” may not be the same as mine or yours, but it’s a reflection of what was good, why that matters, and how we carry that on in our lives today, thus one of the reasons he calls this after a well known sitcom TV show character. The production is quite nice throughout, and I think he can easily find a place in today’s hip-hop, whatever today’s hip-hop represents for the everyday fan. I found myself listening to it and discovering new things with each play, which doesn’t come with every hip-hop album I hear. Believe in the wit and wisdom of Atheist.
If you had heard a few tracks of Raashan Ahmad’s latest album Ceremony (my review of which can be read by clicking here) or you had hesitated because it wasn’t on vinyl yet, you’re in luck now but you have to act on this immediately. This is a super (if not extreme) limited edition pressing of a mere 50 copies, so if you want one, head over to Raashan.net and make your order. If you’re someone who’d like to have the record autographed from the man himself, they’re available by request.
Ceremony (Jakarta) is the new album by MC Raashan Ahmad, and in everything he has done in the last 15 years or so, this is an album that is a demonstration of not only his worldly travels, but the internal travels he has gone through recently and perhaps throughout life. Musically, the different cultural textures of the album makes it come off like a cross between Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock and Paul Simon’s Graceland, and yet one is able to grasp the fullness of Ahmad’s stories simply by placing it on their stereos or slipping on headphones and being able to sonically travel that way. The goal for Ahmad, I’d like to think, is to let people know that the first step in those travels is making that first step forward. As I’m listening to these songs, I was reminded of the photo of Osibisa that was in the gatefold cover of their debut album. It seem to speak of brotherhood, of family, or in Ahmad’s case, different aspects of himself divided in song form, and uniting as one for the sake of showing that oneness he hopes to pass to each listener.
At least that’s what I’m getting through Ceremony, an album that seems to celebrate different aspects of what he witnesses and experiences, be it music, children, family, or simply living. It sounds like someone who has been to the places he has talked about or if he hasn’t, it’s on his bucket list. It’s a positive album, the type of hip-hop (and hip-hop album) that should be celebrate by the masses but aren’t. I want the kind of music that takes me places, especially when I’m unable to at a specific moment, I want to hear the journey from the beginning to the end. While not a concept album, it does have a running theme where the ceremony in question may be at each place he goes to or raps from, or maybe it’s the eventual ceremony he hopes to have waiting for him once he makes it back home. What I also love about the album is that at times his voice seems worn out a bit, specifically as the album moves towards the end. I’m not sure if he recorded these songs in order of appearance, but it comes off as the weary traveler, affected by the weather and his surroundings. That’s another thing too: it’s hip-hop that sounds like it has spent time outdoors, like many of us did as kids. It’s a way to let the youth know “open the door” to whatever you want to see. Read a book, walk to the park with friends, head out of town if you can. It was A Tribe Called Quest who released an album called People’s Instinctive Travels & The Paths Of Rhythm and this is some of those rhythms that detail Ahmad’s path. I’ve loved what he had done during his time with Mission: and Crown City Rockers, and I’m certain that there are many more paths for Ahmad to take from here on out.
As a member of Mission:, which morphed into Crown City Rockers, Ethan Parsonage has been on top of his game not only as a producer, but as their bassist. The Headnodic moniker has kept his foot placed firmly in hip-hop, as a means to let people know he can make the kind of music that will make the head nod. While that in itself describes primarily hip-hop, it covers any form of music that will make you move, but often is used to describe the emotions feel when one listens to soul, funk, jazz, or any hybrid of these. All of his previous projects have never shied away from being hip-hop, but for The Iguana (Ropeadope), Headnodic leaves his assumed comfort zone to find himself in a place where he sounds quite comfortable.
If the album title is any indication, perhaps Headnodic seems himself as an iguana shedding its skin to reveal its truer, inner self. For me: Mission: and Crown City Rockers were always a band that were not only a hip-hop band, but a band who were great in playing a wide range of music. The public perception seemed to be that they merely played to show that they were a hip-hop backing band, and maybe that comes from hip-hop’s not so much misunderstanding of real instrumentation, but almost a lack of interest in it unless you were able to prove yourself. That’s not to say that Crown City Rockers didn’t, but after awhile it seemed its members were finding more adventures outside of the group’s core. Oddly enough, the core of the group would still remain, but by twisting things in a different way, one was able to find its own skin shedding, which revealed the different interests much stronger in this context. Headnodic’s previous album had a hip-hop focus but for The Iguana, hip-hop is put on the shelf and he allows himself to play the kind of music that made him want to become a musician in the first place.
To put it simply, this is the kind of album you would expect to find in the back of your favorite uncle’s or auntie’s closet, the one marked with the date 1977, along with handwritten call letters for one of the three radio stations that dared to play this music. The music is a mixture of not only soul and funk, but there are elements of jazz, Afro-beat, some Latin and Brazilian influences, and a track with a distinct Pink Floyd flavor that shows how he can move towards a progressive rock slant. As is my ritual, I like to listen to the music before I read anyone’s press release, I want my view of the music to be my own, I don’t like to be persuaded to feel one way just because that’s what they want me to feel. The influences I hear in this are very much what Headnodic wanted to achieve, and it’s nice to hear it done in this way, as if he’s saying “this is the kind of music I have loved, and this is not just me being a sample reference. There’s great music, and I’d like for all of you to hear what I can do with it.”
He does so with fellow friends Kat Ouano and Max McVeety, who are able to bring their own influences into the fold as they have with one another for over ten years, to show why these three click so well in the first place. McVeety gets to play hard if he wants, funky when ready. Ouano can be as soothing as she’d like to be but dig deep into the grooves, but you may catch a few classical references here in there, as she has always hinted throughout her career. Add to this mix the guitar work of Persephone’s Bees’ Tom Ayers and Agua Libre percussionst Valentino Peeps, and this comes off like some incredible and trippy album released between 1972 to 1978, maybe one that was released on a major label but only through the Japanese or German counterparts, obscure as hell but still sounds very familiar. It’s that kind of album Madlib would have fun recreating under one of his countless monikers, but what makes this work is the interaction between Headnodic and other musicians in the room, jamming with one another until they get something. It doesn’t have to be right or accurate, but if it feels good, they just let it go. It sounds great at 7am as it does at 12:15am, as it would at 2 or 3am. In fact, call it that 3am album where your mind is in that zone and you want to find the meaning of life and validate your existence. Or if anything, The Iguana compliments your existence and acknowledges what you like because they like it too.
I should also explain something. Most of the time when I put albums onto my iPod, if it is not indexed or numbered, I will do that myself, as it’s something I actually enjoyed doing. Realizing that the album I received was not numbered, it indexed the album alphabetically, which means I listened to it this way:
Blue In Green
Enter The Dragon
I am someone who holds to “the integrity of the album”, which means the way the artist presents it, I want to show respect to the sequence as the artist and producer programmed it from start to finish. Without indexed tracks, it started with “Ambus”, which came off like a bum-rush into the ears, as if Headnodic was saying “let’s do this funky like a hip-hop track, to let everyone know that I, and we, are back.” It goes through the motions and then the prog rock vibe happens with “Dissolver” before leading towards the end with “Zaya”, which has the vibe of Africa running through as if to say “this is where all music originated, we thank you for this.” The proper order of the album actually begins with “Dissolver”, so immediately it shows that Headnodic is immediately distancing this collection of music farther from what he may be known for. When I heard “Blue In Green”, its jazzy groove was the album’s second track but its proper placement is the closing track, which shifts the dynamic of the album a bit, as if to tell the listener that this how I’m musically rooted, but the tree continues to grow, see what I have become. In fact, play the album first as is, and enjoy it. Then re-sequence the tracks alphabetically by title. It’s the same set of 14 songs, but unintentionally it comes off like two completely different albums, as it provides two distinct listening experiences. I may program it alphabetically, but backwards, just to see if I have a third.
As for the album cover, while its elements started to reveal itself, it reminded me of an updated version of some of Roger Dean’s classic album covers, in fact it distinctly looks like a more futuristic version of what appeared on the back of Osibisa’s second album, Wכyaya, drawn by Dean.
Not sure if there’s a connection or it’s just an odd coincidence, but if there is a link, maybe in this case the iguana (and what it may represent) will now be the one to take flight and go in for the attack. Where is he going? Headnodic’s knows where he is going, he knows within.
(The Iguana will be released on October 23rd.)
Musician/producer Headnodic has created an online video series that he loves so much, he decided to name it after himself. It’s called Live From Headnodic’s, where he brings in various musicians, rappers, and singers to have a jam session of sorts to see and hear what happens. If you haven’t heard about this year, fear not, this is only episode two and for this show he brings in Lateef The Truth Speaker, The Seshen, Raashan Ahmad, Max MacVeety, Trio Zincalo and others.
Headnodic will be releasing a new album on October 23rd called The Iguana (Ropeadope), and a review on this very site is forthcoming.
Crown City Rockers remain one of my favorite bands of the last 15 years, and they decided to rock this one out at Headnodic’s place for a bit of celebratory “Vibrations”. One of my favorite parts of the song is when it reaches the 2:10: pure funk/soul/jazz/hip-hop heaven. Respect to CCR, who did this track in one take. If you like it, you can download the audio right here.