While the season of summer is slowly coming to an end in the northern hemisphere, there is one summer that you are able to experience all year. In this case, this summer is named Summer, who comes from Charlotte, North Carolina and likes to do a bit of poetry over her music. She has an album due out in a few days and this is one of the songs on there. The album was produced by whatupmarc. While one summer fades, allow this Summer to shine and keep shining.
Canada’s Wordburglar is not waiting around for anyone to show him the way, he’s going to take to the road himself. A week from now, he will be playing his first-ever show in London to take part in “A Night Of Alternative Hip-Hop” put together by the folks at Lesson Six. Before I go on, I should say that if you dare call yourselves Lesson Six, you must know the logic of the lessons, and by calling themselves the 6th lesson, they know it’s about the future, the end times, or “once what was is officially over, it’s now time for the next”. Consider Wordburglar to be a part of that next level.
He will not be doing the show along, for The Ruby Kid will be opening up. The Kid does a mixture of spoken word with his hip-hop, from a British perspective so his fans who are in tune with him should be open to the works of the Wordburglar, with a shared appreciation for exciting and enticing the verbals. Again, “Lesson Six”.
The show will be next week Monday (3rd September) at the Shoreditch (Shoreditch High Street), and tickets will only be £5, not a bad deal at all. You can purchase tickets by clicking here.
(If you haven’t taken a look, you can read my review of Wordburglar’s latest album, 3rdburglar, by going this way.)
When Saul Williams starred in the film Slam, which in part focused on his style of slam poetry, it was this line that stood out in the film more than anything, because I feel the same way. I know my strengths and weaknesses, I also know my capabilities, but why is it that I can’t seem to find any level of… I don’t know, selfish adoration but in truth just constant and consistent work? Williams has been doing some powerful work for over 10 years, and in recent years has added singing in to his work. Truth is, there has always been vocalizing in his spoken word pieces, it was just never made to be the emphasis. Now his singing is a primary focus, and some have said that as he presents himself in this persona, he has shied away from what he became known for. Bur has he? I say no.
Williams remains a poetic man, or at least someone who writes well, has an incredible sense of saying what his own his mind, and doing it with depth and power, he says things like a jazz musician understands the silence between notes. It’s just that these days, he has done more singing and to be honest, his singing voice is not bad. Lenny Kravitz and Garland Jeffries came to my mind, and in some of the tracks on Volcanic Sunlight, hints of Elvis Costello too.
Musically, this might not appeal to those who felt he was a derivative of hip-hop in the late 90’s. Some might go so far as to say he’s doing music to appeal to white people, as it’s very new wave-ish and sometimes rock oriented. The more I ponder on what “white music” is, the more I understand that much of what is accused of being white is actually rooted not only in soul, jazz, and gospel, but musical styles that are native to other countries. Williams sounds like what hip-hop could be like today, a manic sponge that takes everything but you still know who is the one waving the name tag around. It could be an Outkast album if it wasn’t for Williams’ voice. If someone wants to stereotype this as “white music”, they’re really not listening deep enough. If Williams’ is doing something, he’s doing a variation of a variation that also happened to be a variation of what came before. Away from being genre specific, it’s an exciting album musically, and the music tells the tale that Williams may not be able to describe in words, both go hand in hand.
Williams remains a storyteller, he just happens to do it a bit differently than he did a decade again. Then again, it may not be so different. Volcanic Sunlight represents a burst of energy that can’t be controlled, and who knows what would happen if it truly bursts into flames. If people still want to call this phase of Williams’ work as “persona”, then it’s a persona I hope will keep creating for a long time.
Saul Williams has had an adventurous career thus far, and who could imagine he would be where he is today? Where is he? We don’t know, but what we do know is that he’s been touring around the world off of the strength of his Volcanic Sunlight album (review coming soon), and when he returns home to take a break, he will return to embrace the American homelands with a few excursions into Canada for what he’s calling The Volcanic Sunlight Tour. He will be here:
Fri. 17-Feb… Brooklyn, NY (Music Hall Of Williamsburg)
Sat. 18-Feb… Boston, MA (Brighton Music Hall)
Mon. 20-Feb… Hoboken, NJ ( Maxwells)
Wed. 22-Feb… Philadelphia, PA (World Café Live)
Thu. 23-Feb… Washington, DC (Black Cat)
Fri. 24-Feb… Chapel Hill, NC (Cats Cradle)
Sat. 25-Feb… Atlanta (The Masquerade)
Sun. 26-Feb… Tampa, FL (Orpheum)
Mon. 27-Feb… Orlando, FL (The Social)
Wed. 29-Feb… New Orleans (HOB)
Thu. 1-Mar… Houston (Fitzgeralds)
Fri. 2-Mar… Dallas, TX (Sons of Herman hall)
Sat. 3-Mar… Austin, TX (Mohawk)
Mon. 5-Mar… Albuquerque, NM (The Launchpad)
Tue. 6-Mar… Phoenix, AZ (rescent Ballroom)
Thu. 8-Mar… Los Angeles, CA (El Rey)
Fri. 9-Mar… San Diego, CA (Soda Bar)
Sat. 10-Mar… San Francisco, CA (Slims)
Mon. 12-Mar… Portland, OR (Doug Fir)
Tue. 13-Mar… Seattle, WA (Neumo’s)
Wed. 14-Mar… Vancouver, BC (Biltmore)
Fri. 16-Mar… Salt Lake City, UT (Urban Lounge)
Sat. 17-Mar… Denver, CO (Marquis)
Mon. 19-Mar… Minneapolis, MN (Triple Rock)
Tue. 20-Mar… Chicago, IL (Bottom Lounge)
Wed. 21-Mar… Cleveland, OH (Grog Shop)
Fri. 23-Mar… Toronto, ON (Great Hall)
Sat. 24-Mar… Montreal, PQ (El Cabaret)
Ngoma Hill, the self-proclaimed “Godfather of spoken word”, has a brand new album out called Poetry From A Smart Phone, and his style of spoken word poetry layered over soul, funk, and jazz continues to be moving at a time when it seems people have become too comfortable in being stagnant. His works is still very much in the vein of The Last Poets and the recently departed Gil Scott Heron, where you can’t help but react and be moved by the messages he shares on everything from shedding your inner demons to being aware of a New World Order that perhaps we can’t escape.
Ngoma embraces a need to get back to our true inner selves, but it may hard to do when we can’t quite recognize ourselves anymore, thus the reason for his works. I always like what he’s able to do with his pieces, and I look forward to hearing him. While I would’ve liked a more enjoyable production that felt more stereophonic than monaural, the slightly claustrphobic feel is very apt and I find myself settling in with its slight murkiness.
There’s a sense amongst some hip-hop fans that the sense of power has diminished, or is being manipulated by those who have nothing to do with hip-hop. A perfect example is the female MC. There was a time when there was a new lady stepping up to the microphone on a weekly, if not daily basis, trying not so much to be the queen, but to become an addition to the exclusive community. Yet there was always a view, particularly from men, that a woman does not belong on the stage that Roxanne Shante and Ms. Melodie once spoke of, but is preferred masturbatory eye candy.
Spoken word artist Jasmine Mans touches on this topic in a spoken word piece called “Nicki Minaj”, as it focuses on a woman who has brought back the discussion of female MC’s, but in a context that is very different from the era of “Ladies First”, “Monie In The Middle”, and “Paper Thin”. Many of the cherished women in hip-hop came from the golden era, a time when it was about self-awareness, Afrocentricity, honor and price for the music and self. Yet take a look at what’s happening today, and soon sensuality became more important than sexuality, because let’s face it, most mainstream female rappers are rarely about being sexual. It can be argued that regardless of how blunt dancehall reggae artists can be, artists such as Lady Saw and Tanya Stephens have taken over in spots that some female rappers have forgotten.
But back to this video. Mans looks at Nicki Minaj and while proud that a woman has taken the hip-hop spotlight once again, she also asks at what cost? Mans basically states in her piece that Minaj may represent the “same as it ever was” mentality, and that as a message from one woman to another, Mans is basically telling her to look in the mirror and understand what she’s doing before she helps influence a generation of disposable Barbie dolls.
At the end of 2009, Green Monkey Records founder Tom Dyer released a retrospective of his own work called Songs From Academia Vol. 1, and from the title along it meant that there was more in store. Here’s that more.
Songs From Academia Vol. 2: Instrumental and Spoken Word, 1980-2008 goes back 30 years at a time when Seattle and its music scene was proud to be isolated from the rest of the world. All of these songs sound like perfect background for unused films, and that’s because Dyer devoted a lot of time and energy to make sure they were good, even if at times they were just good for him. This is a true solo album, with most of the songs featuring Dyer accompanying Dyer. “Van Vliet Street” could easily be something from the Captain Beefheart files but this 1981 track could have easily been performed by Romeo Void as well, complete with psychotic saxophone solo. If you’re more into the kind of country you might hear at a bar after 2am, tune in to “Grub”. “Skank!”, sounds like what N*E*R*D would have sounded like if they were able to jam with Prince in 1983, while “More Colors Available” sounds like what our childhood dreams of Japan were like: nothing but a collage of video games. “Ornette” rocks hard as Dyer jams with The Adults and makes it sound raw and raunchy.
The newer recordings sound like they were done 20 to 30 years ago, and the fact that the older songs still sound fresh shows how well these songs have held up, particularly for those who remember what the Seattle music scene was like pre-… well, everything. If Dyer and Green Monkey Records blew up in the same way Queensryche, Heart, Kenny G., Robert Cray, and Rail did… well, listening to this makes me a bit happy that it didn’t become a worldwide success, because it’s an artist who sounded not so much thirsty, as he was itching to create anything to create sound. I’m thankful that this exists. I’m not sure having a world full of Tom Dyer copycats would be a good one, which is my way of saying he is one of a kind, representing what Seattle music is all about, period.
“Me And The Devil” is the first video for Gil Scott-Heron‘s brand new album, I’m New Here, due out on February 9th in the US (8th in the UK). The album is being released by XL Recordings.
It was 40 years ago that Scott-Heron released his debut album on Flying Dutchman, Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, and in that time influenced everyone from beat poets to spoken word enthusiasts and of course hip-hop. A lot has happened since then, and much has changed since Scott-Heron released his last album in 1994, Spirits (TVT), and he is sure to touch upon some of these things on the new album.