Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yeasayer-Madder Red (Live)

Christmas was yesterday, but here's a nice little late present for everyone. Yeasayer, one of my favorite new groups, has recently released a live album with the always nice price of pay-what-you-want. Odd Blood, their second album, is among my Top 10 of 2010 (check back this week for the top album lists from the JamandaHalf fam), and hearing their songs lives is a great testament to their ability as a band. With a band like Yeasayer which relies heavily on layered production, stitching various musical fabrics into their funky musical tapestry, sometimes their live shows can lack in complexity, missing the fullness that is present in their recorded albums. However, this live album is just as rich as their two albums, perhaps even exhibiting an added vibrancy which is always welcome to hear.

Tracks 2-5 off of Odd Blood always amaze me. Back to back to back to back hits, each one conquers a sound and emotion, each one shows off a different side of the band. The track that opens up their new live album, "Madder Red" is the gorilla glue that reins in the other three, allowing them to be three different panels on Yeasayer's funky tapestry rather than a incoherent group of individual panels. Super dope its in own right, this song is a bright stroke of indie pop that is a clear standout, especially on this new live album. Enjoy.

Download Song Here

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kanye West-Family Business

More than presents, more than the snow outside the window in Itakoski, Finland (my mother’s hometown, a stone’s throw away from the Arctic Circle), Christmas has always been most about family for me. Especially after I went to college and my family moved back to Ghana, I typically have seen my family only twice a year-Christmas and summer break. Christmas was usually a blur of jetlag and the Finnish traditions that we still keep, but mainly it was a time to catch up and just kick it.

Kanye’s latest is getting accolades from all over the place, and the blogosphere has pretty unanimously named it the best album of the year. It probably deserves it, but I would still much rather listen to The College Dropout over MBDTF any day of the week. While Kanye has become much more polished and intricate with his production, and his flow has come a long way, his first album still holds a special place for me, and I think marked a significant transition in rap history. On this jamandahalf, Kanye brings the entire family along. Over a perfectly lazy beat, Kanye talks about the ups-and-downs of all families, the good times and the times when you wish you were anywhere but with your kin. His stories are instantly relatable, because I know we all have enough tales to write a song about each of our families, but then again, that is your family business. You can always choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, and that’s the best part. Merry Christmas everyone. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nina Simone-Feeling Good

Nina Simone's songs feel like they never have a dishonest moment in them. All of her words appear backed by real feelings, all of her stories seem like they are autobiographical. With her powerful voice capable of a wide spectrum of emotions, there are few topics where Nina does not sound completely natural and in charge. In this 1965 great off of her album I Put A Spell On You, Simone shows off both her incredible humanity with music that is instantly relatable to, but with timeless vocals that never let you forget who the singer is.

Backed by a simple horn and strings section, Simone's voice is let loose over a swinging beat. Starting over nothing but silence, she is soon joined by the instruments, both playing off of one another till the end. The song is about grasping freedom from whatever is holding you back, whether it be something monumental (Simone is likely talking about the Civil Rights movement) or something that just affects you personally. Whatever it is, she's feeling really really good with herself, freedom is hers. Like she does in our first jamandahalf, "Sinnerman," Simone lets loose at the end of this jam, busting out into a primal scat solo worthy of the eternal Louis Armstrong. Words just can't do justice to her satisfaction in this uplifting jam.

Download Here

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Habib Koite & Bamada-Kanawa

Few things are as immediately recognizable as a jam. A book you have to read before you know whether it’s good or not, a movie usually has to finish before you can make any judgments, but a jam just feels right, the whole way through. There are few better examples of this than this jamandahalf by the outrageously talented Malian artist Habib Koite, who along with his dope band Bamada, are among the brightest stars of the vibrant Malian music scene.

The first fifteen seconds set this song up perfectly. Instruments join the song in by ones and two, harmoniously blending together to create a musical fruit smoothie, the sum much tastier than any of the individual parts. The best part of this song is how quickly it changes, its mercurial dips and dives. Each instrument is given a chance to shine, and each makes the best of their opportunity, especially Koite’s voice. Strong yet melodic, it fits seamlessly with the other instruments. Anchored by the chorus, the rest incorporates a live atmosphere, with significant instrumental breaks peppered in, ones that never drop the listener’s attention. Overall this jam is a great showcase of Malian music, a music that finds a way to create harmony between its myriad instruments without losing any of their individual shine. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Aphex Twin-Avril 14th

Let's slow it down just a bit. Got a lot of great feedback about the Foals cover and I'm glad that yall liked it as much as I did. It's the perfect pick up song. This one is the perfect mellow out jam. Clocking in at a second less than two minutes, "Avril 14th" by Aphex Twin will be instantly recognizable if you've listened at all to the new Kanye album (if you still don't have it, get it here for only $5). The sample used as the piano melody to the most complex, and possibly best, song on Kanye's album-"Blame Game," this short track fits a lot into it's 119 seconds while alternating between a cool confidence and deep nostalgia. It also makes you wonder how Kanye finds his samples. Drawing from an incredibly diverse range of artists and genres (you can find them all here) Kanye either has a fat crew listening to relatively obscure music, or has an insatiable thirst to listen to all that there is to listen to. While this jam isn't quite at the level of this song which Kanye sampled on Graduation, it still manages to immediately evoke the feelings of "Blame Game," while distancing itself from the turbulent emotions of that track. I've had it on repeat now for about 15 minutes, and each time I hear something new, each time something different catches my ear. Try it and tell me what you think.

 Aphex Twin - Avril 14th (Blame Game) by Hypetrak

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jamito-y-Medio #3: Foals-One (Cover)

This is the third "jamito-y-medio," Spanish for "little jamandahalf." This deserves to be up here like all other jamandahalfs, but due to time, it gets a shorter post and a cheesy Spanish name. 

The British invasion continues. After dropping a moody moving folk song yesterday from the British singer Fink, today we bring you a jamito-y-medio from the Foals, a five piece band from Oxford. The British indie rock group switches up their usual flow and takes on of the biggest club records of the summer (One by the Swedish House Mafia) giving it some spice, adding a little something Caribbean to it. They give the certified club banger a few Mojitos, maybe a "Cuba Libre," or three, while pulling out the bongos and other live instruments. With these instruments largely taking the place of the the original's purely computer generated sound, this track goes a little harder, feels a little more unleashed than the og, while not losing any of the first's undeniable catchiness. I love when band's go out of their comfort zone to tackle new styles of music, and the Foals definitely conquer this track.

 Foals-One (Swedish House Mafia Cover) ( by jammininthenameof

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fink-This Is The Thing

The JamandaHalf family continues to grow-a fellow assistant also living here in our rural Spanish town of Don Benito comes by with a folk song that has undeniable intensity to it which I love. Thanks Courtney, and keep the posts coming. 

I've been starting off my mornings for the past few weeks with this jamandahalf. The smooth sound of his voice goes down as easily as my morning coffee and helps me to slip into my day. Fink (aka Fin Greenall) is an English singer, songwriter, guitarist and DJ. His music was only just introduced to me by my favorite Danish friend but my trusty music guru was a bit behind on this one. "This is the Thing" is a song off Fink's third album, Distance and Time, released back in 2007. He's truly a brilliant songwriter and his lyrics entwine perfectly with his consistently bluesy, folksy, indie sound. His latest album, Sort of Revolution, was released last year and includes songwriting collaborations with John Legend. In addition to all of Finks previously listed talents, he's also produced major label artists including Amy Winehouse, Michael Pitt and Robert Belfour. He's currently in hiding working on his fifth album which will be released in the spring of 2011 but if you look hard enough you might find him bouncing around England DJ'ing under the name Sideshow. But for now, press play and let him pluck at your heart strings.

Download Here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lil' Wayne feat. Cory Gunz-6 Foot 7 Foot

Change of plans tonight. Was going to drop a dope electro jam, but that'll wait. Lil' Wayne's new single off Tha Carter IV leaked today.

Wayne has an elephant sized presence in my iTunes and I've been a Lil' Wayne fan since way back in the day when me and my buddy Quon would ride around on our bikes listening to his debut Tha Block Is Hot. Probably the best album ever put out by a 16-17 year old, his debut set the tone for years of hard hitting albums and mixtapes. While his albums seemed to sometimes put constraints on Wayne, his zaniness always found its way onto his countless mixtapes (I still think Tha Drought III is the best mixtape of all time). With his Tha Carter series, Wayne solidified himself as a serious artist, and his Tha Carter III album was one of the most successful  albums of this past decade.

Wayne's combination of punch lines, raw energy, word play, and the undeniable "it" factor have made him one of the most popular rap artists in the world. A recent jail stint though had people wondering what was the next step with Wayne, especially after his last two eh releases (Rebirth and I Am Not A Human Being). This street single seems to answer every question and doubt. Picking up right where "A Milli" left off, Weezy comes out throwing JaMarcus Russell fastballs. Wayne started writing his rhymes for the first time in jail, and although far from the lyrical precision of Rakim in our last jamandahalf, he makes up for it with a swag that seems to be at an all time high. With lines like: "real G's move in silence like lasagna," and "I got through that sentence like a subject and a predicate" Weezy seems like he's fully back, having fun, and out to prove that the jail sentence was nothing but a hiccup in his over 13 year old career. Welcome home.

 Lil' Wayne-6 Foot 7 Foot (feat Cory Gunz) ( by jammininthenameof

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eric B & Rakim-My Melody

This jamandahalf drops with an instantly recognizable keyboard jingle, sampled in at least thirty songs. Rakim quickly follows up after some scratching by Eric B: there isn't time to waste in this song for anything other than hard hitting rhymes, dope wordplay, and lyricism like Rap had never seen before. Just starting to reach the early stages of its "Golden Era" in mid 1987, Rap got an incredible boost with the release of Eric B and Rakim's classic debut album Paid in Full in July 1987 (which was incredibly only recorded in one week). While early rap was fun music meant for block parties (it's impossible to forget the famous "I said a hip, hop, hip...." of "Rapper's Delight"), 1987 saw albums which really were poetry put to music, with rappers focusing on storytelling and a newfound emphasis on the relationship of the words-borrowing literary tools previously owned by Frost and Shakespeare.

Clocking in at almost seven minutes, the nineteen year old Rakim's verses are a study in rhyme structure. Moving past simple end rhymes, Rakim instead was one of the first rappers, if not the first, who adopted complexity in his schemes-mixing in multisyllabic rhymes in all parts of the line. A lyrical genius, Rakim really shines in the forth (of five!) verses. Like a young gorilla announcing that he's the next silver-back, Rakim's forth verse is him beating his chest and telling the world that he's the best that there is.  Wrapping each elongated syllable around drops of the snare, the end effect is hypnotic-its impossible not to want to keep listening to see what his next punch line, impossible not to want to hear his next three syllable rhyme. An early classic that has never lost its uniqueness, this is a song that will keep surprising listeners for years to come.


 Eric B & Rakim - My Melody ( by jamand1/2

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cee Lo Green-No One's Gonna Love You

Cee Lo Green is the Soul Machine. That's not just the name of his second album; there are fewer truer statements about the modern music industry. Whatever Cee Lo touches, he infuses his unique fusion of oldschool motown flavor and a down south grittiness that finds success no matter what genre he decides to funkify. Starting off with one of the original (and one of the best) rap groups of all time, Goodie Mobb (who coined the phrase "Dirty South") Cee Lo decided to pursue a solo track, making two of the most eclectic "hip hop" albums of the decade. With his two later albums with the producer Danger Mouse as the group Gnarls Barkley, Cee Lo took his eclectic nature to a new level, dabbling in a rainbow of various styles and influences, allowing them to cross pollinate, and in the end creating pretty extraordinary music.

In his newest project, The Lady Killer, Cee Lo draws from his love of motown to create his most impassioned project to date. Filled with standouts,one my favorites is found at the tail end of the album. The album in itself is like a giant theatrical play about relationships, with different songs taking places of different acts, documenting the kaleidoscopic nature of the ups-and-downs of every relationship. On this jamandahalf, a cover of a Band of Horses song, Cee Lo takes the original by the Seatle indie band, and gives it a motown makeover-enrinching it with a soul smoothie, taking the slightly emo tint to the original, and flipping it into a full blown outburst of passion. Cee Lo Green does what Cee Lo Green does best: makes the song it into a Cee Lo Green track. And that's something we can all be thankful for.

Buy Here

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Buju Banton-Magic City

We don't feature nearly enough reggae on this blog. Although other genres of music may be more popular worldwide, I would bet that reggae is the least disliked genre. There is simply no way to hate on its feel-good rhythms; it's impossible to not like the involuntary body sway that a reggae record seems to bring out in each of us. What I love is that some of the biggest reggae heads I've met are the least "reggae looking" (if such a thing exists) people you can imagine. They have just fallen in love with the genre, just like an incredibly wide variety of people across the world have.

An all time favorite is "Magic City" by Buju Banton. Carrying the banner of optimism like only a reggae jam can, "Magic City" is about a place where things are bright, things are alive, life is good. Buju says in an interview that this magic city is the place where you are right now. That there is no reason trying to find the mythical El Dorado when it doesn't exist, that each and every one of our situations is, in its own way, magic. First released in 2004 as a single, but most recently included in Buju's latest record, Rasta Got Soul, "Magic City" sounds just as fresh now as it did six years ago. And the message never fades. My favorite lines of the song go:

"Ay, yeah I was depressed, frustrated and lonely
Then a voice from nowhere came and consoled me
Now do the best you can, you stand up and be a man"

because in some ways, reggae is like a good friend. Always there to make ya feel good, but when we most need it, not afraid to give you a little push, telling you to keep going, to not give up, to always find the beauty in our day to day lives. And that's something I can dig.

Download Here

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big K.R.I.T.-As Small As A Giant

Almost every article I’ve ever read about Big K.R.I.T. compares him to other rappers like Pimp C and David Banner. Comparisons are easy, especially when talking about artists that most people don’t recognize. Familiarity breeds interest; we want to hear music that sounds like other music we know, we want to hear artists that we can compare to others. That is the entire premise of and the Genius playlists on iTunes: giving us music we can identify with, even though we may not know the specific artist or song. Especially with rappers, southern rappers in particular, people try and identify other rappers they sound like, boxing them in before they have the chance to make an identity for themselves. Everyone is the next Andre 3000 or Big Boi. Typecasted. This can sometimes help listeners find new artists that they might like, but in other ways it clips the wings of up and coming rappers, limits their individual shine and almost always sets them up to fail under the weight of too-heavy expectations.

Big K.R.I.T. earned the above categorizations with just one mixtape, Big K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, which generated huge buzz and resulted in a major record label deal. But hopefully the same comparisons don't also put shutters on him. On songs like “As Small As A Giant,” off the mixtape, K.R.I.T. mixes up a healthy dose of honest soul searching with clear confidence, over a flow that sounds aged but sharp. Starting off with his best Big Rube impression and a great spoken word intro, he goes right into his verse sounding much older than his 24 years. Completely self-produced, KRIT is a shining light of Southern Rap, keeping strong the introspective streak that the South has always had, and one that is more needed now than ever.

And oh yea, if ya ask me, I say he kinda sounds like a young TI mixed with a little Trick Daddy ;-).

Download Here


Friday, December 3, 2010

ConcertandaHalf #1-The Tallest Man On Earth (Madrid, Spain)

On a chilly Madridleno night, the Tallest Man on Earth proved that he is more than ready to shed the knockoff Dylan monikers, that he is an incredible artist in his own right whose young catalog and stage presence far exceed most veteran artists. His small stage, spartanly decorated by only a rack of specially tuned guitars, amps, a piano, and a few chairs, seemed to fit a little too tightly for the TMOE, who appeared determined to sit in every flat space and pace every open square foot of stage. The gorgeous old theater he played in, built straight up and decked in gold trim and red velvet, seemed to be both barely big enough for his at-times booming voice yet not small enough for his most intimate jams. What a show. 

After a few piano ballads by a women with a gorgeous understated voice and a great afro named Idiot Wind (taken from a Dylan song-strangely catchy name though), the TMOE was ready to begin (Idiot Wind later came out to sing a duet on one mic with the TMOE, with the Swede looking like he wanted to steal a kiss the entire time). Playing to a sold-out crowd, the TMOE immediately made everyone feel very appreciated. He started off by saying that this was his first time in Madrid in 27 years, that the last time he had been in the great city was as a baby in his mother's womb. He promised us a great show to show respect, and he definitely did. Playing a mix of songs from the Wild Hunt, Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird EP, and Shallow Grave, and seemingly changing guitars which each song, the TMOE aced both his slower ("Love is All") and more upbeat jams ("The Gardner"). What really impressed me most was his voice in person. At risk of at times sounding nasally on record, live his voice often roared with confidence, and he threw in enough ad libs during his songs that even his most often repeated songs on my itunes sounded fresh and vigorous. As a solo artist as well, who did have to change guitars which led to some down time between songs, I thought that the silence during the breaks might become stiflingly awkward. He made sure this didn't happen, telling some dry yet funny jokes and making sure to keep the audience involved at every stop. 

After teaching the song during my classes to rural Spanish students and private lessons, I was most excited to hear "King of Spain." He set the song up with a funny apology to anyone in the audience who was offended, and most importantly, to the actual King of Spain. Ripping into the fast paced strums of the jam, he didn't hold anything back as he went through the images of Spain, and received a big cheer with his "I'm not even from Madrid" shoutout. Afterwards, he humbly told the crowd that he never imagined he would have sung the song in Spain, that he always thought he was going to be stuck in Sweden singing it. Luckily for us, the diminutive Swede with a great voice and even better guitar skills has become international, while still maintaining a humbleness that he is still surprised to be playing in front of audiences like the one in Madrid. With shows as great as the one on Wednesday night, the crowds and venues will only get bigger and bigger. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tallest Man on Earth-Love is All

To celebrate going to see The Tallest Man on Earth tonight with my girlfriend, I'm putting up a jamito #2 (little jam-not taking anything away from the quality of this awesome song).

The Tallest Man on Earth is currently on a long tour, taking him through most of the US and now Europe. Earning incredible reviews for his live show, I couldn't be more excited to see him tonight (full concert review coming). Heard about him first this summer during long trips in the car in South Africa, and what amazed me, like the music of Rodrigo y Gabriela, is the incredible depth to his sound despite there being only one, maybe two instruments playing. "Love is All" is a sad tale, a haunting one, but is a great showcase of the lyrical precision and immense guitar playing ability that the TMOE is now known for. A song about the sacrifices of love, this song is perfect for a rainy Fall day. Can't wait for tonight.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros-Fire & Water

Ever since I saw Ed Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros at Coachella I've had a mini-crush on Jade Castrinos, my favorite of the "Magnetic Zeros" (although the trumpet guy puts up a mean fight sometimes for the spot). She was just so alive on stage, bouncing around with the biggest smile of the entire polo grounds on her face. Even more than the other Zeros, she just seemed to be ecstatic to be a part of something that had found such a devoted following. That was over sixth months ago, and the group seems to be buckling a little under their growing popularity (breakup rumors are floating around). With Alexander (aka Ed Sharpe) pursuing side projects left and right, one has to wonder, is the motley crew just a flash in the pan band? Are they an almost too good to be true medley of different artists and sounds that happened to come together to make music that has really struck a chord with people the world over?

On their "itunes Sessions" album (released yesterday), The Zeros rework a couple of tracks from their debut while also dropping the studio version of their previously unreleased concert favorite, "Fire & Water." For the first time featuring Jade as the main vocalist, "Fire & Water" proves that the group isn't Alex (Ed Sharpe) +9, that the band is full of extremely talented artists who shine when it is their time. Jade's powerful voice is featured on this track and has a commanding sway on the listener. Her voice has a depth to it which is tough to describe. Laced with soul and gospel, and alternating between triumphant wailing and tender cooing, Jade proves she's got it. This could be a great thing for the Zeros, and might be a signal that their next album will that more rich because of the growth of artists like Jade. Or it could prove that the stage is too small to fit just one Edward and nine Zeros. Only time will tell, but in the meantime enjoy this great jam by my favorite band of the last year and a half. 

Bonus Video:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ghostface Killah-All That I Got Is You

In one of the most vivid and painful songs in hip-hop history, Ghostface Killah blatantly defies the stereotype that rap is just about guns, women, and flash. Ghostface, always my favorite Wu member, gets a serious hand from the incomparable Mary J Blige, and the two find a perfect balance on this track-Ghost recounting stories of growing up hard while Mary's chorus is almost like a helping hand on the shoulder of his verse, guiding it along through his memories. Ghostface is nothing if not brutally honest on this song, rapping about his dad leaving, roaches in the cereal box, sleeping four to a bed, two brothers with muscular dystrophy. There is no false swagger here, no bravado, nothing bling about having to go to your neighbors to bed for leftover bread. But Ghost's spirit remains unbroken, there is no bitterness in his flow, he just tells it like it is. Like the Poppa Wu skit at the end of the track discusses, the song is about the reality of himself. The reality of who he is. Off of his debut album Ironman, "All That I Got Is You" is Ghostface taking a stroll through his mind while never losing sight of his much brighter future.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Van Morrison-Madame George

Moose thinks Van Morrison is most soulful white dude in history. After listening to this song, it's hard to argue that he's not. "Madame George" clocks in at almost ten minutes, but manages to hold you each second with a unique mix of incredible emotion, strings, a flute, and the moving voice of Morrison.

The songs progresses in stages. It begins with Morrison, a guitar and a bass. A snare drum makes an appearance with the violin and flute soon joining in. The instruments provide the perfect backdrop for the lyrics, which present a dreamlike picture of the mythical Madame George. Overall, the tone of the song is melancholic and nostalgic, with lyrics describing Dublin and memories of past times. More than other songs, the song really is poetry put to music, but in a stream of consciousness style that manages to be both magical and haunting at the same time. Morrison's soul is on full display in this song as he sings about lost love with a combination of pain and strength. His soul does sometime get the best of him, and at the 6:30 mark he makes some of the strangest sounds ever uttered in music, doing his best Irish Schwarzenegger impression. This song has a way of staying with you, and the melody and strings have weaved their way into my head time and time again. The best songs have a way of doing that.

 Van Morrison-MADAME GEORGE ( by jamand1/2

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bob Marley-Sun is Shining

In a lot of the world, my little town included, it's starting to get cold, rainy, and shitty. I wake up every morning to a day that's slightly colder than the last, and a rain that seems slightly more wet than the day before. On my morning walk to school I try and pump myself up as much as possible, almost as if I'm on the way to a big basketball game. Ahh, life after college. My perennial morning favorite is this jamandahalf by the eternal great Bob Marley. Every time I kick this track it reminds me that 1. it's definitely sunny somewhere, and 2.just because the sun is hidden, doesn't mean its not shining. Bob is more internationally loved than any artist out there, and this song keeps the sun shining for people from Helsinki to Portland. And for that, it's a jamandahalf.

Download Here

Thursday, November 25, 2010

JamandaHalf Presents: The Tees

Big things are happening here at, and we're both really excited to finally be ready with this. This has been in the works for months, and here it is. We have two dope tees ready to be worn wherever you're bumping your jamandahalfs. Designed by two of our buddies (keeping it in the family) these are some of the flyest tees I've seen in a while, and I think you'll agree. Both shirts can be ordered in any color you want, and we're not making a cent off of this. We just think these are super dope tees and want people all over the world rocking them. Link for the Store

Shirt 1: Jammin Daliphant

Taking Salvador Dali's famous "Elephants" painting to the Jamuniverse, we bring you the Jammin Daliphant. Designed by AMitch (, this shirt will keep ya looking fly from Barcelona to LA. Bigger pic here

Shirt 2: The Holy Jam Session

Sometimes you just gotta put on the biggest headphones you own and jam for days, like Ganesh here, who's jamming like only a holy elephant can. Look good while you're listening to your favorite jamandahalfs, in this shirt designed my good buddy Darrell ( Under Construction). Bigger pic here

We really hope you like them. If you want to buy them click here. They are only $10 each, get them while you can.

Leks and Moodawg

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

El Guincho-Bombay

I'm teaching English in a small town in Spain called Don Benito, which so far has meant teaching my students through Ben Harper and Tallest Man on Earth Songs, the movie The Godfather, and telling them about our goofy traditions during Halloween and Thanksgiving. Not the roughest spot to be in, I know. I've grown to really like Don Benito, but there is one thing I will never, ever, grown fond of: men driving through the small streets of DB bumping the worst possible reggaeton and house at all hours. My students' music tastes also are infected by awful American pop, but luckily there is some really good music being made in Spain, including the artist behind this jamandahalf, El Guincho.

Like a Spanish Calvin Harris, El Guincho both produces and sings, but most of all gets really funky on his tracks. Influenced by a wide variety of genres as far reaching as Caribbeana to trance, El Guincho's songs are a mix of old and new, traditional and modern. There is something undeniably fresh about his music, something that stands out, something about it that I have never heard from any artist before. "Bombay" the first single off of his sophomore album Pop Negro is a great introduction to his music. Over a relentless beat, spiced with the funkiest steel drums this side of my 4th grade music class, El Guincho has made a track that is instantly infectious. This song moves with a spirit that connects Latin America and Spain-the spirit of knowing how to enjoy life. Enjoy it and let me know what you think in the comments.

 El Guincho-Bombay ( by jamand1/2

Sunday, November 21, 2010

MF Doom

Few rappers have had a tougher run to recognition than MF Doom.  Kickin raps since he was a kid growin up on Long Island, Doom started out as Zev Love X, and along with his younger brother DJ Subroc and another cat named Onyx the Birthstone Kid formed the up and coming group KMD.  This was back in '88 when Doom was 17, they were kickin afrocentric rhymes, and gettin their videos played on RapCity.  But just as they were getting ready to take off tragedy struck.  Subroc was killed runnin across the Long Island Expressway in '93 right before the release of their second album, that same week Elektra Records dropped them from the label, and the album got shelved.  Zev dropped off the scene and into depression, and in his own words "swearing revenge against the industry that so badly deformed him."

And thus MF Doom was born.  Returning to the scene in '97 he began to bolster his burgeoning underground rep that survived from the KMD days.  The Doom persona, based off the Fantastic 4 supervillain Doctor Doom, is just one of the aliases that the man himself raps under, but regardless of his name he is never publicly seen without his trademark mask.  And his style changed.  His flow has always been smooth, but upon his return his voice is grittier and his subject matter, while intellectual is often dark.  But theres somethin about the flow that I love, its got resolve and determination, a stoicism to be respected.  Since the comeback Doom has become a bit of a polarizing figure in the rap community, most like him but many still dogg his style.  Hes put out a ton of work including dope collaborations with Ghostface, Madlib, and Danger Mouse.  Like him or not you gotta respect the man.

Ive put up two of the classics.  The first is Doomsday off his return release Operation Doomsday.  Doom goes for the marathon flow, never slowin and steady rhymin through the whole song.  He mixes the hook in so seamlessly that you barely even notice it.  And the beat is so smooth that I feel like I could listen to the instrumental on repeat as the soundtrack to my life.  Like a lot of fine art the second track is beautiful but sad.  Let Me Watch is a tale of love found and lost.  Featurin Apani B Fly, one of the most underrated female rappers ever, the two trade verses that remind us all of a reality weve known on some level.  Check em.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Otis Redding-Cigarettes and Coffee

The first four lines set the stage perfectly for this powerful song: "It's early in the morning/about a quarter till three/I'm sitting here talking with my baby/over cigarettes and coffee." A song that showcases the incredible depth, range, and humanity present in both Otis Redding's songs and his voice, "Cigarettes and Coffee" is a simple story about a man and his woman, talking till the wee hours of the morning, enjoying one another for the simple things. Redding's songs are really about the simple things in life: things which happen everyday, things which we all feel from time to times, things we often don't think twice about. But the genius of Redding is that he makes beautiful art about these simple things, shining light on situations and moments which really define relationships and people. And of course being Motown, Redding's got great lines for days (I don't want no cream or sugar/cuz I got you!), reminding you that he is one of the soulful brothers that there ever was.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Deadmau5-Right This Second (Full)

After hearing the tagged shorter copy of this song a week ago, I couldn't wait to get the full thing. Here it is. With shades of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," Deadmau5's new single, "Right This Second," off of his first official album is a definite change of pace for both house music and Deadmau5 himself. For house music, this is a move away from the dubstep craze that has dominated the genre for the past year or so. For Deadmau5, this single shows him moving back towards trance and music fit to fill the airport hanger size venues of Coachella and other shows. A fixture in every major electro music festival of the last year, Deadmau5's popularity has skyrocketed, and with jams like this, I can't seen any end to the popularity of the masked mouse DJ.

 Deadmau5-Right This Second Full ( by jamand1/2

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coeur de Pirate-Intermission

Sometimes we all need a minute to catch our breaths. Life seems like it has the habit of moving exceedingly fast when it wants to, and the past six months since graduation have been a brightly kaleidoscopic blur of people, faces, and great times. But a blur nonetheless. I find that its always helpful every now and then to look at where I am from the point of view of me telling someone what I am doing now and why I am doing it. Music always helps me get my mind right, and the aptly named "Intermission" by personal favorite Coeur de Pirate is the perfect thinking track. Put this one on repeat and try guessing where it ends and where it begins; pretty hard aint it. Better yet, put this on repeat and just think for a minute. Or three.

 Coeur De Pirate - Intermission ( by jamand1/2

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jam Behind The Jam #3: Strange Fruit

JamBehindtheJam is a little feature we do highlighting the background of a sample that appears in a modern jam. Especially in rap, sampling old classics has become an art, and not only sounds amazing when done right, but also exposes listeners to music and artists that they may have never heard of otherwise. Enjoy.

Nina Simone hasn't been on these pages in far too long, Common just was. Put Common on a dope Kanye beat with a Nina sample? Certified jamandahalf.

Hip-Hop has always had a strong conscious streak, one that is in an everlasting fight against the typical stereotypes of rap. Common has been one of the foremost figures in this fight, and has been dropping quality music since 1992 and his debut album Can I Borrow A Dollar? Off of an unreleased track meant for his underrated 2007 album Finding Forever, "Strange Fruit" is a perfect fusion of the best that both conscious rap (Common's smooth but hungry flow, thought-provoking lyrics) and mainstream rap (a helluva beat, a John Legend chorus) have to offer and tops it off with a haunting Nina Simone sample. Common flows about coming up from hardships and dark times, using the past to guide and strengthen you, while making positive moves today. Common sounds at his most natural over a great Kanye beat, and this song proves that point.

The sample, the reason for this posting, is of the Nina Simone cover of Billie Holliday's "Strange Fruit." Written by a Jewish high-school teacher in response to Southern lynchings of young blacks, "Strange Fruit" became an underground protest song in NY until Billie Holiday recorded it. Nina Simone's version of this classic track maintains the simplicity of the original, only broken by Simone's complex and powerful voice. The calmness of the music is in stark contrast to its dark and violent lyrics which compare lynched blacks to "strange fruit" which hangs in trees in the South. The metaphor of fruit is used throughout the song, emphasizing that years of racism and extreme inequality in the South was bearing fruit, in this case a bitter and painful fruit. It works on many levels, but works even better as a testimony to those who suffered from abuse in the South. Common treats the sample with the proper care it deserves and drops two great verses, while Kanye once again uses the past to infuse the present with life, creating a beat which Common makes his own.

 Common-Strange Fruit f. John Legend ( by jamand1/2

 Nina Simone-Strange Fruit ( by jamand1/2

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kanye West feat. Raekwon & Kid Cudi-Gorgeous

I've played basketball for most of my life and I remember when I was young and watching Michael Jordan during some of his biggest games. Jordan played a level of basketball that not only was incredible to watch, but also one that was inspiring. I vividly remember times after watching Jordan put up 30 on a helpless defense going out to my basketball hoop and shooting hoops till the last light faded. The only cement that my "court" had was a small sliver of sidewalk that ran in front of the hoop, the rest was grass and dirt. Didn't matter. I was inspired.

Kanye's new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is like an epic Jordan performance. It's not only great to listen to, it's also a wakeup call to other rappers, saying hey fellas, time to go shoot some more jumpers. Kanye's verses have a hunger to them that I've never heard before from him, perhaps indicating a desire to be considered one of the best rappers in the game, rather than just as a great entertainer. Some of his best G.O.O.D. Friday tracks are on the album, but all are reworked and redone. Like expected, the production on the album is stellar, and many of the songs have a multidimensionality that I've never heard before (see "Blame Game"). My favorite track so far is "Gorgeous" featuring Kid Cudi on the hook (and sounding way more comfortable than he does on parts of his new album) and Raekwon coming in the 9th inning of the song and hitting a walk off homer. "Gorgeous" has three verses (three!) from Kanye and clocks in at almost 6 minutes, a quick indication from Kanye on the second track of his album that he's back to rapping, and is coming for the crown. As far as I'm concerned, it's his.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Louis Armstrong-(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue

Nat Hentoff, American historian, writer, and music critic, once asked Billie Holiday who had most influenced her musically. Her answer was Louis Armstrong. "He didn't say words," she said, "but somehow it just moved me so. It sounded like he was making love to me. That's how I wanted to sing." This coming from one of the most moving singers in American musical history is a testament to Armstrong's music. But lucky for us, Louis did say words, and had a unique and riveting voice that shines alongside  his virtuoso trumpet in this jamandahalf.

"(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue" is one of the most powerful songs of the 20th century. Although not originally written by Louis himself (written instead by Andy Razaf), Louis makes every word, every syllable, of the song his own. More so, on his two trumpet solos Armstrong charges each beat, each warble, each improvised note with an energy that manages to impress and shock me each time I hear it. Musically, the song is defined by these solos which are both an expression of Armstrong's talent, and a continuation of painful lyrics of the song. Armstrong's gravely voice is the perfect personification of his trumpet, and the solos are verses in their own right, capable of just as much emotion and story-telling as any written words.

The lyrics of "Black and Blue" extend the gravity of the first solo. The song's first four lines start off like many jazz/blues songs do, as a lament against the against the troubles of the world. Louis's voice reflects the mood of the beaten narrator, singing with dejection about being so low that "even the mouse/ran from my house." It is after the fourth line that "Black and Blue" becomes a fascinating look into Louis Armstrong as a person, especially in the context of the civil rights movement. Switching from a general, "what did I do" to the plural and less clear "they laugh at you," Louis begins to change the narrative of this jam. The next couplet is possibly the song's most hard-hitting, and also controversial. Louis sings:

I'm white...inside...but that don't help my case
Cuz I...can't hide...what is in my face

which can be interpreted as two ways. One view, as I look at it, is that Armstrong is saying that we are all one, regardless of what we look like. That the Jim Crow era United States  limited the rights of people based only on something that we have no control over: our skin color. Another view could see the lines as Armstrong flatly rejecting his ethnicity. While both views can be strengthened by the repeated line in the next two verses: "my only sin/is in my skin," in context with Armstrong's history regarding the Civil Rights movement, the lines seem to hold a greater meaning of our oneness. 

Placing the song in context, it was released in a especially turbulent time of our history, coming eleven months after the landmark Brown vs Board of Education which desegregated schools. Armstrong later severely criticized President Eisenhower's reluctance to act when African American teenagers were banned from attending high school in Little Rock Arkansas, saying publicly that "The way they are treating people in the South, the government can go to hell," and "The President has no guts." In this light, the message of the song becomes more clear. Rather than a denouncement of his ethnicity, the song becomes a protest song, an attack on American society for seeing people for their color of their skin rather than their character. His only "sin," sings Louis with an understated sarcasm, is that he was born with dark skin. 

This jamandahalf also holds an important place in the literary masterpiece, The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The book itself is often compared to a jazz song with its various movements, its improvisation, and how it, like jazz, takes an often depressing story and makes it art. In the prologue, the unnamed narrator alludes to this very jam, and it appears two more times throughout the story. Both the song and the novel look at the juxtaposition between how an individual sees himself compared to how they are seen by society, and in some ways, the novel could be seen as a lengthy elaboration of this song, but thematically and artistically.  

The weight of this jam, its unique place as one of the first popular songs to look at race relations in the US, its connection to one of the greatest novels of all time, and the sublime trumpet playing and singing of Louis Armstrong have me convinced that this is one of the greatest songs of the 20th century. Let me know what you think in our new comments system. 

Awesome video-Louis Armstrong in Ghana singing to Nkrumah

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Matt & Kim-Good For Great

I remember feeling Matt and Kim's unbridled joy at doing what they love when I saw them play live for the first time, headlining Kohoutek 2009 (the annual music festival thrown by my alma mater's next door neighbor college). Other than their song "Daylight," which was making its way around CMC laptops, I knew almost nothing of the two before the show. After an energetic 50 minute set, which saw them run through their entire catalog with a short little "Final Countdown" cover and a crowd-surfing Kim mixed in, the crowd still hadn't gotten enough. They wanted more of the feel-good music which had been making its way out of Kim's drum set and Matt's keyboard/synth. Didn't work. It wasn't because the duo didn't want to keep going. It was, and I remember laughing so hard when Matt told the crowd, that they didn't have anymore music to play!

With the release of their new album, Sidewalks, Matt & Kim ensure that they'll keep the good vibes going for a little longer. The ten-track album feels like a natural progression to Grand. Their joy-of-life style still shines, but this time with a little added musical omph. The two have almost adopted a little hip-hop flavor to their style, and your favorite rapper's favorite rapper would probably love flowing on some of their beats. A standout track is this jamandahalf, "Good For Great." This has become the soundtrack to my 15 minute walk to the school I'm teaching English at, and always manages to make the increasingly cold mornings feel a little better. This song is all about living to the fullest, not being afraid to get a little roughed up, but more importantly, not being afraid to live.

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 Matt & Kim-Good For Great ( by jamand1/2

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Common - Resurrection

Big Leks is goin back through the classics of our youth.  And I love it.  Hopefully you all do too.  So its my time to match and I figured Id spark it with nothin less than a super jam that we all can groove to.  Resurrection is the title track off Common's '94 sophomore album.  These were the good old days, back when Common was still Common Sense, Slick Wily Clinton was still jammin on his sax, and Biggie and Pac were both breathin.  Its hard to believe that was more than 15 years ago, but I guess enough has changed since then to know its true.  You just dont find masters of wordplay lacing jazzy beats like they used to.

This is a special one though.  From the get go its straight fire.  His flow is the classic wind up and knockout.  Each stanza begins tame enough, settin you up...then pow!  He hits you with the punch line.  And it sounds so good you almost dont even listen to the words, you just let it roll over you bobbin till the beat drops.  But its the words that make this track a classic.  Metaphors paint the details of the piece, adding that Common flavor to the piece.  And Common is a master of metaphors.  I put it at him, Eminem, Kwali, Black Thought, and Andre 3k as the best, but thats just a personal opinion (please hit us up with your favorites uses of wordplay!!!).  Ill leave it at that.  As always be sure to check the lyrics while you listen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bob Dylan-Moonshine Blues

Bob Dylan's gravely voice sounds so convincing that he could sing a song about being a astronaut on Mars and I would believe him in a second. On this powerful track, Dylan tells the story about a down and out moonshiner, alone in the world with nothing but his whiskey to keep him comfortable. A depressing tale if there ever was one, Dylan fits the part perfectly. Similar to incredible acting performances, where it's almost impossible to distinguish between the character and the actor, in this stirring song Dylan completely makes the character of the lonesome moonshiner his own. With nothing but his acoustic guitar, it's not hard to picture Dylan, or better yet, the character he is singing about, recounting his tales around a campfire, bottle of whiskey in hand, years of hard living etched on his face.

"Moonshine Blues" is an alternate version of another Dylan song, "Moonshiner," and is found on Bob Dylan's rare The Gaslight Tapes released in 1962. Although the original is also great, the scratchy recording quality, the extended guitar solo, and the added emotion on this track make it my favorite of the two. This is a great song to take it down easy, a great thinking song, and is probably my favorite Dylan jam of all time.


 Bob Dylan-Moonshine Blues ( by jamand1/2

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Q-Tip feat. Busta Rhymes, Raekwon, & Lil' Wayne-Renaissance Rap (Remix)

Turn this song up and imagine yourself walking down the street, turning the corner, and stumbling on a rap cypher by four of the greatest rappers alive. With a syncopated flow that only gets better with age, Q-Tip starts off the festivities, rapping about coming up in New York, honing his skills, rapping on the A train, and battling other rappers for days. Probably the most technical of the four, Q-Tip ends his verse with a gem:

When in the heat of the cipher, I was not libel
For all the casualties of the dutty MCs'
I split the train car like Moses did the Red Sea
Get it in ya head, we gon' rock the dead
Night of the living MCs', the weak ones fled

Busta Rhymes is next. With his trademark energy and vigor, Busta throws in enough animal noises for a screening of Planet Earth. Like a silver-back gorilla puffing out his chest, Busta's verse is him trying to prove that he's the hardest around. Raekwon follows Busta, doing what he does best: storytelling with a mix of flash and grit. His gruff voice sounds just as at home rapping about looking fly at the Golden Globes as it does rapping about a thousand and one goons. Lil' Wayne, by far the baby of the group, finishes it up. With a goofy flow, Wayne's talent shines even though his verse is probably the least lyrical of the four. But its hard to deny that he seems to be having the most fun. 

With four different flows, four different approaches, and four different subjects, this song  showcases the diversity of rap. With no hooks and no choruses, just four rappers and a hype man, this song takes it back to the simpler times, when being the hardest rapper on the block was enough. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabaté-In The Heart of the Moon

Today's jamandahalf is the product of an epic jam session. I love jam sessions, most of all because you never know when the music is going to end. Luckily for us, the jam session between Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabaté turned into a classic. Two of the world's most skilled musicians play a game of H-O-R-S-E on this album, both attempting to one-up each other musically, but in the end harmonize better than your favorite Motown quartet.

What's truly remarkable about this album is that it is the first time the two greats of Malian music had ever played together. Mali is famed for its vibrant music scene, and historically has had a major influence on genres from traditional blues and jazz to hip-hop and rock. From only three jam sessions in the conference room of the Mande Hotel in Bamako came this album crafted from songs that were either in their respective catalogs, or were landmark songs in Mali's music history. Over its 12 tracks, the two artists adopt a call and response style-one artist lays the harmony, the other gets funky. On these two standouts from the album, "Monsieur Le Maire De Niafunké" and "Hawa Dolo" you immediately get a sense of the incredible skill of the artists who manage to complement each other perfectly-the often intense yet delicate guitar picking of Toure is balanced by Diabaté's rhythmic kora. "Monsieur Le Maire De Niafunké" is the more upbeat of the two and moves with a driven pace, anchored by Diabaté yet defined by Toure's torrid picking. "Hawa Dolo" is slightly more brooding and paced, more pensive. Both great songs that showcase a fine mesh of technical precision and creative spunk-the mix that drives this entire project.

At its best, In The Heart of the Moon sounds like a private concert for you by the two masters. Although it's hard to get more simple than two guys playing their instruments, the music in itself is incredibly complex, with an unspoken understanding between the two driving the entire project. But as I have said before, and like this album shows perfectly, sometimes words just get in the way.

Buy Here

Download Here

Monsieur Le Maire De Niafunké: 

Hawa Dolo: 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dancing in the Rain

This has been making the rounds of the blogosphere, and I think it's definitely worth watching. Just a video about 4 guys doing what they love in the rain. What struck me about this is the poetry of their unscripted movements. At its best, the four seem to be making fun of every law of physics. It's hard not to pick a favorite, and I think dude in the white shirt kills it, but combined their efforts are just mind blowing. The dancers get a strange mix of breaking and krumping going, with even a little ballet mix in, but whatever you call it, all I know is that there was beautiful art being made on that street corner in Oakland that day.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Few More From The JamandaHalf Family

Gotta keep the posts coming. Here are jams that we've had sent in to us from all types of places lately. Keep them coming everyone. 


One of JamandaHalf's favorite rappers, we have been lucky enough to see Anthem three different times-opening the March 3rd concert, flowing for what seemed like an eternity at the officially unofficial post show with music by Dougie Fresh and the Funky Bunch, and his "MTV Unplugged" like show at the Hip Kitty, a bar in Claremont. Anthem is not only a rapper with serious, serious flow, but he also has ingenious wordplay, a message, and is just an overall good dude. Prepping his new mixtape, hosted by DJ Whoo Kid, Anthem drops this short gem. Showing off a fire and confidence that was absent on some of his earlier tracks, Anthem will have my eternal respect for dropping "vuvuzela" on a track. Great little taste of what's coming from him. Follow Anthem on Twitter

 Anthem - Inception ( by jamand1/2 

Windy City Gentleman-Good Old Friend

Windy City Gentleman is an LA based solo artist who contacted us a little while back. His debut album China White dropped recently, and I had a chance to check out this up and coming rocker. It's hard to put a finger on WCG's music. Mixing genres and effects, sometimes it might seem that his music is a little too scattered. But in reality,WCG is just showcasing his talent across different styles of music, not limiting himself to a particular sound. My favorite is the Eddie Vedder-esque "Good Old Friend." Heavy on folk, this jam is a great song to mellow to, and is the perfect track to reminisce about the past times. Check him out here. With his emails, WCG would end with a line that I loved, and wanted to share: Don't die with your music still in youHaven't read truer words in the longest. Thanks for getting in touch with us WCG.

 Windy City Gentleman-Good Old Friend ( by jamand1/2

Jeff Spec-Clyde Stubblefield

Jeff Spec is a Vancouver based rapper that has been updating us on the moves he is making. He recently dropped this track (video here), and I'm feeling it. Over a pounding bass line, this track sounds almost as if Jeff and a band were playing it live in my headphones. With a old-school feel, Jeff Spec feels at home on this, and although it only clocks in at a short 2:26, the track perfectly captures a sound of an era while adding some modern touches. Check him out here.

 Jeff Specs-Clyde Stubblefield ( by jamand1/2

Zion I & K. Flay: Coastin'

This track was sent to us by our good buddy, Johnny Kathmandu. Like his funky Nepalese/Belgian background, Johnny KTM's musical knowledge is diverse, and he keeps sending us juicer jams than the burgers at Island Vibe Hostel in Jbay . Zion I is one of the most underrated duos in the game right now. Consistently dropping quality songs, Zion I has on my radar since "Lose Your Head" had me going dumb a few years back. What has always impressed me about their music is their sonical diversity. While I originally pegged them as just another hyphie group, Zion I keeps bringing new sounds and styles to the table, include this jamandahalf, a fun and uplifting song about living too good. Loving this track right now.

 Zion I-Coastin' ( by jamand1/2