Monday, February 28, 2011

Zat-Rap - Kwaze le 8

To be honest, I have no idea what these guys are saying in Creole. However, this song, this video – they are special. As poorly as Haiti’s been portrayed through the media, from tent life to political unrest, it is nice to see something that doesn’t concern cholera. Not because we don’t care, or are tired of their despair (it is valid by all means), but because we as outsiders are reminded of how gorgeous Haiti can be. And that people from Haiti can be successful. It throws some positive frosting on a shitty cake Haitians have been forced to eat for a long time now. I can hear this tune, Kwaze le 8, by Zat-Rap (featuring Ti Kola), blazing in the streets of Port-au-Prince from some crusty old speakers strapped to the top of a broken down pick-up truck. As the sunsets, and hard workers pop the top on cold Prestiges, I imagine they must feel the way I do when I hear this song - ready to stand up and dance.

Filmed in Southwest Haiti on Port Salute Beach, the white sands of Haiti are inviting. Dan’s Creek Hotel is an astronomical $120 a night, a price only the wealthiest Haitians and tourists can afford. It’s where Sean Penn stays when he’s feeling philanthropically just. Even though I can’t discern the language, I was told from the streets of Les Cayes that Kwaze le 8 is an old troubadour song about how incredible Haiti is, and the importance of preserving the art and beauty of their culture. Zat-Rap stamps the old time classic with new age hip-hop that, as Ti Kola says in his first verse, is a “marriage of the old and the young.” Here is the video, laden with tropical beauties in a postcard landscape. Asking us to re-adjust our paradigm concerning the potential of this deeply stigmatized country.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Janelle Monae-Faster

In some ways, Janelle Monae epitomizes the purpose of this blog. Her debut album, The ArchAndroid, shows a love of music, of music that transcends genre boundaries, and her album can be seen in some ways as a celebration of music. While I don't think every single track on her album is great, her bravery to embrace experimentation, her lack of fear of getting funky, is something that all music lovers can be happy about.

A standout track on ArchAndroid is "Faster," a riotous record which exhibits Monae's take on soul. Like its title suggests, this jamandahalf just moves, beating with an impatient energy. Monae never lets the song linger, never lets it get stale. At around the 1:55 mark, the song puts on its dancing shoes, moving into a schizophrenic call and response with a chorus and a robot, with Monae asking if she's a weirdo or a hero. Luckily for us she's somewhere in the middle, her music a result of flirting with both adjectives, along with many many others.

Download Here

Friday, February 18, 2011

Big Rube Impression

Part poet, part preacher. A true sage, an eloquent dropper of words of wisdom which attempt to find a level of the highest common denominator, rather than dumbing it down like a lot of new elementary hip-hop. Big Rube, Dungeon Family member, is a unique artist. A modern day street philosopher, Big Rube’s wordplay and messages ring both hard and true. Wherever his verses are found, they manage to both enlighten and challenge, presenting in a maze words something for all of us to take home and think about.

Many Outkast jams are celebrations of experimentation-odes to musical and vocal creativity. Happy to bring their friends along, their guests seemed to always rise to the occasion, bringing the best in whatever they did. Big Rube was no exception. Commanding undivided attention with his baritone voice, Rube’s spoken word ruminations on two Outkast tracks are some of my favorite moments in hip-hop. Presented with a stage just for himself, Big Rube waxes wise wherever he lays his words, each time taking us along for an epic journey.

13th Floor/Growing Old

Taking the reins of the song only after a few seconds, Rube combines his trademarks of introspection, religious imagery, and a relentless search for self-improvement. Over relaxing piano chords, Rube’s voice sounds tremendous as he takes us through a social critique on top of a platform formed by textbook in rhyming and alliteration. Rube sets the town for a song that has one eye looking back at the past, morphing into a preacher, urging his listeners to become better tomorrow than they were yesterday.



This time as the bookend to the almost nine-minute classic Outkast cut, Big Rube’s verse is a stream of consciousness take on everything from mortality to cowards. In cryptic language that begs endnotes, Rube’s unique lyrical juggling seems both effortless and methodical. Lines like “you can’t imagine it/unless you looking at the canvas of life/and not through the peephole of mortality” seem ripe for all sorts of interpretation, while others like “You got more juice than Zeus/slangin lightning trying to frighten/plains dwellers, of the Serengeti” are sonical showoffs, with Rube guiding you along the way. Like an abstract painting, what you see in this verse is a reflection of who you are. But like a good painting, it making you think is a victory in and of itself.


Alphabet Acrobat

With his spoken word verses probably the closest thing in hip-hop to poetry, his appearance on the great Def Poetry Jam series is not surprising. Big Rube adopts an A-Z structure to his poem, dropping a few bars for each letter in order. Although this structure has been used before, it never seems forced, and the structure doesn’t ever overwhelm his words but rather seems to guide his thoughts, providing an outlet to his creativity. Rube finds time to drop gems as always (two favorites are “Cuz I grip a Grey matter glock” and “I’m young yet I yearn for the year when the youth learn”) and wears his larger than life voice naturally on his huge frame.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Modest Mouse - Bukowski, Gravity Rides Everything

Philosophy comes in all shapes and sizes.  While most folk never get into Descartes or spend any time analyzing the ontological argument, they do get their dose of philosophy whenever they listen to music.  As opposed to the logical side of philosophy, art, music, and writing explore the more creative side of exploratory thinking.  Now not all music is steeped in intellectual thought, in fact, only the most skilled can craft viable strains of knowledge into their music.  Modest Mouse has always been epitomized by substance, originality, and of course my favorite quality....strangeness.  The band has a sound all its own.  Twisted melodies juxtaposed against heavy drums and psychedelic riffs, with a funky twang on top of it all.  But its the lyrical intelligence of front man Isaac Brock that really makes me dig these jams.  His struggles with religion and death are integral in his lyrics, and continually inspire me to think about weird shit.

Bukowski is a testament to false hope and misplaced faith.  A look into the despondency and lack of meaning in life.  Inspired by author and poet Charles Bukowski, best known for his dark portrayals of American poverty, the song questions both the state of the world and the belief in an omniscient god.  You gotta take a look at the lyrics to fully appreciate the jam.  I could spout on about what I think the song means but it is more a question of what it means to each individual.  I love the entire jam, the slow and eerie lyrics, the steady banjo picking, and especially the lyrical imagery.  
If God controls the land and disease
Keeps a watchful eye on me
If he's really so damn mighty
My problem is I can't see
Well who'd want to be
Who'd want to be such a control freak?
Ive got no problems with religion (unlike my ma) but I must say the man makes a pretty good point.  It almost seems silly that there could be a higher power controlling every single minute and microscopic detail of life.  And if there was, it is safe to say that that would be the worst job ever.

 Bukowski by MooDawg

While this seems to allude that there is no spiritual order or reason in life, in another song Brock seems to put forth some form of belief.  Gravity Rides Everything takes on a different tone.  The easy rhythm and mystic guitar lend a more uplifting sound.  It has a really beautiful quality for me, reminds me of the sunlight coming through trees, or looking out the window of a car at something nice.  There are a lot of differing opinions on what the song is about, you really just have to look at the lyrics and decide for yourself.  But for me its about a force that pervades all life, but that cannot be seen or defined.  A return to the natural order, something that loosely controls the course of all life.  And regardless of circumstance will bring each and every one of us into our organic and righteous place.  That in death, the one thing that lies in store for all of us, we should find peace regardless of whether or not there is an afterlife.  It seems as though Isaac rejects the idea of traditional western religious belief, but the tone of the song carries this sense of spirituality.  No floating away to heaven, just our life being subjected to the natural forces of life, and within this a great sense of serenity.  Regardless of what awaits us in our death or our life we should be content with the natural order of life.
In the motions and the things that you say
It all will fall, fall right into place
As fruit drops, flesh it sags
Everything will fall right into place
When we die, some sink and some lay
But at least I don't see you float away
And all the spilt milk, sex and weight
It all will fall, fall right into place
   Gravity Rides Everything by MooDawg

Monday, February 14, 2011

Slaughterhouse-Move On

Quick question. Who is the best rapper of all time? I'll put all the change in my pocket on the fact that not all of you reading this answered the same thing (my pick-Andre 3000). That simple question has spawned books, albums, one liners, and an endless debate amongst hiphopheads the world over. 

Another quick question? Who is the best rap group right now? And by right now, I mean, relevant as a group today. That one took a little longer to think of. After the demise of both the rap super-group (The Firm, for example) the all star rap posse (Rocafella, G-Unit etc), and the hiatus of the two best groups to ever do it (Outkast and Wu), the trophy for the world's best rap group is up for the taking. My pick: Slaughterhouse. 

On "Move On" the four horseman of Slaughterhouse prove that they are, as individuals and as a group, exceedingly talented. Sporting distinct styles and flows, each one reflecting where they are from, the group never has sounded better than on this track. Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, Royce da 5'9'', and Crooked I are an unlikely team, the anti Lebron-DWade-CBosh. As rappers who have had solid careers so far but never quite reached a wider audience, they find harmony together, balancing each other out perfectly. Each one drops a gem of a verse, no doubt motivated by another quick question: who has the most fire verse on "Move On"? Addressing their turbulent pasts, this song is both a biography of where they have been as solo artists and a group, and a shining example of where they, and rap, can go. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ryan Leslie-Gibberish

There are few things I like more on the blogosphere than opening up this site and seeing a post from the Moodawg. These pages have missed your words, and lack of apostrophes. 

To aid all of you out there with your Valentine's Day adventures, I present the ultimate Valentine's Day 2011 Playlist, this jamandahalf.

For anyone who has ever seen Planet Earth, you know you need a extra special something to get with that girl you've been eying for a few weeks, or to melt your lady's hearts all over again. While humans lack feathers to flutter flirtatiously or horns to stab the air in a very macho manner, we do have something that never fails-funky dance moves. Here's what you have to do. Put on "Gibberish."  Snap your fingers to the beat. Nod your head to bass. Fight the urge to laugh at the, well, gibberish. Start doing a funky two-step. Start sliding over to the lady of your choice. Pull her close. Look into her eyes. Start making up words (everything works). If you've done it right so far, she should be yours by the time the first horns drop.

"Gibberish" is brilliant. While this jam is extra light on actual words, it captures a feeling perfectly. Like an R&B Sigur Ros, on this song Ryan Leslie bypasses traditional ways of making music (ie. words) and goes straight for the sounds which illustrate the emotions. It makes sense on a primal level-when I'm mad, I yell. When I'm happy I laugh. When I'm at concerts I make strange bird calls (learned from the birdcall master himself, Moodawg). Words only explain feelings, sounds express them. And this is the funkiest collection of sounds which has ever existed, and the only song you should need tomorrow.

Buy Gibberish

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ween - Ocean Man

Yo whats up friends, after an extended hiatus Im back with some funky jams from my wanderings.  I want to thank everybody that kept the Jam alive especially Big Leks, the heartbeat of the blog, and also Mitch, and Sina.  I love the support of the readers and Im stoked to be back.  Ween is a band that has been gettin down since the mid 80s but that Ive only started to get into real recently.  The thing I love most about them is the diversity of their sound.  These cats have put out a ton of music and none of it sounds the same.  From 70s rock to funk, and from pop to punk you can hear so many styles in their music that they are simply impossible to define.  The best I can do is weird...really fucking weird.  But theyve got a bunch of dope songs.  Gabriel (which I coulda sworn was Thin Lizzy) and Voodoo Lady are two of my favorites, but for me you cant beat Ocean Man.

Like many things in life I cant quite say what it is that makes me like this jammer.  Whatever it is though, I dig it.  Theres something about that funky voice and light melody that makes me feel like Im at a suboceanic shakedown.  Throw in a twangy guitar rift and goofy breakdown and you got yourself a super jam.  Im not sure what the lyrics mean or who this ocean man may be, but I am sure that this is a jam.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ben Harper & The Relentless 7-Eldorado

Ben Harper is an artist that you have to appreciate. Seemingly never content to stick around any given genre for too long, Harper gets his Hindu god on, and has appeared in various reincarnations over the years: with the Innocent Criminals, the Relentless 7, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and his most recent project, Fistful of Mercy. As a music fan this is incredibly refreshing: seeing an artist explore the limits of his talents, seeing him tackle new styles and influences.

While the majority of Harper's music is unique, his instrumentals are just magic. Like "The Three of Us," "Eldorado" is a showcase of the emotions that an instrument can have. With a drum and keyboard keeping pace, Harper once again shows us his virtuoso slide guitar skills. Each note rings with supreme confidence, each measure feels wholesome and full. The song meanders along, sonically rich yet simple enough to be a reflection of how you are feeling, easily alternating between being pensive, joyous, and melancholy. In a music scene that seems to reward fitting in as much sound into each song as possible, this is a stark contrast, and a novel idea, letting the instruments speak for themselves.

Buy Eldorado

Download Here

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cut Copy-Need You Now

This song drips with '80s influence. The '80s never really seem to die when it comes to music, with each year bringing new artists and bands who revisit the decade, each time falling back on a different part of the 80's aesthetic. Cut Copy in their new album, Zonoscope, present a sample platter of '80s sounds, leaving it up to the listener to decide which ones they take, which they come back for seconds, and which they leave on the platter.

After listening to Zonoscope something heavy for the past day or so, "Need You Now" is the song that seems to not want to leave me alone. Like one of my students here in Spain who shouts "A-lek-sis" every time he sees me walking down the halls, this song has found a way to pop up out of nowhere, consistently. I can't decide what it is about this jam won't let me go. The over minute-long intro sets the mood perfectly leading into the heart of the song with its fast tempo juxtaposing the melancholy lyrics. The beat leaves itself as a canvas for your funkiest dance moves-upbeat enough to let you experiment, slow enough that it won't drown you in BPM. The icing on top of this '80s love fest pie is the layers of sound effects, many popping out of nowhere, intent to not miss another second of the party.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tupac-Broken Wings (Until The End of Time)

Lennon, Hendrix, Biggie, Pac: some of the most iconic names in music history-artists who epitomize the very point of this blog, artists who made music that transcends people’s personal favorite genres and styles to become some of the most internationally loved artists of all time. Each artist’s music helps define their genres; combined, each artist’s music begins to mold an answer to the impossible question of “what is good music?” All had lives that were cut short, silencing their voices, but luckily for us the cliché that "music is forever" is true.

Tupac’s brilliance was that he balanced being a thug and a poet with an ease which made both sides equally believable. On “Broken Wings,” a track off of the posthumous album Until The End of Time, Pac seems to both be apologizing for the life he lives while admitting that he is who he is. One bar he is philosophizing, followed by another about drinking Hennessy: combined you get a fascinating picture of a man. What standouts most about this track is Tupac’s flow. Recorded soon before his death, his flow is masterful, rolling along with a forceful pace, not lingering over any syllables but hitting each word and accent with a controlled strength. Many of his songs are peppered with references to his own death, and this jam is no different, especially with its haunting last line, “maybe it’s the thug in me.” Maybe it was the thug in him that led him to be shot in Las Vegas, but lord know that thug also helped him become the artist that he was.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Heavy-How You Like Me Now

This song has swag. I'm not talking about the Lil' B swag! swag! swag!, but real musical swag: real energy, real soul, real power. "How You Like Me Now" continues a style of music which is deeply rooted in the past, songs that borrow heavily from old-school soul and sunk, but with a modern edge. This minigenre, a genre that includes bands like Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears and Fitz & The Tantrums seems to be intent on taking styles of the past and injecting Tahrir Square energy into into them, an energy that makes it impossible to not wanna bust out your best soul two steps.

The Heavy are a band supposedly from Noid, England, although it seems strangely appropriate that a place with that name doesn't actually exist. Because with a jam like this it doesn't matter where they are from, where you are from, where you are, or whether you like soul music or not. This song moves to such a reckless beat, a beat flirting with chaos, that I dare you to not feel something after you hear this song. And if you do feel something, it's a jamandahalf.

Buy How You Like Me Now

 The Heavy - How You Like Me Now by jammininthenameof

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Amos Lee-El Camino

Combined between the Moodawg (who is taking a sabbatical of epic proportions from this blog) and myself, Amos Lee is probably the artist we've listened to the most who hasn't appeared on these pages. With a discography full of mellow jams that slightly tiptoe the overly sappy line, Amos Lee is great mood music and even better thinking music. Amos is definitely an artist that you either love or hate, either you embrace the cheesiness like Bobby from the Goofy Movie, or you're terrified at knowledge of our slightly suspect taste of music. His newest album dropped today, and it is what you would expect from Amos. And that's a great thing.

"El Camino" is the first single from Mission Bell, and continues in the lineage of a lot of Amos's earlier work. With his mesmerizing voice, Amos talks with his impeccable honesty about making a journey, starting a trip to an unknown destination. Tinged with regret but forever looking forward, this song is a poignant look at what it really means to move on. "El Camino" also reflects the slightly more Western feel of the album, borrowing from influences such as the trumpets on this track to the Willie Nelson guest-spot on the "reprise" to this jam. 

Some artists nail a sound perfectly, stick to it, and make great, unique, music. Amos does exactly that.