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Saluting Leonard Cohen [1934 - 2016]

Posted by Billyjam, November 11, 2016 12:39pm | Post a Comment

This past Monday (Nov. 7, 2016) influential and widely loved longtime poet/author/singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen passed away, as announced last night via the Canadian artist's Facebook page. Cohen, who enjoyed a rich six decade career ending with the new You Want It Darker, was 82 years old. As of yet no exact cause of death has been issued. However a memorial at a to be announced date will take place in Los Angeles where, should the choir sing his most famous/covered song "Hallelujah," things will get most emotional. According to his family, up until the time of his death Cohen had been busy writing, and up until three years ago he had been touring/performing with his final concert in Australia in December 2013. In the time since he has done interviews, in one with the New Yorker he had said he was ready to die. In his final interview four weeks ago at a listening party for You Want It Darker at the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles with KCRW's Chris Douridas he corrected that by saying, "I intend to live forever."

You Want It Darker (Columbia/Legacy) is the perfect sign off from an amazing artist, a brilliant beatuiful poet who began as a writer, was told by some his voice sucked so maybe not sing, but he did, and people loved him from the get go, and all the way up to his just released swan song, You Want It Darker. His fourteenth album, it was released three weeks ago, Amoeba reviewers called it  "a soulful exploration of life and death." In two weeks was the vinly/LP version of You Want It Darker scheduled for a Record Store Day 2016 release in two weeks time, Nov. 25th. As further noted in the review on the Amoeba page for You Want It Darker, Cohen "intones through his throaty spoken word delivery on the title track, adding, over church-choir backups and stately organ" and continuing that, "If it truly is Cohen’s last album, as he has hinted, he’s gone out on a breathtaking note with You Want it Darker." Although officially 14 albums mark Cohen's discography, his back catalog is way deeper than than, as proven by the 5 pages of Leonard Cohen releases available from Amoeba. Honoring the legacy of the great Leonard Cohen, below are a handful of music videos from his long illustrious career, one that also included many books of poetry and fiction he published before and after his music career began (still have my beat-up, well worn but treasured paperback copy of his second novel, Beautiful Losers).


A Tribe Called Quest's New (Sixth & Final) Album Arrives At The Perfect Time

Posted by Billyjam, November 11, 2016 10:25am | Post a Comment
In the wake of the emotionally draining presidential election, this week more than ever music offers the stressed citizens of this nation a much needed escape / distraction. Hence the timing of the release today of the hotly anticipated new A Tribe Called Quest album, We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service (Epic Records) could not be more perfect.

Besides the fact that the group, who once recorded the soothing "Stressed Out," are known for their relaxing jazzy brand of hip-hop (hence the perfect music to chill and escape to) this album [pre-order physical from Amoeba] is a landmark hip-hop release. It is the final album from a group that many believed would never record together again. We Got It From Here, Thank You for Your Service is A Tribe Called Quest's sixth studio album over a 26 year period dating back to their 1990 debut People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Note, despite ATCQ's continued chill vibe on the new album, lyrically it does not shy from addressing current affairs. Most notable is the new album song "We The People" (scroll all the way down to see the just released accompanying official lyric music video) with such lyrics as Q-Tip's paraphrasing of the president elect's campaign message: "You Black folks, you must go. All you Mexicans, you must go And all you poor folks, you must go Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways So all you bad folks, you must go."

Hip-Hop And The 2016 Presidential Election

Posted by Billyjam, November 8, 2016 05:03am | Post a Comment
Nov. 8th: Following what has to go down as the most divisive, emotionally draining and drawn out, media saturated, presidential campaign in American history, we've finally arrived at November 8th, Election Day 2016. Polls are open 7am to 8pm today in California and from 6am to 9pm in New York. Vote for whomever you believe in, but be sure to get out and vote unless you are among the demographic of early voters who've already handled their business. 

In viewing this election process from a hip-hop perspective and judging what candidate has been most associated with the musical genre, the answer seems pretty clear, starting with who it is not. It sure wouldn't be the one whose racist rhetoric inspired one of the most popular party jams of this past summer: YG featuring Nipsey Hussle's "FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)" off YG's mid June released album Still Brazy (Def Jam). Indeed from early on hip-hop seemed unlikely to side with the candidate who had built his campaign upon the relentless, yet ultimately redundant, questioning of the legitimacy of the birth place of America's "first hip-hop president."

Further Trump's campaign appearing both anti-Hispanic and anti Black Lives Matter, sure didn't give him much chance of converting diehard hip-hop followers. Nor did the lawsuit-happy Orange one's long list of litigation threats that included one against popular rapper Mac Miller. Back in 2011 Mac Miller recorded the song called "Donald Trump" (making reference to riches, nothing political) for his Best Day Ever mixtape (avail on LP) that went on to become a platinum hit and to date racked up 117 million video views. At first Donald Trump said he liked the song. But later he flip-flopped and threatened to sue the rapper (he still has not) over use of his name in the hit song. Unimpressed but inspired to fire back, Mac Miller blasted Trump back at that time. Fast forward to last December, right before the televised Republican presidential debate, Mac Miller revived his counter attack via Trump's favorite fighting ground, Twitter, by posting to his 5.75 million followers: "Please just don't elect this m**therfucker man"

Of course Mac Miller isn't the only rapper to diss Trump. Many have done so in song, especially over the past year, including The Game in the track "El Chapo" with Skrillex, off his 2015 album The Documentary 2.5 Collectors Edition, on which he rapped: "knock Donald Trump out his toupee." However it should be noted that traditionally in the pre-political days of Trump, especially the early nineties when his image was just that of rich businessman, the Donald's countless rap song mentions, that even included A Tribe Called Quest and Digital Underground, were all highly complimentary with his name been utilized simply to symbolize wealth.

Top 10 New Hip-Hop Vinyl: Kate Tempest, Czarface, La Coka Nostra, Grup Ses, Mndsgn, A-F-R-O & Marco Polo, Your Old Droog, Sims

Posted by Billyjam, November 5, 2016 02:06pm | Post a Comment
1: Kate Tempest Let Them Eat Chaos LP (Lex Records) [also avail on CD]
    

As the presidential race heats up in its final days leading up Tuesday's all important date, so too it seems is the build up of new hip-hop releases. Typically as the calendar year nears its end the momentum of album releases increases but this year there seems to be even more than in recent previous years, especially hip-hop on vinyl releases as witnessed by the ten new album releases listed here. Just over the past month of 2016, as well as ahead into the remaining eight weeks of the year, there's a wealth of quality 2016 hip-hop vinyl full length album releases. Many of these are reissues but 2016 has given us more new releases on vinyl than previous years in memory. These include all the upcoming Record Store Day 2016 releases on Black Friday Nov. 25th. [Be sure to closely study the PDF list of exclusive RSD upcoming releases] A sign that record labels are again taking vinyl seriously is how the LP release date is not always staggered to come three or more months later than the CD/digital release of an album. Of the ten new vinyl albums this week listed here, about half of them brand new album releases to any/all formats. Where available the CD purchase link is listed in addition to the LP/vinyl link. All LP and CD purchases from Amoeba's online store enjoy Free Shipping anywhere in USA. 

1994 Hip-Hop Flashback: Rap/Hip-Hop Charts from Billboard, Leopold Records, Music People, Gavin Report, KMEL, KUSF

Posted by Billyjam, November 2, 2016 08:01pm | Post a Comment
For this hip-hop flashback to 1994, we take a look at a variety of rap/hip-hop charts spanning various times throughout that wonderfully rich twelve months in hip-hop history twenty two years ago. Including singles, extended plays and album releases, these charts or lists are comprised of both national and regional (with a focus on Bay Area), and based on either sales figures or radio airplay.  Since the charts listed are not for all of 1994 and tallying year end figures, but rather sample charts from various weeks or months throughout that year, they tends to give a better overall (or at least alternative) view of hip-hop in the Nine Fo' compared to the usual "best of '94 hip-hop" lists of releases you find online. Interspersed with some corresponding music videos, the 1994 charts culled from several different sources. Among the 1994 charts below is one from longtime leading music industry magazine  Billboard.  Based on retail sales from the week ending September 17th, 1994, it is their Top 40 "Hot Rap" singles chart. That the music industry publication referred to the genre as "rap" and not "hip-hop" demonstrated how the music was still generally referred, even in '94.  Another Billboard chart (albeit not strictly rap) below is their "Regional Heatseekers #1's" chart that highlighted buzz-worthy, hot selling, number one charting releases from various regions round the country. Rappin' 4-Tay was number one in the Pacific region Also below is the first top 20 of a top 40 Gavin Rap chart from now defunct, San Francisco based, radio trade industry magazine Gavin Report. and compiled by rap editor Thembisa Mshaka.There's three charts from the long gone Oakland one-stop distributor Music People (who owned In-A-Minute Records) whose former employee (later DogDay Records co-founder) Jo Treggiari prepared the three charts below: "Down In Our Hood" which was all local Bay Area (including a lot of carry over from '93 releases). "MINI'S" which was singles and cassingles (cassettes as it was still middle of the 90's), and "MAXI'S" which were EPs or more typically extended single versions with formats including cassette, CD, and vinyl.
The other charts included are from the (long gone but still missed) Leopold Records on Durant Ave. in Berkeley near the UC campus and Amoeba Berkeley (in fact many former Amoebites worked there). Leopold's was legendary for hip-hop fans. People would travel from all over the East Bay and beyond to shop at the amazingly well stocked store for their in-depth, exhaustive choices of both local indie and national releases. Consequently what homegrown music was popular with Bay hip-hop fans is reflected in their "Local Legends" full-length albums top 30 list from June of '94. The mid 1994 published list included a lot of 1993 carry over releases as well as the 1994 album via Sic Wid It/Jive from Celly Cel: Heat 4 Yo Azz which was their hot-pick "Bump of the Month." Note that most Bay Area albums listed on that chart were on CD and cassette only with not that many vinyl formatted. At this stage Bay Area was less vinyl oriented than hip-hop coming out back East. Other '94 charts below include the Top Ten KMEL radio airplay based one from the first week in September that note includes some R&B as well as rap/hip-hop. Another radio chart is one from my old KUSF San Francisco radio show charts from February 1994. You will notice how many names show up repeatedly on different charts. These include artists such as Fillmore, San Francisco's Rappin' 4 Tay, Queensbridge legend Nas, and San Francisco's Herm Lewis. Activist/artist Lewis curated the Tryin To Survive In The Ghetto: San Francisco Compilation which, although released in '93 was a sleeper that blew up into '94 on a local and national level. And his Bay rap compilation was not alone since,  it being '94 when the West Coast era of rap (with lots of G-Funk and more) was well underway, there's numerous more Left Coast artists included in these charts such as Eazy-E, Warren G, Ice Cube, South Central Cartel, Above The Law, and Coolio.  Further being it was the tail end of the genre's so-called "golden era," it consequently included such records as Gang Starr's "Dwyck."  It was also the year in which Bad Boy was beginning its chart reign with former secular rapper Craig Mack's "Flava In Ya Ear" via Puff Daddy's then one year old Bad Boy Entertainment record label leading the charge as the label's first single. That video is immediately below and followed by the chart from Billboard with it as its number entry.
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