Amoeblog

Top Ten NYC Subway Songs

Posted by Billyjam, September 3, 2014 10:51pm | Post a Comment
New York State of Mind Amoeblog #96:

As this 100 part weekly series winds to a close over the coming weeks I figured I'd do some music best-of lists in these final five installments including this week's Top Ten Best NYC Subway Songs. While a tough list to compile, due to the sheer number of songs out there that reference the most frequently used mode of transportation here in New York City, it was still a fun one to draw up.

For this top ten, rather than just do say 70's rock or 90's hip-hop or any one specific genre, I tried to cover several genres and eras, and even still just scratched the surface. The selections are mostly subway themed songs - although some are overall NYC themed but with subway references in them like the ones by Fear and VU which placed in the last two positions for that very reason. Some others that almost made the list include "F Train" by Babe the Blue Ox, Unsane's “D Train,” "The L Train Is A Swell Train And I Don't Want To Hear You Indies Complain" by Out Hud, "Subway: The Last 'I Love New York' Song" (from the musical Mayor), and another musical one - "Subways Are for Sleeping" from the musical of the same name. In comments below please feel free to add any songs you think should have made the list.



1) Duke Ellington Orchestra “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941) "You must take the 'A' train / To go to Sugar
Hill, way up in Harlem.
" Even if they don't realize it, everyone knows this song - a jazz standard and signature tune for Duke Ellington and his orchestra with lyrics. Literally a classic and one that pops
into my head every time I take the A train, and I rate it number one on my list for its historic relevance. Honorable mention to another jazz classic: "GG Train" by Charles Mingus about the line now known
simply as the "G" line - as the "L" line used to be the "LL" line.

Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Gang Starr's 1991 Classic LP Step In The Arena featuring "Just To Get A Rep"

Posted by Billyjam, August 5, 2014 01:05pm | Post a Comment

Gang Starr "Just To Get A Rep" from the album Step Into The Arena (1991)

"Mad brothers know his name" are just a few of the well known (and oft quoted or sampled) Gang Starr lyrics rapped by the late great emcee of the legendary hip-hop duo GURU (Gifts Unlimited Rhymes Universal) over DJ Premier's killer track on "Just To Get A Rep." The song was released in February 1991 by Chrysalis/EMI as the lead single (with "Who's Gonna Take The Weight" on the filp side of the 12" single) from the duo's hip-hop classic full-length Step In The Arena that was released a few weeks earlier. Like that album the single "Just To Get A Rep" remains a hip-hop classic. And now 23 full years later it is even clearer what an important role this particular song plays in its part of hip-hop's legacy, with each phrase and rhyme from the song known by heart by every true hip-hop fan and DJs/producers who like to take snippets of it and throw it in the mix. See full song lyrics listed below along with the videos for the other Step In The Arena album tracks as the mellow, chilled out "Lovesick" whose numerous samples include Digital Underground's best known song "The Humpty Dance," the heavily politicized "Who's Gonna Take The Weight?" (my personal fave album track with "Check The Technique" in close second), and the title track itself from the album Step In The Arena that while it was technically the group's second album it was their main introduction to most hip-hop audiences at the time. 

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Two Years After his Death, GURU of Gang Starr's Legacy Lives On

Posted by Billyjam, April 19, 2012 10:39am | Post a Comment

Gang Starr "Code of The Streets" (from
Hard To Earn, 1994)


It was on this date exactly two years ago (April 19, 2010) that hip-hop icon, emcee GURU of hip-hop golden era legendary duo Gang Starr (with DJ Premier) died succumbing to a year long battle with cancer combined with a serious heart attack from a month earlier.  The name of the super-gifted and highly influential MC, born Keith Elam and who was only 43 when he passed in April 2010, appropriately stood for "Gifts Unlimited Rhymes Universal" which perfectly summed up the artist. GURU will always be remembered most for his Gang Starr recordings. Yes he did a lot of other work with artists over the years including the ambitious Jazzmatazz series with Branford Marsalis, Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers and Ronny Jordan but it is his Gang Starr recordings/catalog that will forever remain in the hearts & heads of music fans and the general hip-hop consciousness.

There have been, over the years, countless club nights whose names have been taken directly from GURU lyrics, and/or Gang Starr song/album titles. Dave Paul of BOMB Hip Hop once had a party called Step In The Arena. Additionally GURU's fondness for confrontational, battle style lyrics were tailor-made for DJs to utilize in battle scenarios. As UK DJ/producer Pete Sasqwax so accurately noted today on this sad anniversary, "So many quotables & without him, how different DJ battles would've been over the years. I believe there was a significant period of time whereby it was mandatory to use a Guru dis in your DMC [DJ battle] routine otherwise you would automatically fail to progress." Above and below are videos to some of my personal all time fave Gang Starr cuts. Rest in peace GURU - your music keeps you alive forever!

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Amoeba SF Chart with Luis, Frisco Legends Tour, Coolzey's Summer Series, Guru + more: Amoeba Music Hip-Hop Weekly Round Up: 04:30:10

Posted by Billyjam, April 30, 2010 10:20am | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music San Francisco Weekly Hip-Hop Top Five Chart: 04:30:10

Andre NIckatina
1) Andre Nickatina Khan! The Me Generation (I-Khan Dist)

2) B.o.B. presents The Adventures Of Bobby Ray (Rebel Rock/Grand Hustle/Atlantic)

3) Cypress Hill Rise Up (Priority Records)

4) Little Brother LeftBack (Traffic)

5) Truthlive Patience (Interdependent Media)

Bonus pick of the week:
Sick Jacken Stray Bullets (Urban Kings Ent.)

Many thanks to Luis at Amoeba Music San Francisco for supplying the latest hip-hop top five chart, in both text and video formats, which also includes the Bonus pick of the week & featured vinyl releases (new & classic) at the Haight Street store. As Luis says in the video below, the recent Record Store Day (RSD) two Saturdays ago at Amoeba SF was off the hook, with records like the new Cypress Hill vinyl (RSD special release) and the Beastie Boys' "Mystery RSD" 12" attracting a lot of record collectors. "We sold out of all fifteen copies of that Beastie Boys record we had in like five minutes," Luis told me. As far as new releases on CD, the number one release this week is from longtime hometown artist Andre Nickatina, Khan! The Me Generation. Since arriving on the local rap scene back in 1993 with his debut The Real Jim Jones on In-A-Minute, back when he went by the moniker Dre Dog, Nickatina has not only been extremely prolific (systematically dropping an album on average of B.o.B.every other year), but more importantly he has remained consistently in-demand with the every fickle rap fan.

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1991 Interview with Gang Starr's DJ Premier and the Late Great Guru

Posted by Billyjam, April 26, 2010 09:44am | Post a Comment
Gang Starr
Exactly one week ago today Keith "Guru" Elam (aka G.U.R.U.) of legendary hip-hop duo Gang Starr tragically died at the age 43, a month after the cancer-stricken emcee collapsed and went into a coma. His passing hit all hip-hop fans hard, including myself, since I have been a die-hard fan of Guru and his production partner, the ever talented DJ Premier, from day one and had had the honor of meeting and interviewing them several times over the years. Earlier today, after digging, I discovered one of these old interviews. It's from mid 1991, when the duo were out visiting the Bay Area for a show at the DNA (which was off the hook!) and visiting local retail and radio, including KALX, where I conducted the interview that follows below.

At this stage in their career the Brooklyn based (Boston formed) duo was riding high off the reception to their January 1991 released second album Step In The Arena. In hip-hop it was a time many when rap acts were jumping on the jazz fused musical tip, something that Gang Starr had pioneered -- melding jazzy grooves (rather than the standard James Brown and other funk breaks) into their hip-hop sound. In fact, it was Gang Starr's track "Jazz Music" off their 1989 debut album No More Mr Nice Guy (Wild Pitch) that caught the attention of director Spike Lee, resulting in his inviting Gang Starr to contribute "Jazz Thing" (with saxophonist Branford Marsalis and featuring Kenny Kirkland and Robert Hurst) to the soundtrack of Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues starring Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Samuel L Jackson, and Lee himself.

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