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Warren Mayes - Keep on kickin it

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 5, 2008 08:26pm | Post a Comment

In the mid-1980s, though hip hop was still primarily an east coast phenomenon, it was quickly spreading to other locales like the musically rich bottom of the map, New Orleans. In 1984, Mannie Fresh, Mia X, DJ Wop and New York-transplant Denny D formed New Orleans' first rap crew, New York Incorporated. Two years later, The Ninja Crew (ninjas being hugely popular then) released the first N.O. rap recording "We Destroy" on 4-Sight, the Ft. Lauderdale bass label. The Ninja Crew included Gregory D, Sporty T and DJ Baby T (aka DJ Lil Daddy). 
  
After those acts broke up, other local rappers began emerging in a rapidly expanding field including MC J' Ro J'Tim Smooth, 39 Posse and the subject of this blog, Warren Henry Mayes III.

Warren Henry Mayes III (often spelled “Mays”) was - along with Ann, Lisa, Travis, Eldridge, Bernell J, Melanie , Izell, Stella "Sunshine" and Renaldo – one of Melba "Ann” Mayes and Warren “Swingin’ Gate” Mayes's many children.  Warren Jr. was a songwriter and dancer. The large Mayes family lived in the 4th ward's Iberville projects.


Warren III (nicknamed "Stone") was also a songwriter. He released his debut, Doin Them Right (Touchdown Records) in 1986. It included the songs “Rock the Bells Baby,” “It’s Real When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Full Time Lover,” Warren Mayes Doin’ Them Right,” “That’s the Way it Is/I’m Backin’ Out,” “Telephone Lover,” “So How Ya Livin Homies,” “Straight From the Project,” “Don’t Stop,” “Stop Jocking,” “Do Your Thing,” “Backin’ Out.”


Old school New Orleanians still fondly recall the flashy legend, proudly driving his Camaro Iroc-Z and wowing the crowds (appropriately, given his sartorial sensibility) at Club Adidas and Club Polo. He released the single, “Get It Girl (Don’t Stop)” b/w “Jam” in 1989. In 1991, it got picked up by Atlantic. The song wasn’t quite bounce - it doesn't use the triggerman or brown beats, for example. It is recognizably New Orleanian in its used of a repetitive chants in the coda and the shout outs, albeit to various signs of the zodiac instead of projects, neighborhoods and wards.

The song, produced by the legendary Bobby Marchan for Manicure Records, also got picked up by The Re-Birth Jazz Band, who a year later would record Warren Mayes Jr.’s (Stone’s father) “(You Got the) Same Thang On.” In New Orleans, the second line bands and rappers often have close ties share a similarly cheerful antagonism as conveyed in chants like "If you ain't gonna roll get the fuck on out the way” and Warren Mayes pioneered a brand of New Orleanian hip hop that often used second line bands for accompaniment.


In 1994, Warren released the thirteen track Back for the 94’ on Party Time Records. For reasons unbeknownst to me, he dropped the “e” from his last name on this and all subsequent releases. He also he appeared alongside DJ KLC and Serv-On on Magnolia Slim’s “Made for Walkin’”debut, off his debut, Soulja 4 Lyfe (Parkway Pumpin’) in '95.


That same  year he released Warren Mays and the Canivin' Boys (1995/Hot Crescent Records)  which included the songs “Intro,”“Booty Shake,” “Get It Girl (Remix),” “ Bounce to This,” “Real Ass Brother,” “Revenge,” “Get Their Skull Cracked,” “Don't Bounce Bitch,” “Represent Yourself,”  “No One Wants to Get Shot,”  “Do My Thang,”  “You Make Me Nasty, “Let It Hang ,” “Doin' Em Right,”Warren Mays and the Canivin' Boys “It's Real,” “Rock The Bells,” “Back for the 9-4 (Club Mix),” “ If Your Down With Your Hood, Put Your Hand Up” and “Club Mix.” Not only did Mays on occasion employ Re-Birth to accompany him in his unique mix of hip-hop and second line music, he even included some tracks where Rebirth play without him. Another point of not, the album’s covers stark art is so at odds with Pen & Pixel’s then-dominant electronic collages that it could almost pass for Peter Saville.


In 1996, he appeared on Pimp Daddy’s posthumous release/tribute, Pimpin' Ain't E Z, with the tongue twisting bounce classic “Keep on Kick It" with production courtesy of Mannie Fresh.


The double album, Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – See Me When I Get There appeared in 1999, credited to Warren Mays and Da Posse. With 8th Ward Villian, Von Ness, YTs and a host of others, it's an epic compilation more than a solo record. Shockingly, it was reviewed by Neil Strauss in The New York Times when he included it in his article “The Pop Life: Undeservedly Obscure; Pop Critics List the Worthwhile Albums Most People Missed.”


Unfortunately, like so many New Orleanians, Warren Mays lost his life an early age, killed August 6th, 1999. As is the case with 99% of murdered rappers, the case remains unsolved. RIP

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Hip-Hop Author Marcus Reeves Discusses "Somebody Scream! Rap Music's RIse To Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power"

Posted by Billyjam, July 19, 2008 12:24pm | Post a Comment
Marcus Reeves ("Someboday Scream!" author)
Marcus Reeves
, former editor of the the Source hip-hop magazine and contributor to such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and Vibe magazine, recently had his book Somebody Scream! (Rap Music's Rise To Prominence In The Aftershock of Black Power published by Faber and Faber Inc.

Like Jeff Chang's critically acclaimed hip-hop history Can't Stop Won't Stop, Somebody Scream likewise takes an analytical look at hip-hop -- a musical form that, like rock before it, is now all grown up and going through its own kind of mid-life crisis. Cornel West called Reeves' book "a strong  timely book for the new day in hip-hop" and he is right.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the East Coast based author to talk about his new book, Somebody Scream,  and its subject matter: hip-hop. Here is that dialog:

Amoeblog
: First up, how hard is it writing a book on a topic that is still unfolding around you as you report on its subject matter?

Marcus Reeves: Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to write because before I even started I had a beginning, a middle and an end. I’d already picked out who were the most influential rap artists—the ones who lead their particular era—strung their stories together by chapter and let the narrative unfold.Marcus Reeve's book "Somebody Scream!" And the narrative was easy because, like so many who’d watched the story of commercial rap over the last 30 years, it was also the story of my life. All the history and events that the music reflected, and I talk about in the book, were things I lived through and impacted my life. The last chapter of the book, which discusses what events shape the music now, helped capture all those moments that were still unfolding.

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Jimi Hendrix (1973)

Posted by Miss Ess, April 25, 2008 05:35pm | Post a Comment

If you are a gigantic music fan, you've probably already listened to and absorbed Jimi Hendrix' music to the point where you might think you never ever need to hear it again.  I know the feeling-- when I was in high school Jimi was one of the primary artists I listened to, over and over and over again to the point of oblivion.

So to you, the jaded, I say, hold up!  Just when you think you've seen and heard everything (and maybe you have, but this was new to me...), here comes the fairly recent reissue of the 1973 documentary Jimi Hendrix, which was directed by Joe Boyd, John Head III and Gary Weis.  I read about it in Joe Boyd's White Bicycles, and finally got my hands on a copy of the movie. 

Producer extraordinaire Boyd was heartbroken by the bumps that came along with putting together this film.  One thing he was dead on about, and what really makes this film compelling above all others about Hendrix, is that the interviews were conducted only 3 years after Hendrix' death, and both his contradictory and brilliant presence and the awe he inspired in his fellow musicians is extremely palpable.  Heck, you can see it written all over Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend's still-freaked-out faces! 

And then there are the girlfriends, so many of them.  The one that stands out is Fayne Pridgon, who he met in Harlem and dated throughout the sixties.  She's quite the feisty gal, and her stories about Hendrix are hilarious-- her manner of speaking is unnervingly similar to Jimi's.  Her mother had a heavy love/hate relationship with Hendrix, which Fayne details in alternatively sad and silly tales.  She remembers wide-eyed Jimi bringing home a Dylan record and flipping out that she tried to leave the room to go to the bathroom during one of the songs, nearly missing the best part!  She also tells a great story about being on the subway with Jimi and their cats, who got loose.

Roadies and managers are also interviewed, folks I had never seen in other documentaries.  Their memories are fresh:  a roadie recalls having to stand behind the amps and hold them up while Jimi humped and flailed away on the front of the Marshall stack; a manager remembers landing in London in 1970 to a pack of paparazzi and moving aside, only to have his arm firmly grabbed by still-shy Jimi, who didn't want to be left alone with the press.

Oh yeah, and there's Lou Reed, interviewed in his all-white leisure style suit with his tight 'fro.  Yessiree, this film was made in the 70s.

And, there's also priceless and hyperactive Little Richard footage where he talks about how he never got to tell Hendrix he knew he'd make it.  Check it out here, guaranteed to crack you up:



Anyway, this movie is fantastic because of all these visceral memories, stories that paint Jimi Hendrix as an actual person-- not just an axe-wielding, drug addicted God.  Some of the musical footage in the film we've seen a zillion times now, but if you get your head back to 1973, when the movie was made, you realize footage was not as readily available as it is now. Movie crowds back then were eager to drink in Hendrix' spectacular guitar work at Monterey and Isle of Wight, which sadly for many of us has paled only because in our era of instant gratification we have been completely oversaturated with it.  Watching this movie made me remember once again, and also brought new depth to the fact that Jimi's genius ran deep.

The DVD reissue comes with tons of fantastic extra footage from the interviews -- the bonus materials here are well worth watching.

Eazy-E Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 7, 2008 01:10pm | Post a Comment
Happy Eazy-E Day, a holiday observed over in Compton by order of the mayor. I'm not sure what customs are attached to the day so I'll just share my Eazy-E story.



I first heard Eazy-E back in 1988 when I was in junior high. Even before I heard him, I'd heard of him. Back then, new music was still mostly disseminated by word of mouth and the trade of mixtapes. Our computers were Apple ][es and the internet was still just one of Al Gore's fantasies. The only rap they played on the radio was harmless (but fun) stuff like Whodini, UTFO and the Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff. But just looking around the school hallways it was obvious that there was more to the hip-hop world than what got played on the air. Kids wore enormous clocks around their necks like Flava Flav of the airplay-denied Public Enemy. When teachers distinguished me from another Eric by referring to me as "Eric B.," the question "where's Rakim?" often followed-- uttered by a savvy classmate. The rap that most people listened to as far as I know (with the exception of Ice-T, Too $hort ) was either from the East or South Coasts. Then, seemingly overnight, kids started wearing Raiders and Kings gear. A wind picked up from the west...



One day around that time, my younger brother Evan and I were out riding bikes down past Bill Wolf's property. Bill Wolf was kind of a big man out in the country who built a lot of homes, owned a lot of land and used to shoot copperheads-- plus he claimed to have seen panthers in the woods behind our house, long before they were officially verified to have returned to the area. I remember the tar on Old Mill Creek Road used to bubble in the heat and pop under my Schwinn's deliberately swerving tires. There was probably the loud buzz of cicadas in the air. Down by Mill Creek (where I used to try to catch crawdads) Evan (riding our sister's orange 3-speed) found a chewed up, discarded cassette by the bridge. He said that the tape was unraveled and draped across some weeds. It was labeled "Eazy Duz It." I got excited at the opportunity suddenly afforded us to listen to something we probably wouldn't otherwise hear. Evan wound the tape back up with his finger and took it back to the house.

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Sissy Rappers - Tell me what a sissy know

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 3, 2008 04:42pm | Post a Comment
In hip-hop circles, you often encounter self-appointed arbiters of hip-hop taste who decry certain supposed negative trends in hip-hop. One frequent target for these musical Taliban is the prevalence of "bling," which is regarded as a new corruption of the scene (conveniently ignoring Gucci-clad, Rolls Royce-flaunting, "paid in full"-singing Eric B and Rakim or the massive gold ropes that adorned every rapper from Big Daddy Kane down the alphabet to Yella.) These paternal advocates of fiscal responsibility feel that rappers should be saving their money, I suppose, and not spending on ostentatious jewelry.

These conservative cultural watchdogs usually then go into an oft-repeated, well-rehearsed diatribe about meaningless, party-centric lyrics, the lack of reliance on DJing, the importance of being real and other things that place them ideologically in the traditionalist camp alongside their trad jazz forebears that griped when jazz moved beyond its Dixieland roots, the guy that yelled "Judas" when Dylan plugged in and prog-rock fans who decried the lack of humorless, showy, technical proficiency when glam began took over the charts and hearts of rock fans in the 70s.

But music evolves, regardless (and sometimes in defiance) of the griping and sniping of those stodgy snobs who stand scowling and motionless with arms folded whilst the masses keep on getting down. In 1968 Nik Cohn virtually created rock criticism with his book Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of RockAs the title suggests, Cohn viewed the meaningless, shallow, fun music of rock's dawn in higher regard than the pretentious progressive rock of his day.  Another genre of music that haters love to hate is Bounce music. I felt like my love of this despised genre was validated, in a way, when the same Nik Cohn moved to New Orleans and worked with Choppa, an under-rated rapper from Algiers on the West Bank who had a big regional hit with "Choppa Style." Choppa dubbed Cohn "Nik the Trik" and Cohn wrote another book of criticism about his experiences, Triksta: Life and Death and New Orleans Rap.

Now, if you remember the late '90s, with the rising profiles of No Limit and Cash Money, the term "bounce" started getting thrown around by East & West Coast rappers who incorporated slightly southern rap-inspired beats to their club hits in what amounted, from where I stand, to a new form of minstrelsy that I call Southface. Jay-Z did "Can I Get A" and dropped excruciatingly wooden verses on a remix of Juvie's Bounce-inspired "Back That Azz Up," Ice Cube did "You Know I'm a Ho" with Master P and the southern-flavored "U Can Do It" and R. Kelly gratingly drove the word "bounce" into the ground with that one song that I'm not even going to try to remember the name of, lest it get stuck in my head. None of these songs really bore more than a passing resemblance to real Bounce music though and Bounce labels Big Boy (which initially had Mystikal and Partners N Crime) and Take Fo' (who had DJ Jubilee, Willie Puckett and Tec-9 from UNLV) as well as Bounce pioneers like TT Tucker & DJ IRv, DJ Jimi, and Everlasting Hitman were left where they started-- with little more than devoted regional cult followings.

Real Bounce is the extremely repetitive New Orleans-centered rap genre that draws from an incredibly small pool of samples. The source of all Bounce tracks is pretty much just the song "Drag Rap" by obscure 80s East Coast rap group The Showboys. The rest of the samples come from British DJ Derek B's "Rock the Beat." How those two little-known tracks became so important to New Orleans hip-hop is a mystery to me. Bounce lyrics usually amount to little more than repeated call-and-response chants, shouting out dances and the names of New Orleans' many projects.  If you want to learn more about it, check out the film Ya Heard Me which, from what little I've seen, looks to be a pretty entertaining and informative documentary about the critically-ignored scene.

Anyway, a few years into the Bounce game, along came Katey Red, pretty much the first openly gay rapper to achieve any degree of popularity when he/she dropped Melpomene Block Party in 1999. Katey's on Take Fo', a label which promotes what they consider a positive image, shying away from lyrics about drugs and guns, but having no problem with lewdness-- kind of a European sensibility, really. This is N.O. after all-- a city deep in culture and older than the U.S.A. itself.

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