ALLEN ANTHONY / “Alright” (Blackbeard Rework)


For me*, Blackbeard’s transcendent rework of Allen Anthony’s “Alright” began as little more than a hook on a halfway decent rap record. Back in 2003, a second-tier Roc-A–Fella rapper named Freeway needed a hook. Allen Anthony, formerly of the duo Christión (and now signed to the Roc as a solo artist), got the nod. Allen did a capable job, but his well-done chorus work couldn’t save the record from Freeway’s par-for-the-course blustering. (“I’m from a block where niggas might blast your Pops / No chance, ambulance can’t save your kin.” Good one, Freeway. You paint quite the vivid picture.)
allen anthony 02.jpg
A few months later, I heard another version of “Alright.” This one was a solo version by Allen Anthony—no MCing at all. It was decent. The lyrics were straightforward and heartfelt; there wasn’t much in the way of poetry, but sometimes the best way to say something is just to say it. I wasn’t crazy about the beat though. It was as though the tune had wings, wanted to soar, but something was holding it back.

Then, after another few months, I heard the Blackbeard rework. From the opening chords (lifted from “Mystic River,” “Mystic Brew,” a well-known Blue Note break-beat by keyboardist Ronnie Foster), I knew I was gonna dig it. Funny thing is, those same chords are in all three versions, Blackbeard just had the musical sense to strip them out of the mix and fatten them up a little; add some synth-strings, a little percussion and that nice “Mystic River” “Mystic Brew” bassline and I’ll be damned if “Alright” didn’t finally have a groove to go along with Allen’s vocal work. True to their usual style [ http://www.kalamu.com/bol/2005/07/31/common-ft-mary-j-blige-come-close/ ], Blackbeard’s mix is nothing but the beat for the first two-and-half minutes. Finally, Allen’s soulful lament begins: “This world’s a crazy place / Filled with such misery… / You may not understand me / But I’m trying to save my family.”

Yeah, alright.

—Mtume ya Salaam

* I say ‘for me,’ because although I heard Freeway’s version of “Alright” first, Anthony’s version is the original. For the entire convoluted history of “Mystic Brew”/”Alright,” check out this excellent post [ http://www.o-dub.com/soulsides/2004_07_01_archive.html ] from Oliver Wang’s Soul Sides.

Bonus tracks:
Freeway feat. Allen Anthony – “Alright” (from Philadelphia Freeway, Roc-A-Fella, 2003) [Excerpt]

Allen Anthony – “Alright” (from Dame Dash Presents Paid In Full, Roc-A-Fella, 2002) [Excerpt]

Ronnie Foster – Mystic Brew (from Two-Headed Freep, Blue Note, 1972)

          Well, alright         

i really don’t have much to say about this other than the remix is much, much better than a simple sum of its various parts. This is the kind of remix I would use as an example to demonstrate the thesis that in the 21st century, a musician is not simply a player of instruments, or to demonstrate that the making of music (i.e. music production) is no longer solely the province of instrumentals and vocalists. Producers, DJs and engineers are also musicians, i.e. producers of music. Blackbeard is a musician. Got to be. He took some stuff that was just alright and made it: well, alright!

—Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 8th, 2006 at 1:36 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


10 Responses to “ALLEN ANTHONY / “Alright” (Blackbeard Rework)”

jb Says:
January 9th, 2006 at 12:27 pm

wow. i’m gonna have to respectfully disagree. i love “Alright,” both versions. (And Freeway is a beast. No one rides a beat like he does excepting maybe for his mentor Beanie and his semi-protege Peedi. He’s absurd, emphatic, mournful and restrained all seemingly at the same time. Dude is extremely capable as a emcee even if his lyrics don’t astound on paper.) You’re right, Anthony is not a gifted lyricist but his deficiency in that area does not detract from the strength of this song and the Just Blaze track has been jacked for countless remixes and white labels, India Arie’s version immediately comes to mind. And both songs were more than popular on the mixtape circuit which is to say that a lot of folk, fans and artists, adored these song primarily due to Just Blaze’s production.


Ny Says:
January 9th, 2006 at 6:18 pm

I like the intro. Nice.


Qawi Says:
January 10th, 2006 at 1:30 pm

I guess I’m not just feeling this one. As a jazz composition Mystic River is an excellent piece. The lyrics of Anthony and Freeway are uninspiring, but I’ll at least give Freeway credit on the delivery though. Freeway at least has the energy to interact with the track. For Anthony, you get a feeling that he finally gets inspired towards the end of the track, not throughout. And for folks who understand that music is a living organism, might take his lack of energy as very detracting. For some strange reason, his singing kind of reminds me of a Aaron Hall (Guy). The hook just begs to be used in a Hip-Hop application. Unfortunately, neither of Alright’s are it. Bonita Applebaum (Tribe Called Quest) used some semblence of Mystic River to make it work.

      Mtume says:    

Right group, Qawi. Wrong song. Tribe sampled "Mystic Brew" for "Electric Relaxation," not "Bonita."

And, I screwed up too. Three times in the write-up, I referred to "Mystic Brew" as "Mystic River." (Sorry. I saw that movie not too long ago.)

 


Qawi Says:
January 13th, 2006 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for the correction Mtume. In all my critique, I forgot to mention the production skills. It is true that a producer is more than just the person who gets the talent together. Production (especially musical) takes vision and genius, and I give Blaze credit for that.


Janine Says:
August 3rd, 2006 at 12:51 pm

A Detroit radio dj plays an instrumental of “Alright” during her announcements and it drove me crazy for about a year trying to find out the title/artist of this song. Everytime she played the instrument I could vision the video “a buy riding his bike……” I finally wrote the radio host and she gave me the information. I found the song on the internet and it wasn’t what I was looking for. She gave me the Freeway version and I was highly disappointed. I was looking for the Allen Anthony vocal version. The Freeway version sickens me.


Janine Says:
August 3rd, 2006 at 12:52 pm

correction…..the video is a “guy” riding his bike around town, but I’m sure you know that if you’ve seen the video. I love the Allen Anthony vocal version of this song.


Terrell Says:
February 9th, 2007 at 6:38 pm

I heard the Freeway version of the song, and I like it, but then I heard the Allen Anthony version, and for some reason, although the technical quality of freeway is superior, I listen the A.A. song much more. I even know Freeway’s lyrics “to the core”, and I sing Allen Anthony’s much more. I think Double-A’s song’s got much more feeling. I simply love it. I have this opinion that the original stuff should NOT be touched and modified from its original state. And I didn’t even know Double-A’s song was the ORIGINAL one.


Rob Says:
February 11th, 2007 at 11:15 pm

Is it just me or does “Alright” sound similar to Glen Lewis’ “Don’t You forget it”??


diablo Says:
September 10th, 2009 at 4:37 pm

hi
does anobody have the lyrics of allen anthony -alright whitout freeway, please can you send it to me at emimenso@hotmail.com
thanks


Cammy Finland Says:
April 28th, 2012 at 5:17 am

I think you are right about this


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