TALIB KWELI & HI-TEK / “For Women”

MP3 09 For Women.mp3 (6.37 MB)

A frequent defense rappers drop is that they are respecting and keeping old skool alive by sampling and referencing material from earlier generations. I don’t think it’s quite that simple. Most of the sampling and referencing is done anonymously, i.e., the listener generally has no idea what the source was, indeed, in many cases, young audiences have no idea that much of the music they are listening to is not original. People just don’t know and most often the producers of new sounds do not give any indication about the sources.
I like the Talib Kweli (from Train Of Thought) take on Nina Simone’s “Four Women” precisely because Talib is clear on the source and pays appropriate homage. Indeed, Talib’s riff is one of the finest moments of rap that I have heard. (I’m not claiming to be a rap expert, but I have heard a goodly amount.) In this case, I encourage folk to check out the comments section of the original post—I really, really like how our readers enter into the conversation, which after all was one of the major intentions of BoL; that’s why it’s call a “conversation” about Black music, rather than a lecture or a blog.
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As a bonus, I feel compelled to include Afro-German, Joy Denalane’s version taken from her debut release, Mamani (Four Music/Sony - 2002). The Talib Kweli write-up gives you the full 411 on Joy’s version.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

* * * 


billy stewart cover.jpg
Billy Stewart is another artist I knew nothing about until Kalamu posted one of his tunes. Stewart’s version of the Gershwin standard “Summertime” (originally released as a single in 1966; available on One More Time: The Chess Years, MCA - 1990) has to be one of the most joyful, happy, inspiring, optimistic, spirited and just goddamn fun records I’ve ever heard. That’s ironic for several reasons. The first is, Kalamu posted this track in August ’05 as part of his excellent batch of “Summertime” covers. Anyone from New Orleans or anywhere near the Gulf Coast will instinctively and instantly cringe when they see that month matched with that year. If you’re from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or West Texas, August 29th 2005 is a date you’ll never forget. Anyway, as I was going through the archives in preparation for this week, it occurred to me that Kalamu posted this happiest of happy songs only three weeks before the biggest natural disaster in American history damn near wiped out one of the greatest cities in the world. The second irony is that “Summertime” is usually performed with a bluesy, downtempo feel. It’s a song that seems to naturally carry with it undertones of regret and sadness. There are so many great versions of the tune—Miles’ of course, Angelique Kidjo’s, Anita Baker & Cyrus Chestnut’s and on and on—but my favorite of all is the one that changes the tone completely, transforming tears to joy, feelings of regret and sadness to pure happiness. The last irony is that Billy met his untimely demise not all that long after cutting this great record. Talk about optimism crushed. Man, oh man, can life be cruel sometimes or what?
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As a bonus, here’s a track by the self-styled ‘Latin Funk Brother,’ the Afro-Filipino himself, ‘Subway’ Joe Bataan. There aren’t many songs that make you want get up and boogie, forget all your troubles and clap and sing along as much as Billy Stewart’s “Summertime” does, but Joe’s “It’s A Good Feeling” comes close. (Originally from Riot!, Fania - 1970; Available on the Bataan best-of collection, Latin Funk Brother, Vampi Soul - 2002). Move all the furniture out of the way and get out of your computer chair. This one is made to party to.

—Mtume ya Salaam


This entry was posted on Sunday, June 18th, 2006 at 12:34 am and is filed under Cover. 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.

5 Responses to “TALIB KWELI & HI-TEK / “For Women””

ms. b Says:
June 18th, 2006 at 10:40 am

When are you guys going to offer Joy for download??? I think this is the second time I’ve read a review where you have mentioned her and I have LOVED the tracks. You might want to do a review on her. I love the afro-french connection.

Kiini Says:
June 21st, 2006 at 10:10 am

Wow! The Billy Stewart has SO MUCH ENERGY! So very much. Every time I hear it, I really FEEL this massive boost of energy. Amazing.

Did ya’ll realilze Joy Delane is singing the verses in four different languages. The first verse of her “Vier Frauen” is in Portugues, the second is in what ever her African parent’s native tonuge (and she put some whole long riff in there in that language too), the third is in French, and the last in German. Apparently she’s got CONCEPTS! (And she has a lot to say–past Nina Simone’s lyrics, I mean. In German too. Unfortunately–I don’t speak any of those languages, so I don’t know what she’s adding to the song.

Talib says the older woman (Aunt Sara) has gone lived from Nigger to Colored to Negro to Afro to Black to African American. Reminds me a photograph of Mama (Tayari kwa Salaam) teaching us at Ahidiana. On the black board are those words:

African American

and it reminds me HOW IMPORTANT it is that we teach our children about race before someone else does.

I llike what Talib does in the song. And he twists the end of 4 Women to be optimistic and hopeful. Nice.

I never heard lyrics to “Song for My Father.” I know it as a classic (non-vocal) song. Was it originally released with vocals? Who’s singing?

Kiini Says:
June 21st, 2006 at 10:12 am

okay, so i asked who’s singing before he started his famous vocalizing… now i need you to "remind" me of who’s voice that is… i have an idea, but i don’t want to embarrass myself….

          kalamu sez          

kiini, the voice is leon thomas. the instrumental came first and the lyrics later on.

your questions confirm what i suspected: some people listen to the jukebox but don’t necessarily read all of the write-ups. c’est la vie.

anyway, joy’s conception of "four women" included getting three other women to sing with her, each took a different verse in a different language. two of the other three (sara tavares, born in portugal of cape verdean parents, and chinowiso from zimbabwe) are familiar to me. i admire and like sara tavare’s work very, very much. i have at least one recording by all three of the women who accompany joy. the write up that is referenced gives more info.

Kiini Says:
June 21st, 2006 at 11:51 am

Hey Baba, I actually read the write ups first and then listen to the Jukebox. The problem is the order of the songs in the Jukebox. I suspect you arrange it in a pleasing fashion… but I expect them to be in order of Classic, Contemporary, Cover… so when we got to the end and Songs of My Father was on, I scrolled up to the Cover text and didn’t see the write up… although I clearly remembered you mentioning Songs of My Father as a P.S.

AFTER I sent the email I thought, wait maybe it was tacked on to classic. I went to classic and found the answer before you posted… and I didn’t have the opportunity to let you know that I had found the 411.

Oh, so that is literally four women singing the song. So Joy’s concept goes even DEEPER than just four languages. That’s HOT! I think I read that the first time around. And because Sara Tavares (whose work I still don’t have-wink) is from Portugal, I can’t understand everything she says. That still blows my mind how DIFFERENT Portugal portuguese is from Brazilian.

THANKS. and thanks for Breath of Life. It is *truly* an education. One day, I’ll be somewhere and the male vocalist will start wailing that familiar wail and I’ll be able to say: That’s Leon Thomas. Instead of my usual… hey, I know that guy’s voice.



audiologo Says:
June 23rd, 2006 at 12:28 pm

Thanks SO MUCH for the Billy Stewart, I love this rendition, but remember it from my childhood–musta been mom’s radio station. But it was childhood emphemera like the smell of grandaddy’s BBQ. I never knew who the artist was. Oh, yeah, so glad you revisited the post of Talib Kweli, I love the heartfelt historical contextualization and referencing. Ooh, and you were right about “It’s A Good Feeling”. I had to stop typing this to get up and move when it came on! I love what you’all are doing here, thank you for this conversation…

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