TALIB KWELI & HI-TEK / “For Women”
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.
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
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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?
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.
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