Sunday, January 15, 2012

D.I.T.W. (Diggin' In The Web): The Blog Is The New DJ

DJ Shadow in the 2002 DJ documentary "Scratch"


The role of the DJ has become somewhat nebulous in the present age. I fear that kids growing up nowadays just won't understand what the role of the DJ actually is now that we have Pandora, iTunes Genius Playlists, Spotify, Last.fm, and every other music service out now that recommends music in their own special way. Why have a guy stand behind two turntables playing songs at a party that most likely aren't even on vinyl anyway when you could have a machine that selects better music for less money and blends them together almost perfectly? What is the point of the DJ anymore? I mean no one goes to a festival to hear someone play music from an iPod right...? Right? Errrr.... You mean they pay some of those DJ's $100,000 a show to do that for a crowd of 10,000 people? Sounds awesome. Where do I sign up?

The DJ has always been the person who stood behind two turntables and lovingly played music for a party, choosing the selections and making sure there was never a dull moment for the dancing crowd and that's the way it's always going to be, right? I look at hip hop DJ's at shows and sometimes think to myself, "That really doesn't look that hard, what is he even doing up there? Oh yeah, he's there because having only one guy on stage really isn't a good look and wow look at those TURNTABLES. Oooh, the mystique".

Now I sometimes wonder what the role of the DJ is in the future of music if his job no longer requires advanced technical skills to play the music, tastemaking ability to select the music, or even the actual money to acquire the music for his collection. The DJ's job really has never been that safe of a profession, but nowadays it seems shakier than ever. In hip hop, it seems that the DJ has become synonymous with the producer these days. The DJ now makes the beats and he also plays those beats for the artists. He is an artist who plays his music for an MC to rap over.

But now that DJ's are no longer the tastemakers, then who are? Well the answer is quite simple: music blogs. The music blogs are the new DJ's because they are the ones listening to the new and old music and introducing that music to new people. They are the ones keeping the best of the culture alive by loving it and caring enough about it to share it, or at least that's what some of the blogs do.


Now the video of DJ Shadow above is possibly one of the most intimate and humble things I've ever heard an artist say about music before in my life. He talks about the thousands and thousands of artists whose records sit untouched in a large basement and how virtually none of them have a career anymore, but at one point they felt like they were on top of the world. DJ Shadow is a DJ who creates new music from the sounds and samples he finds while searching through old records; the process by which is affectionately known as "digging" in the hip hop community. These days digging can be done digitally or the old fashioned way at record stores, but no matter what, the process of digging will never die because humans have a natural drive for novelty and discovery. The bloggers are the new age diggers of hip hop, finding and passing on what they find. This increase in sharing will theoretically allow the cream to rise to the top in the digital age and preserve the best music for generations to come. Digging is a process of preserving the culture through sharing and change; by fostering new creativity through reinterpretation of the old. It's musical evolution. The records are musical memes and it's the diggers that pass on that information to preserve the best of the culture. What music will you pass on?

"It's not gonna make a bad DJ good, but it'll make a good DJ better" ~ DJ Shadow on digging

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Eklips - Beatboxing Through Hip Hop History


French beatboxer Eklips does a brief history of Hip Hop in 4 minutes (above). Beastly.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Sabzi Releases Nearly All Of His Instrumentals!


This year, one of my favorite producers Sabzi (Blue Scholars & Common Market), decided to one-up Santa by putting out nearly ALL of the instrumentals from tracks that he's ever released and giving the joyous news of this gift on Christmas day. Now I can't think of a better gift than music (you can never have enough, right?) and so I share these beats with you too. Hit the link above for six streaming volumes of Sabzi's instrumentals mostly from his Blue Scholars and Common Market albums and all of the volumes have a very different style/feel. So hit them all up, rock out and nod away. All of the volumes can be purchased on the cheap and include the original names of the tracks, which are as creative and exotic as the beats they represent. Stream volume #5 below (pictured above) for a savory taste of beat heaven.



For more info on Sabzi, see my first post about him HERE.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Video: The Funk League - On & On Ft. Sadat X



Continuing on from last post with some more international producers comes The Funk League, a production duo from France consisting of Hugo and Soulbrother Suspect that originally met while DJing a monthly breakdancing party in Paris. These two vinyl collectors really know something about capturing a funky break and putting it in its place. Just hit up the video above for a jazz-funk-hip-hop inspired fusion track off their soon to be released album "Funky As Usual" (worldwide release on January 24th). The track features Sadat X spitting an up-tempo narrative of his upbringing in the NYC hip hop culture over two decades ago. The video is unlike any I've ever seen for a hip hop track, using a healthy dose of arts & crafts and creativity to create a fluidly entertaining scenery. I'm really looking forward to hearing the album in it's entirety. Until then, keep yourself entertained with another track by The Funk League below.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Album: SoulChef - Here & Now (2011)


Damn, here's another stellar find. Straight from the New Zealand producer SoulChef's beat kitchen comes a jazzy and groovy collaborative album featuring a different dope underground MC on nearly every track. The 10 track album is filled with fluid beats and rhymes that will have your head bouncing on one track and contemplating on the next. But one thing remains clear throughout the entire work, it's pretty solid. From the laid back Pete Rock-reminiscent tracks like "We Gon Turn It Out" and "Take" to the driving steady baselines and drums of "Never Been In Love Like This" and "Dreams", this album delivers impressive production...and the rhymes are nothing to gloss over either, although you are highly likely to do so the first listen through as the beats draw you in. 


Enjoy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Album Of The Year: Rashad & Confidence - The Element Of Surprise (2011)

HeadPhoneHOME Album Of The Year 2011

Dear Hip Hop,
        2011 has been a crazy busy year for you. More and more rappers appeared everyday and fewer and fewer were actually worth listening to. It's hard to keep up with you I admit, but I'm doing my best to stay up to date with how you've changed for the better. I still yearn for that golden era 90's sound though and can't stand this new obsession with swag rap that devalues putting history or substance into beats and rhymes. But luckily you've been blessed with some new MC's and producers with real skill who are keeping your authenticity and raw energy alive. I'm talking about one MC and one producer, a new duo by the names of Rashad & Confidence.
        Rashad & Confidence's debut album "The Element Of Surprise" was appropriately titled as they both seemingly came out of nowhere with a polished product that, after careful consideration, I believe will prove to be a timeless piece of hip hop artistry. Confidence crafts his beats from soulful samples re-envisioning the smooth yet gritty sound that was often found in the golden era of hip hop. Confidence produces the entirety of the album enabling him to create a consistent sound as the glue that holds the entire album together while Rashad puts the icing on the cake with his effortlessly watery flow. Rashad brings his mic skills as an extremely well-rounded artist spitting substance and dropping knowledge all throughout the album. He paints a picture with words on topics ranging from the political, to love, the past, and the never-ending quest for hip hop mastery. This is an album I can listen to from front to back and then repeat it over and over again, always with something new to appreciate every time. In his own words, Rashad describes his and Con's work together as "something golden-era esque, but still futures ahead". When asked about why this specific time period influenced their work, Rashad answered: “Hip-Hop’s golden era was important because of the sound and the emotion that was put into the music. Hip-Hop during that time had a certain type of energy. It was more organic and raw back then.” They even paid homage with their album cover, recreating the 1990 album cover from "Funky Technician" by Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth (In case you were wondering why it looked kind of budget).
        All in all, the album is ridiculously well put together. There are very few discs that I own that I actually want to listen to every track, but this is certainly one of them. If you can't get enough of that 90's sound and like your hip hop with some substance, please support one of the next great MC / producer duo's in hip hop who are now joining the likes of The Left, my pick for 2010's Hip Hop Album Of The Year "Gas Mask".

Tracklist
01 Introduction
02 Brand New
03 The City
04 Understand
05 Rumors Of War
06 Days Of My Youth
07 Interlude
08 Pen On Display
09 Shining
10 Pass Me By
11 Interlude
12 They Keep Asking Me
13 Let Me Explain
14 All Year Round
15 The Break Up Song

Runner Up for Album Of The Year:
Buy That.

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