Saturday, March 16, 2013
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
I'm working on a baby makin' mix for a friend's baby shower (a brilliant idea that I wish I could take credit for) and I've discovered two things. One, slow jams have some of the longest fade-outs in the history of music and two, this song. Technically, it's a rediscovery of a high school slow dance fave that brings me right back to my high school gymnasium. Memories of clinging to my "best friend" David McGuire as we did the side step, me taking deep inhales of his Eternity for Men cologne. The billowy blouses and tightly sculpted moustaches in this very cheesy video don't really do justice to how this song still makes me swoon. As daboss88100 comments on YouTube: "The 93 poor souls that hit the dislike button could not POSSIBLY have a romantic bone in their entire body. THIS joint was the DEAL in the early 90's." Indeed.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
This mix is very close to my heart in that it's a tribute to my friend Matthew Africa, whom we tragically lost in a car accident earlier this September. For those of you who were lucky enough to know him, I'm sure you share my joy in remembering him while also feeling the still acute pain of losing him. Matthew was an extraordinary guy. A sweet, thoughtful and generous friend who despite his astounding musical knowledge, unparalleled record collection (at least 2 of everything!) and massive talent on the turntables lived every moment of his life with deep humility and respect. Matthew and I met while volunteering at KALX in the late 90s and I was fortunate enough to have him DJ my wedding back in 2005. Matthew was a very special person who had a profound effect on so many of our lives. He will live in our hearts and our headphones forever.
In this collection I've pulled together songs that Matthew turned me on to, music that I know he liked and tracks that remind me of him. Here are a few song notes (full track list and mix below):
Rodger Collins - "Foxy Girls In Oakland": I had to include this one not only because it pays tribute to the ladies of Matthew's Oakland but also because it was reissued on the Luv 'n Haight record label to which Matthew contributed. He was working at SF record store Groove Merchant in the early 90s when store owners Mike and Jody McFadin launched the label and Matthew helped compile and write liner notes for some of their releases. Listen to his selection of Luv 'n Haight faves here.
Quincy Jones - "Summer In The City": This song is a tribute to Matthew's crazy record collection which included tons of original breaks and beats. "Summer In The City" was released on Quincy's 4-sider I Heard That! and is probably the first record I ever went digging for based on a hip hop sample. After hearing The Pharcyde's "Passing Me By" I had to get my hands on the LP from which the sample came. After searching for what felt like forever at the time, I found a mostly decent copy of I Heard That! for $15 at Big Al's Record Barn in San Jose. I wanted to use the vinyl version for this mix but unfortunately it's crackle and wide dynamics were no match for today's CD mastering.
Lijadu Sisters - "Life's Gone Down Low": Matthew included this song on a couple of his mixes and it was the first song I heard in my head after I found out about his death. It's such a wonderfully melancholic funk song. It has a sad theme but an ultimately positive message. The Lijadu Sisters are twin sisters from Nigeria who were mostly unknown in the US until Knitting Factory reissued some of their albums over the last few years. Mostly unknown to everyone but Matthew, that is. Of course he had this song on the original 45.
Peter King - "Prisioner of Law": I met Matthew while volunteering at KALX, UC Berkeley's free-format radio station. I first discovered the reissue of Peter King's excellent album, Shango in the feature section at KALX and I'm pretty sure that Matthew reviewed it. If not this record, he reviewed many like it and a good Matthew Africa review meant the record was solid. I often picked records for my show based on Matthew's reviews.
Bobbi Humphrey - "Jasper Country Man": One of my favorite Matthew Africa mixes is the tribute he did to two of his favorite producers, the Mizell Brothers. Responsible for many of the funky soul jazz records of the 70s, the Mizell Brothers wrote, produced and performed on the songs of Donald Byrd, Johnny Hammond, Gary Bartz, Bobbi Humphrey and others who were sampled like crazy by 90s hip hop artists. Check out Matthew's Mizell Brothers mix here.
Darondo - "Didn't I": This is one of my favorite songs of all time. Also reissued on Luv 'n Haight, I know it was one of Matthew's favorites too.
DeBarge - "I Like It": Matthew once responded to an El DeBarge dis by saying something like he'd be honored to play any track from the DeBarge family. This one is my personal fave.
The Ohio Players - "Ecstasy (Matthew Africa extended edit)": Another Matthew favorite. He said he didn't play it enough because it was too short (originally 2 mins 27 seconds) so he created a beautiful extended version. This song above all others gets me all teary thinking of Matthew every time I hear it. I must look a crazy hot mess to people driving next to me on the freeway when the song comes on my car stereo and I sing "I could never do without you, Oh no oh no" at the top of my lungs with tears streaming down my face.
The Gap Band - "Outstanding": Matthew called "Ecstasy" one of the "most joyous records" he knew so I had to follow it with "Outstanding" which is one of the most joyous records I know and a good one to cheer me up after Ecstasy makes me a little sad. It's another song which I will always sing at the top of my lungs and turn up really loud every time it plays.
Natural Resource - "I Love This World": I also had to include some 90s hip hop on this mix since Matthew was pretty much a hip hop expert and had a special affinity for 90s indie hip hop. I had to literally dig for this 12" behind a bunch of bins of outgrown baby clothes and boxes of cables and wires in my garage. Somewhat shamefully, I hadn't yet unpacked my records after our last move but I sho nuff dusted them off for this mix. I didn't even realize how rare this record is until I started looking into it. I don't think this song was ever released on any format other than vinyl and of course it's no longer in print. The female voice on this cut is the fantastic Jean Grae who went by the name What? What? at the time. Released in 1997, "I Love This World" is one of my favorite indie hip hop singles of the 90s. The 12" was initially recommended to me by Ken Hamilton (KFJC's Spiderman) when we worked together at Rasputin in San Jose. Ken was another great Bay Area DJ whose death was tragic and untimely. This song is here as a tribute to both Matthew and Ken.
Melvin Bliss - "Synthetic Substitution": Perhaps one of the most sampled records ever, "Synthetic Substitution" is a really weird and sinister soul tune about man-made things replacing everything natural, including, potentially Melvin's lady. Sampled by everyone from the Ultramagnetic MCs to Easy E (some artists multiple times on different songs), the drum beat intro of this song is instantly recognizable. Matthew compiled an incredible 47-song deep mix of songs that sampled "Synthetic Substitution". Check it out here. There's a documentary on Melvin Bliss's life. Peep the trailer here.
Nice & Smooth - "Hip Hop Junkies (Spanish Fly Mix)": Whenever this song played, Matthew was compelled to instantly hit the dance floor. I can see him dancing in my head every time I hear it.
Sly & The Family Stone - "Thank You For Talkin' To Me Africa": Sly and The Family Stone were one of Matthew's faves and I've always loved the nearly subterranean bass on this track. It's a slower, nastier version of Sly's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)". "Thank You For Talkin' To Me Africa" is another excellent melancholic funk song but it doesn't necessarily come across as such unless you really listen to the lyrics (which are kind of hard to decipher beyond the bass vibration). It's the deepest track on There's A Riot Goin' On and perhaps one of the deepest funk songs ever.
- The Detroit Emeralds - Baby Let Me Take You
- Eddie Jacobs Exchange - Pull My Coat
- Esther Williams - Last Night Changed it All
- Rodger Collins - Foxy Girls In Oakland
- Al Green - I'm a Ram
- Esther Marrow - Chains of Love
- Mike James Kirkland - Hang On In There
- Gwen McCrae - 90% Of Me Is You
- Heath Bros. - Smilin' Billy Suite Pt. 2
- Siah & Yeshua - Pyrite
- Quincy Jones - Summer In The City
- Lorez Alexandria - I'm Wishin'
- The Isley Brothers - Summer Breeze
- Lijadu Sisters - Life's Gone Down Low
- Peter King - Prisoner of Law
- Bobbi Humphrey - Jasper Country Man
- B.T. Express - Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)
- Essence - Fever (Instrumental)
- Darondo - Didn't I
- DeBarge - I Like It
- The Ohio Players - Ecstasy (Matthew Africa extended edit)
- Outstanding - The Gap Band
- Heartbeat - Larry Levan
- Natural Resource - I Love This World
- Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf - Methods
- Womack & Womack - T.K.O.
- Nancy Wilson - Tell Me The Truth
- Thomas East - Slippin' Around
- Melvin Bliss - Synthetic Substitution
- Nice & Smooth - Hip Hop Junkies (Spanish Fly Mix)
- Ray Barretto - Acid
- Gary Bartz - Music Is My Sanctuary
- Slave - Just A Touch Of Love
- Jody Gayles - You Gotta Push
- Creative Source - You Can't Hide Love
- Remember Me - The Trinikas
- Sly & The Family Stone - Thank You For Talkin' To Me Africa
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
I recently happened upon a pretty fantastic funk ballad comp on the Now-Again label called Loving On The Flip Side. It features smooth crooners, off-kilter lovelorn teenage harmonies and heartbroken soul-bearing over some seriously deep funk. These songs were, as the album's producers put it, "just a bit too pretty for the deep funk comps of the past decade." Thank goodness they've found a place here! From Thomas East's "Slippin' Around" which includes one of the dopest piano breaks I've heard in a long time, to Darling Dear's captivatingly bizzarre collaborations with backing band Funky Heavy (doleful, slightly off-key teeny bopper laments over chunky, nasty funk), this collection of rare songs is worthy of heavy rotation. I have to once again credit Matthew Africa who pointed me in this direction with his Ego Trip blog post on the Darling Dears and led me to dig deeper and find this record. Full liner notes can be found here.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Monday, September 17, 2012
Sunday, September 09, 2012
I never cease to be amazed by how many hip hop and r&b artists (Jason Derulo, The Game) sample Imogen Heap in their songs. This Main Attrakionz track is definitely my favorite so far. Somehow the Imogen Heap sample manages to make even lines like "More hoes than college crowds" seem poignant. This one goes out to Matthew Africa who turned me on to the North Oakland duo.
Saturday, September 08, 2012
I first encountered Matthew Africa as a new volunteer at KALX in the late nineties. He stood out because well, he always looked sort of dressed up. I never saw him in anything but a button up shirt, nice pants and nice shoes. I thought, who is that guy? He looked like some kind of lawyer on his day off or something. Well, turns out he was a lawyer. And he was also the most revered and respected hip hop, soul and funk DJ at the station (not to mention, the greater Bay Area and the world). I think I was a bit confused and intimidated by Matthew at first. He seemed like he'd be a super serious dude given his perpetually business-like appearance. But after exchanging a few hellos and a couple quick conversations, it was obvious that the things Matthew took seriously did not include himself. However he was mad serious about his love for music and his desire to dig ever deeper into breaks, beats, rhythms and sounds.
As I got more involved at KALX and had my own show on the air, I had the pleasure of running into Matthew more regularly while also getting to dig through and play the many records that he reviewed for the library. If Matthew liked it, it was guaranteed to be good. Through his reviews and our brief overlaps at the station, Matthew turned me on to all kinds of amazing African funk, blues, hip hop, soul, psych, folk, and jazz tunes that I'd never heard before. Matthew's depth of knowledge when it came to all this music was so massive that you marveled at how deep all of these genres went. Matthew got you so excited about the possibilities of music and proved to you that there's a seemingly unending wealth of hidden gems just waiting for you to dig them out.
But Matthew wasn't just a crate digger or record collector. He knew the story behind every single record he owned. He knew the producers, the songwriters, the musicians, the sidemen. He knew their influences and he damn sure knew who was influenced by them. He often released mixes based on one sample or break, including a mix of 47 songs that sampled the drum break from Melvin Bliss's legendary "Synthetic Substitution". Matthew never used his crazy mad knowledge to act like he was cooler than you. In fact, judging by his buttoned-up appearance, Matthew always seemed pretty uncool. That was one of the incredible things about Matthew. He was so much hipper than you or anyone you could ever hope to know but he was also so deeply humble, generous and thoughtful. You sometimes had to slap yourself to shake the disbelief that someone this massively cool with that much cred cared enough to say hi to you and ask you about your job, your dog, your parents, your life. I almost passed out the day that Matthew asked me to pitch with him on his show for a KALX fundraiser. I was such a mega fan (personally and musically) that I couldn't believe that THE Matthew Africa wanted me to help him fundraise on his show.
My husband Brian and I got married in September 2005 and Matthew was the only person on my list of potential DJs for the event. Matthew said yes without hesitation and proceeded to turn the evening into the booty-shakingest funk and soul dance party that any of us had ever been to. The groove was so perfect that it inspired a no less than twenty minute dance-off between Brian's sixty year-old father and his twenty-something best man (see photo above). All the other guests danced on the sidelines while hollering with delight. Hilariously, another notable moment in the evening occurred when Brian's dad and I accidentally ended up dancing together to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On". After all the first dances (Brian and I, father/daughter, son/mother, etc), Matthew was transitioning into getting everyone else on the dance floor with a little smooth Marvin Gaye. I was about to grab Brian for another dance when Brian's dad swept me up for a bride/father of the groom dance. As Marvin Gaye sang "I'm asking you baby to get it on with me", Brian's dad beamed and twirled me around, completely unaware. I looked over at Matthew and we both chuckled as he sort of shrugged. It was a terrific night.
When I learned of Matthew's passing, I thought it was a mistake. I thought, there must be some other Matthew Africa. It couldn't be our Matthew Africa. There was just no way. I still have moments of total disbelief and then moments of overwhelming sadness when I remember that he really is gone. Matthew and I fell out of touch a little after I left KALX but we reconnected via Facebook, email and mutual friends. I would often ask our good friend Martina, "How's Matthew?" and he'd ask her about me and about my young daughter. I had been meaning to call Matthew so we could get together and catch up but life got busy and I hadn't yet done it. Needless to say, I'm pretty torn up about that.
I am so deeply saddened and heartbroken by Matthew's death. I also feel so honored and lucky to have had Matthew in my life. Matthew was one of those rare persons who was just all good. He was one of the best people I've known. Endlessly kind and generous, incredibly talented, and hugely soulful. Matthew was a damn good guy who also just happened to be an exceptional and tremendously respected DJ. The world was a better place with Matthew Africa in it. We are all blessed to have known him.