Music

Body Rockin’ Rites of Passage

I slipped my father’s aviator sunglasses onto my face under the red bandanna I had tightly strapped around my head. I sauntered through the cold storage doors to the full length mirror in his bedroom. I stared at the 12 year old facing me, complete with fishnet t-shirt and long-sleeved, red matching knit undershirt beneath, blue sweat pants with the corporate logo from my father’s company hidden beneath Bruce Jenner-style shorts. My socks were pure off-white, another product of my dad’s dresser, and the shoes: pink and purple Vans. I was a rainbow of fruit flavors. A costume designer for a John Hughes film could not have done better. It was perfect. I was perfect. I was a break dancer, and I was ready to break.

The rise of break dancing in Lexington, Kentucky hit in approximately June o f 1982, just six years after it became… Continue reading

Electronica

Music business marketing term, coined 1996, for a collection of electronic dance-music styles, including techno, jungle, and trip-hop. The commercial failure of early-’90s dance acts such as T99, Prodigy, and Utah Saints was seemingly forgotten in the industry’s rush to find a replacement for waning alternative rock bands.

MTV obligingly got behind the “new” movement, promoting electronic music wherever possible, and even adopting a more “techno” graphic identity. One early 1997 MTV promo clip featured Perry Farrell: “It’s very popular right now to try to entice people into dancing,” said the singer, “and I think it’s so healthy.”

A next wave of “electronica” acts, including artists like the Orbital and The Future Sound of London were exposed by MTV’s cult show Amp, and some of the new acts edged toward the mainstream: the Chemical Brothers recorded with Liam Gallagher of Oasis and Prodigy added a punky singer named Keith Flint.… Continue reading

Eazy-E

West Coast rapper who founded his Ruthless Records label reportedly with proceeds from drug dealing. Ruthless debuted with Eazy-E’s solo album Eazy-Duz-It (1988), a proto-gangsta album that sold half a million copies. The following year Eazy assembled the combustible N.W.A, hip-hop’s most successful collection of talent.

Post-N.W.A, the diminutive Eazy-E and his manager Jerry Heller were viciously lampooned in raps by the N.W.A members most often credited with the band’s success, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. Although Eazy-E made inexplicable gestures like befriending Officer Theodore Briseno (one of the policemen in the Rodney King case) and, in 1991, attending a $2,500-a-plate fund-raising luncheon with President Bush, Eazy-E remained one of hip-hop’s top entrepreneurs.

His assets included a Ruthless solo album (it’s on [Dr. Dre] 187Um Killa–heavily influenced by Dr. Dre’s production style), platinum vocal group Bone Thugs N Harmony, and a fiercely contested contract that gave him ongoing royalties participation… Continue reading

Koresh, David

Self-styled messiah and leader of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. Koresh was a failed rock musician on L.A.’s Sunset Strip (friends and neighbors described his music as “melodic rock,” though he was also a fan of heavy metal) destined not to find fame until February 28, 1993, when the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raided his compound on the suspicion that the cult was illegally hoarding machine guns.

The Branch Davidians fought back, picking off four ATF agents, and a 51-day standoff ensued. FBI and ATF attempts to force an end included the blasting of rock music and Tibetan chants from giant speakers aimed at what the FBI dubbed Ranch Apocalypse. The name came true when a federal tank moved in on the Davidians and the compound erupted in flames-an apparent suicide that killed 86 members inside, 25 of whom were children.

Though Attorney General Janet… Continue reading

The Dust Brothers

Influential Los Angeles-based record producing team of Mike Simpson (b. circa 1965) and John King (b. circa 1965). Known for hip-hop-inflected rock records, the Dust Brothers have seen two of their albums acclaimed as contemporary classics: Paul’s Boutique (1989) by the Beastie Boys, and the Grammy-winning Odelay (1996), by Beck. Simpson and King met in 1983 at the radio station of Pomona College, and then studied their beats as party DJs before connecting with Los Angeles label Delicious Vinyl in the late 1980s.

Initially successful with debut albums by Delicious Vinyl’s pop-rap crossovers Tone Loc and Young MC (both 1989), the Dust Brothers have also worked for Howard Stern, Korn, and White Zombie; in 1997 their work on tracks for the Rolling Stones’ Bridges To Babylon album was criticized publicly by that band’s guitarist Keith Richards.

The Dust Brothers produced their first number one single in 1997, Hanson’s bubblegum smash… Continue reading

Dr. Dre – as in gangsta funk

With the first release on his Death Row records this former N.W.A producer-rapper could claim to have changed the face of hip-hop. Dre’s unanticipated multi-platinum album The Chronic (1992) turned a clutch of funk classics into a new form dubbed “G-Funk” (as in gangsta funk). Juddering basslines lulled listeners into a mid-tempo stupor while high-end ’70s synths wove a hypnotic top-end around implacable gangsta threats; three straight Chronic hits were accompanied by Dre-directed videos evoking an idyllic gangsta lifestyle (the title is an alias for marijuana).

Dre, once a member of the obscure, effetely clad funk group World Class Wreckin’ Cru, had earned respect as a producer during his N.W.A tenure, creating diverse hits for fellow band member Eazy-E, Texas rhymer the D.O.C., female rap trio J.J. Fad, and tiny-voiced R&B singer Michel’le. The Chronic, released on his (and his formidable partner Marion “Suge” Knight’s) Death Row Records, confirmed him… Continue reading

De La Soul

Long Island, New York, hip-hop trio whose 1989 debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, was a benchmark for rap’s crossover to a college audience. The new sound was based on sophomoric humor, progressive politics, and trippy aural collage which sampled from sources as diverse as Liberace, Funkadelic, and Schoolhouse Rock.

The sophomore outing from De La Soul–made up of Posdnuos (b. Kelvin Mercer, 1969), Trugoy the Dove (b. David Jolicoeur, 1968), and “Pasemaster” Mase (b. Vincent Mason Jr., 1970)–was De La Soul is Dead (1991) signalled a radical change in direction: with its shattered flowerpot cover, the record was a dyspeptic denunciation of the group’s “hip-hop hippie” label, addressing darker issues such as drug abuse and incest. Neither fans nor critics were particularly impressed.

After watching the likes of PM Dawn, Digable Planets, and Basehead garner attention with variations on the De La sound, the band released Buhloone Mindstate… Continue reading

Clinton, George

Through his bands Parliament and Funkadelic, as well as innumerable offshoots and solo projects, George Clinton has created a vision which combines Black Nationalism, psychedelic hedonism, and sci-fi lunacy. “P-Funk”‘s music–blending rubbery bass, trippy synths, and skewed, multilayered vocals–is a model of the anarchic harmony envisioned in songs like “One Nation Under a Groove” (1978).

Clinton’s influence waned after the 1983 solo hit “Atomic Dog,” as James Brown’s more minimal groove dominated hip-hop sampling. But in 1989, the bizarrely attired bandleader was embraced by a new generation of rappers, beginning with De La Soul’s sample of “(Not Just) Knee Deep” in “Me, Myself, and I” (1989). Clinton’s influence became widespread when his grooves provided the backbone of Dr. Dre’s 1992 rap classic, “The Chronic,” and he appeared on the 1994 Lollapalooza tour.

The subsequent best-of collection Sample Some of Dis, Sample Some of Dat included mail-in legal forms for obtaining… Continue reading

Christian rap

Minor musical trend in which hopeful musicians attach wholesome messages to potent beats. Christian rap’s one notable success is DC Talk, a squeaky-clean trio that emerged from Liberty University (home of Moral Majority founder and televangelist Jerry Falwell) and sold over 500,000 copies of each of their three albums.

On the fringes of Christian rap are such strangers to Billboard as the S.S. MOB (Soul Serving Ministers on Board), T-Bone, and the Gospel Gangstas, an ensemble of former L.A. gang members who adapt gangsta rap posturing to the Lord’s message.

This story was reported nationally in Newsweek in November 1994 and subsequently disseminated in sources as diverse as Vibe and British Vogue. (A bible using hip-hop vernacular, Black Bible Chronicles: A Survival Manual for the Streets, 1993, also surfaced in the national press.)

Number of View :644

Harrell, Andre – Black entertainment entrepreneur

Black entertainment entrepreneur who in 1988 founded Uptown Entertainment, a music, film and television conglomerate with a seven-year, $50 million credit line from MCA Records and Universal Pictures.

The Bronx-born Harrell started his career at 16 as the first half of the hit rap duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, before studying communications and business management, and selling radio ads; in 1983 Harrell joined rap mogul Russell Simmons’ Rush Management, rising to a vice president’s position.

Harrell founded Uptown Records in 1987, earning an unimpeachable reputation for predicting popular black-music taste. A series of gold- and platinum-selling albums from artists like Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Heavy D and the Boyz, Guy and Al B. Sure! forged a new, black urban sound that married the soul of R&B with the hard-edged groove of hip-hop.

In late 1995, after fractious negotiations with with MCA over ownership of the Uptown name, Harrell left… Continue reading

New Musical Express in the early ’80s

Dutch photographer/video maker born of the British post-punk era. As a contributor to English music paper New Musical Express in the early ’80s, Corbijn established his trademark style–dense black and white pictures of doomed romantics like Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen.

His unassuming personality and empathy with his subjects helped Corbijn forge alliances with some of future éminences grises of the alternative world: Morrissey, Depeche Mode (for whom Corbijn also designs stage sets), U2, and R.E.M. have all, at one time or another, sworn fealty to him, sometimes insisting on sanctioned Corbijn photos in place of commissioned shoots.

As a video-maker from the mid-’80s on, Corbijn has revealed an affinity for religious imagery and off-the-wall humor. “A mixture between Tati and Tarkovsky,” he remarked to London’s Guardian in 1994. One of Corbijn’s rare forays into color was Nirvana’s memorably lurid “Heart-Shaped Box,” the band’s last video.

Number of View :2936

Anti-folk

Lower East Side, Manhattan, scene created by young punk-influenced songwriters emerging during the mid-’80s in opposition to the folk establishment.

Named after the Akira Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress, the Fort was opened in 1987 by the singer known as Lach.

The venue gave stage time to mainly white, middle-class performers like Brenda Kahn, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Paleface, Michelle Shocked, cartoonist David Chelsea, King Missile’s John S. Hall, and Beck.

When police closed the Fort in 1989, Lach moved a few blocks north to Sophie’s (now the Sidewalk Cafe), where Bob Dylan made a brief yet fabled appearance.

The latest aggressive folkie to warrant the label is Buffalo-born Ani Difranco (b. 1970), a charismatic, witty feminist with a burgeoning national audience.

Number of View :1635

An ambient music

“Aphex Twin” (R & S Records).

Term coined circa 1978 by Brian Eno to describe his forays into drifting instrumental composition.

Beginning with the 1975 album Discreet Music, Eno began producing a series of records partially influenced by the piano music of early-century French composer Erik Satie; intended as background music, the discs highlighted tape loops and “treated sounds.”

The combination of fast-paced electronic dance music and Ecstasy that began to dominate clubs worldwide in the late ’80s paradoxically created an appetite for soothing sounds and still surroundings.

Ambient music made an ideal soundtrack for “chill out” rooms in clubs; the word became a catchall label for spacey variations on numerous established forms, including house, techno, and dub.

The “textural soundscapes” and “rich timbral explorations” (they bring out the worst in rock critics) of name-brand groups like the Orb and Aphex Twin rework the socially acceptable elements of progressive rock… Continue reading

More Cowbell

Last Thursday we went to see Rilo Kiley at the 9:30 Club and heck if Jenny Lewis didn’t break out the cowbell. As my friend Sarah emailed me after she saw the same show in Asheville, “You mentioned cowbell. I had no idea she was going to try to bring sexy back using the cowbell.” But try she did and for all I know, maybe she succeeded. Jake seemed to think she did. It was a good show, even though Winona Ryder was apparently in attendance and we did not see her. Brandi Carlile was also good the following night, although the crowd was a little too chatty at the beginning. She performed two of the covers that so captivated me when I saw her in April, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Hallelujah,” but also sang “Madman Across the Water” and a better-than-the-original version of “Raining in Baltimore.” (August and Everything… Continue reading