Posts Tagged ‘Rick Rubin’

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

This track is ground zero in all of hip hop and perhaps the most in your face rap single of all time! While Public Enemy are no doubt the most influential rap group of all time, they were also the most innovative with their sampling and dynamic backing tracks provided by brothers Hank and Keith Shocklee, also known as The Bomb Squad.

The Shocklee brothers had their own mobile DJ business called Spectrum City DJs who also counted Professor Griff amongst its employees. Carlton Ridenhour, also known as Chuck D, was an aspiring graphic designer who offered to design some posters for the Spectrum City crew while he was a radio DJ at WBAU, the Adelphi College radio station. At one point, he also told them he could emcee, and along with another WBAU regular, Flavor Flav (William Drayton Jr.), and local DJ, Terminator X (Norman Rogers), Public Enemy was born.

Right from the start, PE’s sound was a mix of the serious brought out by Chuck D’s politically charged topical messages cooled off by the somewhat slacker presence of D’s amiable sidekick Flavor Flav, all supported by the hyper-charged backing tracks of The Bomb Squad.

It was through WBAU program director Bill Stephney that they came to the attention of producer Rick Rubin who signed them to his Def Jam record label and released their first album Yo! Bum Rush The Show in 1987. The group followed that record with the earth shattering It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, which was the first rap album to top the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop Poll in 1988.

This song comes from their no less essential third release Fear Of A Black Planet from 1990 and it later turned up as the centerpiece of the “Spike Lee joint” Do The Right Thing. Other singles on this album included “Welcome To The Terrordome” and “911 Is A Joke” in which, Flavor Flav and company take on the response times of 911 in black neighborhoods.

Edited: June 26th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West

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Kanye West is a mutha-effen’ “G” – that’s not “G” as in Gangsta, by the way, that’s “G” as in GENIUS.

Think what you may about Kanye’s antics, but he’s always full of surprises, and you can’t touch him when it comes to creating some of the most relevant Hip Hop records…ever!

When confronted with anything regarding Kanye, most people like to focus on his arrogance and the Taylor Swift Grammy Awards incident. Truth be told, the point Kanye was making at the Grammy’s when he interrupted Taylor Swift was a valid one. Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was the best video of that particular year, certainly better than Swift’s video, and with the passage of time the “Single Ladies” video has become one of the most iconic music videos of all time. It was the bone-headed way he chose to handle himself that night that caused him problems.

Big deal, move on! Beside, my hunch is that most of the Kanye haters out there haven’t even heard enough of his music to really have an opinion, and much of their attitude towards West edges on racism.

Yeezy’s new album Yeezus is a full-on assault from beginning to end, and an exhausting spin that is high in noise levels, with equal measures of misogyny and epiphany thrown in. It is, indeed, Kanye West’s industrial album.

In marketing his latest opus, West chose to debut song s from the album by projecting quick-cut video montages on buildings in cities all over the world. It was then followed by an appearance on Saturday Night Live in which West performed the songs “New Slave” and “Black Skinhead” complete with the industrial montages projecting behind him.

Like The Beatles’ White Album and Spinal Tap’s classic album Smell The Glove, Kanye’s latest comes to us issued in a plain cover, a clear plastic jewel case with a sticker on the back sporting sampling credits, as if to (somewhat accurately) say “with music this good, who needs credits and liner notes.”  Kanye recently explained, “With this album, we ain’t drop no single to radio. We ain’t got no NBA campaign, nothing like that. Shit, we ain’t even got no cover. We just made some real music.” Putting it into biblical terms, the rest is all commentary.

And speaking of biblical terms, God permeates this album right down to its nervy title. It makes one wonder, does Yeezy think he’s god? Well, maybe…

At least what we do learn is that he thinks he is a God in “I Am A God,” and not just any God, but a God who drives a Porsche and craves messages and ménage a trois: “I am a god / Hurry up with my damn massage / Hurry up with my damn ménage / Get the Porsche out the damn garage / I am a god / Even though I’m a man of God / My whole life in the hands of God / So y’all better quit playing with God.”

Daft Punk lend a hand on the production and the electronic noise quotient of four of the album’s tracks including today’s Song Of The Day which features a rhythm pattern that is reminiscent of Gary Glitter’s “Rock And Roll.” West elevates the level of paranoia in the song singing “Middle America packed in / Came to see me in my black skin / Number one question they asking / Fuck every question you asking / If I don’t get ran out by Catholics” and when all is said and done, West is heard screaming the word God over and over as the track comes to a close.

West addresses racism on “New Slaves” proclaiming “My momma was raised in the era when / clean water was only served to the fairer skin,” as with many of the tracks on the album, this one abruptly takes a musical left turn into new musical terrain whether its with an old school sample or, in this case with Frank Ocean’s soulful vocal contribution.

The album turns harrowing on “Blood On The Leaves” which samples Nina Simone’s recording of the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit,” and somehow manages to relate the paranoia and hatred of the lynching of blacks before the civil rights movement to a song about divorce: “Then she said she impregnated, that’s the night your heart died / Then you gotta go and tell your girl and report that / Main reason cause your pastor said you can’t abort that / Now your driver say that new Benz you can’t afford that / All that cocaine on the table you can’t snort that / That going to that owing money that the court got / All in on that alimony, uh, yeah-yeah, she got you homie / ’til death but do your part, unholy matrimony.”

The album’s final song, “Bound 2” samples Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s soul classic “Bound” and adds a dash of Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s.” Musically, it is the only song on this entire record that could have fit on one of his earlier releases.

During the last few weeks leading up to the release, West brought in producer Rick Rubin to strip these tracks down even more than they already were, resulting in some last minute re-recording of several songs, giving the 40 minute album an unfinished quality about it.

So what do we make of Yeezus. It’s certainly the ballsiest effort from an artist who revels in his restlessness. It’s also his most in-your-face-album, which concedes to no one, not his fans, and certainly not to his detractors.

Edited: June 23rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/4/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Mercy Seat” by Johnny Cash

By the year 2000 and the third album in the American series, Johnny Cash had reestablished himself as one of the greatest singers, not just in country music, but in all music. Producer, Rick Rubin, began working with him several years before and allowed Johnny Cash do what he did best in the studio…be JOHNNY CASH!

Cash began working with Rick Rubin in 1994. Rubin was the founder  of Def Jam Records, and was responsible for producing seminal recordings by Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys. It must have taken quite a leap of faith for Johnny Cash to, not only work with Rick Rubin who was much younger than him, but to put his career in hia hands.

When they first began working together, Cash’s career was pretty much over. He had recorded several ho-hum records for Mercury Records during the mid-to-late 1980s that were nothing special, and even resorted to re-recording some of his older hits for the label. I caught Cash in concert in a small New York City bar back in 1986 when he was touring behind the album Water From The Wells Of Home. His career was so far off the mark, that the place was not even half full, although I must say that he was terrific. The performance was marred by his proclivity to allow his son and wife to take precious concert time away from the main attraction, in order for them to perform their own second-rate material.

Rubin’s whole modus operandi  with Cash was to make bare guitar and voice recordings that would highlight what a great interpreter of material he was. In doing so, Rubin sent Cash tapes of songs he liked, exposing him to material he had never heard by the likes of Tom Petty, Beck, Soundgarden, U2 and Nick Cave, who wrote today’s Song Of The Day.

For American III: Solitary Man,  Rubin assembled an all-star list of backing musicians including Norman Blake, Mike Campbell, Randy Scruggs and Marty Stuart on guitar, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard and Shreyl Crow on backing vocals and Bentmont Tench on organ. “The Mercy Seat”  is probably Cash’s most harrowing recording, even more so than Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ original from their 1988 album Tender Prey.

Of the five American Recordings albums, not to mention the five CD Cash Unearthed box set with more Rubin/Cash collaborations, the American III: Solitary Man album is one of the most enjoyable on every level mainly because of its superb choice of cover songs by Tom Petty (“I Won’t Back Down”), Neil Diamond (“Solitary Man”) and U2 (“One”).  Together, Cash and Rubin formulated a record that kept Johnny Cash not only relevant with the hip cognoscenti,  but also true to himself as a recording artist.

And as for what Nick Cave thought about Cash’s cover, his pride oozes out of every word in the following quote… “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, Johnny Cash recorded my song.”

Edited: February 3rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/1/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

This track is ground zero in all of hip hop and perhaps the most in your face rap single of all time! While Public Enemy are no doubt the most influential rap group of all time, they were also the most innovative with their sampling and dynamic backing tracks provided by brothers Hank and Keith Shocklee, also known as The Bomb Squad. The Shocklee brothers had their own mobile DJ business called Spectrum City DJs who also counted Professor Griff amongst its employees. Carlton Ridenhour, also known as Chuck D, was an aspiring graphic designer who offered to design some posters for the Spectrum City crew while he was a radio DJ at WBAU, the Adelphi College radio station. At one point, he also told them he could emcee, and along with another WBAU regular, Flavor Flav (William Drayton Jr.), and local DJ, Terminator X (Norman Rogers), Public Enemy was born. Right from the start, PE’s sound was a mix of the serious brought out by Chuck D’s politically charged topical messages cooled off by the somewhat slacker presence of D’s amiable sidekick Flavor Flav, all supported by the hyper-charged backing tracks of The Bomb Squad. It was through WBAU program director Bill Stephney that they came to the attention of producer Rick Rubin who signed them to his Def Jam record label and released their first album “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” in 1987. The group followed that record with the earth shattering “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back,” which was the first rap album to top the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop Poll in 1988. This song comes from their no less essential third release “Fear Of A Black Planet” from 1990 and it later turned up as the centerpiece of Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing.” Other singles on this album included “Welcome To The Terrordome” and “911 Is A Joke” in which, Flavor Flav and company take on the response times of 911 in black neighborhoods.

Edited: July 31st, 2012

Song Of The Day – 4/4/11

Song Of The Day - “The Mercy Seat” by Johnny Cash

From Cash’s Rick Rubin-produced 2000 album “American III: Solitary Man,” comes this unsettling tale written by Nick Cave.  In the hands of its creator, this song is disturbing enough…in the hands of Cash it is harrowing. Did the song’s protagonist do it? You decide…

Edited: April 4th, 2011