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Archive for the ‘Erykah Badu’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS feat. JILL SCOTT-“You Got Me” (1999).

I’ve wanted to listen to more from The Roots ever since I was exposed to them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  But as typically happens, I’m listening to other things instead.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to check them out (based on Samantha Irby’s rave below).

One of the best things about this recording (and The Roots in general) is Questlove’s drumming.  In addition to his being a terrific drummer, his drums sound amazing in this live setting.

Erykah Badu sings on the album but Jill Scott (Jilly from Philly) who wrote the part, sings here.

It starts out quietly with just a twinkling keyboard and Scott’s rough but pretty voice.  Then comes the main rapping verses from Black Thought.  I love the way Scott sings backing vocals on the verses and Black Thought adds backing vocals to the chorus.

Midway through the song, it shifts gears and gets a little more funky.  Around five minutes, the band does some serious jamming.  Jill Scott does some vocal bits, the turntablist goes a little wild with the scratching and Questlove is on fire.

Then things slow down for Scott to show off her amazing voice in a quiet solo-ish section.  This song shows off how great both The Roots and Jill Scott are.  Time to dig deeper.

[READ: November 1, 2020] Wow, no thank you.

This book kept popping up on various recommended lists.  The bunny on the cover was pretty adorable, so I thought I’d check it out. I’d never heard of Samantha Irby before this, but the title and the blurbs made this sound really funny.

And some of it is really funny. Irby is self-deprecating and seems to be full of self-loathing, but she puts a humorous spin on it all.  She also has Crohn’s disease and terribly irritable bowels–there’s lots of talk about poo in this book.

Irby had a pretty miserable upbringing.  Many of the essays detail this upbringing.  She also has low self-esteem and many of the essays detail that.  She also doesn’t take care of herself at all and she writes about that.  She also doesn’t really want much to do with children or dogs.  And yet somehow she is married to a woman with children.

From what some of these essays say, it sounds like she is married to this woman yet somehow lives an entirely separate life from the rest of the house.  It’s all rather puzzling, although I suppose if you are already a fan, you may know many of the details already. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOBE NWIGWE-Tiny Desk Concert #881 (August 19, 2019).

Tobe Nwigwe is the leader, but he shares the spotlight with his backing vocalists all of whom take lead vocal spots at some point.

The thing I like best about this set is that they are all wearing T shirts that say “My First Tiny Desk.”

There’s a wide array of sounds on this Tiny Desk too, from delicate R&B to some abrasive rapping.  I like the abrasive rapping a lot more–he has terrific delivery in that part.

Tobe’s performance was a five-song medley sandwiched effortlessly into a 15-minute block. Launching with “Houston Tribute,” he used clever and evocative wordplay to rap about coming of age in the South. Accented almost hypnotically by a trio of harmonies provided by background vocalists Luke Whitney, David Michael Wyatt and Madeline Edwards, Tobe’s mindful words are like a life hack for those seeking guidance.

The song has a gentle melody with delicate keys from Nic Humes.  The song is a rap, but a soft one.  He speaks quickly but the rhymes are positive and amusing.

My flow a monastery for them extra poor people
That don’t get commentary and get honored rarely
For the guava jelly they produce even though they get thrown fecal
Matter on a platter made by they oppressor
I shatter all the chatter that seem to make us lesser

After about two minutes Lucius Hoskins kicks in some guitar licks.  Then Devin Caldwell throws in some cool deep bass sounds making the song sound very full.

Tobe’s wife, Fat, known for her striking beauty and lead role in the magnificently directed music videos that have paved the way to Tobe’s rapid growth on Instagram. And through it all, young Baby Fat sat silently in her mom’s arms, absorbing the spiritual energy of her dad’s music.

After the song he says, “That’s how you do it June 24” (So it took two months for this to air).  Then he says “Lets teach ’em why the caged bird sings.  “Caged Bird” opens with Aldarian Mayes playing some simple drum thumping before Tobe starts rapping.

LaNell “NELL” Grant gets a lead rap mid song then after another chorus, Luke Whitney takes a high falsetto verse followed by an even higher falsetto from David Michael Wyatt.

Up next is “Against the Grain.”  Madeline Edwards takes the first lead vocal, but Ii love this song for the great raw sound of the bass and guitar and Tobe’s growling rapping delivery.

Aight, I feel like the masses on melatonin when it come to melanin
I grew up melancholy ’cause I ain’t realize that the hemoglobin in my skin
Was connected to a lineage that never ever had to penny pinch

That sound is unlike anything else in the set, although it does segue into “Shine” with more lead vocals from Madeleine.

Throughout the set he offered pleas for listeners to look past inherent hardships and evil and to keep their eyes on the prize, while he reflected on his own decision to go against his Nigerian roots and parental expectations to pursue his dreams of being a rapper.

He is very funny and says, “I’m Nigerian I know a lot of y’all though I was regular black”  For Nigerian parents, if their children haven’t done one of three things they’ve wasted their lives: become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer.  So you can imagine when I told my mom that I wanted to be a rapper. She said (in maternal Nigerian accent) Tobe, why are you such a parasite to my life?  Tobe, why do you love poverty so much? Tobe, why re you trying to kill me?

Legends like Dave Chapelle and Erykah Badu were telling me I was dope which is what  “I’m Dope” is about.  David Michael Wyatt sings an impressive falsetto and the song actually does mention that Chapelle and Badu said he was dope.

The credits also cite Igbo Masquerade: art.  I’m not sure what that’s a reference to.

[READ: September 1, 2019] Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic

I couldn’t imagine how this comic book would work with the premise of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s movie riffing.  But Joel Hodgson had an idea and it works wonderfully.

The Mads up on the dark side of the moon are still tormenting a guy up on the Satellite of Love.

This book is Netflix-era, so the Mads are now represented by Kinga, Synthia, TV’s Son of TV’s Frank (Max) and the Boneheads.  And joining Crow, Tom Servo and Gypsy on the SOL are Jonah and two small robot creatures that I didn’t recognize (I haven’t watches the Netflix episodes).

I absolutely hate the way Todd Nauck draws the host segments. I can’t stand the mouth designs on anyone, especially Kinga.  They all look like the Joker (is that because this is from Dark Knight comics?) and are horrifying.

But once you get past the art design of the host segments, the premise is pretty great.  Synthia has designed a machine The Bubbulat-r which allows a person to enter a comic book.  They test it out on Max and his favorite book Funny Animals.  Max jumps in as a rabbit can talk to the other characters.

The book explains that there’s a little bubble at the bottom of the word balloon to indicate a line that has been added and is not a line from the actual book.

But when Max comes back he tells us that the cute little bunny is in fact four feet tall with powerful sinewy limbs and reeks of a bizarre musk.

But the key point is that that Kinga has invented a way to do movie riffing from inside the comic.  So Kinga sends them comics and our heroes are inserted into different books. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS AND HEADY FWENDS-“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (2012).

2012 saw the release of this very strange collaborative album.  Whether The Flaming Lips had entered the mainstream or if people who’d always liked them were now big stars or maybe they all just liked doing acid.  Whatever the case, The Lips worked with a vast array of famous (and less famous) people for this bizarre album.  Here it is 8 years later. Time to check in.

This is, indeed a cover of Roberta Flack’s song.

It’s not often that a cover is so willfully defiant of the original without actually trying to mess with it.

This is a ponderous, ten-minute version of the song, punctuated by loud, echoing drumbeats keeping a slow pace.  The music is essentially distorted electronic chord changes on the beats and occasional twinkling keyboard notes throughout.

The song is sung in the audio equivalent of soft-focus by Erykah Badu.

It is a hard song to parse. Badu’s voice sounds great.  The contrast to the original music is stark and yet it is sonically more interesting than the treacly original.  On the other hand, it is long and, if the mood is wrong, slow and boring.

It’s a song I thought I would likely skip were I listening to the whole disc, and yet listening to it right now, the 10 minutes went by like nothing.  So maybe it is pretty great after all.

[READ: June 15, 2019] “Interesting Women”

Interesting women–are we ever going to be free of them?

So starts this story of an interesting woman.

She is concerned because all new acquaintances

seem to be gorgeous lesbians or bisexuals whose intoxicating charm fed straight into hot wet tumbles between rented sheets.

The narrator is on holiday with her daughter, Basia, in Thailand.  Their hotel is swimming with interesting women.

The narrator and Basia are kayaking when an interesting woman approaches them.  She is in her fifties, looking good without pushing it.  The woman asks how hard it is and then says that kayaking is on her list of things to do that scare her,  The woman’s name is Silver, well, its one of her real names. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW-Tiny Desk Concert #839 (April 8, 2019).

I’d never heard of Georgia Anne Muldrow.  My takeaway from this set is that Muldrow is a wonderful hippie–spreading love and peace and being a total free spirit.  But what do we know about her?

The blurb says

The first song I ever heard from Georgia Anne Muldrow, back in the early 2000s, was called “Break You Down.” The opening line spoke directly to my experience as a twentysomething coming into my own:

“Don’t let them make you forget who you are
Don’t let them break you down”

I later found that she wrote, produced and performed that song when she was only 17-years old. She possessed talent and perspective beyond her years and I became a fan.

But more interesting than that is this piece of information.

She’s also made a name for herself as a collaborator with artists [like] Erykah Badu, with whom she introduced the notion of “staying woke” to the world, years before it was appropriated as a hashtag.

“Overload” opens with her doing some crazy muttering and sounds.  I didn’t think I’d like the song at first, but it got really funky with some cool keys from Mokichi (his keys dominate most of the songs as the main instrument) and a very cool six string bass from Bronson Garza.  I really like the chours.  By the end she is totally intense and into it–an amazing performer

I know they want to kill ya. I know they want to break ya.
I’m sure they envy you because your love is so true.
They want to break your mind they want to drive you crazy.
They don’t love no black man unless hes in slavery.
But let my love raise you higher.

It’s pretty awesome.

Some time would pass before she eventually released her debut album, Olesi: Fragments of an Earth, in 2006. Since then, she’s released well over a dozen, mostly self-produced projects. While much of her music’s focus has been on the healing, preservation and education of African American people, the themes are universal: family, struggle and of course, love.

Up next was “a reworked and animated versions of the song ‘Flowers.'”

She and the band were floating the possibility of swapping the duet with her partner in music and life, Dudley Perkins with another song. But she decided it was more important to showcase their shared love on the song “Flowers,” originally from Perkins’ 2003 album A Lil’ Light.

It’s a softer song.  She sings the beginning and then Perkins takes over.  I don;t like his voice all that much and find this song rather dull.  But they clearly had fun plying it.

They end the set with an extended and jazzy version of “Ciao.”  She plays bongos to start this one which accentuates Renaldo Elliott’s drum kit.  It has a jazzy bass line and feels really improvised.   She starts riffing on going to Africa–South Africa or Togo she stars rhapsodizing about all the places they could go Nigeria  left alone by the police there because we’ll be in the majority.

Pack my bags and go where the equator hugs me, maybe even pick me a mango.

Georgia Anne Muldrow is a force of love and it is hard, and somewhat foolish to resist her.

[READ: April 10, 2019] Be Prepared

T. has had this book at home for quite a while (she’s quite the collector of graphic novels).  I have seen the cover for ages and so I had an idea of what the book was about.  Boy was I wrong.  For I assumed it was about summer camp.  And while it is, it is about so much more.

I really enjoyed her drawing style in Anya’s Ghost but I like it so much more in this book.  Her drawings of Vera with her big glasses is just so charming and sweet.  I was hooked from the first page.

As the story opens we see Vera at a birthday party for Sarah Hoffmann.  The party is important–an ice cream cake, pizza, (with a stuffed crust) and of course, a sleepover.  All the girls have fancy sleeping bags, but Vera’s is Russian and very utilitarian.  All of the girls gave Sarah accessories for her fancy historical doll. While Vera drew her a picture.   The girls wonder where Vera’s doll is, and Vera lies (badly) about hers being at home.

When Vera has her own party later, she tries to create the same atmosphere–but fails miserably.  The ice cream cake is a Medovik tort (with writing in Russian), the pizza is from Dmitri’s and the drink is Kvass (carbonated beverage made from rye bread).  Everyone slept over, but they all called home to get picked up in the middle of the night.

Vera didn’t really fit in with anyone.  But she still had friends (and Sarah was certainly nice enough). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERYKAH BADU-Tiny Desk Concert #776 (August 15, 2018).

I remember when Erykah Badu released “On & On.”  It was such a great, catchy song, but it felt really different.  And then I basically lost track of her.  I didn’t realize she was still making music (and she hadn’t made much) until 2008’s New Amerykah Part One was a huge hit.

So I hadn’t followed her transformation into an incredibly iconic and powerful woman.  Back in 1997 she wore large turbans.  Now, some twenty years later she looks amazing but also kind of scary–the pink eyeshadow and pale purple lipstick makes her look almost dead or perhaps reborn.  And when she points at the camera and stares “you tricked me,” watch out!

She sounds almost otherworldly as well.  Instead of the turban she has massive dreads (with butterflies in them).  She looks like an earth goddess.

Some folks around the NPR Music office said they felt an almost spiritual connection to Erykah Badu during her visit to the Tiny Desk. And that was before she and her band even played a single note. It came from the waft of earthly scents that followed in her wake, to the flowing dreads and clothes that hung on her like robes.

After her self-introduction, which included a rundown of her spiritual and creative aliases: Badoula Oblongata, Sara Bellum,  Silly E, Manuela Maria Mexico, Fat Belly Bella, she introduced her band, including on drums, “that’s my son, Seven.”  I’m just kidding that’s not Seven, his name is Delta 9.

The band, a collection of great jazz players launches into a brief (2 minute) version of 1997’s “Rimshot.”  She does some wonderful improv with it and it sounds terrific–particularly her voice.

For the song, Badu

play[s] with time — stretching it, stopping it, suspending it. Propelled by jazz chords on the piano and the steady pulse of the acoustic bass, the playful performance unfolded in the tradition of the best bebop.

She plays only one more track, a 12 minute panoramic song “Green Eyes.”  ….  It’s wide-ranging in scope and musical arrangement and brilliantly executed by the jazz and hip-hop musicians in her backing band. The story of heartbreak is striking enough, but her interpretation showcases her formidable vocal skills. By the time it was over, we were all just as emotionally and spiritually spent as she was from the experience.

There is so much in this song, it’s hard to take it all in.

It opens with a bouncy piano melody: “My eyes are green because I eat a lot of vegetables–it don’t have nothing to do with your new friend.”  A muted trumpet adds to the jazzy feel.  She hits a powerful high note and it feels like another short song, but the piano changes tempo and the song is only just getting underway.

I love the melody and the riff that follows certain verses.  Around 9 minutes into the show, the song feels like its ending again, but a flute picks up and the song moves along with a new urgency.  Until she says Wait and sings

Just make love to me
Just one more time
And then you’ll see
I can’t believe I made a desperate plea
What’s with me?

And the pain and power in her voice as she sings me is wonderful.  As the song nears its conclusion, she hits some incredible notes–showing just how amazing her voice still sounds.

Her music has been described as neo-soul, but to me this felt like old school jazz.  As the blurb concurs

Erykah Badu is an artist for the ages. To old-school jazz fans like myself, names like Nina Simone, Betty Carter and Shirley Horn come to mind as much as Billie Holiday because of Badu’s singular approach to a lyric. They all cut their own creative path and left behind a legacy that you can identify with just one note. Erykah Badu is on that same path, and one day her name will be mentioned along with the other Elders who share her spirit of musical adventure.

Erykah Badu (lead vocals), RC Williams (Keys), Braylon Lacy (bass), Cleon Edwards (Drums), Frank Moka (Percussion), Kenneth Whalum (Sax), Keyon Harrold (Trumpet), Dwayne Kerr (Flute).

[READ: January 19, 2018] “Why Are We in Zefra?”

This excerpt was published in Harper’s.  The blurb about the book gave some basic information, but it was on Karl Schroeder’s website that I found this more detailed explanation of the book:

In spring 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a dramatized future military scenario.  The book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, was set in a mythical African city-state, about 20 years in the future, and concerned a group of Canadian peacekeepers who are trying to ready the city for its first democratic vote while fighting an insurgency.  Both the peacekeepers and the insurgents use a range of new technologies, some fantastic-sounding, but all in development in 2005.  Needless to say, the good guys win, but not without consequences; the document explores everything from the evolution of individual soldiers’ kits to strategic considerations in world of pervasive instant communications.  The project ran to 27,000 words and was published by the army as a bound paperback book.

That’s pretty fascinating.

The excerpt was pretty compelling as well. (more…)

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