Introducing… Cosmo's Crates
Posted on Jan 5th, 2011 in Internets by Mr. Goldbar
New site, new columns! We’re proud to invite DJ hero, megacollector and raconteur Cosmo Baker to drop record science on the dot com as only he can.
What’s up, party people, and welcome to the inaugural edition of the brand new column “Cosmo’s Crates.” This series is basically a place for me to do the knowledge on the vast world of music – of all types and genres. Now for the most part people checking Fool’s Gold are probably here to check for the latest and greatest dance and rap music from the all-star roster. But as artists, we all draw our inspiration from all the musical influences we’ve had over the course of our whole lives, and in many cases way before we were even born. I hope that in exposing you all to some sounds that you might not be up on, or some shit that might have flown under the radar, I can draw the connections between the music from yesterday and from today. You’d be surprised how many parallel lines there are in the last 80+ years of American pop music, but I guess that’s just the cyclical nature of both the industry and the people’s consumption patterns. I’m a student of history and that definitely comes across with me as an artist. But ultimately all I really want to do is to put you guys up on some hot shit or some groovy sounds that I think you all need in your life. SO, with that all said, let’s get to it!
Ronald Isley does not get the credit that he deserves in my opinion. Of course The Isley Brothers are solidified in the music pantheon as GOATS but Ron Ron really gets overlooked as such an amazing and important figure in American music history. Ron Isley was the anchor to a group that changed music forever. Here is a dude that has done something that only a handful of people along with him have done – stayed absolutely relevant in music and pop culture for a lifetime. The Isley Brothers, hailing from the absolute funkiest state in the union, Ohio, first came out with their smash hit and perennial wedding favorite “Shout” in 1959. During the 60s the group helped pioneer a distinctive sound that was a blend of their doo-wop roots, the essence of soul music, the energy of early rock & roll and the straight nastiness of the burgeoning funk sound, a sound that can be heard in their 1969 song “It’s Your Thing.” The 70s were their time to shine and they released a run of albums that is kind of incomparable – they were at the top of their game. For the entire decade they stacked the charts with groundbreaking funk hits, soul standard and folk-rock covers of the likes of Todd Rundgren and Seals & Crofts that actually eclipsed the originals. Let’s not forget to mention the unbelievable arsenal of breakbeats and sample-fodder that they blessed the future hip-hop generation with. They kept their streak alive in the 80s, releasing the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” inspiring “Between The Sheets.” Ron came back in the 90s and and, perhaps in an ode to Biggie, adopted a brand new persona, the incorrigible Mr. Biggs. Together with R. Kelly, Ron has a stretch of some of his biggest hits ever, including one of my personal favorites “Down Low (Nobody Has To Know.”) Ron and The Brothers Isley continued making hits, and GOOD hits, well into the 2000s – in fact, he dropped a new solo LP this past November. If you think about it that’s a pretty incredible feat. This dude has made banging, timely and most importantly, relevant records in almost 7 decades. I really don’t think ANYONE is seeing that. Plus, let’s not forget that dude was one of the first Black recording artists to start his own label (T-Neck in the motherfucking house,) and that he also discovered a young guitarist by the name of Jimi Hendrix.
Back to the 70s Isley output – it has so much soul. Now I’m a soul music lover and, like it or not, you have to acknowledge all that soul music has done for us. Plus, recognize the fact that this soul music is responsible for a huge boom in the population – love songs for love makin’ and all that. One of my favorite tunes by them is 1974’s “Ain’t I Been Good To You” off the “Live It Up” album. I love this song so much I had to include it on my latest mix, Love Break Three and it really is a centerpiece on the mix I feel. This 8 and a half minute opus about a man yearning for a lost love musically goes from a smokey soul ballad to a dirty funk workout to a impassioned gospel burner, complete with guitarist Ernie Isley’s acid-rock inspired guitar solo shredding the track to pieces in the latter half of the record. The groove and the passion in this song is undeniable, and so it should be a surprise that legendary Pimp C from Port Arthur, Texas’ UGK used the track for the unforgettable “One Day” on their 1996 break-out album “Riding Dirty.” Pimp and partner Bun B expertly used the sample as the basis for their lament on lost friends, lost youth and a beautiful example of Southern ghetto nihilism. Complete with Screwed Up Click’s own Ronnie Spencer acting as a Ron Isley soundalike, this in my opinion is a perfect example of a rap group using an interpolation and sample of a record to do a song that completely compliments and mirrors its source. Not to mention it’s a goddamn great song that still sounds fresh 14 years after the fact.
A harbinger of the trend of New York rappers taking Southern styles as their own, 2 years later 3rd Eye released his version of “One Day” on his completely overlooked album “Planets.” It actually started in 1992, when a young Puff Daddy was working as an A&R at Uptown records. 3rd Eye was one of his top prospects on his roster of artists, and together they were part of a crew of Uptown dudes called Group Home – not to be confused with the DJ Premier helmed Group Home from Brooklyn. Puffy helped release a few records from 3rd Eye & Group Home, including the banging Jesse West & Lord Finesse product “Ease Up” from the Who’s The Man soundtrack, as well as the 1993 remix of Super Cat’s “Dolly My Baby.” On that one Puff had 3rd Eye spit verses at the end of this classic remix. Puff also got in the mix dropping his Onyx inspired “grimy” rap style, but redeemed himself by allowing a young Christopher Wallace to make his recording debut on the record, and forever cementing himself in our brain with his opening line on wax, “I love it when you call me big poppa…” Puffy got fired from Uptown in ’93 and went on to secure his legacy with Bad Boy, and 3rd Eye basically fell through the cracks until ’98 when France-based imprint Déclic Communication released his full length. It’s actually a pretty dope song, a very East Coast stomp version produced by Jesse West, dealing with a very common rap theme of the 90s – “maintaining.” I don’t think it captures the feel and urgency of the UGK version but it’s a very good and interesting take on it, and definitely worth noting.
Okay Hope you had fun with this and got hip to some cool records. I will be back next week when we take it uptempo – and take it to New Jersey!