(Ed's note: Welcome back to "Please Jam." Usually, associate editor James Carr picks out five tracks for EIC Vince Thomas to chastise (or, on rare occasions, praise), but last week was too much tripe. So, Vince took over to remember the legendary George Duke and drop some knowledge. As for the rest, we guarantee nothing. Now, Please Jam...)
R.I.P. GEORGE DUKE
“Sunburst” -- title track off Eddie Henderson’s 1975 album
“Dukey Stick” off Duke’s Don’t Let Go (1978)
“For Love (I Come Your Friend)” off Duke’s Faces In Reflection (1974)
“For Love I Come” -- Thundercat’s cover off The Golden Age of Apocalypse (2011)
VINCE: George Duke is one of those folks that, when they pass, they race back to your mind and you’re like, “Man, that dude was a monster.” Duke will likely be remembered by many older folks for his late-’70s funk-oriented joints like “Dukey Stick” -- a filth-nasty tune that borrows a whole lot from George Clinton and the P-Funk sound. To younger folks, especially the musically in-tuned, his music has re-emerged as a major influence for Thundercat, probably the baddest bassist out here right now. Check those two “For Love” Tubes, James. Over the past few years, that’s one of the best modern covers of any song. But even tracks like “Without You” off Thundercat’s new album Apocalypse feature that Duke influence. And Cat’s not alone. A lot of contemporary artists -- especially in hip-hop -- were jacking Duke fire off his vinyl.
But for a few heads like me, George Duke is first and foremost a jazz musician. I dropped that Eddie Henderson “Sunburst” because, 1) Buster Williams bass line is despicable, and 2) it’s very typical Duke. His synthesizer/keyboard work never overwhelmed like a virtuoso Herbie Hancock tune, but it was always sophisticated and always very present in his tunes. You knew he was there, even if he wasn’t peacockin’.
JAMES: The first thing I notice about a lot of the throwback tracks you put on here is that they always take you on a journey somewhere else. I’m listening to “Sunburst” right now. This joint is nuts! There have been about four or five different instruments and three different tempos within the first two minutes. And some of these effects? (Vince note: That's Duke.) It’s like some outerworldly force is intruding on my reality and it made me slightly uncomfortable until I got adjusted and sat here thinking “....Woah.”
What. Just. Happened?
They really don’t make music anything like this anymore. Today, a kid would pull the piano, or the drums or the trumpet and leave the rest of the masterpiece (though I don’t know if you could even do anything with this entire song, and unless Curren$y has some time to kill we will never find out).
...And now I’m on “For Love” from Faces In Reflection which sounds much more familiar. I mean, it has a range at least. The only thing pushing it to the edge is the bass and this crazy keyboard...and that’s all Mr. Duke, I presume? This dude is crazy-funky-talented. I’m a fan.
“Soap Box” -- Ka (feat. Roc Marciano) off The Night’s Gambit
VINCE: Last week, while you were assaulting my ears with cats name Boogetz, I mentioned that I was gonna take over a track or two this week and mentioned Ka, specifically. He’s just a super-duper underground emcee that gets busy. His music is very insular and dank, though. Mood music for real. Not for everyone. In fact, I’m not anywhere near the fan of his music that most of my crew is.
I first heard dude on GZA’s Pro Tools back in 2008 on a track “Firehouse,” which was also my reintroduction to a genius we know as Roc Marciano. Ka’s new album, The Night’s Gambit, is full of that spare, claustrophobic music that Marc perfected on Reloaded...Ka just doesn’t have the same magnetic personality Marc has, nor the grand production chops. But the album has a great deal of merit. Sounds like nothing else on the market.
Check the bass line on this joint. Criminal. Please jam...
JAMES: Whatever, I’m still listening to that Boogetz track. This is one hell of a takeover. I certainly didn’t expect “field negroes” to be one of the first things I heard on a Friday morning. I’m also surprised to hear it in a track in 2013. (Vince note: Listen to the song's content. It's a very appropriate inclusion. Don't know what movie it's from, though.) I mean, the house vs. field distinction has been one of the touchiest subjects in Black American history. It’s interesting the Ka comes out and classifies himself immediately. (Vince note: You don't want to be called either, but I'd rather be called a field negro by another black person than a house negro.) I’m not really sure the purpose.
This bassline though. I mean, I can’t really even hear what he’s saying the first listen through, but it doesn’t really matter. Usually in these instances, especially when the recommendation comes with high esteem, it’s the sign of a track that I’m going to enjoy for a long time to come once I pick up the intricacies of the lyrics (the opposite would be the first time listening to Gucci Mane and realizing later that the lyrics are...well, not-Gucci I suppose).
I see what you mean by mood music, too. Definitely not the kind of track you’re playing unless like-minded hip-hoppers are around. Or if you have some speakers, a view, and a spleezy.
Drake - “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
JAMES: There seem to be three types of Drake fans. One set likes his raps and wish he would leave that emotional, singing stuff to Miguel or, better yet, any female singer, but mostly still acknowledge his singing talent. The others are basically the opposite, and the rest appreciate his all around game...or 40’s game (but as Drake basically pointed out in “5 AM In Toronto,” they’re still all fans).
I wonder if generational differences play a role in forming that first set of fans. It sounds to me like a gender roles kinda thing, and younger generations have much different views on that subject. In general, every generation is typically more open minded than the previous, and Drake is one of the first to top the charts with both styles.
Anyway, I am moving quickly toward the center in terms of Drake fanhood, because this Phil Collins-esque jam with drums that remind me of “ Juicy Fruit” is going straight on the playlist (but probably not on Gamedays , honestly). Oh, and thanks for the introduction to producer Nineteen85.
Ok, go ahead, pour on the haterade.
VINCE: Yes...allow me a little hate before the commendation. Yeah, I hate when Drake sings, but I like singers. There are weeks that go by where I listen to nothing but singers -- many singing solely about love and relationships -- and the only hip-hop I listen to are the tracks you send me for Please Jam. But I hate sappy music -- sappy music and sappy voices. Drake doesn’t have even a remote chance to get busy like Miguel. Have you ever seen that Saturday Night Live Miguel performance? Drake is more Trey Songz than Miguel. And he’s definitely nothing like my favorite male singers of the past 15 years, D’Angelo and Bilal. In fact, I’d rather listen to Phonte do the rapper/singer thing. I’d rather Dwele rap, than Drake sing. It’s just the softest music ever. But, then again, he doesn’t make these songs for me. He makes them for women, or men (with poor music taste) when they’re with women. Dude needs to stop listening to Aaliyah. Prior to Take Care, Noah 40 -- whom I have a great deal of respect for as a producer -- told GQ that he and Drake were driving around on the tour bus listening to ‘90s R&B and that was what they were shooting for with most of tracks on Take Care. Well done, fellas...go make a Brandy album.
The bridge on this joint is kinda cold, though. At the end of the day, Drake and 40 are two exceptionally talented dudes that I truly believe approach their music from a very thoughtful space. Drake’s been dropping hit after hit in the lead up to Nothing Was the Same. He knows how to make a jam. I’ll allow him this misstep.
Nylo - “Someone Like You”
JAMES: I found this track because Nas reposted it on his Soundcloud page. It immediately sounded interesting, and reminded me a lot of The Weeknd off the jump. She describes it as sounding like snow on her Twitter page. Sure, I guess.
Nylo is also similar to JMSN, so this might become a trend. It’s like a trippy electronic/R&B hybrid. I haven’t made my mind up about how I feel about this as a whole, probably because I’m not sure how much me thinking, "this is really creative" might be outweighing the fact that I don’t enjoy it that much.
Right now, it’s on a song-by-song basis. I probably won’t play this one again after this week, but I’d listen to a track with Nylo on it.
VINCE: Real-time thoughts while listening...
-- Oh god, not more of this tripe.
-- Is this an Adele cover?
-- She has that Christina Aguilera quality in her voice where it sometimes sounds like she has french fries stuck in her throat.
-- She also has that Aaliyah lightness.
-- Did you say this “might become a trend,” James? It’s been a trend. It’s called PBR&B. (James Note: I am so impressed with the phrase PBR&B. This is unbelievable. I'm really upset I didn't know about this. Genius.)
-- Interesting bridge. Did nothing for me, but, hey, she tried.
-- Please...kick rocks.
Peyton and Eli Manning “TV On Your Phone”
JAMES: I forced my own hand putting this on here, because I missed an opportunity for another edition of This Is The Best Thing You’ll See All Week. The Manning’s have incredible chemistry and, with every exchange, out-ridiculous each other. It’s like competitive chemistry. It’s amazing. They need to patent that gene and replicate it.
At the very least, these two prove they could do skits every once in awhile for SNL after their playing careers are over.
Shout out to New Orleans.
VINCE: Peyton Manning might be the best comedic acting athlete of all-time. This has to be a Lonely Island production. There’s no way Andy Samberg and crew didn’t produce and write this. It’s right out of the Samberg-Justin Timberlake wheelhouse of cheesy, fake Color Me Badd impersonations. Peyton and Eli might be rapping here, but these dudes below are the inspiration.
Or maybe it was that clown Vanilla Ice...