That's My Jam: This Always Happens to Me

There are two things that always happen to me when I discover R&B/Soul artists that I like.
First and foremost, for whatever reason -- they always disappear.
For example, does anyone have any idea at all where Dionne Farris is hiding at these days? People loved her voice when she was in the rap/crossover group Arrested Development, then she went solo (and in doing so, inadvertently played a part in the breakup of one of my favorite bands, Atlanta based funk-rockers Follow For Now, who's lead singer/guitarist became Farris' musical director). Together they put out a great album called Wild Seed, Wild Flower, then added a few singles that showed up on film soundtracks, and then apparently evaporated into thin air, or went back in time to kill Sarah Connor, or something.

The same can be said for soulstress Angie Stone, who has an incredible voice and has done a lot of great albums, but frequently gets pegged as a one-hit-wonder because of her overall lack of radio hits. I wish I could say I knew of her before that song came out -- but sometimes that's how it happens. You hear the hit song on the radio or in some club, you start scratching the surface a little more and find an entire treasure trove of great music just about the same time that the artist themselves decide to fade from the greater public view, take their career in some different direction, or whatever.
Angie has a specific vibe, but there's no way someone that talented wouldn't have
found her own niche in the current music scene if she had wanted to stick with it.
The other thing that continually happens to me with this kind of music is that when they build a new song using samples or a reworked theme from an older classic I'll eventually come across that original track somewhere, and end up liking it even more than the remake.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I've lost any love for this track:
But honestly, how can you not love the O'Jays?
And here's the thing -- I love me some O'Jays (Love Train? For the Love of Money? Hell to the yes!)-- but until Angie snipped the riff for her song, I had never heard "Back Stabbers" before. If anything I owe Angie Stone a big thank you for tipping me off to it, even if it's become a song I sometimes listen to more than hers.

And it's not the first time it's happened to me either. Foxy Brown's (remember her?) "I'll Be" opening the door for me to the classic Rene and Angela track, DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat" -- which borrows just a tiny, tiny bit from Marva Whitney's "Unwind Yourself" that I literally stumbled across one day when I was flipping AM stations in a rental car on a road trip through Maine, or even the one that started it all, "Rappers Delight" by the Sugarhill gang and the song it came from -- "Good Times" by Chic.

The other odd thing that happens to me a lot is kind of the opposite, when I hear a track with a sample that I do recognize -- I tend to get a little angry at it for stealing from a track that was just fine on it's own. Mostly that happens when tunes get utterly co-opted by pop artists and other people think they wrote them.

I mean, at least when Hollywood remakes a movie you (usually) know they're doing it -- but unless they include some sort of vocal snippet, half the time the artists who use samples these days seem to want to pass them off as their own creations, which drives me up the wall.
Whenever I had a guitar in my hand in class, my students would always say "Hey Mr. Luft, play that Trick Daddy riff" -- which I would, even though it was like a knife to the heart for this old-school Ozzy fan to hear it called that way.
I don't know -- Maybe it's just the way that I'm wired, but as much as I love hip-hop songs that are built off classic tracks from the past -- I tend to get tired of them after a while. Mainly I think because most DJ's and producers sample only a few seconds from a given track and then tend to loop them over and over -- and I get sick of the repetition (Queen's "Under Pressure" is an arching epic of a song that builds from beginning to end -- which was then sliced into a 10 second earworm for Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" that in a lot of ways has ruined the original for me by making me aware of how lackluster and boring the bassline actually is).

But those old songs -- the original grooves that the new tracks are built on?
Man, I could listen to those all day long.

[Listening to:  The Clash - "Charlie Don't Surf" ]


Sarah said…
Fucking ANGIE STONE, man!!! Her voice makes me yearn and cry and love and dance and wish that I could hang out with her for just one night to see what she does when she's all alone. Angie seems like a window into another time, before booty shorts and chains took over hip hop. She amazes me the way Erykah Badu did when she first took on the scene.
Satorical said…
All depends on how the nods are done and by whom, but I do agree that props should be given. In fact, it would be a real fresh breath of air if one of today's artists came out and, instead of thanking his posse, parents, and God, gave props to his musical inspirations. I guess that was part of the MJ spectacle (didn't see it), but do we have to wait for the wake to hear the roots?
wigsf said…
Oh man. A couple days ago, I was driving and just flipping through the dial when I came across Time of the Season by the Zombies starting.
I really like that song. When I'm alone in the car, I'll sing along at the top of my lungs to the whole song. So, just as I was preparing to sing the first lines of the song, some chick comes on and starts rapping.

I felt tricked and betrayed by the sample.
Satorical said…
Separately, who decided it was a good idea to remake You Light Up My Life? Don't they realize how hard that song was to kill off in the 70s?
karrie b. said…
awwwwwwww MAN. im scared to put that angie joint on my ipod. that song always makes me cry, and it doesnt help that im still picking up pieces of my heart.

Anonymous said…
i thought i was the only person who still owned dionne farris' solo album. count on hex to make me feel less like a musical loner.

Living color in september? you down to go?

Adam said…
Sometimes the samples end up getting the good stuff and cutting out the extra crap that makes the song not so great in the first place. I remember realizing (finally!) one day that pretty much all of Daft Punk's 'Discovery' album is just stitched-together samples. But as much fun as it was hearing the originals to see where the sounds came from, I think the French guys did so much more with them. Example: Edwin Birdsong's 'Cola Bottle Baby' is a boring funk song that become almost transcendent when repurposed as 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.' To be fair, I'm not the biggest fan of 70s funk (or funk in general) and I don't think much of it aged that well.

I think Vanilla Ice's (or his producer's) appropriation of the bass line from 'Under Pressure' was absolutely brilliant. Same with 'You Can't Touch This.' Those are two great examples of when someone with a little creativity (or luck) took something catchy and built something new (and seriously catchy) with it. Not like the ham-fisted 'sample almost the entire song' approach of Puff Daddy and Wyclef Jean. (That said, I still rate 'Mo Money, Mo Problems' as a great single and think it surpasses 'I'm Coming Out' by far.