Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I'll never forget the first time I ever saw the X-Men in concert. It was back in 1997 at the sorely missed Tramps in New York City, where the DJ quartet of Grandmaster Roc Raida, Total Eclipse, Rob Swift and Mista Sinista shared a bill with Rahzel and Common. Watching their gravity defying skills run its collective course across four pairs of turntables as each man juggled beats, busted out Temptations-style dance moves and rejiggering popular hip-hop songs of the day beyond recognition were fantastic feats of uncanny musicianship I will never soon forget. I was lucky enough to see the X-Men, who had to rename themselves the X-Ecutioners thanks to those meddling Marvel lawyers, several times thereafter, including a show staged between the Twin Towers three months before 9/11 went down, and they blew my mind every time.
Roc Raida was the Jimi Hendrix of the 1s and 2s. He was not only the leader of the X-Ecutioners, but also the only DJ in many a year to earn the handle of "Grandmaster" since the days of Kaz and Flash. His skills helped usher in a new, innovative era for DJs in the 1990s along with his X-Men crew members and the Invisbl Skratch Piklz holding it down on the West Coast. If you ever saw any of these guys do their thing on stage, you know you had to pick the pieces of your mind up off the club floor after the show.
News of his death this past weekend sent shockwaves across both the hip-hop and DJ communities.
"I am sorry 2 say that on this day at 2:05 Sept 19th we lost another incredible life...Dj Roc Raida died 2day my personal Dj is gone...," stated Busta Rhymes via Twitter in regards to his friend, who had been touring with the former Leader of the New School in recent years.
In a year loaded with tragic losses, it's sad to witness another great artist disappear from our world.
RIP, Grandmaster. You will be missed. -Ed.
Here is the official statement in reference to Roc Raida's passing from his publicity firm, Tools of War, along with funeral information:
Anthony "Grand Master Roc Raida" Williams was born in Harlem, New York on May 17th, 1972.
He passed away on Saturday, September 19th, 2009 from a cardiac arrest resulting from injuries he suffered in an accident while training in Krav Maga, a type self defense system that he had been studying weekly for the last two years. He was proud that his 15-year-old daughter, Asia, shared his passion for Krav Maga and was the only girl in their class.
Anthony Williams was both African-American and Puerto Rican. He lived most of his life in Harlem but after marrying his soul mate, Tyeasha on June 26, 1997, they moved to the Bronx. Several years ago, they realized their dream of owning a home and relocated their family to Maryland. He encouraged and shared in his wife's dream of one day opening up her own beauty salon.
He began DJing at the age of 12, spinning at local parties around Harlem. In 1991, he won the AS 1 DJ Battle. By 1995, Roc Raida represented the United States at the DMC World DJ Championships and won! He was the first DJ from NYC to hold this title and was automatically inducted into the DMC/Technics DJ Hall of Fame. Throughout his life, he lived his passion - being a professional Hip Hop DJ. He was blessed to tour the world as his day job. Williams was honored to have worked with artists including Showbiz & AG, Lord Finesse, Kool G Rap and most recently, he toured exclusively with Busta Rhymes.
Although his family called him "Ant" (short for Anthony), he became known worldwide as legendary DJ Roc Raida. In 1999, Grand Master status was bestowed upon him by a group of pioneering Hip Hop DJs, during a conference at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.
Before he passed, he asked his 10 yr. old daughter, Nyra, who was the most interested, of his children, in DJing to take over for him as a DJ. She agreed - so look out for Nyra!
With a very aggressive swagger on the turntables, those who knew Roc Raida were floored by his humbleness. His wife, Tyeasha said, "His notoriety amazed him every day!" He never took that for granted. Williams was also known to be very quiet, private and easy going. His self-control was admirable but if pushed to his limit - he would roar. In fact, Lord Finesse called his friend "the quiet lion" for this very reason. Those closest to him also have the pleasure of remembering him as a hilarious comedian who loved to joke and laugh.
Through battles, performances, recordings, documentaries, videos, dvds and even a Pepsi commercial, Roc Raida influenced thousands of DJs, both to partyrock as well as to battle. He took several aspiring DJs under his wing to mentor them personally. As a member of legendary turntablist crews, The X-Men and later, The X-ecutioners, he along with his brothers-in-vinyl took the world by storm, innovating, influencing and inspiring at every turn. In 2006, to progress and contribute to the Hip Hop DJ battle scene, he founded Roc Raida's Gong DJ Battle, a national DJ battle that occurs annually, combining head to head turntablist dexterity with comedy and drama.
Not only was he a World Champion DJ, he was a dedicated father and husband as well as a loyal friend. Rest in Peace Roc Raida we are really going to miss you!
Funeral Arrangements and Viewing will take place on Thursday, September 24, 2009
The viewing for Anthony Williams will be held from 10am to 12 noon, immediately followed by the funeral beginning at 12noon at:
Mount Neboh Baptist Church
1883 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (W.114th St. & 7th Ave)
New York NY, 10026
For those intending to send flowers, please kindly have them delivered to the church on September 24th, 2009 only between 9am - 10am.
The family requests that no filming or photography take place within the church at all.
Directions: 2 or 3 train to W. 116th St. Walk West on 116th St towards Lenox Ave. or take the M11 bus to W 116th St and Adam C Powell Blvd. Try www.hopstop.com for more directions.
All accurate information, official tributes and fundraisers (approved by the family) will be posted at:
Grandmaster Roc Raida at the 1996 DMC World Championships:
Raida at the '94 DMCs:
Raida teaching kids how to beat juggle circa 2007:
Friday, September 18, 2009
While supplies last. Embryonic comes out 10/13 on Warner Bros.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH. Get on yr. boots.
Stoned in Buenos Aires
1. Take It So Hard2. Eileen3. Running Too Deep4. Gimme Shelter5. Yap Yap6. How I Wish7. 9998. Body Talks9. Demon10. Time Is On My Side11. Before They Make Me Run12. Hate It When You Leave13. Too Rude
1. Wicked As It Seems2. Will But You Won't3. Happy4. Whip It Up5. Connection
Bonus Tracks:6. Seven Days7. Ain't That Loving You Baby8. Lost And Lonely9. Buried Alive10. I Can Feel The Fire
"Wicked As It Seems" from Buenos Aires 1992:
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
R.I.P. to one of New York City's great voices. He will be missed. -Ed.
New York Times obit here.
Lyrics by Jim Carroll
I was born in a pool, they made my mother stand
And I spat on that surgeon and his trembling hand
When I felt the light I was worse than bored
I stole the doctor's scalpel and I slit the cord
I was a Catholic boy,
Redeemed through pain,
Not through joy
I was two months early they put me under glass
I screamed and cursed their children when the nurses passed
Was convicted of theft when I slipped from the womb
They led me straight from my mother to a cell in the Tombs
They starved me for weeks, they thought they'd teach me fear
I fed on cellmates' dreams, it gave me fine ideas
When they cut me loose, the time had served me well
I made allies in heaven, I made comrades in Hell
I was a Catholic child
The blood ran red
The blood ran wild
I make angels dance and drop to their knees
When I enter a church the feet of statues bleed
I understand the fate of all my enemies
Just like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
I watched the sweetest psalm stolen by the choir
I dreamed of martyrs' bones hanging from a wire
I make a contribution, I get absolution
I make a resolution to purify my soul
They can't touch me now
I got every sacrament behind me:
I got baptism,
I got communion,
I got penance,
I got extreme unction
I've got confirmation
'Cause I'm a Catholic child
The blood ran red
The blood ran wild!
Now I'm a Catholic man
I put my tongue to the rail whenever I can.
"Catholic Boy" on YouTube:
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Entitled The Fall, it will drop on November 17th via Blue Note Records. Comprised of 13 songs, the album features collaborations with Ryan Adams and Will Sheff from Okkervil River as well as her longtime songwriting partner Jesse Harris in addition to an absolutely killer new band comprised of drummers Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.) and James Gadson (Bill Withers), keyboardist James Poyser (Erykah Badu, Al Green) and guitarists Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) and Smokey Hormel (Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer).
The track listing for The Fall is as follows:
1. Chasing Pirates ( Norah Jones )
2. Even Though ( Norah Jones /Jesse Harris)
3. Light As a Feather ( Norah Jones /Ryan Adams)
4. Young Blood ( Norah Jones /Mike Martin)
5. I Wouldn't Need You ( Norah Jones )
6. Waiting ( Norah Jones )
7. It's Gonna Be ( Norah Jones )
8. You've Ruined Me ( Norah Jones )
9. Back To Manhattan ( Norah Jones )
10. Stuck ( Norah Jones /Will Sheff)
11. December ( Norah Jones )
12. Tell Yer Mama ( Norah Jones /Jesse Harris/Richard Julian)
13. Man Of The Hour ( Norah Jones )
For more information, visit the Blue Note Web site.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
So the day is upon us: the long-awaited remastering campaign of the Beatles catalog, which hasn't been touched since the albums were first put to CD in 1987...
And, since unfortunately I couldn't nab myself a copy of the box set from EMI (though I did get a rather amazing--and surely soon-to-be collectible--two-CD sampler in the mail on Saturday), I have to acquire these the old fashioned way, purchasing them at my local Target and/or FYE. This, however, proves to be a bit of a challenge, as I only have select fundage to purchase only five of these titles. It's a conundrum that has proven to be a bit of a head scratcher, as I spent this past weekend arguing with myself over which of the five Beatles remasters I want to own on CD, especially given that I already have the band's entire catalog on vinyl and MP3. So, after endless self-deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that my first five purchases from these new Beatles reissues will be as follows (in order of importance):
1. Abbey Road
Ever since I was a wee baby, Abbey Road has been my favorite Beatles album. It was definitely up there with my mom, who played it all the time for me. Though the band was in turmoil during its recording, the unity and tension displayed across these songs gave Abbey Road a most perfect balance of beauty and brashness. Plus, there is nary a better Side 2 than old Abbey's, highlighted by the much-beloved "Abbey Road Medley", rife with tales about financial woes ("You Never Give Me Your Money"), praises to higher powers ("Sun King"), recollections of India ("Mean Mr. Mustard"), mannish women ("Polythene Pam"), inventive stalkers ("She Came In Through The Bathroom Window"), a tribute to a 17th century songwriter ("Golden Slumbers") and references to the Fabs inevitable breakup ("Carry That Weight"), climaxing with a final epic threeway guitar battle between Macca, John Lennon and George Harrison that's second to none ("The End"). It also contains the song Frank Sinatra once hailed as one of the greatest love songs of the last 50 years, "Something", which, coupled with the beautiful, early morning hymnal "Here Comes The Sun", established Harrison as a major songwriting force beyond the Lennon/McCartney axis. Not to mention "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", 7:47 of Yoko-inspired progressive dirge rock that stands as the Fab's most propulsive, explosive moment on tape. Sure, Ringo's "Octopus' Garden" is a little goofy, but who gives a shit? Five-year-olds around the world love it even forty years later and that's all that matters. And while Let It Be ultimately served as the band's final word in record shops worldwide, Abbey was the perfect punctuation mark to end the band's magnificent decade-long run; one that saw the stormy rainclouds of drama that mired the LIB/Get Back sessions give way to a silver lining to togetherness and brotherhood that can be so resoundingly heard in the last lines of the medley--"And in the end/The love you take is equal to the love you make." With Abbey Road, the Fab Four proved that in spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts.
"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" rehearsal, 1969:
After getting their tootsies wet in the early days of psychedelia on Rubber Soul, the Beatles dove headfirst into the acid bath on Revolver, the band's seventh album. Backwards guitar playing, tape loops, mellotron, musique concrète, strings, horns and Indian music all came into play here, thus finding the Fabs completely abandoning their teen idol personas in favor of mind-expanding introspection and sonic experimentation. My favorite story about the recording of Revolver has to be about its most hypnotic and trippy number, "Tomorrow Never Knows", whose lyrics were influenced by Timothy Leary's book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The song is considered to be a precursor to drone music and electronica, as McCartney, a renowned fan of German minimalist composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, was inspired to manipulate the studio's tape recorder to work on a continuous loop and encouraged Lennon, Harrison, Starr and their longtime producer George Martin to follow suit. So amazing.
Promotional video for "Tomorrow Never Knows" from the Love album:
3. Beatles for Sale
Split up and released as Beatles' 65 and Beatles VI here in the states back in 1964, the smiling faces of The Beatles present on the American versions hardly evoke the weariness the band portrayed on the cover of Beatles for Sale, which illustrated the Fabs' growing distaste for the whole "Beatlemania" phenomenon as it reached its crescendo of female screams with looks of fatigue on all four of their otherwise shiny, happy faces. Their fourth album in 21 months, it also depicts the band's growing influences beyond 50's American rock 'n' roll, most notably the sound of a rising young star on the folk scene named Bob Dylan replicated in the phrasing and style of Lennon's self-deprecating "I'm a Loser". While Beatles for Sale is indeed highlighted by one of the band's biggest hits, "8 Days a Week", there are deeper tracks on here that also deserve further praise and attention, notably "Every Little Thing", a McCartney-penned tune sung by Lennon, and "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party", another John-written number that further delves into his feelings of pain and alienation (albeit with a snappy beat). Even the covers get a little deeper and more obscure, like Lennon's take on Roy Lee Johnson's "Mr. Moonlight" and an incredible run through Buddy Holly's "Words of Love". This is definitely the most slept-on album in the Beatles canon to this very day, hands down.
Beatles doing "I'm A Loser" in Paris, 1965
4. Please Please Me
Before Beatlemania, the Fab Four were a quartet of young, hungry kids from Liverpool who sweated it out in the famed Cavern Club during the early 60s playing Chuck Berry and Little Richard covers as if the band's goal was to dive into the souls of their heroes and pull the songs out from their gullets. Enter George Martin, who brought the Fabs into their first foray at Abbey Road Studio and nailed a pitch-perfect replication of their raucous early gigs in three one-hour takes. 14 songs in a little over a half-hour, loaded with scalding takes on such early rock classics as the Gerry Goffin/Carole King Cookies hit "Chains", Bobby Scott's "A Taste of Honey" and, of course, Lennon's scorched-earth rendition of Phil Medley and Bert Russell's "Twist and Shout". As for the originals, the title track, "I Saw Her Standing There", "PS I Love You" and "Love Me Do" are essentially the Top 5 early Beatles songs. Even though late-period Fab fans get a little turned off to the pop buoyancy of the group's first few albums, Please Please Me is a must-own for any Beatles fan if you want to get a quality glimpse of the biggest band of all-time during their salad days.
Beatles' performing "Some Other Guy" at the Cavern Club, 1962:
5. Let It Be
Technically billed as the soundtrack album for the Michael Lindsay-Hogg film of the same name, Let It Be was the Beatles' 12th and final work as a group, though much of the material was recorded prior to Abbey Road. This album became legendary due to its exhaustive recording sessions, which are in and of itself worthy of its own box set(bootlegs of the sessions are at least thirtysomething compact discs long, depending on which set you own). Originally titled Get Back (after the album's funky key track featuring the dexterous keyboard work of the late, great "Black Beatle" Billy Preston) and under the auspices of producer Glyn Johns, the initial idea of Let It Be was to be a perfect bookend to Please Please Me, a back-to-basics recording cut live in the studio with minimal overdubs (complete with original album art replicating that of their debut), especially following the sprawling psychedelia of The White Album. However, following the band's breakup in 1970, the unreleased Johns tapes were handed over to Phil Spector, who worked his Wall of Sound magic on them to create the Let It Be we have all come to know and love. Well, except for Macca, who was unhappy with Spector's production. Paul ultimately got his way in 2003 with the release of Let It Be...Naked, a song-for-song recreation of the album utilizing the original Glyn Johns masters. However, if you are a fan of both Spector's production and the Fab Four, the original version of Let It Be will always be your favorite. Let's just hope they finally release the film on DVD and maybe a definitive official box set of the sessions, yeah? -Ed.
Original film trailer for "Let It Be":
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
This just in, courtesy of the Australian music site Undercover, who just broke the news today:
by Paul Cashmere - September 2 2009
photo by Ros O'Gorman
Undercover has learned that Charlie Watts has quit The Rolling Stones.
A source within the Stones inner-circle says, “Charlie Watts has quit the band. He will never record or tour with the band again”.
The news does not come as a surprise. It was common knowledge that Keith Richards had to talk Charlie into contributing to the A Bigger Bang tour but this time it seems there is no calling Charlie back to active duty.
“The Stones are looking to Keith's Expensive Winos drummer Charlie Drayton to fill the void in all future Stones' callings,” our source says.
With Mick Jagger planning more Stones activity next year, the departure of Charlie will be a huge blow to the band. Charlie was the backbone of the band.
The 68-year old drummer simply doesn't want to do it anymore.
Charlie joined the Rolling Stones in January, 1963. He didn’t expect it would last. In fact, he kept his day job for several months until the band started to feel like a career.
Charlie’s decision to quit the band comes a three years short of the Stones 50th anniversary.
The Stones A Bigger Bang tour ran from August 2005 to August 2007. It was the highest tour of all-time.
According to Reuters, longtime Stones publicist Fran Curtis has debunked Undercover's news as a total falsehood:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has not quit the band, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday, denying a news report from Australia.
The report, from the normally credible online outlet Undercover (http://www.undercover.com.au), stirred up a worldwide panic among fans, since Watts' departure would likely mean the end of the venerable group.
"Contrary to a fabricated story that ran this morning on a small music web site in Australia, drummer Charlie Watts has not left The Rolling Stones," spokeswoman Fran Curtis said in an emailed statement.
The Undercover report, attributed to "a source within the Stones inner-circle says," said Watts will never record or tour with the band again. It said the Stones were looking to replace him with New York session drummer Charlie Drayton, who has played on solo projects with Stones guitarist Keith Richards.
The Rolling Stones, which Watts joined in 1963 after a stint in the advertising world, have not released a new album since 2005's poor-selling "A Bigger Bang." Their last tour ended in London in August 2007. Future plans are unknown.
Watts, 68, does not contribute to the songwriting, but his spare, jazz-influenced drumming style is considered key to the band's success. He is closely involved in the design of the band's stage sets and merchandising, and gets the loudest cheers when the four members are introduced in concert.
He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004, but it went into remission, and the band embarked on a three-year world tour the following year. During the 1980s, the famously clean-living drummer fought a drug addiction at a time when the band had essentially broken up.
Watts has traditionally been the most reluctant to tour, since he hates to leave his wife and Arabian horses at the couple's horse-breeding farm in Devonshire. The media-shy grandfather generally avoids the spotlight, and seems disdainful of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle.
"Worked five years, and 20 years hangin' around," he glumly told a TV reporter while on tour during the 1980s.
Watts' eccentricities are part of the band's legend, such as tales that he owns a huge vintage-car collection but not a driver license, and allows horses to wander through the house. He also has a darker side, once punching Mick Jagger almost unconscious after the singer referred to him as "my drummer."
Here's hoping the rumors are indeed rumors and the 68-year-old Watts will stick with the Stones for one last victory lap around the world in time for the group's upcoming 50th Anniversary in 2013. -Ed.
Charlie Watts 1973 Interview:
Charlie Watts getting down on "Monkey Man" from Live Licks: