On Lonely Towers (Century Media) is the latest album by Barren Earth and if you like your metal with occasional glimpses of the symphonic side (or progressive side), have a listen of “Set Alight”. The album was released on March 23rd. Vinyl junkies will get the record on or around April 7th.
The first I heard about Digital Underground was by taking a chance when I went to Tower Records on 82nd in Portland, Oregon back in the fall of 1989. I was in the cassingle section when I saw the word “Doowutchyalike” and the phrase Digital Underground right on the front. In my mind, maybe this was electronic music or some kind of odd dance music, maybe along the lines of M|A|R|R|S, Bomb The Bass, or Simon Harris. To be honest, their name sounded like something within the Kraftwerk family so I was expecting that. Rap artists weren’t using the word digital often throughout the 1980’s and the tape was not in the rap section so there was no way I knew what it was or what type of music it could be. The cover was illustrated, and all I concentrated on was the name of the tape, I didn’t bother to see the other titles until I got in the car, so I never saw “Hip-Hop Doll” until after the fact.
The song begins with a drum beat and a nice amount of tape hiss, so I wasn’t sure if there was going to be any more than this. Did I have to turn it up. I hear a synth bass melody before I recognized the “OOH!” sample from Parliament’s “Flashlight”, then Doug E. Fresh saying “I see guys and girls dancin'”, then returning to the “OOH!” again. All of a sudden, a voice comes into the song at an odd spot in the track, and it felt weird:
“Now as the record spins around, you recognize this sound
well, it’s the underground,
you know that we’re down with what you like”
In thirty seconds, I managed to discover one of the funkiest songs I had heard that year, in a year that already gave me 3 Feet High And Rising and Paul’s Boutique. I was more surprised that this was a rap tape, but Digital Underground seemed like an un-rap name to call an artist. It was just weird but I couldn’t get enough. Then I discover the song had three rappers, or was it four? Could it be two? Now why do I hear other voices sped up, are these voices made by one of the guys in this Underground group? The song is then interrupted by a station identification, fades out, beeps, and then comes back. What the hell just happened? Did this song fade out on the tape and come back like a radio show? “Hip-Hop Doll” seemed somewhat odd too and when I say odd, hip-hop songs are traditionally 4/4 with generally 16-bars for a verse. With “Hip-Hop Doll”, you really had to concentrate at first to figure out where the bars started or where a verse began or ended. With those two songs, I wondered if Digital Underground would ever come out with an album but I discovered the news in the new year.
Back to “Underwater Rimes”, what struck me was the bassline, which was very much a recreation of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” and again, it was a recreation, not a direct sample. Digital Underground weren’t afraid to play with what could be sampled and what couldn’t, or how it was to be sampled and heard. Also, Shock G. introduced two more characters into the scene, MC Blowfish (who was also pictured on the inner sleeve) and The Computer Woman, who was originally heard in “Doowutchyalike”.
As for The Piano Man, while it was credited that Shock G. played piano and keyboards in the song and throughout the album, the truth is that it was Rodney Franklin who played in “Doowutchalike”, “The New Jazz (One)”, “Freaks OF The Industry” and “Packet Prelude”. Franklin is a pianist based out of Berkeley and had played on a lot of jazz and soul albums before releasing his own albums on the Prestige, Columbia, and Atlantic labels in the 1980’s. In an interview last year, Shock G. revealed Franklin was the piano man specifically for the Sex Packets album but he would continue to share and expand his talents on future D.U. releases.
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The song then goes into a “Street Scene” where we hear how someone is able to get their own packets before they became legal. You had to find a dealer who sold them and whatever scenario you wanted in your mind, you could have it by popping it in, but you had to meet up with the “Packet Man” first. He would then tell you how much it was, not to go overboard, and then have fun. The suite and album ends with “Packet Reprise” and by the end, you realize you went through a very exhausting experience through funky sounds, incredible concepts and a sense of imagination.
The world Digital Underground expressed on Sex Packets was very much what was going on in the Bay Area circa late 80’s, but it was not just the Bay Area people wanted to express from a rap group. It also chose to explore a side of the Bay Area people may have known through other means: its sexy side. It basically said that when it comes to pleasure, it shouldn’t be limited to one or two groups, it can be celebrated by everyone. If the Bay Area was known for its sexual openness and freedoms, Digital Underground wanted to let people know they knew all the hot spots to find what you want and where you need to get it. Sex Packets wasn’t an album limited to ones horniness or potential to get and remain hard, it also shared a sense of humor that also belonged to anyone and everyone. On top of that, all of it was united by the soul and the funk, all tied in with the greatest musical sponge known as hip-hop. Everyone in Digital Underground placed their role so while Gregory Jacobs rightfully deserves the credit for coming up with various concepts, lyrics, and his many personas, people like Money B., DJ Fuze, Schmoovy Schmoov, Chopmaster J, and Sleuth were all a part of the crew too. It was Jacobs, a/k/a Shock G., a/k/a Humpty Hump, a/k/a MC Blowfish, a/k/a The Computer Woman who made this masterpiece work and without him, hip-hop would not enter the next phase back in 1990.
SynthBASED is the new album by Drew Dave and from it is a bit of the “TechnoGroove”. if you’re from the DMV, you may also know of Kenn Starr, who appears in the song. The video was put together by director Jay Brown.
Brewski says he is a “Superman” and he may be also saying it to you, Superman-to-be. He did it with Brody Pryce helping out, so maybe he too is a Superman. Find out. The song will be on the Chicago rapper’s forthcoming album called The Confidence, due out on the 13th of April.
For a bit of hot symphonic metal, check out The Diary, the latest effort from The Gentle Storm. From it is a video called “Shores Of India” where they get visually international and cultural, making their brand of heavy metal even more beautiful. The album will be released on March 31st.
As J. Cole begins his Forest Hills Drive Tour Act 1:Hometown shows, he released a new video for “G.O.M.D.” Meanwhile, the tour dates are just the first of three legs of the tour, this is the first batch:
March 23… New Orleans, LA (House Of Blues)
March 24… Baton Rouge, LA (The Varsity)
March 25… Mobile, AL (Soul Kitchen)
March 28… Tallahassee, FL (Coliseum)
March 29… Birmingham, AL (Iron City)
March 31… Columbus, OH (LC Pavilion)
April 1… Nashville, TN (Marathon Music Works)
April 3… Richmond, VA (The National)
April 4… Rochester, NY (Waterstreet Music Hall)
April 7… Providence, RI (Lupos)
Action Bronson’s new album, Mr. Wonderful (VICE/Atlantic), was released today and his new video also comes out as well, where he heads up to Queens, New York with a Coming To America-style flashback. His sense of humor is great, so have a watch and go back with him too.
Released last week, “For The Love Of Glory” is a nice pop song by singer/songwriter Jan Hellriegel, who is taken part in a series of songs in what she calls the “year of the co-writes”, meaning all songs written are being co-written with others. This one was done with Martin Brown, who created the “lyrical imagery” of the song. I really like the video, as it is taken from an old super 8mm film done sometime in 1970. More music is on the way from this Auckland, New Zealand artist so follow her path.
Low Leaf will be presenting a series of videos called Diwata Mantraz (or D i w a t a M a n t r a z), which she says will be “an evolving collection of free-form instrumentals and sound meditations“. So what does that mean exactly? It could be a new song, it could be an excerpt of something, it could be a partial idea or audio sketch, it’s whatever she feels like presenting in visual and audio form. The first video is for the song “Purification”, which is a mere five minute excerpt of a full 20 minute song available through Bandcamp. Watch the video first, get into what’s going on and then grab the song, available as a free download but definitely use the “name your price” option to show support.
Australian thrash metal/punk/grindcore band King Parrot were at SXSW’s this week for a bit of schmoozing but they’re now on tour throughout North America to hype up the release of theor forthcoming EP Dead Set (Agonia). It will be released in the U.S. on May 19th while Europe will get it a few days earlier on May 19th. Vinyl versions of the album will be made available in three different variations:
For those who’d like to pre-order the record or whatever other formats you want, click to the following links if you’re from North America, Europe, or Australia. As you glance through the band’s current tour dates, check out the new video for “Like A Rat”, featuring the man who produced their album, Phil Anselmo.
March 24… Albuquerque, NM (Launchpad)
March 25… Scottsdale, AZ (Pub Rock Live)
March 26… San Diego, CA (Casbah)
March 27… The Complex – Los Angeles, CA (The Complex)
March 28… Santa Cruz, CA (Catalyst)
March 29… San Francisco, CA (DNA)
March 30… Sacramento, CA (Starlite Lounge)
March 31… Portland, OR (Dante’s)
April 1… Seattle, WA (Studio Seven)
April 2… Spokane, WA (The Pin)
April 3… Boise, ID (Neurolux)
April 4… Salt Lake City, UT (In The Venue)
April 5… Denver, CO (Bluebird Theater)
April 7… Kansas City, MO (Riot Room)
April 8… Des Moines, IA (Wooly’s)
April 9… Rock Island, IL (Rock Island Brewing)
April 10… Grand Rapids, MI (Pyramid Scheme)
April 11… Chicago, IL (Subterranean)
April 12… Cleveland, OH (Grog Shop)
April 13… Brooklyn, NY (Saint Vitus)
April 14… Burlington, VT (Nectars)
April 15… Boston, MA (T.T. The Bear’s Place)
April 16… Philadelphia, PA (Kung Fu Necktie)
April 18… Wilmington, NC (Ziggy’s By The Sea)
April 19… Atlanta GA (The Earl)
April 20… New Orleans, LA (Blue Nile, Housecore Records Signing Party)