How Sound Affects...."Music: Best Enjoyed With Someone You Love"

 

This month's contributor to "How Sound Affects..." needs no introduction. Phonte Coleman has been making us laugh, think, and maybe even cry for over a decade. As a member of Little Brother, The Foreign Exchange and as a solo artist, Phonte has broken down walls of genre, mixing hip-hop, soul, gospel, blues, and house all with his signature personality, proving there is no box that you can put Mr. Coleman in. Phonte shares some of his first memories of music with us. 


My earliest memories of sound and how it affected me are (like most people, I suppose), rooted in the scattered snapshots of my childhood. 

On Saturday mornings, me and my mother would clean the house to Johnny Guitar Watson

On Sundays, I'd sit patiently and hum along as my grandfather cooked breakfast to The Mighty Clouds of Joy.

Weekends at my uncle's house were an entirely different scenario, as he'd guide me through the ups and downs of my budding teenage dating life to the sounds of Parliament and Bohannon.                                   

When the weather was sunny, I'd sit outside with my stepfather while he washed his Oldsmobile Nighty-Eight in our front yard with Public Enemy blaring from the trunk. The message I gleaned from these moments was simple: Music is best enjoyed with people you love. 

-Phonte

How Sound Affects...."Sound Is A Memory"

 

This month's contributor to "How Sound Affects" is CecilyCecily is a young vocalist and songwriter whose sweet soprano and honest lyrics have garnered attention and loyal fans not only in her native Washington DC, but also up and down the East Coast. Unmoved by passing trends, her sound is rooted in a deep appreciation for mid-century soul and jazz, 90’s R&B, and re-imagined folk music. She describes her style as Acoustic Pop Soul, and has drawn comparisons to artists as distinct as Deniece WilliamsBrandy, and Corinne Bailey-RaeCecily’s self-titled debut EP was released in May 2015.   


Sound has made me who I am. I was raised on sound - ordered sound, what we call music: Jackson 5 in the morning, ZZ Hill in the afternoon, Bob Marley at bedtime. These sounds were as much a part of my life as the music of my mother's jingling bangles, my father's melodic whistling around the house, and my sister's tap dancing down the hall way.

As an adult, these sounds take me back to the safe place that was my childhood, and in that safe place, I can heal myself. I'm just me. No trying. No yearning. Sound is memory and that's one reason I treasure it so much. I'm not one of those people who thinks music is a universal language. Our understanding of music and our reaction to it are socialized. What sounds like music to someone who grew up on an isolated island in Indonesia, might sound like noise to someone who grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, and vice versa.

How sound affects me, as a privileged Black woman who grew up in Washington, DC with older siblings raised in the 80s, and parents born in the mid-twentieth century, is unique. My experience with sound is what roots me. It's my starting point and my foundation. No matter where I go, what I do, or what new sounds become a part of my life, certain sounds will always be home - like how Gil Scott-Heron throws his voice on "The Bottle," or how my mother laughs, or the descending vocal run Michael Jackson hits in "You Can't Win" from The Wiz, or my brother's booming voice telling funny stories, or the coolness of Miles Davis' "So What," or the sound of my own breath - those will always be home.

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- Cecily 

How Sound Affects...."My Love For Music"

 

June's contributor to "How Sound Affects" is DJ Harvey Dent. To date Harvey Dent has performed at many venues and events in the area playing various musical genres. DJ Harvey Dent has opened for and shared the stage with many artists such as: Slick Rick, Dwele, The Foreign Exchange, Fertile Ground, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Sean Price, Smif N Wessun, Termanology, The Pharcyde, Saigon, Styles P, Camp Lo, Kane Mayfield, Black Milk, ZO!, Guilty Simpson, Slum Village, Souls Of Mischief, Oddisee, House Shoes, Waajeed, Hezekiah, Ursula Rucker, and Prhyme.

His signature podcast/mixtape series, High Yellow Soul, is a perfect blend of Hip Hop fused with soulful R&B/Neo-Soul. He hopes to continue making a mark in the music scene and increase his influence across state and international borders. 

Usually, a person that has a love for music and those who take it to the next level by making music their livelihood start with their parents' music collection. My siblings and didn't have that advantage. It wasn't that my parents were anti-music, they were just more concerned with work or church.


Usually, a person that has a love for music and those who take it to the next level by making music their livelihood start with their parents' music collection. My siblings and didn't have that advantage. It wasn't that my parents were anti-music, they were just more concerned with work or church.

My love for music started at eight years old when my maternal grandmother passed. As my family cleared out her Brandywine, Maryland home, I came across a clock radio. That radio put me in touch with then Baltimore staples such as V-103 and B-104. The next phase was the music video. Channel 54 and those radio stations video music shows on the weekend, V-TV and B-TV. I taped as many of my favorite videos as I could.

Years passed by and my means of playing music improved. I graduated to boom boxes and CD players. We got cable TV which included Video Jukebox later known as THE BOX. BMG Music Service allowed me to get albums for cheap (I used to do it the legal way! *ahem*). I had a love for different kinds of music but hip-hop moved to the first place. De La Soul introduced me to the Native Tongues, namely A Tribe Called Quest which became my favorite group. Clippings from The Source magazine replaced video game posters on my walls. Special Ed, Ice Cube and MC Hammer cassettes and CD's started popping up under my Christmas tree.  

My parents never quite understood my obsession with music. Even when I became and established DJ, my mom would wonder why I needed to keep buying music. Sometimes it would make me feel like she thought I was weird, but when I became the one in charge of music at my aunt and uncles' family cookouts, I knew I was doing something right! I soon realized that I wasn't the only one in my family who loved music when I found out that my cousin, The Historian DMV, had a better collection than mine.  

Before playing music became my livelihood, it was a part of my life and I know now that it will always be. I definitely have a soundtrack to my live. My wardrobe is music based. The artwork in my home is music based. Every time I move, I picture where I'm gonna hang my Amel Larrieux Infinite Possibilities poster. When I drive to my non-music related job, I need to the right song playing before I leave. Sound has definitely affected me and become a constant fixture in my life. 

-- DJ Harvey Dent

 

 

How Sound Affects...."Beauty and the Beat"

 

This month's contributor to "How Sound Affects" is D.L. Chandler. D.L. Chandler is a writer, editor, critic, and observer. For nearly two decades, D.L. has emerged as one of the Washington Metropolitan Area's notable voices in music and culture. Currently writing for Hip-Hop Wired, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, and NewsOne among other publications, D.L. Earned his stripes as a music journalist in the late 90's and throughout the 2000s before branching off into other areas of focus.

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There are several sonic masterpieces that I've personally attached myself to over the years. A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders. Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Marvin Gaye's What's Going On. Betty Davis' They Say I'm Different. I could certainly go on – but none of these records are my favorite piece of music ever created. That weighty distinction belongs to Edan Portnoy's Beauty And The Beat.

 

It is with a measurable amount of hesitation I state that Edan's second studio recording occupies such a high space. But the reality remains that there is no other album or piece of music in my collection that comes close to sparking the lofty words that appear below this paragraph. The fact is, saying such a thing about almost anything prepares it to fail in the eyes of an outsider.

I expect that most people who have picked up Beauty And The Beat after my blathering about it probably didn't even see the huge deal. I don't find that disappointing or particularly frustrating, but it has made me wonder about my friends, associates and fellow writers along with their tastes.

Trying to explain what Edan was attempting with Beauty And The Beat isn't really fair to anyone, because it really can't be put into any box in my view. But I can try to tell you what I've learned about Edan in my years of supporting his music.

Edan grew up, or at least attended schools, in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.  A focused student of Rock and Rap music, Edan parlayed his musical chops into a stint at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Situating himself in the New England city, 1999 would be where Edan would release the comical but infectious “Sing It. [Expletive]” single.

Three years later, his official debut album, Primitive Plus, combined a love of all things “pause tapes,” boom-bap and old-school onto the back of rhymes fashioned of an obsessive focus on performance. A 2001 EP, Sprain Your Tapedeck, came before it but I somehow missed it when it was released.

Thus, my connection with Edan was established. I've purchased Primitive Plus a good half dozen times because I was either loaning a copy out or losing it on my rides on the Metro before I learned the joy of a carrying case. I didn't consider Primitive Plus to be some masterwork at the time, and I believe I still feel that way although the record owns a special place with me. But nothing prepared me for what Edan planned next.

Some musical compatriots of mine, including Rhome “DJ Stylus” Anderson, have often marveled at what Edan's done considering the leap he made from bedroom producer to a world-class expert musician.

Another friend of mine, Damen Hynes, is another person who also enjoyed Edan's work and we happened to attend a show together in Baltimore in 2004 I believe. It was our first time seeing Edan live and it was a masterful performance. In fact, a colleague of mine, Jamison Landery, said a few years ago that Edan's live set may have been the best he's ever seen. Edan's attention to detail, entertainment, focus and overall showmanship has few in the way of peers.

It was imperative that Damen and I took an opportunity to speak with him after the set.

Edan, flanked by an older woman who said she was his tour manager, was gracious enough to let us be a pair of Hip-Hop geeks for a moment and give him his due. Being the curious person I am, I asked Edan what was next. Like clockwork, he lights up and says to us, “I'm doing a concept album. Like a Rock-N-Roll, Rap mix up. It's gonna be dope.”

Fast forward to March 2005. After releasing the single “I See Colours” the year before, I was ready for Beauty And The Beat. Or so I thought. From the opening track, everything I thought I knew about Hip-Hop culture and Rap music was put through this blender with several dashes of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Little Feat, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and anyone else who dared to push sonic envelopes.

But at its center, it was still Rap music coupled with imagery that wouldn't immediately compute to someone raised in tougher environments. But, it I feel it would resonate if one allowed the music to be absorbed.

There are more than a few albums that are meant to be played without skipping a single track and Beauty And The Beat fits that profile. Trying to explain the dizzying array of influences and the passion behind the project also has proven difficult. It's an experience only for those who are patient enough to open their minds to the journey.

Edan, using odd effects on his vocals and eerie sounds throughout, remains a steadying presence on the album. If Edan wasn't there to center one's mind on the tapestry he weaves, it might not be as strong a record.

Things came full circle in 2013 in Atlanta where I met Edan again along his current tour partner and musical colleague, Paten Locke. I was introduced by my friend and fellow Edan fan, musician and creative whirlwind, Dillon Maurer. I took this moment to, once again, potentially embarrass myself by telling Edan what the album meant to me.

Much like his nickname, “The Humble Magnificent,” graciously thanked me but thought I was blowing hot air. But as the night went on, it appeared he understood I wasn't just saying things to impress him.

He asked a simple question: “Do you love music? Are you a real music lover?”

I answered: “Almost more than anything, man.”

With a knowing smile, he goes, “That's what I made Beauty And The Beat for. Music lovers. I took everything I liked listening to and found that they all belonged together. I put everything I ever loved about music into that record.”


I'm not certain if Beauty And The Beat will change your life as it did mine. I don't know if I even need anyone to relate to the album on the level that I have as I once did. But I can say that for as long as I'm blessed with the ability to hear and access sounds, the album will always be nearby.

How Sound Affects....Sneakshot’s Vision

 

This month's contributor to "How Sound Affects" is Victoria Ford, a concert photographer hailing from Washington D.C.

Victoria created Sneakshot Photography as a way to merge her love for music and passion for photography. She has photographed everyone from Def Leppard to Prince and everyone in between. When Victoria isn't shooting concerts you can find her moonlighting as the Editor in Chief for The Couch Sessions, a lifestyle website that covers music, art, and design, food and drink, film, TV and fashion.


For as long as I can remember Music has been a part of my life. My earliest memories are of the Saturday afternoons excursions to the Record Store with my mother at age 3 –I’ve been digging in the crates for years, son!  My mom used to let me choose whatever record I wanted.  So, at three years old I managed to select the soundtrack to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and Foxy’s “Hot Number”, its safe to say I had interesting taste in music from early on.

I recall being totally enamored with Minnie Riperton’s voice on Perfect Angel and totally freaked out by Prince’s Controversy album, wasn’t until I was older that I appreciated him for the musical genius that his is.  Growing up most of the music I was around was majorly Soul Music –so you know the usual suspects; James Brown, Jacksons, Marvin Gaye, Prince, O’Jays, Rick James, Switch, DeBarge…etc (This list could go on and on like a Badu song).

 

In my early years my mom started my musical tastes off with a strong foundation,  but between 1988-1998, I started to discover other genres and artists who’s music helped shaped me.   Friday nights I’d used to stay up and watch Music Video Connection, it was a local video show that used to keep me hip on what was hot in the R&B and Hip-Hop.  Then I’d switch over to Friday Night Videos, that was a popular video show that featured Pop, Rock  and the occasional Hip-Hop video.  And I can’t forget New York Hot Tracks, the video show that put me on to some of the underground music artists.

Even today as I photograph an artist I listen to their work before the shoot, of course I’ll hear it while I’m shooting –I’m a concert photographer and I’ll listen to that artist’s music while I’m editing the photos; it puts me in the space to see what I heard, to find that perfect moment.

My love for music, attending concerts (thanks mom) and music videos were the catalyst for merging my love for music and photography together. 


Victoria Ford aka Sneakshot
The Couch Sessions | Sneakshot

 

 

How Sound Affects.....DJ RoddyRod's "Ingredients"

 

 

This month's contributor for "How Sound Affects" is DJ RoddyRod. DJ RoddyRod is a producer & DJ based in Maryland by way of Massachusetts. In the early 90's his group, Maspyke, released their debut album The Blackout to much critical acclaim. They followed up in 2005 with the release of Static on ABB Records. RoddyRod is also part of the DMV collective of producers and artists know as The Low Budget Crew


My soul has been curated from birth, including the ingredients of mostly Jazz, Funk, and Gospel. As most of us who are brought up in musical loving families, you get a good sense of your own taste, based off of what your parents or extended family are jamming to. My Mother, who is a native of Tuskeegee, Alabama, was raised on deep southern morals and the Clark Sisters! My pops, (born and bred from Massachusetts) other hand was a true Jazz aficionado who championed be-bop influence from NYC in his hey day, so I was listening to a lot of John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Miles and Wes Montgomery on the regular. I was fortunate to get the best of many different faucets of rhythm. My uncles were primarily into Jazz and my aunts were into Funk and Soul, primarily Earth Wind and Fire, Commodores, and Parliament Funkadelic.

It wasn’t until later in my teenage years that I started to link the rhythms that were playing around my household, to the hip-hop that I was affectionately engulfed into. My thoughts of the first time I felt something that I heard deep in my soul, was My Favorite Things, by John Coltrane. It was actually McCoy Tyner’s solo 2 minutes into the song that truly had me stuck. I felt the exact same way with Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World”. If you listen closely, the piano riff has a haunting effect similar to Trane’s My Favorite Things

When I hear songs that use melodic tones in this way, I swear it provokes me instantly to feel a certain emotion. Sometimes it’s comes off as a “get off your a** and live life” feeling, other times it’s a melancholy type effect that brings me back to my childhood. I’ve always loved the marriage of both melodies that are off-the-beaten-path, and rhythms that are dirty with heavy swing. 

Later in my late teens, My older cousin got me into the house music and in return, gave me an appreciation to fourth and fifth chords that were not used as much in hip hop. That was the introduction of what different capabilities electronic music has had on my generation. Most people knew off the bat about the early beginnings of the Linn drum, the 808 and 909 drum machines used in hip-hop by artists such as Just Ice, TLA Rock, Boogie Down Productions,and Mantronix, to name a few. But equipped with a sampler to add chops and pieces of different records, this has created my perfect formula of my particular sound that I love dearly. 

 

RR.

How Sound Affects...."Thinking Of Andre Crouch"

 

This month's contributor for "How Sound Affects" is Kezia the poet, a Memphis native, grew up writing poems and short stories. With subject matters relative to her young life, she grew to develop a lifelong love of works. With these acquired skills coupled with her faith, Kezia has been blessed to effectively convey inspiration, motivation & Christ to audiences around the country. Her debut, Matters of the Heart, was released in December 2009. The album is specifically constructed to reflect Kezia's heart for the lord, people, and the gospel.  In 2012 , Kezia completed her sophmore project, Something To Say. In 2013, she partnered with NYC-based Christian spoken word movement  TrueVoices and is currently co-leader of the Washington D.C. chapter. She is also a resident teaching artist with high school poetry league Louder Than A Bomb in Baltimore. Through her organization, write&say, Kezia has launched an ongoing series of poetry and spoken word workshops. Currently, Kezia is working in child advocacy in Baltimore City and pursuing other creative endeavors relative to her calling. Kezia's third spoken work project The Comfort Zone EP is set to be released on March 17th, 2015, and she is currently working on her second book. Kezia's heart for people, community outreach and the arts coupled with her gifts and talents have set her in motion to impact the world.  


I'm the type of person that listens to a song over and over again if I like it. Or love it. Or can't imagine what life was really like before this song introduced itself to my existence. 

Yeah..one of those people.
 

One of those songs? "I'll Be Thinking of You" from Andrae Crouch.

Part of this article has to do with his recent transition and part of it has to do with the fact that he's my favorite artist, hands down.

I grew up in an all-Black, traditional Pentecostal church. My repertoire consisted of James MooreThe Thompson Community SingersMississippi Mass Choir (and most any other *insert your favorite region* Mass Choir), Ricky DillardJames Hall and the like. That was the extent of my taste; aside from the occasional sneak to listen to popular non-Gospel (i.e. secular as put by many) music. There's a reason I've ALWAYS known all the words to SWV's "Weak" and Aaron Hall's "I Miss You".  Sorry Mom.

Maybe I knew there was more to Gospel music than just hymns and call-and-response songs. Maybe I wanted to hear music that would challenge the round hole that'd I placed Gospel music in and still feel all the conviction and desire to connect with God.

In my own naivete, I'd had no idea Andrae Crouch had penned classic Gospel songs like "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power", "Take Me Back", "Soon And Very Soon" and the one of the most important theme songs ever; the intro to the TV show Amen .  But when I heard "I'll Be Thinking of You". nothing else mattered. I sat in one space and listen to that song 5 times in a row. No lie. I tend to listen in layers. Vocals (leads, backs and overdubs), percussion, bass, strings, keys, horns, pads, lyrics and atmosphere all get separate amounts of attention from me. By the time I listen to a song wholly, it's less of a listen and more of an experience. 

If I had to package it, this song sounds like Earth, Wind & Fire got saved! HA! There was such a bevy of emotion in the song itself that I couldn't help but begin to wonder who they were missing and looking for and praying for and thinking of and what beauty must have come from that relationship to produce such an amazing work of art. The instrumentation and vocals combined ridiculously well. So much so that I made the determination to read liner notes on every piece of music I purchased for the rest of the my life. Like literally, if I could find liner notes to Beethoven's 5th Symphony (C minor) like I can find the liner notes to Janelle Monae's ArchAndroid album, I would. What's more, I began to research like a fiend to find out what other music this man had lent his genius to. I was NOT disappointed. 

This song was the catalyst that eventually changed my perspective of most music and lyricism as a whole. He presented the perfect blend of Jesus + Art. Obviously, I was a bit of a prude in regard to music. I'm not mad about it though. I'm not  mad about discovering the amazingness of Andrae Crouch until years later either. With the state of a lot of music nowadays, look what I have to look forward to. A legacy of soulful, classic, life-changing music and Pastor Crouch is the well-deserved tip of the iceberg. May he rest in peace.

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kezia the poet

art | faith | service

web: keziathepoet.net
twitter: @keziathepoet
instagram: @keziathepoet

How Sound Affects....“I Reminisce, I Reminisce"

 
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This month's contributor for "How Sound Affects" is Panama Jackson. He is a co-founder and currently the Senior Editor of VSB (Very Smart Brothas). He graduated with a degree in Economics from Morehouse College and a Master's in Public Policy from the University of Maryland-College Park. He has written for The Washington Post, Ebony.com, The Root, Huffington Post, Allhip-hop.com, as well as other outlets. From 2012-2013, Panama was a host on TheBlaqout Show, an internet radio show broadcast via www.blis.fm and has been a special guest on several radio shows, both terrestrial and internet. He has been a featured panelist and guest speaker at various universities including: Princeton University, Howard University, Florida A&M University and Delaware State University. 

Panama also promotes events and parties in the Washington, DC, area, to include a monthly VSB curated, 90s themed party called Reminisce. In 2011, Panama was a special guest on "The Ed Gordon Show" on BET and has helped create and moderate various panel discussions through and arrangement with the Washington Post regarding African-Americans in mass media, relationships and politics.


Like most kids who fell in love with hip-hop but grew up overseas (military), I learned about hip-hop through a very tried and true method: I stole my older sister’s tapes. I’d sneak in, dub them, then put them back and have all of the newest hotness from across the Atlantic at my disposal. I didn’t know who the artists were, but I had my fix. My older sister used to date or was friends with some guy who went back to the States frequently and would come back with what might be the world’s first mixtapes. He was from the South so a lot of those tapes featured artists from Houston, Louisiana, and a lot of West Coast emcees. Once those ran out, I remember meeting this guy in my middle school who always had new hip-hop so we became fast friends as well. Point is, I always had a supplier of music even if I had no idea who I was listening to; I just knew that I liked it.

Sure I knew, or had at least heard about NWA, but I didn’t really know their songs that well or even know if I’d heard them. It didn’t even matter. One of those tapes had a bunch of songs from what I’d later find out was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album after I bought it in the store and was like, hey, I’ve heard this before as I rapped along the words on the bus to some field trip. That had the unintentional side effect of making people feel like I was rain man for hearing a song once and knowing all of the words. Little did they know  that I had those songs well in advance.

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To this day, The Chronic is still in my top 5 favorite albums of all time. So yes, this was the early 90s. It’s for that very reason that I don’t remember really liking too many East Coast artists. I was all South and West Coastin’.  That is except for one particular group; a group with one song that would change my life and the way I listened to hip-hop.

Another way that I got into hip-hop was via the video tapes of music videos sent to us by our relatives back in the States. In school, we used to trade video tapes with TV shows on them all the time. If you had a tape with new Martin shows or In Living Color you might as well have been selling crack. Everybody wanted in. You have to understand, in Germany, we only had one American channel and even MTV was still only really playing rock ‘n roll, so VHS tapes with Video Soul and Rap City on them made you the man in those streets.

I’d get home and go in my room and throw in one of the tapes and just let the rhythm hit ‘em. I’d clean my room or do homework while watching but mostly listening. Then the song came on.

The horns; those now famous horns. I heard them before I saw what it was because they made me stop what I was doing. I looked up to see some dark-skinned dude in a bandanna bobbing his head on screen and he kept saying, “I reminisce I reminisce…” Obviously, the song was Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.).” Before I heard it I was interested in hip-hop, but that song made me care. I didn’t know anything about rapping. I didn’t know anything about anything really. But I absolutely HAD to have that song on repeat. My dad took me to the store to buy that CD, one of the first that I ever purchased along with TLC’s Oooh…On The TLC Tip and Cypress Hill’s eponymously titled first album.

I wore that particular album out. I knew all of the words by heart, but I would always just listen to “T.R.O.Y.” That song made Pete Rock one of my favorite producers of all time – and he still is to this day. It also made me love the Tom Scott song he sampled (“Today”…also a remake of the Jefferson Airplane song of the same name). Because of how much I loved “T.R.O.Y.” I remember the first time I heard “Today” with one of my boys in college who was an aspiring hip-hop producer. We came across some albums and while listening to them it came on and we both had a moment of…whoa. It got me into beat digging and sample hunting. “T.R.O.Y.” turned me into an urban art anthropologist.

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Like I said, before hand, I was just listening to rap because that’s what everybody else was listening to in the early 90s but I can’t say I was invested. After “T.R.O.Y.” I was invested. I paid attention. I got heavy into production and producers. Even now, production is what moves me moreso that lyrics. A hot beat gets me every time, no matter who made it or where they come from. But back then, in 1992, that song changed me. I needed to know more. I needed to hear more people like them. And I did. Funny enough, by the time I’d moved back to the States in 1993, I quickly established myself as the music and hip-hop guy at my high school. Just a year before that, I was a just listening like everybody else.

I will always love that song, and those horns will always make me reminisce. 

 

How Sound Affects...Below The Heavens

 

This month's contributor for "How Sound Affects" is music producer Maja7th. Maja7th's production credits include work with artists such as Killah Priest, Freddie Gibbbs and Dominique Larue. Maja7th has spent time living in Indiana, Chicago and Washington DC.


Every once and a while I engage in “Hip Hop” debates and have to listen to at least one soliloquy about how I only like "conscious" music. The IRONY is most of the times I end up in these conversations I’m being told this by people that have children, want them to brought up around positive images and love their kids unconditionally. If I mention that I don’t like a particular “Trap House” song because its regurgitating the same content or its lacking creativity, I’m deemed yet again…"conscious". There is a time and place for everything but are we at the club and shooting people 24/7? 

Blu and Exile’s Below The Heavens, to me, is a classic album and a masterpiece filled with life experiences that expand much further than being conscious. The stories of day to day tribulations and travail are truly incredible. Have we not all been there before?  A cohesive album doesn’t limit itself to content or big names or features. Classic albums just work! The production tells a story. The lyrics coincide with the tracks and the records are placed strategically like the engine in that model corvette you tried to put together with the strong smelling super glue. This can happen in any genre with any subject matter.

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I remember living in Chicago and having one my best friends Kenneth “Pete Sayke” Cook call me a say “Dude have you heard Blu”?????? I had no idea who he was. Since my guy was a credible source we sat down and listened to the entire album front to back. I was blown away.

One minute you’re a baby and the next
you’re sexing without protection
and now your holding a baby...
Like damn, I was just in your shoes
now you’re the papa that’s adjusting they shoes.
Teach them to walk straight.
Cause honestly they got a long way to go,
and what you tell ‘em now is all that they know
— Blu from "In Rememberance of Me"

With songs like “In Remembrance” and “Cold Hearted” Blu raps about things in his life that biggest “D-Boy” can relate to.  This album is for the everyday person inside us all. This isn’t about the kid in the suburbs or the kid that grew up in the inner city on 69th and Ashland. This album is about life. The project really changed how I approach music, what I look for in albums that I listen to and the music I make personally. There are albums that alter your perspective and this is one of them. (*plays track 5 and smiles like James Evans Jr saying “IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII KNNNOOOOOOOOWWWWWW**)

- Maja7th

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How Sound Affects...(An ATLiens Post)

 

 

(Just for the sake of full disclosure...ATLiens by Outkast is my favorite Hip-Hop album ever. ATLiens, along with their next album Aquemini, I believe are the best pieces of art that Hip-Hop has to offer. I have spent nearly 20 years arguing with people online and in person about Outkast and ATLiens' standing in Hip-Hop. We can argue about that later. This post will mainly be about ATLiens' effect on me.) 

 

96 gon be that year...
— Antwon Patton

 

ATLiens changed my life. Released on August 27th, 1996, I did not know on that particular morning, that my life would be altered. I didn't know when I unwrapped the cassette and placed it into my walkman that my outlook on life, music and myself would change. A 16 year old boy, struggling with identity and confidence would be hurled 200mph into a whirlwind of freedom and self expression. 

I underwent a metamorphosis from, a nameless, faceless teen, spending countless amounts of money, time and energy trying to fit in, and buy the newest shoes, and hottest name brand clothes, to a literal outcast. I would come to school and see 3 different people wearing the same Ralph Lauren Polo shirt that I spent my entire check on, and wearing the same Grant Hill shoes and it was then that I discovered that I was just like everybody else...what I had tried so hard to be...and realized that I didn't WANT to be at all.

Outkast's debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik came out of left field to take Hip-Hop by storm. And when you were expecting more cadillac music to bounce to, ATLiens, came from outer space. Everything from the music, to the album art (which included a 24-page comic strip), to the disc art (the glorious naked woman which was the Outkast signature), to the videos...all stand collectively as an artistic and creative cohesive vision. At 16 years old I had never heard anything like "13th Floor/Growing Old". I had never heard music so organic and so gritty. So mysterious and hypnotizing. It spoke to my soul. It said think different, think free...and express yourself freely. With this as my soundtrack I had the courage to be free...be weird...be strong...be fearless...be different. Be me. And no longer was I just a nameless, faceless random student among 2,000 others in my school. I soon became the "different one". For better or for worse, nothing was the same after ATLiens came...  

atliens-4e75718311f91.png

To this day, I've never smoked anything or taken any illegal drug and this verse is in large part why...

Softly, as if I played piano in the dark
Found a way to channel my anger now to embark
The world’s a stage and everybody’s got to play their part
God works in mysterious ways so when he starts
The job of speaking through us we be so sincere with this here
No drugs or alcohol so I can get the signal clear as day
Put my Glock away I got a stronger weapon
That never runs out of ammunition so I’m ready for war okay
— Andre Benjamin

Many music lovers have "that one album" that changed their thoughts, passions, self-esteem, interests, style of dress, etc. I've heard Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill brought up many times. Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest. 

For me...that "one album" was made by 2 Dope Boys in a Cadillac...

What was yours?

-n.g.