Hip Hop

Joseph Chilliams "Rick James"

Joseph Chilliams has released a new single called "Rick James". The single features production from letmode and backing vocals from Mia Gladstone.

This is Chilliams' first single of 2022 after releasing two outstanding tracks, "I Ain't Been Outside" and "Voodoo", last year.

   

Melanie Charles remixes the remix on soulful tribute to female jazz greats

photo by: Kevin W. Condon

Since it’s founding in 1956, Verve Records has amassed the world’s deepest catalogue of jazz with classic recordings by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela, Stan Getz/João Gilberto, and Sarah Vaughan (not to mention a number of legendary avant-garde rock ’n’ rollers like Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and the Velvet Underground). Late in 2021, Melanie Charles put out Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women on the label, released as part of the longstanding “Verve Remixed” series (est. 2002) where contemporary DJs and producers remix classic recordings from the label’s extensive jazz catalogue. 

Notably, this is the first album in the series entrusted to the vision of a single artist rather than a grab bag of divergent DJs/producers compiled onto a single disc, and Melanie Charles takes "the vision thing" seriously by not only remixing a set of jazz recordings, but by also remixing the very notion of “Verve Remixed” itself—combining digital remix techniques with the addition of completely new instrumental parts (flute, harp, sax, etc.) and vocal parts, weaving her own voice into the mix (quite literally) by singing in harmony, counterpoint, or call-and-response with the original vocals at various points.

The end result isn't an album made for modern EDM dancefloors or after-hours lounges, as heard on other Verve Remixed albums, but instead a record that takes its source material and enhances it (digitally and otherwise) with everything from Tropicalia-style psychedelia/stylistic eclecticism to Alice Coltrane-adjacent spirituality to Sun Ra-adjacent Afrofuturism with detours into early '00s R&B and twerk-ready Haitian pop/trap kompas grooves for good measure. 



If this sounds a little bit all over the map don’t worry, because Melanie Charles has re-imagined these tracks in a way where everything flows together rather seamlessly and organically—after all, it’s Charles’ stated mission to “make jazz trill again” so she’s not looking to get too willfully esoteric—resulting in a sonic college that doesn’t come across as a collage which is a neat trick. 

This works most likely because Ms. Charles isn’t only an electronic music producer/beatmaker/remixer, but also a formally-trained jazz flautist, plus a singer-songwriter conversant in styles ranging from soul and R&B to trip hop and acid jazz (and oh yeah she almost became an opera singer). To hear how Melanie combines these various elements in her own music it’s recommended you check out her 2017 full-length The Girl With The Green Shoes, or her "Trill Suite No. 1 (Daydreaming/Skylark)", or look up some clips of her rocking a sampler or a flute live.



This album may also be "a little extra" because a little extra is routinely expected from Black women, or more like a lot extra, just to receive half the respect and recognition as their peers. This is where white supremacy and patriarchy have brought us and ergo the album’s title. Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women works to redress this imbalance by paying tribute to Black women in jazz, artists who may be “canonized” today but who always had to struggle mightily—Billie Holiday serving as an obvious case in point—no matter how much their greatness becomes taken for granted later. To survive or better yet to flourish under such conditions no doubt requires a good deal of improvisation, finding ways to "remix" the limitations imposed by a hostile environment to one's own advantage somehow.

And so it's fitting that jazz was the original “art of the remix”—rooted in improvisation and born out of the creative remixing of a rich stew of influences including field hollers, work songs, hymns and spirituals, brass bands, dance music, banjo tunes, opera and concert music, and blues and ragtime. It’s also a form of music where it’s routine to remix familiar tunes from different realms and eras, for instance, taking bubbly Broadway ditties and turning them into rhapsodic tone poems like on John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” or Betty Carter’s “Surrey with the Fringe On Top.”



Speaking of Betty Carter, who's been called “the most adventurous female jazz singer of all time," Melanie Charles’ pays to Carter by reworking her version of “Jazz (Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul)," a song that speaks directly to the links between jazz and transformation, especially re: the "remixing" of imposed social realities. Written and first recorded by Norman Mapp, its lyrics position jazz as the art of “getting by” and “making do” despite the odds, much like soul food has been called the art of making magic from scraps (lyrics: “Jazz is makin’ do with ‘taters and grits / standing up each time you get hit”) but also depicts jazz as the art of “getting over” and taking charge despite those very odds (“jazz is living high off nickels and dime / telling folks ‘bout what’s on your mind”). As a famous jazz musician once said, "in jazz you don’t play what’s there. You play what’s not there."


 

Mapp’s original version of “Jazz (Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul)” has a distinctly cool jazz vibe with the vocals lagging behind the beat, whereas Betty Carter’s rendition accelerated the tempo while adding rhythmic drive and melodic counterpoint. And instead of fading the song out at the end, like on Mapp’s version, Carter slides into the upper register and sings the line “jazz ain’t nothing but SOOOOUL” over a new four-note melodic line. This brief but striking alteration lays the foundation for Melanie Charles’ version of Betty Carter’s version in taking this seconds-long fragment and looping it while singing the song's other lyrics as melodic counterpoint.

These time-space-continuum manipulations seemingly pull the the song into a new dimension, breaking down to almost nothing and then building back up into a completely different version of the song, one with a loping laid-back funky Indie.Arie-style beat. Near the end, the sampled loop of Betty's vocals reemerges sounding like a broken-up broadcast from a satellite but one with a Fender Rhodes skittering up and down its surface. So if you wanna talk about “the art of the remix” here it is and bear in mind I've left out plenty of other alterations and production touches—because this is a digitally enhanced remix that gets right at the beating analog heart of the original version.

Likewise most of the other works remixed and reimagined on Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women seem to be about "overcoming" in some sense, rejecting bad odds for Black women whether relating to life “in the ghetto," or relationship woes with a “man child,” or achieving “civil” rights in a country that’s anything but civil. For another example, the album opens with an interpolation of Lady Day’s classic “God Bless the Child,” another jazz composition that could be considered a “bracing mixture of hard-scrabble practicality and hope," with lyrics drawing on a religious parable to impart a secular message about the power of self-determination and the enduring power of structural inequality. 

In the opening lines Charles slyly alters Holiday’s lyrics, moving from “so the Bible says” to “so the Devil says,” which brings to the fore the critique of religious hypocrisy some have read into the song. But what’s maybe more relevant along these lines is that Ms. Charles is a student of Haitian vodou, drawing inspiration from her Haitian culture roots, with her mother having immigrated from Haiti to Brooklyn before she was born, finding relevant inspiration in a religion that “remixes” Catholicism by way of African cosmologies and deities—where the gods (lwa) and their divine healing powers are lured into the physical realm via overlapping drum rhythms mixed together in just the right manner. And that seems like a perfect note to end on here. (Jason Lee)

 

   

Kay Eye "lettaGo"

Kay Eye closed out 2021 by releasing a new single called "lettaGo". The single is accompanied by a video direct by Ideapathy, and find Kay Eye flowing over a beat by Bandino World.

   

Lil Woo "Lanor"

Lil Woo (aka Andre Allen Jr) has released a tender and hopeful new single called "Lanor". This is the latest in a series of single the talented emcee released in 2021, and it finds him enlisting the help of the award-winning vocalist Alita Moses.

"Lanor" is produced by DreProducedit and is accompanied by a video from Ninety5 Directed.

   

Lance Skiiiwalker "Save My Number"

Singer and Producer Lance Skiiiwalker has released the second installment in his new EP series, "Tales From The Telescope Chapter 2: Internal Shine"

The five song EP kicks off with a collaboration with his labelmate SiR called "Peso", but the EP's lead single features a contribution from Mia Gladstone. The new single is called "Save My Number" and is accompanied by the video below.