The 46th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums and songs...
Maestro Fresh Wes "Let Your Backbone Slide"
I don’t remember where or when I first heard it, I just remember that "Let Your Backbone Slide" has practically always been a part of my life. From what Wikipedia tells me the song was pretty popular state side as well as in Canada, but living north of the border for the majority of my life I can tell you that it stands as one of the few non-Tragically Hip songs that I can think of to be celebrated on such a level. Think "Funky Cold Medina" x "Wild Thing" in terms of its chances of being played at a party.
Coolio "Fantastic Voyage"
Coolio came along at a time when I had practically zero interest in hip hop – for the most part I practically only listened to dance music; there were some exceptions like the Spin Doctors, Counting Crows & Aerosmith, but nine times out of 10 that’s what was in the cassette player. I was somewhere around 10 or 11 years old when "Fantastic Voyage" came along and at the time it was the playful (and sexy) music video which complemented the funky bounce of the song that really hooked me; something that was repeated on a similar level (sans sexy) with Coolio’s equally enjoyable "1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)" in 1995. I remember that I kept this tape in the drawer of my desk rather than putting it on the self with my other music for fear that I’d somehow get in trouble if one of my parents saw the parental advisory sticker on the cover. Not that they were particularly interested in browsing through my music collection, but when you’re 10 and you have something that has a sticker on it explicitly warning parents about its contents, the item carries with it some sense of danger. Regardless of what kind of fame-whore, Juggalo wannabe Coolio’s evolved into, if it weren’t for tracks like Fantastic Voyage I would likely have never gained a similar ear for like-sounding rhymes and beats.
House Of Pain feat. Guru "Fed Up (remix)"
When I was in grade school I was on a competitive hockey team; I think I played for three or four seasons until my family had to move and I ended up quitting (I thought we moved for financial reasons … which we did, downsizing in many aspects of our life … so I told my parents I just didn’t want to play anymore. Years later this came up in discussion and apparently we weren’t hurting to the point where I had to quit. A shame in hindsight). One of the best memories I have was the team dynamic that was shared for a couple of seasons. While players moved up and down divisions based on their skill level, for at least two of those years I played with the same core group of kids. Never underestimate the power of winning to bring people together. Our warm-up music was made up of a selection dance music tapes … which in retrospect is absolutely ridiculous when you think about it … then again, acts like 2 Unlimited offered some pretty ill jock-jams back in the day. One of the favorites that came out of this was House of Pain’s "Jump Around"; or at least the edited version that we had on our K-Tel Dance Mix ’93 tapes. A few years later I was becoming increasingly interested in music and finding out what else was out there. The local library had a scattered selection of CDs to browse through so I typically ended up just snatching a dozen or so at a time, regardless of whether or not I knew what they were, and taking them home for a listen. On one trip I picked up House of Pain’s last album, 1996′s Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again. Granted, most all of it went right over my head and to this day I couldn’t tell you what the record sounds like … with one exception, that is. The remix of "Fed Up" really hit a spot with me then, and remains one of my favorite House of Pain tracks to this day (though in all honesty, the list of my favorite House of Pain songs isn’t a lengthy one). The song was also my introduction to Guru.
Beastie Boys "Root Down (live at Tibetan Freedom Concert)"
In 1997 I wasn’t old enough to gain a knowledgeable understanding of what exactly was going on in Tibet, or why musicians were lobbying for Tibet to be free (whatever that meant), but I was old enough to recognize that the lineup on the three-disc Free Tibet collection was sick enough to pony up the cash for. In retrospect there are far more bands on the 36-track mix that I’m interested in now than I was then … for those who aren’t familiar I’d recommend checking it out as the lineup offers a great cross section of musicians from that period. Despite the laundry list of fantastic musicians on the comp., back in ’97 I ended up spending quite a lot of time with Beasties & "Root Down." The version might not be too different from the original, but the variation caught enough of my ear that it led me to spend a lot more time with the group. For a number of years "Intergalactic" was practically my favorite song, and strange enough, I might not have been so attracted to it had I never stood in a music store wondering what the hell Tibet was.
Funkmaster Flex & Wu-Tang Clan "Lay Your Hammer Down"
When I was in high school things weren’t really working for me: I didn’t particularly care about my grades, sports failed to hold my interest and the relationships I had with other kids were becoming increasingly superficial. I had heard about a program you could go into to work rather than take classes (essentially I’d go to school half the year, work the other half), and given my options I took that route. I went to work as a cook and for a couple years I met some ridiculous characters. That said, I was turned onto some great music along the way. Punk, rap & rave were key practically every day in the kitchen (oh, and James Brown… a lot of James Brown), and it was during this phase that I really latched on to Wu-Tang; I was familiar with the group before, but hadn’t really ever listened to any solo albums to that point. For the next couple years I remember Method Man being my favorite MC & Ol’ Dirty Bastard remains to this day one of the all-time greats in my book. While songs like "Triumph" and "Protect Ya Neck" are some of the best around and "Bring The Pain" was my favorite at the time, it was tracks like this Funkmaster collaboration that led me to dig a little deeper into the archives.
[This article first appeared on So Much Silence.]
Music Monday Q&A
1. How long has Culture Bully been operating?
1,970 days as of August 23 2010.
2. What makes Culture Bully different from other websites?
It's the only site to be a) called "Culture Bully," and b) be 100% fully endorsed by me: Chris DeLine. I'd like to make it clear that I, in no way, stand behind the sub-par Culture Bully Español knock-off.. But if you're looking for an actual example of competitive edge... I can't think of another site that recently featured new music videos by Scissor Sisters, Behemoth, RZA and Joanna Newsom in the same day. So I've got that goin' for me.
3. Do you think Culture Bully has a specific musical niche?
(See: Behemoth & Scissor Sisters.) I was genuinely mulling this over about a week ago. To some degree I know the site alienates a lot of people because it's all over the place—too all over the place, even. But I'd rather go that route than try to pick a single genre, or sub-genre, and focus solely on that. It just doesn't seem like it'd be as much fun. I mean, at this moment there's stuff on the main page focusing on everything from heavy metal to hip-hop... Actually, come to think of it, there's a common denominator there: tight jeans. Maybe the site does have a niche and I just never realized it.
4. What albums are you looking forward to coming out?
Grinderman, Robyn, Kanye West... but there's an impossible amount of music to listen to that's released every day, so it's not like I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for anything to reach my ears. Each day offers a new surprise in that regard.
5. How does Culture Bully support independent music and what’s important about doing so?
I'm probably not the best guy to stand up and wave the indie-music flag, and I'm not even sure that I know what it means to truly support independent music. Is there a sticker, like the "I Voted" stickers you get during elections, that says "I support indie music?" Just like major labels, much independent music is so ridiculously god-awful to the point that I don't think I could wear the sticker in good conscious, if there was one. I had a friend in university who liked bands along the lines of Seether and Nickelback and whatnot, and when I would push him to qualify why exactly he likes that stuff when the options are limitless of what you can listen to he gave me a response along the lines of, "If it sounds good to me, I like it." To some degree I've grown in a similar direction. Ten years ago I wouldn't be caught dead listening to pop music, and the vast majority of rap made no sense to me. (Sidebar: not Wu-Tang though, them shits was tight even when I was in junior high, son.) But once you open your ears and let down your guard a little bit, life becomes more enjoyable; same holds true for music. I don't have much interest in ignoring major label music or specifically focusing on independent music just for the sake of doing so: if it sounds good to me, I like it. That said, if it ever comes to the point where Culture Bully is rocking some Seether on the reg, I would sincerely hope someone smacks me around with a tube sock full of batteries until I come to my senses.
6. Do you think online publications are taking precedence over print magazine? What kind of effect do you think that has on bands?
I guess the only way to know for sure would be to look at circulation statistics or earnings statements of the individual publishers to know if they're getting their asses handed to them financially. If they are, then I suppose you could draw the conclusion that the online world has taken over. Until then, though, I'd have to say no: I mean, until Pitchfork can move a couple hundred thousand issues of a print magazine every month, it's still just a website. There's still a market for print, and there will be one for the foreseeable future, but yeah, the shift toward digital publishing is eating up more and more of the pie as each year passes. There are certainly exceptions, but I still don't think the online world takes precedent quite yet. If your band gets a feature printed in some zine like NME, I'm still thinking that it means a whole lot more than getting a blog post on Stereogum (for example).
As far as bands are concerned, as the music blogosphere/world of online music publications continues to expand there becomes more opportunities to be featured somewhere on the Internet. Honestly, I love the idea that there are thousands and thousands of music blogs—so many that the idea of actually figuring out a ballpark figure is staggering—but the flip side is that there are thousands and thousands of music blogs. It becomes a blur after a while and unless you really connect with some site in particular as a reader—whether you like a blog's style, content, or are simply a fan of their niche—chances are that vast majority of everything that's out there is going to be overlooked anyways. So in the end, I'm not sure that it means that there are any more honest opportunities for bands now that there's a balance between print and online than there was when print dominated. It just means that the way bands have to market themselves is changing... but that's an entirely separate discussion for another time.
7. What blogs/magazines do you read other than your own?
Honestly, I pay more attention to Twitter and digg-ish aggregators than individual sites for the most part. But, as far as music sites are concerned, I check out arm's length-list that's featured on my links page fairly regularly. I've been enjoying more dance/electronic sites as of the late, for whatever that's worth. Non-music: Mashable, Cracked... Like I said though, on the whole I just go where the Internet leads me. It's a trying mistress at times, but one that typically treats me right in the end.
8. What has been your most definitive moment since you started Culture Bully?
This interview... or the time I got a cease and desist order from Axl Rose's lawyers... or both. It's hard to say.
9. If you could interview any musician/band (dead or alive) who would it be?
The thing about interviews is that they're pretty much forced conversations between strangers. I don't know that you can expect too much from anyone you haven't really met before, especially considering the typical amount of time it takes to simply crack the ice with someone. The more you think about it, the more awkward the idea seems. That said...
Dead: I would like to hang out with Jimi Hendrix for a while. I think I could've learned a few things about partying from that cat.
Alive: I think Neil Young would have a few words that would help me gain some insight into life. The man's smart, and having lived through what he has, I can't imagine him not having a few amazing revelations just waiting to roll off his tongue. And if all else fails, we could just talk about hockey... though I honestly wouldn't mind just hanging out in awkward silence with the guy; seems like that'd make for a pretty great story to tell someone else's grandchildren.
10. If you could be in any band (of all time), who would you rock with?
I've never really wanted to be in a band. Sure, daydreams here and there, but I've never really wanted it. I'd much rather tour with a team of skateboarders, the Harlem Globetrotters, or even the Jackass crew. Actually, especially the Jackass guys: they're kind of like a band when you think about it. And I know Chris Pontius can actually jam a little bit. In the event someone has the power to make this happen holler at me, seriously—I'd jump at the chance to intern for their website or something. I'm pretty flexible and have already moved three times across two countries this year, so I have no qualms with picking up shop at a moment's notice. Please America, help show the rest of the world that dreams can come true!
[This article was originally published by Green Light Go.]