Mos Def and Black Radio at the Blue Note

January 25, 2009

Mos Def Blue NoteStood for two hours in the 15°F wind last night to get into the Blue Note to see Mos Def. Good thing we were the first two people in line, because there were only two good seats at the bar (that actually faced the stage).

Sitting right behind the wait station and next to the bar was very distracting—I kept catching myself paying more attention to the waitresses filling their drink orders than I was to the performance; and my back and shoulders were killing me from standing tensely so long in the cold; and I was exhausted from staying out late the night before; and some of Mos Def’s songs were less than thrilling.

However, there were a few memorable gems:

“The Boogie Man Song” (one of my favorites from The New Danger) turned into an extended jazz version. I think that song shows off his smooth voice better than any other song.

They did a totally unexpected cover: Radiohead’s “All I Need.” And it was surprisingly good!

Apparently Mos Def plays the piano: He started to play a goofy instrumental song which he said was about his kids and their stylish ways, called “The Kids Look Fresh.” Then he showed how that song became the background of “Perfect Timing” (from True Magic). It was the first time I’ve seen him rap/sing while playing an instrument.

Just when I thought the show couldn’t get weirder, he started to recite the poem read by Elizabeth Alexander after Obama was sworn in at the inauguration. Strange choice. But I have to say, his style of delivery certainly made the poem sound much better.

Another place to listen

January 19, 2009

I’m trying out another site called Blip.fm where you can “be a DJ” by deciding which songs to broadcast under your name. Check out my page to listen to all the songs I’ve “blipped.”

Now you can listen to my playlists!

December 21, 2008

Check out my new page on 8tracks, a cool website where members can create and share playlists.

So far I’ve only finished the Back 2 school mix from September, but I hope to put in more soon.

8tracks is pretty easy to use, but has some quirky features due to the legal restrictions of sharing music online.

Five feet from the Jeanius herself

December 13, 2008

On 6th Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets, there’s a small sign for Fat Beats record store, which is up a narrow staircase above the storefronts. I’ve walked on that block countless times without noticing it.

dsc011691Half an hour before the show is to start, there were still only about ten people in the store, which is only about the size of my apartment. We waited around, browsing the albums. It’s all hip hop, and mostly vinyl. It’s cool that this place is still in business, at a time when even Tower Records can’t stay afloat.

The place filled up quickly, and after a while we were all standing shoulder to shoulder and starting to sweat. My umbrella was still wet, my legs and back were starting to hurt, and besides the expectant crowd, there was still no sign of a show starting anytime soon. I was beginning to wish I hadn’t come.

Then DJ Evil Dee came in the door, unannounced (at least to us). After greeting some staff people like old friends, he hopped into the DJ booth and started spinning on the electronic turntables. With each new beat he put on, the crowd bobbed their heads in appreciation, and chatted excitedly with each other about their favorite obscure albums and mix tapes.

Two tall guys in front of me were blocking my view of the DJ, so I finally tapped one of them on the shoulder and asked to stand in front of him. That was a good move: I was now about five feet from the DJ booth.

DJ Evil Dee

Finally, almost an hour late, Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder showed up. They squeezed their way through the crowd to make it to the DJ booth, Talib did a bit on the mic, and 9th and took over the turntables.

9th Wonder

Finally, Jean Grae showed up. With a laugh, Talib introduced her as “the greatest lyricist in the world.” She crammed into the DJ booth with Talib and 9th and joked about how hot it was in the store. (Indeed, Talib had sweat streaming down his face and had already taken off his hoodie.) She chastised the crowd for not showing up to her Highline Ballroom concert and only showing up now because it was a free show.

9th and Jean did a few songs from Jeanius, including my favorite, “Don’t Rush Me,” which she said was the very first song they had made together, and that it was extra special because she even got 9th Wonder to sing a little bit on the track. Jeanius indeed.

Jean Grae

After a few Jeanius tracks, Jean did some a cappella verses. Talib attempted to do one of his new songs a cappella, but after some trite rhyme schemes (like fly/high) and stops and starts, he forgot the rest and gave up. Then they did a couple of Kweli’s songs, and Jean joined in on some verses.

The funniest moment came when Talib Kweli started his song “Black Girl Pain” and Jean Grae said, “Where are my black girls?” There was silence. So she was like, “Black girls? … Black girls?” (There were definitely some black girls in the room, but I guess they weren’t very vocal about it or they weren’t in Jean’s view.) Her directness was refreshing.

Soundtrack: Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot

December 8, 2008

I just watched the documentary Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot, about some of the best high school basketball players in the country coming together for a game in Rucker Park in Harlem. The movie was pretty good, but kind of boring, as I’m not that into basketball.

The soundtrack kept me entertained, though. The movie was made by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, and in all the reviews of the film that I read, the soundtrack was highly praised. But I was surprised to see that the soundtrack is not for sale yet, and there isn’t even a track list anywhere. So I started to figure it out for myself….

Here are the tracks from the movie that I could identify. They’re generally in order, but there are also a lot of songs missing—there were a bunch of jazz and funk and other old-school tunes that I couldn’t identify but I wish I could.

  • 50 Cent – “Hate It Or Love It”
  • Ludacris – “Number One Spot”
  • Kool and the Gang – “Hollywood Swingin'”
  • N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton”
  • Fat Joe – “My Lifestyle”
  • Jay-Z – “Lucifer”
  • Staples Singers – “Let’s Do It Again” (written by Curtis Mayfield)
  • Jay-Z – “My 1st Song”
  • House of Pain – “Jump Around”
  • M.I.A. – “Amazon”
  • Nas – “Halftime”
  • Joe Budden – “Pump It Up”
  • M.I.A. – “Pull Up the People”
  • Jay-Z – “Dirt Off Your Shoulders”

Also, somewhere in there there was supposed to be a new song by the Beastie Boys called “Bass Line Is Nice.”

Let me know if you know of anything else I’m missing.

Do not get complacent!

October 28, 2008

Inspiration from Jay Smooth:

(Thanks, Carmen!)

Playlist: On the bus to New York City

October 20, 2008
  1. DJ Cappel & Smitty –
    Biggie @ 5 Pointz in Queens

    Biggie @ 5 Pointz in Queens

    “Juicy/New York, New York” (from Blue Eyes Meets Bed-Stuy, the Notorious B.I.G./Frank Sinatra mix)

  2. Jay-Z featuring Lil Wayne – “Hello Brooklyn”
  3. Kevin So – “New York City” (gotta love the cheesy lyrics by this man)
  4. Pete Miser – “From the 718” (interlude)
  5. Mos Def – “Brooklyn”
  6. Vampire Weekend – “A-Punk” (“I saw Joanna down in the subway/She took an apartment in Washington Heights”)
  7. Joni Mitchell – “Chelsea Morning”
  8. Suzanne Vega – “New York Is a Woman”
  9. LCD Soundsystem – “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” (I don’t really listen to LCD Soundsystem, but the title of this song is pretty irresistible.)
  10. Talib Kweli & Jean Grae – “New York Shit” (better than the Busta Rhymes version, I think)
  11. Mobb Deep – “Best of Queens” (I have trouble finding songs to represent my borough.)
  12. Grandmaster Caz – “South Bronx Subway Rap” (from Wild Style, the best movie about NYC ever)
  13. La Bruja – “Nuyorico” (“And if you’re in the mood to view the city lights/Of paradise, you don’t even have to go to Paris/You can go out on the Rosie Perez Terrace/Where tropical sounds can be found”)

TMBG loves the World’s Fair site

October 14, 2008

One of my favorite buildings in all of New York City is the New York State Pavilion, which was used in the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.

I was pleased to find out recently that the video for my favorite They Might Be Giants song, “Don’t Let’s Start,” was shot inside the Pavilion!

Notice the map on the floor that John and John are rolling on around 1:10 in the video. It’s a road map of New York state. Nowadays it looks like this:

And another one of TMBG’s songs, “Ana Ng,” which I also like (especially because that’s practically my name), mentions the World’s Fair site:

All alone at the ’64 World’s Fair
Eighty dolls yelling “Small girl after all”
Who was at the Dupont Pavilion?
Why was the bench still warm? Who had been there?

Palin and Biden battle rap!

October 3, 2008

I’m loving this battle rap between Palin and Biden. It’s more entertaining than last night’s debate was:

And while you’re at it, check out some of Jay Smooth‘s other brilliant videos: Hipster Rap and the Guide to “No Homo”.

Playlist: Rally for Obama

October 1, 2008

This is for Anne and Julia and all the other volunteers and supporters working to get the man elected!

  1. J Dilla – “Two Can Win”
  2. The Roots – “The Next Movement” (“You listeners, stop what you’re doing and/Set it in motion, it’s the next movement”)
  3. Santogold – “Unstoppable”
  4. OK Go – “This Will Be Our Year” (covering the Zombies)
  5. Yes – “I’ve Seen All Good People”
  6. Elliott Smith – “L.A.” (“If patience started a band/I’d be her biggest fan”)
  7. Nina Simone – “Just in Time”
  8. Mos Def – “There Is a Way” (“This is the song people need to be singing right now/When they tell you you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t/Tell ’em this:”)
  9. Lauryn Hill – “Everything Is Everything” (“What is meant to be will be/After winter must come spring/Change, it comes eventually”)
  10. Talib Kweli featuring Jean Grae – “Say Something”
  11. Rage Against the Machine – “People of the Sun”
  12. A Tribe Called Quest – “Can I Kick It?” (“Yes you can!”)