We’re only in the second month of 2017 and so much has happened in such a short time. The keys to the asylum have been given to the joker and it’s hard to not pay attention. January 20th has changed everything. Even the days leading up to that date effected the music industry. So, I had to start there when I started programming this month’s music reviews and mix.
NOTE: I will not be naming the 45th president of the United States by name anymore. Laurence Fishburne was being interviewed on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and I thought his response when asked about he who shall remain nameless was to call him “45”. I felt that was clever and appropriate since a “45” for those who remember actual vinyl from the 60s and 70s was the smallest and a two-sided single. Let’s hope that this “45” has a single term and becomes the smallest man in our collective historic consciousness for the hatred and racism he has inspired.
I was talking to my editor about the recording artists who were asked to perform for the inauguration. I mentioned that Canadian-born legend, Paul Anka had backed out. My editor had no idea who Paul Anka was. I decided to sample Mr. Anka’s version of “My Way” to open the mix. I didn’t play the whole thing…so don’t worry. We’re gonna get to the meat of the situation without too much nostalgia.
Our first real selection is not a new track, but a throwback and almost forgotten mix of an Earth, Wind & Fire classic covered by Black Box. I chose the Big Band Mix of “Fantasy” to represent what we all thought was a joke when his campaign started in April 2015. Like many, we giggled and comedians shrieked in delight with the possible jokes that could be written. But as the months went by the jokes were no longer funny, the world became a completely different place. Consider this selection one of the classic tracks that every DJ should have in their collection. A good Martha Wash vocal is always a necessity for any library.
More than ever, what happens on one side of this marble effects the other side of it. So, it was no surprise when women around the world protested on January 21st. A week and half before that protest I heard the latest Pussy Riot track called “Make America Great Again”. I loved it but it was a little too slow for me to play in a bar or for one of my mixes. So, I did a little magic and remixed it to make the track accessible for DJs. Funny how the vocalist touched upon the Muslim ban before it even happened. If you get a chance, go look at the video on YouTube.
But watching all those people coming together in Washington D.C. after such small crowds for the day before really brought hope to my heart. The Dark Intensity Tropical Mix of The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down” was my mantra to my people….my communities. Now is the time to look out for one another and listen to each other. We need each other to get through this.
Now it’s time to move on to some remixes. I believe Rihanna’s album last year was critically acclaimed but not as big of a hit as she and her label wanted. And as usual when the hits aren’t coming the DJs and remixers start grabbing the old catalogue and breathing new life into it. Bendetto chose her first big hit, “Pon De Replay”. And what better way to recreate a song than giving it a Moombahton sound and feel!
Now we’re gonna play “Let’s Make An Unnecessary Remix And Pretend It’s A New Song By Slightly Changing The Title”! Apparently, someone calling themselves Nevada has dug up Mark Morrison’s vocals for “Return Of The Mack”, added a verse by Fetty Wap and changed the title to “The Mack”. I first heard this remix cover back in October of 2016 but thought it was just yet another remix of the original. Couldn’t find it because I was looking for the original title. Then casually came across it in my digital pool and didn’t listen to the remixes until late December. When is this insanity and ego driven name changing gonna stop?
Speaking of “critically acclaimed”, Solange (Beyonce’s little sister) is definitely in that category. I guess with such a mega-superstar sibling overstating the industry it takes the pressure off you to write Pop hits. Solange always has the better and deeper lyrics….and I like that. She says what she want and obviously, she don’t take no sh%t (as seen in that infamous elevator video with Jay-Z). Her third studio album, “A Seat At The Table” has some great titles like “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Rise”, but the stand out for me is “Cranes In The Sky”. Really great melody and lyrics….originally too slow for my mixing taste until Kaytranada gave it a makeover into a Lounge House track.
The list of folks who were asked to perform at the inauguration included Canadian-born Justin Bieber (who turned it down immediately), Jennifer Holliday (who accepted and then got a huge backlash online for accepting and then backed out) and UK recording artist Rebecca Ferguson (who said she would do it only if she got to sing Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”…..guess the line went dead after that request ‘cuz she didn’t do it either). So, for insisting on making commentary about the Black Lives Matters Movement I decided to include one of my favorite tracks by Miss Ferguson, the Danny Dove remix of “Bones”.
“45” must have been really desperate to have some kind of Pop culture or ethnic performers to show he has cool friends like the Obamas. The money that was rumored to be offered was ridiculously in the hundred thousands. But it didn’t work. It was a really sad line up for the event and the “sellout” who accepted his invitation was Chrisette Michelle who now has millions angry at her including Spike Lee (who has recently pulled the plug on a project he was working on featuring her) and even some of her own family members are not speaking to her. I hope it was worth it. She didn’t even get to meet “45” after she performed. He was too busy. That must have set in her stomach like a rock in that moment. You got used, girl! But like Sheryl Lee Ralph said when asked about the whole situation on Wendy Williams….”Not all money is good money”.
The title of my next selection states how I feel about the folks who are now just waking up to the reality of “45” and his administration. The moderates and the Hillary haters who voted for this change and are now marching in the streets….you did this. “Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5 featuring Kendrick Lamar is actually about a break up, but the chorus is what I sing when I hear people saying that they didn’t think he would do what he said on the campaign. And the Safety First remix is kinda hot!
As a another fun title, the CLX Club Remix of “Shout Out To My Ex” by Little Mix is my nod to Barrack Obama. Man…a lot of folks are gonna miss you and I suspect they already are.
So the appropriation continues with a track called “Sex” by Cheat Codes x Kris Kross Amsterdam. This is a rewrite of the 1990 hit “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Pepa. I mean…it’s cute to hear some current production like the Carta Remix that I used for this set, but I hope and pray that my girls are making some kinda money on the back end in publishing.
Now…you know I’m a sucka for a good Club or House remix of those Hip Hop Trap songs on the charts. So, I had to include these next couple of remixes in my mix. First up is the Tom Budin Remix of “Purple Lamboghini” by Skrillex featuring Rick Ross. All I can say is “hot”! And then followed by the Benja Styles B-More Club Remix of “Turn Off The Lights” by Future….another “banga”!
I was having a conversation with a DJ friend who asked me about Bruno Mars and the word “appropriation”. He wanted to know if I was upset about Bruno’s latest album and how it is full on “Black Music”. I said no and I’ll tell you why. In my opinion, Bruno is not candy-coating his music in a nice package to sell to a broader audience. He’s making his Pop audience follow him into his roots. His lyrics and his productions on his latest album are a homage to what he grew up on.
It’s like mentioning Teena Marie as being “Black Music”. That’s just a given! She was not on television marketing herself like Madonna. If you remember, Madonna’s label didn’t put on her the covers of her first few singles to sell her to Black audiences. When Justin Timberlake left N’Sync, his hair was still curly and his styling was of an Urban fashion. Why? Because they wanted him to sell in both markets. Bruno has had major crossover in the Pop charts but I think as he gets older he is going back to what he knows. And what he knows is “Black Music”. So, no….I ain’t mad at him when I hear a track like “Perm”. When I hear his lyrics I know we both know what he’s talkin’ about.
But not all appropriation is bad. Some can be a reminder or throwback to some of the legends. In my opinion, this is the case with “Money Maker” by Throttle featuring Lunch Money Lewis & Aston Merrygold. The Garreth Maher Remix really takes me there and gives me that old church piano James Brown Funk vibe.
So, naturally since it’s Black History Month I had to dig up a Bootleg House of mix of “Sex Machine” by James Brown. Years ago when vinyl was still king, record shopping in New York City was such a treat. And sifting through the “White Labels” could turn up all sorts of treasures! Like this one. Haven’t seen or heard anyone else play this one. That was a different time and I truly miss it. I know you’re used to having everything at your fingertips through your smart phones or computers, but there was something really beautiful about finding that special record or mix and having it exclusively to play and program.
And finally to close out our mix, I wanted to congratulate Janet Jackson on giving birth to a healthy baby boy back at the beginning of January. There should have been some new remixes of her track “Dammn Baby”, but I dug through my library and found the Deep Elementz 80 Proof House Mix of “The Pleasure Principle” to round out the sound for this set.