Music: Sampling as a means to time travel and rewrite stories

There are folks who only listen to music that make the top of the charts. Some only download hit songs from artistes and don’t bother about the albums. I for one don’t rely solely on the radio as there are songs out there that don’t make the radio or don’t stay long on the charts if they are lucky to get on. There are also those who couldn’t care less about who produced a song or the creative process that led to it, they just consume till there’s something new, or a times, something old.

And so I found Bobby Caldwell’s 1980 song “Open your Eyes”, which is a song where he tries to convince a woman that she doesn’t have to be alone and that she should let go of the past. Might you have wondered how I found that song which wasn’t even an album single? Well it was easy after J Dilla did.

Who’s J Dilla?

Real names: James Yancey

The late, great revered hip-hop producer. Maybe he wasn’t as popular as the Dres, Diddys and Timbalands, he still was in a class of his own. He was the producer of Common’s 2000 Grammy nominated single, The Light. He was the one that reinvented (sampled) Bobby Caldwell’s record.

Now sampling was, according to Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian in the documentary The Art of Rap (Something from Nothing) by Ice T, necessitated at a time when musical instruments were removed from schools and they had no other option but to turn their only source of music, the record player, into a musical instrument.

Sampling started out from borrowing drums, horns, keys and other musical elements to actually recreating them and even referencing lyrics as is common of recent in rap music. Ever heard a ‘new’ song that sounded too similar you get confused as to if the song was being played for the first time or if you had heard it previously without paying attention. Or maybe it contained a subtle sound or speech that seemed too familiar? Well that’s because the song is likely a remake of something old you’d heard before. Same way I heard an old song a times and realise that’s were a young artist got his words from. There’s nothing new under the sun yeah?

Well common’s song was eccentric at the time as it dealt with very personal feeling with his then girlfriend Erykah Badu who happen to be in the video as well. He was speaking about his hopes, his convictions amongst other things. A lot different in concept from what Bobby Caldwell did. Why eccentric? Because it was a period when gangster rap was in vogue. It was an emotional song without sounding effeminate (did someone say Drake? Lol), which reminds me in some way of LL Cool J’s 1987 song “I Need Love”.

The Light is a song that always make it back to my playlist, I remember first hearing it around 2007 for the first time and a friend wondered why I liked it. He didn’t appreciate the lyrics or the beat and couldn’t understand why a 7-year-old song would excite me.

It’s the same reaction when I play old songs for people and they wonder why it appeals to me at all. The simple fact is most people compare those old songs to what we have now which is an evolved and mostly watered down version of those old records. People never realise they are comparing vinyls and tape to CDs. They don’t consider how hard live music is and how many hours a band has to rehearse before they can make that one perfect take that gets recorded in history. They don’t consider how hard one has to work to come up with meaningful lyrics, unique wordplay, metaphors, and the likes. They don’t consider how microphones and music production techniques have evolved. They forget some of those songs are mono analogue records.

But once you sit and listen to an old song and have those in mind, you would truly appreciate what it was that enabled what we have today before it was all commercialise and repackaged to our taste. If it weren’t so then we wouldn’t have people still sampling today.

An example is the last verse on Drake’s 6 Man from his “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”. It was taken from Erykah Badu’s hook in The Roots’ 1998 song “You Got Me”.

If you like you could always check www.whosampled.com to find out what songs were sampled in your favourite song and maybe even listen to the originals to how the different bits came together to form them.

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Music: Neo-soul theme of cheating and its consequences

D’angelo – Shit, Damn, Motherfucker (1995)

Why are you sleepin’ with my woman?

Why are you sleepin’ with my woman?

This comes as a total surprise

I just can’t believe my eyes

My best friend and my wife

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Why the both of u’s buck-balled naked?

Why the both of u’s buck-balled naked?

I’m tellin’ you what’s on my mind

I’m ’bout to go get my nine

And kill both of y’all behind

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Why the both of u’s bleeding so much?

Why the both of u’s bleeding so much?

Why the both of u’s bleeding so much?

Why am I wearin’ handcuffs?

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

Shit, Damn, Motherfucker

These lyrics look too short don’t they? Especially when you get to know it’s a little over 5 minutes in length. D’angelo’s neo-soul style has never been one to be filled with words. As a multi-instrumentalist and his own producer, he lets more than his words tell his story. This song never had a video but the lyrics and how it was sung did justice to it.

As always I love to listen to albums just so I can pick out my favourites whether they be the radio-friendly ones or not. On my first listen to his 1995 Brown Sugar, I took a look at his track list and saw a song called Shit, Damn, Motherfucker and wondered why a song title would consist only of profanity. Giving it the benefit of the doubt I listened and its intro is so cool that I got relaxed. After a minute, the story starts and he asks why? His best friend and his wife. His first reaction is Shit as he is bewildered, next is damn! As the scenario hits home. Lastly is Motherfucker as he realises it’s his best friend and his wife committing the act. He says “I’m telling you what’s on my mind, I’m going to go get my nine, and kill y’alls behind” and shortly after he seems to start coming around to his senses as he ask “Why are both of you’s bleeding so much? Why the both of you’s bleeding so much?” Finally he asks “Why am I wearing handcuffs?” and then the chorus again as he realises the implication of what he has done.

Confession-Ft.-Bovi

The Roots – Break you off ft Musiq Soulchild (2002)

The hook of this song got me first along with the beat, The Roots and Musiq Soulchild delivered a song from the other perspective. Here the artist, Black Thought of The Roots, is the culprit of this same phenomenon. Its video is self-explanatory. Black Thought and Musiq exchange glances as Black Thought arrives. The lady meets him at the door while Musiq’s date arrives. Musiq and the lady exchange glances after his date goes in which could mean a lot, especially that Black Thought wasn’t the first guy she’s cheated with. The action starts in the laundry room and then proceeds to the bedroom. On the way he sees pictures of her and her boyfriend and has a confused look on his face, but she’s at the door to the room and she turns around and it doesn’t matter anymore. Meanwhile Musiq is doing his own thing with ice, honey and strawberries. The boyfriend arrives and opens the door with his own keys and catches them still in the foreplay phase and then makes his presence known. Black Thought pushes her off himself and stands with his hands raised probably trying to say he didn’t know she was taken and he hadn’t done anything yet while the boyfriend reaches for a drawer. The scene changes to Musiq and his girl’s date being interrupted by a loud sound. The scene then moves to the boyfriend in a motel coming out to cops with his hands raised.

Both songs have the same basic theme of being cheated on and taking a repercussive action. Sometimes this involves either or both of the cheaters being injured or killed. Heard of people bathing their lovers with acid? Stabbing another guy or girl with a knife? Makes you wonder why they’d get so mad over ‘just sex’ right? There’s the ideal and the realistic views to why they would do this.

From an ideal, Christian point of view, sex was made by God to consummate marriage which is meant to last as long as one lives. Of course with this kind of lifelong commitment in mind, one can easy bare their all, physically, emotionally and spiritually without feeling fear or insecure knowing fully well they are committed to one another ONLY. This is not a selfish act as the love God preaches is not a selfish one.

Realistically, people just see sex as a thing and want it for different reasons, mostly aside the initial purpose it was invented for. Sex now can be done for different reasons. Fact is that aspect of exclusivity in a relationship is always there because we were made that way. However far we venture, every once in a while we realise we want someone to call our own who will always be there and we won’t have to share with anyone physically, emotionally or spiritually. You wonder at the spiritual aspect? Ever heard a man accuse a pastor of adultery because the pastor and his wife are more spiritually in tune than they are?

Woman-Cheating-on-Boyfriend--74568

Let’s even consider one of the extremes: The term ‘swinger couple’ sounds ironic doesn’t it? It means we don’t have to be sexually exclusive but then no matter whom we experiment with, we still have to come back to each other because we still are emotionally attached and exclusive. We are a ‘couple’, the element of togetherness; but we are allowed to explore whatever fantasies with whomever we choose, the element of liberty. Some even allow their partner to stray only when they choose whom it’s with.

I bet you are thinking this doesn’t apply to you right? You are not that extreme. But still even those who cheat unrepentantly with multiple partners still get livid at the thought of being cheated on. Still some don’t care as they never commit to anyone so they aren’t allowed to catch feelings but still they live with the mind-set that all boys or girls are cheats and as such they don’t trust anyone enough to settle down, something they secretly naturally desire. But then there is progress as there is now the trend of baby mamas. But even someone like Future who has 3 to 4 baby mamas still wanted to marry Ciara. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Why would a man get illogical enough to assault or kill people because he was cheated on? It’s simple, we have a possessive nature and in a moment of madness we just want to share our pain, and if an acid is what one feel it would take to communicate their anguish then they use it because one one’s drowning in pain, it only feel logical. Worst of all your best friend and your wife, they two closest people in your life asides your family who are obligated by blood. The two people whom are closest to you only ‘cos you chose them as they chose you, only ‘cos they were there at your ugliest times and stayed, only ‘cos they see the best in you, only ‘cos you could die for them as you believe they would do the same, only ‘cos the love those 2 people professed that gave you life is actually hate and you wish them death in an instant of rage! Shit, Damn, Motherfucker!

Nigeria and her Music, Two of a kind

“…nowadays nobody speaks about, the way they feel about things…and nowadays nobody thinks about a way to ease the suffering”, lyrics from Lighthouse family’s 1998 single “Question of faith”. Lyrics that still ring true till this day, talk about ever green. Or is it Nneka’s 2005 single from her EP of the same name, The Uncomfortable Truth, where she sings “Let us make a change, why can’t we turn the page, Lord make us able, without you we are totally unstable”. I suppose we might also consider Sade’s “Sweetest taboo”, Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”, Asa’s “Jailer” or the numerous works of Fela. Music by Nigerians, either in terms of lyrics, composition, vocals or production has always been beautiful especially when fostered in an enabling environment. By music I mean songs that are not just songs but are songs that are full and by full I mean songs that are timeless, that have essence, moods, life and carry substantial messages. But what do we have today? Bogus monotonic compositions from contemporary artists who possess little or no originality. Talk about originality when an artist writes a song about water and makes it a hit! Fela did!  But we have caricature songs that sample from and were inspired by great artists and then watered down to reduce the concentration of music in it. Danceable, chant able, remixed concepts, money, cars, girls, fame; cliché!

But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander right? At times when I hear stories of “Old Nigeria”, I find it hard to believe how far down the ladder we are. Old folks talk about a time when goods were left outside with prices on them, and people would buy and sell with little or no supervision. They talk about a time when you could leave your house without bothering to lock your doors; they talk about the times when Nigerians abroad could close down malls just to shop. They all seem like fairytales when you come up in a time like this where it’s hard to trust even your own brother. Oil came and we forgot everything else. States queue for their share of the budget and I wonder, what happened to state internal revenue? Why aren’t states responsible for the provision of power? Politicians run the nation as they deem fit without caring to maximise its resources. Along the line someone got greedy and all those that were aware, said nothing and that single seed grew and is still flourishing till today. As your president said, Nigeria is not poor; our problem is in the distribution of wealth.

A lot of the time I relate the state of Nigeria to its music. Are they not a matching pair? Nigeria’s main source of revenue is from Oil, the main genre of music is “Afrobeat” or “Afro-pop” or whatever you call it. Ever heard people say a certain thing would not work in Nigeria, say a new law that is standard in a lot of places around the world because it doesn’t fit us here? Ever heard a Nigerian say a song is good and they like it just that the person won’t sell here? Why won’t the new law work if they decide to follow it and encourage others? Why won’t that “good” artist sell if they decide to purchase good music and spread the word?

Nigeria is blessed with various resources, every type you can think of, but we don’t invest in minds, don’t invest in research, won’t actively use our steel or other mineral resources, won’t invest in renewable energy , won’t invest in agriculture and tourism or any other resource as we should. Why aren’t we producing when we have the capacity to do so? Why do foreigners have to make those investments? We have narrowed it down to crude oil and that’s that! Why don’t we have more genres? Soul? Rock? House? Alternative? I mean we listen to songs like that from foreign artists, why not encourage our local artists to be diverse? Why don’t we have more clearly defined genres as opposed to diluting everything with “Afrobeat”? Why isn’t afrobeat, our very own internationally recognised genre, on the radio? Why do Femi and Seun Kuti release their albums outside Nigeria? Why should foreigners get to listen to them and not us?

 2014-06-15 23.30.33

The giant of Africa? Sure! In retrospect! We just talk in this country, but no truth or action in those words. Everyone has the solution to the problem but somehow the problem persists. Could it be because we don’t do accordingly? I mean we have a rich proverbial history but somehow we don’t update and apply it. Where are our poets? Where is our art? Where is our history written so we don’t forget? Who reveals the truth of the past and the lessons we must learn from them? But our music is better! Introspective and intellectual, you can learn from it. It takes you away and addresses your mood. If you are feeling sad, you have a companion! Heartbroken? You have something soothing. Afraid? You have something motivational. Calm? You have something down tempo. But alas I lie! The artist said he is inspired by life? He lies as well! The words in most songs are just empty, improvised with no particular direction? Where are the concepts? The structure? The vision? The passion? The talent? The words? Life? But then I suppose my life is a boring one, as that of a lot of the others seems to consist primarily of money, women, cars, parties, alcohol and the likes.

Politicians can bring ridiculous laws and implement it without even a cough from us, no wonder they ridicule us. How does a human use billions to maintain 2 private jets while the masses lack education and the basic amenities? How does a leader seek pay after public office without considering the repercussion on his state’s treasury? Oh but leadership is the new royalty hence we call them “your Excellency” and make no complains! Creativity is when you can form words from nothing in particular that elicits excitement from people who are looking for an escape from their hardships. Creative licence is when an artist can say “In the middle of the center” and come off appraised. No well crafted verses, no content, no figures of speech, just chants. Well as Modenine said on his 2008 song “Hip Hop “, “I mean it when I say your whole album is a chorus”.

Nigeria is a country with so much potential. With the developing countries slowing down, we should lead Africa in the race to catch up and even exceed what has been done but we have decided to operate at 10% efficiency, or do you estimate it’s less? Our crops and culture is being stolen from right under us and we could care less. It’s our way of doing things and however wrong it is, we hold steadfast to it. Talk about dedication to destruction. But music is life, and when I see Nigeria, I see its music, and I wonder if we really are alive? How many people really learnt from Fela? How many people really learnt from Onyeka Onwenu?

Sigh, would I sound like a conspiracy theorist if I propose that Nigerian music might be fashioned to keep us dumbed down? A means to help us be consoled in our misery while the elites plunder our resources? After all a documentary I saw recently said the system of the world is made by the rich for the rich. But hey! Maybe things are getting better, at least on the BRT buses, it’s usually not the case of “49 sitting, 99 standing” as Fela sang. What do you think?

Happy People

…and R. Kelly sings: Happy people, yeah yeah yeah, keep the world, turning turning turning, I believe that, happy people, yeah yeah yeah, keep the world, dancing dancing dancing…and then with the end of the song comes the dance, do you remember? Step to the left, step to the right, stand around and break it down tonight, bring it on up, move in close…*record scratches*…err sorry to cut you off like that but couples dancing isn’t the subject of today’s post, atleast not those types.

My favourite saying applies a great deal in this issue, “Ignorance is bliss, knowledge is power”. I remember as a child, the concept of homosexuality was foreign, it wasn’t something we children knew or spake about. Playing ‘mummy and daddy’ and being teased by friends about girls they assumed or knew we liked was natural. Except for a few isolated cases where there was a reference to it or an occurence that seemed like a bizzare exception, it wasn’t talked about. All of a sudden it was everywhere! In everyday secondary school conversations, in jokes, in disses and so on. It grew in consciousness and gradually went public, such that it finally had to be recognised by law. Gay people or ‘Happy’ people started requesting for their rights in public after being more or less in the background for centuries.

Liberalism, as everything else has its advantages and disadvantages. From a liberal point of view anyone can say and do whatever they desire but not when marriage comes in. Now marriage has always included God, and thus it would be weird if I spoke about it from a liberal point of view. Civil union has been something they used but that’s not enough, every gay boy has always dreamt of his own white wedding, to the man he ‘loves’, in the church daddy and daddy got married in. Oh well this is what the bible says about that:

Lev 18:22
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (ESV)

Lev 20:13
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (ESV)

Romans 21-32
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (ESV)

The above texts are from the old and new testament. Verses 26, 27 and 32 are of particular interest. It’s clear that God is clear on this issue, those who practice and those who give approval to them that do. So what do I think?

If I saw a group of Christians running after a gay person to assault or murder them, would I join them? No because that’s in the old testament and a lot of those don’t apply today. Do I support gay marriage? No. If a gay person asked me if that way of life is right would I reply in the affirmative?  No. Do I think gay couples should adopt children? No. Why not? I believe God gave us free will and so if gay people want to have sex in their privacy then that’s their decision as God isn’t in support of premarital sex and a lot of us engage in it. So if we use our freewill to sin against God then I feel we shouldn’t point fingers. Whatever decisions they make is between them and God, and only He can judge. However, I don’t support their marriage especially NOT in a church of God. Again I quote Myles Monroe “Every problem in the society can be traced back to the family”. God made a system of family where the father and mother have a blessed union and produce children who are raised with the love of God and who are given an identity and where there are no kids, the adopted children should be raised by a father and mother. With the increase in divorce rates, increase in the number of single parents, reducing number of hours career parents spend with their children in a week, I think it would be a step further in the wrong direction for children to be raised in a home with ‘parents’ of the same sex.

I’m of the opinion that we should focus our attenion on returning to the core values that now only exist in storybooks and build our families the way it was intended. The institution of marriage which has been ridiculously abused needs to be placed back on the pedestal where it should be. In the beginning God saw Adam was alone and He made a woman from and for him. Simple! Let’s all get back to the only functional plan for society so that we can all live under the blessings of God as happy people.

Slip Away

Imprisoned thoughts, we open our mouth and let them slip away

Words that can hurt for a lifetime and in seconds they slip away

Weakness, as we let go of their hands and watch them slip away

Hot tears from a melted heart and we let it slip away

Down from the cheeks we once kissed, gravity helps sweep away

Down on the snow it melts away as they try not to slip away

The bottomless cup of agony in hand, as they gently sip away

Watching as their stature of perfection is jaggedly chipped away

Running as the road seems unending and time slips away

Reaching for the horizon’s comfort as the day slips away

Out of sight, into the night as they speedily creep away

Hoping to awake as I hear Bob Acri’s sleep away

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Semantics…

A word that’s rarely used in conversation, but one that has a great influence on the direction our conversations should take. What is love? What is lust? What is life? Who is man? What is a job? What is work? What is a relationship? What is marriage? What is religion? What is moderation? Who am I? Who is God? Does He exist? Why was I made? How much time do I have? What is music? How should it be done? What is friendship? Who is an acquaintance?

Semantics is the study of the meaning of words and phrases or simply the meaning of a word. So when an individual lives life as it comes, it simply means he hasn’t defined who he is, or his purpose for being. When a marriage breaks up, it means one or both of the people in it didn’t have a definition for marriage in the first place. A relationship has a definition ideally that takes a certain amount of maturity to indulge in, but realistically 12, 13 year old children are involved in them. It requires time to nurture and should include certain terms stated at the beginning to guide it, but those are more often than not bypassed nowadays. Someone decides to be a musician without caring to go into the history of music or honing themselves with the necessary skills involved in it.

But then in this world where everything gets updated in real-time, traditional definitions aren’t the norm any longer. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings. In a traditional context, a fellow can say to his friend “I love you” maybe for a favour rendered, but informal contemporary language would require him to include the phrase “no homo”. “I love you” has always been an ambiguous term but now the word “love” is sometimes used to mean “lust”. Subsequently even when communication appears transparent, the reaction of both parties occasionally conflict each other. This obviously is because both parties had different definitions of the keyword(s).

I believe the point of this has been passed to you. Before you commit to something, try to define it properly and know what it entails. For example in an election, one is to get information on as many candidates as they can, evaluate them, and then choose one based on their ability rather than their popularity. Ideally that is what is entailed of every voter in a democratic situation. In getting a job, one shouldn’t just see the short-term benefits, but also the long-term benefits as every job has an effect on one’s lifelong career. If you are the traditional type, realise your definitions are outdated to a lot of people and as an “updated” person, realise the exception demands some people are still traditional. Words weigh a ton, pick them wisely having in mind not everyone would interpret it the same way. Bless!

meaning

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Originally posted on Facebook on February 20, 2011

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Stereo-Type

A lovely Friday and Nedu and I go out to get some plug-ins…Ok, rewind…its starts…oh yes! So I was trying my headphones out with the new audio interface I got and it was sounding weird. After troubleshooting severally with no audible difference I was starting to freak out! Having new stuff is like a dream come true yeah? Well the nightmare is it not working as it should! Finally I found the hitch. How silly I was, feeling embarrassed even if no one was with me I realised it was the mono ¼” jack I had used while what I really needed was the “stereo-type”.

A lovely Friday and Nedu and I go out to get some plug-ins, AV cords and other accessories. After visiting several shops we stopped at one where we were to buy one of the accessories. We had to wait a bit since most of the stock had been moved temporarily. We inspected a few of the equipment left in the shop and we were interested in one that was affordable and suited our immediate needs. We got a price for it and indicated we’d return for it without giving a specific date because of our uncertainty. We discussed over the weekend and settled on getting it on Monday which was the 31st of December 2012, yes this happened last year and I wonder how I still remember it.

Anyway, on getting there on Monday we met the same Igbo guy who told us the price on Friday and we told him we were back. With the product in our sight he brought up a ridiculous story which I wouldn’t bother narrating. We went back and forth, tried different tactics but he offered us nearly double the price stating certain circumstances that had changed. Coming from a ‘mixed’ Nigerian background, I avoid endorsing stereotypes but this was just too much! How would the love of money render your words void? I even intended getting more clients for him. Going online to do a little research on the product, I realised the initial price offered was even slightly higher than it should be.  I don’t do stereotypes but would I, from what people have said over time and my recent experience, saying Igbo businessmen love money too much make me a hypocrite?

Finally, Nedu and I had to get an affordable alternative to that product elsewhere and on the way something happened. Three teenagers were trying to cross the road and a stationary bus moved a bit and it seemed it would bump them but it didn’t. They were just a bit frightened by the minor incident. The interesting part was a woman who drew my attention as she was shouting as if she had been hit on behalf of those kids. Looking in her direction I wasn’t surprised especially as she was shouting in Yoruba!!! I really don’t know what side of the line I’m on, any help? Plus I would like you to comment on any similar experience you might have had.

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