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Philly music hero Questlove recently gave fans a peek into his massive vinyl collection for Dust & Grooves, a project that explores people and their eclectic record collections across the globe. The 43-year-old bandleader, drummer for The Roots, NYU professor and DJ has become a household name over the years, for both his music and encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture.
Dust & Grooves founder and photographer Eilon Paz, along with reporter Jameson Harvey, sat down with Questlove this past summer for an in-depth interview about his collection. Continue reading →
The first time I heard King Britt was over the sound system of the HMV on Walnut Street back in 2001. I knew of him via City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly stories about Back2Basics, the party he and DJ Dozia threw at Silk City (which I was never cool enough to attend). The song coming from the speakers was “Happiness” featuring Lady Alma, and it blew me away. I immediately walked over to the Dance section, found the album under his moniker of Sylk-130 titled Re-Members Only” and skimmed the track list and collaborators: Alison Moyet, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Kathy Sledge, Grover Washington Jr.
It was a love letter to sitting at home on a Saturday night and listening to stations like Power 99 who, back in the 80’s, would play everything from quiet storm to rap to Madonna. It’s an album that still is miles beyond most in capturing that time for listeners who missed out.
Ask a Hip Hop fan to describe a Philadelphia Emcee only using a few words. I guarantee “Big Beard” will be in the description. Philadelphia has been widely known for it’s beards, and in Hip Hop it is no different.
Some of the top 12 beards in Philly hip-hop include Questlove and Black Thought, 4 Horsemen rappers Hollowman and Kre Forch, Tana Da Beast and Tone Trump. Our pal Reef The Lost Cauze is on the list and Freeway takes the number one spot. Reef’s got a new collaboration with producer and beat maker Emyndalbum, The Fast Way. Below, watch a Key Studio Session we did with Reef a couple years back in the WXPN studios. Check out the full list here, and let us know who’s missing from the list.
The story of Karmin is one of the most interesting in music the last few years. Engaged pop duo Nick Noonan and Amy Heidemann started out covering hits by other artists in an attempt to show off their talents. They amassed millions of views on YouTube and fulfilled the dreams of every struggling musician by getting signed to a major label. They got backed by Questlove of the Roots here and here. They released an EP called Hello in 2012 that yielded a hit in the form of the inescapably catchy “Brokenhearted.” Everything seemed to be going their way, but then the ride got bumpy. The first full length album, Pulses, has been complete for over a year but in limbo due to disagreements between Karmin and Epic Records. The band is out on the road for their first tour as headliners despite the album not being for sale (it’s scheduled for release 5/25), and gave an impressive show at the Theatre Of Living Arts on Friday night on one of the first dates of their Pulses tour. Continue reading →
Depending on how you look at this, the paths of Elvis Costello and The Roots represent a much more natural crossing that it seems. The ‘How’ is answered rather simply. We can thank The Jimmy Fallon Show for putting them both in the same room (and on the same stage). But why they took it one step further to produce one of the year’s most intriguing albums really lies within the musical character of both acts. For The Roots, collaboration has always been a constant. And their versatility to play alongside any and all musical ensembles is the reason they’re the one of the most sought after live acts. For Costello, much the same. He’s never been shy of a musical challenge and since the late 70s has tried his hand at just about all styles. So does their collective desire for musical exploration lend itself to a fruitful collaboration on Wise Up Ghost? It sure does.
As cliché as it sounds, the music really speaks for itself on Wise Up Ghost. In terms of Costello, he’s the main voice on the album with The Roots laying down the foundation and coloring in the sonic landscape. ?uestlove and the band lead us into soulful, funky territory on songs like “Refuse to To Saved” and the seductive “Wake Me Up”. Costello sounds reinvigorated on the collection. It’s a definitive and welcomed departure from the country and folk inspired albums (Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, National Ransom) that preceded this. With songs like “Walk Us Uptown” and “Come the Meantimes”, Costello confidently steps right back into a contemporary world (even if The Roots are drawing from classic soul).
Unlike so many collaborative records, Wise Up Ghost is truly as interesting as the headlines read. And not only does the music offer the best of what both parties are capable of, but it’s a direction, for Costello at least, that many have been craving for.
Listen to the album in its entirety here.
The Roots and Costello’s collaboration began when Elvis was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where The Roots are the house band. Ben Greenman, co-author of Questlove’s autobiography, Mo’ Meta Blue accounts:
The Roots’ iconic drummer, suggested the project to Costello. “I subliminally put out the idea of a larger collaboration,” Questlove says. “Or maybe passive-aggressively—I was too afraid to actually suggest that we should make a record together.” The project was originally envisioned as an EP, but the field of vision expanded. “I had worked with them enough on Fallon to know it was a good match,” Costello says. “This is a band that does what I’ve done from the start: they draw off everything, all types of music.”
About the album, Ann Powers of NPR Music writes:
Though it’s not a concept album (that’s Undun, the 2011 Roots album it sometimes brings to mind), Wise Up Ghost has a unifying theme: trouble, as it bubbles up inside bedrooms, snakes through the halls of power and festers on the streets. This is sexy music about scary topics like the abuse of power and the manipulation of desire. Is the woman in “(She Might Be A) Grenade” a lover or a spy? Does the spent prophet singing the title track warn of hardening hearts or of a creeping totalitarian threat? It’s both, throughout these songs, each examining the individual betrayals and dashed ideals that contribute to a culture’s demise. “Cinco Minutos Con Vos,” a duet with the dazzling La Marisoul of the L.A. band , comes on like a Joan Didion novel, humid with the mist of terror. “Come the Meantimes” glances sidelong at apocalypse in ways Curtis Mayfield would have appreciated. Throughout the album, Costello also samples from his own earlier songs; that literary touch recalls the self-referential mirror games of writers like Jorge Luis Borges, even as it nods to the wordplay of rappers like the one absent Roots member, Black Thought.
The sound of Wise Up Ghost comes closer to the early-’70s cinematic funk of and than to anything else. Strings swell and horns punch, but everything stays true to the rhythm ?uestlove, percussionist Frank Knuckles and bassist Mark Kelley lay down. Co-producer Steven Mandel’s mix opens up the songs’ complex arrangements so that little details — bells tinkling, a murmured aside — widen every scene. Listening, it’s hard to separate oneself from these dreamy nightmares.