Tag Archives: Nas

Throwback Thursday – 1996

Per the site WhoSampled.com, Joe Cocker’s “Woman to Woman” (1972) has been sampled 24 times. Joe Cocker! Twenty-four times! Who knew?

The best-known track to sample “Woman to Woman” is 2Pac’s “California Love,” which utilizes the instrumental riff from the beginning of the Cocker song as one of its hooks. Here is “Woman to Woman:”

“California Love” kicks off this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, spotlighting the music of 1996.


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How Empire Changed Timbaland

After Empire creator Lee Daniels hired music producer Timbaland to be the television program’s Executive Music Producer, the Grammy Award winner sent the Academy Award nominee music to be used in the pilot episode.

As he recounted to Out.com, Daniels brought a copy of that first episode to Timbaland to show him how his music was used. Daniels was out of the room during the scene where Jamal and his boyfriend kiss. Said Daniels “I knew he was fascinated by seeing his music in the work, but he said, ‘Those guys kissing, man. Wow.’” When the music producer showed his family the pilot, he made his children leave the room during that kissing scene.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. This was the man who said “Some people listen to a song like ‘SexyBack’ and think, am I queer? Am I funny? If you are that way, you’re just that way. But if you’re a masculine man, embrace it. Have a glass of wine, put the record on and invite your girl over to get sexy.”

He has a point. When I listen to “SexyBack,” I ask “Am I queer?” That’s because Justin Timberlake doesn’t do anything for me. If I were a masculine man who drank, I’d have a girl over and get sexy for the song’s four minutes and three seconds. But I’m funny.

Per Daniels, who is openly-gay, Timbaland is singing a new tune. “[Working on this show has] changed his opinion on how he feels about gays. He said it. And I remember hanging up the phone and being very emotional after talking to him, and after him telling me that. And how he really had this epiphany. It was beautiful, and it deepened our friendship.”

That must have been some conversation. “Hi, Lee? It’s Timbaland. I’ve worked with many gay people in my twenty-five years producing music, and every one of them disgusted me with their talent and work ethic. But after seeing a fictional gay character recite scripted lines and give his, uh, male friend a quick kiss, I’ve had a change of heart. I can handle a gay person for a few scenes one hour a week, provided my kids aren’t in the room. Let’s have dinner soon. Feel free to not bring your boyfriend. Love ya (in a platonic way)!”

Today the man born Timothy Mosley turns 43 years old. There’s still time for him to continue evolving. Here are twenty tracks he produced or co-produced. WARNING: This playlist includes “SexyBack.” Be sure you’re masculine enough to listen! (Before anyone asks, his stellar work with Aaliyah is not available on Spotify.)

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The Evolution Of Jay-Z

“What people do in their own homes is their business, and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It’s no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.”

The above quote comes from Jay-Z. He was referring to gay rights in an interview with Poppy Harlow on CNN in May 2012. Referencing the lack of marriage equality nationwide, he said “I always thought it as something that is still holding the country back.”

He always thought this? Even in 1996, when he rapped about “Too many faggot niggas clocking my spending?” Or the following year, when he rapped ““Hate a nigga like that faggot?” How about the lyric in which he complains about “faggots” talking to the police, which is followed by his promise to kill those faggots? Or his rap “Why is you over here lookin’ at me while all these girls up in here? What you gay?” Or the song in which he calls rapper Nas, no strange to homophobic lyrics himself, a “fag?” That’s the same song in which he mocks Mobb Deep’s Prodigy with a gay implication. Was he ruminating about how gay Americans deserve the same rights accorded to straight Americans when he rapped “Now I ain’t down with who like me or who like you. That’s gay, I ain’t into liking dudes no way?” When he said “And since you infatuated with sayin’ tha gay shit, yes you was kissin’ my dick when you was kissin’ that bitch,” was he really saying “I respect you as a man, for I am a man as well, and we are all equal?”

There are rappers, specifically Eminem, who defend the use of the word “faggot” by saying it doesn’t mean gay; it means weak. Equating a gay slur with weakness or a lesser-than status isn’t homophobic? First of all, that’s bullshit. Secondly, in the case of the Jay-Z lyrics cited above, he is referring to gay men.

Perhaps, like President Obama, who endorsed marriage equality shortly before the rapper’s CNN interview, Jay-Z has evolved. I’m skeptical that he “always” felt the lack of equality was holding the country back, but I’m glad he feels that way now. He is one of the two most-famous rap artists in the world. He is not running for office and trying to garner votes. His support means a lot. As Clinton Yates wrote in the Washington Post, “Hopefully, Jay-Z’s words can lead generations of music fans out of the fog when it comes to being an open-minded and accepting citizen of the world.”

Today Jay-Z turns 45 years old. Here are twenty of his finest raps, homophobia-free. Misogynist? That’s a discussion for another time.

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The #31 Album Of All-Time | Amy Winehouse – Back To Black

You may have noticed that music is my passion, and I’m passionate about the music I like. I’m always on the hunt for new music. Usually I discover new acts from listening to satellite radio or from reading music blogs.

In late 2006 two tracks performed by a woman named Amy Winehouse appeared on UK music blogs. Both “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good” blew me away. The music sounded like nothing else out at that time, and that voice was distinctive and sublime. The album on which these songs appeared, Back to Black, was released in the UK in October of 2006. The US release was months away. I couldn’t wait. I called a friend who worked at Universal Music, the album’s distributor, in the UK. She sent me Back to Black and Winehouse’s prior album, Frank.

Frank was very good, but Back to Black was the best album I’d heard in years. The songs came from a dark place – Winehouse’s break-up with her boyfriend (with whom she later reconciled and married), but I didn’t find it a depressing listen, as the singing and production thrilled me. She sang how love is a losing game, how after their break-up she wanted to die, how despite feeling that way she knew they had to break up, and I smiled all through it.

Not every song is about a gloomy subject. In “Me and Mr. Jones” Winehouse asks “What kind of fuckery is this?” and takes her “best black Jew” to task for making her miss the Slick Rick concert, among other things. The Mr. Jones of the title is rapper Nas, with whom Winehouse later collaborated and who shares a birthday with the songstress.

Amy Winehouse ticket 2014-09-11 15.08
Back to Black was released in the US on March 13, 2007, entering the Billboard album chart at #7, at that time the highest debut ever for a British woman. Six days later I saw her perform at the 500 person capacity Roxy on Sunset Boulevard, where the majority of the audience already seemed to know the album backwards and forwards.

One song from the UK edition was left off the US version of the album – the wonderful “Addicted.” What kind of fuckery is that? Was her US label trying to hide a truth about the artist? We already knew they tried to make her go to rehab but she said no no no. We knew she went back to black. I think we could take her berating someone for smoking all her weed and not buying more. Did they not want the US public to know she was an addict? We knew. We knew very well.

Back to Black is #31 on my top albums of all-time list. In honor of what would have been Amy Winehouse’s 31st birthday, today’s playlist consists of ten of her finest performances, with a focus on that classic album.

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Lost In Emotion And Lost In My Condo

I can’t find my Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam promotional athletic socks. I know they’re in my home somewhere. I wanted to post a photo of them on my blog today, Lisa Lisa’s birthday, but I can’t find them anywhere. I found my Tenacious D socks, but they do me no good.

Over the years, while at my various record company jobs, I’ve collected promotional tchotchkes. You’d be surprised what were manufactured. Madonna lollipops, a Rolling Stones matchbook, a Terence Trent D’Arby electric toothbrush. I have all of those at my fingertips. I have an Aerosmith thermos and an Eazy-E thermos at my disposal. I can find my Kiss lunchbox and my Aaron Carter lunchbox (autographed!), my Babyface clock and my Prong clock (I can’t name a single song or album by Prong), my Gloria Estefan CD wallet and my Toto CD wallet, my Bruce Springsteen wallet and my Pras wallet. Pras! The member of the Fugees you never hear about these days. I know exactly where to find my Eminem bobble-head, my Michael Jackson paperweight, my Ricky Martin diary, my Nas inflatable globe, my NSYNC make-up case, my Cher paper fan, my Dead Milkmen flipbook, my Jamiroquai flag, my Nick Heyward kite, my Aerosmith handkerchief, my Pearl Jam doormat, my Michael Jackson duffle bag, my George Michael oversize paper clip, my Alice Cooper water gun and my Poi Dog Pondering whistle. Who the hell are Poi Dog Pondering? Where are my Lisa Lisa promotional athletic socks? I know where my Sophie B. Hawkins “As I Lay Me Down” hammock is – it’s hard to lose that! I remember giving away my Celine Dion luggage. The line had to be drawn somewhere. But for the life of me, I have no idea where my Lisa Lisa promotional athletic socks could be.

When I find my Lisa Lisa promotional athletic socks, I’ll post a photo of them. For now, here is Ringo with my Pras wallet.

Ringo + Pras 002

Enjoy Lisa Lisa’s birthday (she’s 48!). Here is a mini-playlist of her best tracks.

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