Category: reworkings/reimagining

Live Footage: Luke James with Nu Deco Ensemble, Samoht and Sensei Bueno Perform a Gorgeous Re-Imagining of “shine on”

Luke James (born Luke James Boyd) is a New Orleans-born singer/songwriter and actor, whose musical career started in earnest as a background vocalist for Tyrese, along with a classmate Quentin Spears. While with Tyrese, James and Spears met acclaimed production outfit The Underdogs, who worked with and mentored the duo, who performed, wrote and recorded as Luke & Q.

Through his connection with The Underdogs, the legendary Clive Davis signed James to J Records, where he wrote material for Chris Brown, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber. But by 2011, he released his debut mixtape, #Luke, which featured the critically acclaimed single “I Want You.” “I Want You” eventually earned James a Best R&B Performance Grammy nomination. He followed that up with his sophomore mixtape 2012’s Whispers in the Dark and his 2014 self-titled, full-length debut.

Since the release of his full-length debut, James released “Drip,” which was later remixed by A$AP Ferg and his critically applauded, breakthrough sophomore album, last year’s to feel love/d. The album which featured guest spots from BJ The Chicago Kid, Ro James, Big K.R.I.T., Kirk Franklin and Samoht, and production by Danja, Cobaine Ivory, Guitarboy, and Sir Dylan received a Best R&B Album Grammy nomination. The album helped James earn his third Grammy nomination while being the only independent release album in the category to land a nomination.

As an actor, James played Johnny Gill in BET’s 2017 TV biopic The New Edition Story. He has appeared in the Regina Hall and Will Packer film Little. He played Noah Brooks in FOX’s Star and he’s appeared in HBO’s smash hit series Insecure, as well as BET’s The Bobby Brown Story. Last year, he was in the third season of Showtime’s The Chi.

The multiple Grammy nominee will star in the Broadway play, Thoughts of a Colored Man, which will open at The John Golden Theatre on October 31, 2021 and run through March 2022. The limited engagement will be the first new play to open on Broadway in almost two years, as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns. The play explores a single day in Brooklyn with seven Black men discovering the extraordinary together through a blend of spoken word, slam poetry, rhythm and humor.

Adding to a busy year, James teamed up with Sam Hyken, Jacomo Bairos and their Miami-based 30 member orchestra Nu Deco Ensemble on A Live Sensation, a live re-imagining of his Grammy nominated sophomore album to feel love/d.

Slated for release on Friday, A Live Sensation was recorded at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and was originally broadcast exclusively on BET as a benefit concert for the NAACP’s Backing the B.A.R. Initiative, with donations and funds going towards Black-owned bars and restaurants hurt as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns.

A Live Sensation will feature nine tracks from the live performance, which sees James blend his soulful vocals with Nu Deco Ensemble’s orchestral sound. The album features guest spots from Sensei Bueno and Samoht.

“‘A Live Sensation’ is a raw orchestral expression inspired by the verb: love. It is a live recorded offering to the world, taken from a film inspired by love,” Luke James says of the new album. Nu Deco Ensemble co-founder and conductor, and collaborator Jacomo Bairos adds “It feels cosmically aligned to once again collaborate with our friend – the sensational and truly creative Luke James. We all recognized his unbelievable talent as well his generous and collaborative spirit when we first met years ago, so to have him return to collaborate on a project that highlights his unique vision through his GRAMMY nominated album on such a dynamic and creative project simply means the world to us. We are blessed to share this moment together, bringing more beautiful and meaningful music experiences to such a wide audience.” 

A Live Sensation‘s latest single is a re-imagining of to fee love/d‘s “shine on,” that pairs James’, Samoht’s and Sensei Bueno’s soulful and achingly vulnerable vocals with a breathtakingly gorgeous arrangement of soaring strings, shimmering guitar and twinkling Rhodes. The end result is a song that sounds enormous yet deeply intimate, while yearning heavenward with a rare, but profound sincerity.

New Video: Redman Contributes to Posthumously Released Third Version of Phife Dawg’s and Illa J’s Loving Ode to Montreal

Born Malik Izaak Taylor, the legendary and beloved Phife Dawg was a co-founder of the multi-Grammy Award nominated, multi-platinum selling, equally legendary and beloved hip-hop act A Tribe Called Quest. Along with his work with Tribe, Phife Dawg was a solo artist, who collaborated with lengthy lists of acts and artists including Fu-Schnickens, Diamond D, Chi-Ali, Black Sheep‘s Dres, De La Soul‘s Trugoy and countless others, eventually releasing his solo debut album, 2000’s Ventilation: Da LP.

If you’re a hip-hop head, you’d remember that the members of A Tribe Called Quest — Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad — reunited in 2006 to help Phife Dawg with mounting medical expenses as a result of complications with diabetes. They co-headlined that year’s Bumbershoot Festival and played a handful of sold-out across across the States, Canada and Japan, including making appearances at the 2K Sports Bounce Tour. According to Phife Dawg, the members of the beloved hip-hop had planned to release an album to finish-off their six-album contract with Jive Records.

008, A Tribe Called Quest was the headlining act for that year’s Rock the Bells tour. Taylor, who had been dealing with complications from diabetes over the past decade, wound up receiving a kidney translate from his wife. At the end of the that year, Q-Tip released his long-awaited sophomore album The Renaissance, which he followed with the release of 2009’s Kamaal The Abstract, which had been shelved for over seven years.

Tribe co-headlined 2010’s Rock the Bells and that year, Taylor had planned to release his highly-anticipated sophomore album Songs in the Key of Phife: Volume 1 (Cheryl’s Big Son); however, continued health issues delayed the release of the album. In 2013, it was reported that Phife had went back to work on his sophomore album, which was re-titled MUTTYmorPHosis. During that same period, the tense relationship between the act’s co-founder was famously documented in Michael Rapaport’s 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.

rs of A Tribe Called Quest reunited to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the act’s debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. In what would be the last few months of his life, Taylor had been incredibly busy: he had finished his long-anticipated sophomore album, now titled Forever, collaborating with a collection of trusted, All-Star producers and artists. Additionally, Tribe had secretly gone into the studio to work on what would be their sixth and final album We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service. Tragically, Taylor died as the entire group were finishing the album; the remaining members finished the album and posthumously released the album, as a tribute to their co-founder.

ily and estate will be finally releasing Phife Dawg’s long-awaited sophomore album Forever later this year. “He worked really hard to complete his album before he transitioned, and he was ready to share an album that was near and dear to his heart with his fans,” Taylor’s family says of the album. “His fans meant the world to him.” So far, one single has been released from the album, “Nutshell, Part 2,” featuring Busta Rhymes and Redman — and as a taste of the album, it’s a classic New York hip-hop banger, in which three legendary emcees spit bars and trade zingers over a subtle DJ Rasta Root reworking of a J. Dilla production.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “French Kiss Deux,” which found the beloved and legendary “Five Foot Assassin” teamed up with Vancouver-based production duo Potatohead People and J. Dilla’s younger brother Illa J on a tribute to one of my favorite cities, Montreal that featured the two emcees trading verses admiring the city’s beautiful women and scenery over a subtle Potatohead People remix of the original. The end result is a vibey J. Dilla-like Golden Era hip-hop production centered around shimmering Rhodes, reverb drenched horns and twitter and woofer rocking beats. It’s an infectious, feel good banger — that for me brings back some fond memories of the Quebecois city.

Phife’s estate released a new version of French Kiss, “French Kiss Trois,” which features a new guest verse with the legendary Redman, who helps to build upon a loving ode to Montreal. The third installment came to life when Redman heard “Deux” back in May and fell so deeply in love with the song that he desperately wanted to become a part of a new version of the song.

Redman’s guest verse sees the legendary emcee alternating between hilariously crude while joking about finding a girl that would be comfortable enough to fart in the tub near you, and ask if she wants to watch wrestling or boxing. But simultaneously, Red manages to paint a loving picture of a strong, confident, down to earth woman — the sort of woman that straight men would consider themselves profoundly lucky to find. Maybe that woman can be found in lovely Montreal, right?

“It’s dope to see the evolution of this song, from the first version on my album Illa J to Phife’s version, to 6 years later Potatohead people doing a sick remix of the track, and now Redman adding a verse to it, with Ali Shaheed on the mix,” Illa J says in press notes. “It’s an honor having a track with 2 hip-hop legends on it, this one will always be a special joint for me.”

“When Red called my phone and told me that he had ‘French Kiss Deux’ on repeat, I knew what was coming next,” Dion “Roots” Liverpool adds. “Hedidn’t even have to ask me and I was excited. Once he sent me a video of his computer and pressed play, I remembered yelling really loud!!”

day Dion called and said that Redman had French Kiss on repeat and immediately wrote a verse, I was excited. Phife would be going crazy with Red being on this song,.”Phife’s wife Deisha Taylor shares. “Anytime you hear Redman on any track you know it will be dope. The atmosphere and energy shifts when he is on any song or walks in the building.”

“As soon as I heard the song, I played it back-to-back 100 + times. I had to hit Potatohead People and Dion to tell them I was writing a verse,” Redman says. “Being in the music video was amazing, and I know I’m doing it for Phife. I don’t think he gets enough credit, so God made this my mission to help best way I can.”

Executive produced by Phife Dawg’s longtime friend and collaborator, Dion “Roots” Liverpool and co-directed by Redman, Tony Reames and Konee Rock, the recently released video for “French Kiss Trois” follows Redman and Ill J in Montreal, admiring and hanging out with the city’s beautiful women — at beautiful locations. The video, features some gorgeous animation of Phife and a special guest appearance from Phife’s widow Deisha Taylor, lovingly reminiscing over photos of her husband. The video ends with the group coming together to celebrate and honor Phife’s life and work.

Virak is a rapidly rising house DJ and producer. Since 2006, Virak has spun in some of the world’s most prestigious and important bars and clubs, frequently sharing bills with Sven Vath, Marco Carola, Richy Ahmed, and others:

As a producer, he has released a handful of singles through a number of different labels, including the attention-grabbing “Sugar,” which was released through Adesso Music.

Born Vito Lucente, the Italian-Belgian house music and producer and DJ, best known as Junior Jack has had a lengthy career that traces back to the 90s: Lucente’s earliest days features collaborations with Eric Imhauser crafting Eurodance and with synth pop/hip-hop act Benny B.

By 1995, Lucente abandoned Eurodance and began experimenting with house music under the moniker Mr. Jack, which would morph into Junior Jack. Lucente had quickly amassed enviable success with a handful of UK Top 40 singles that included “My Feeling,” “Thrill Me (Such A Thrill),” “E Samba,” “Dare Me (Stupidisco) and “Da Hype,” which featured guest vocals from The Cure‘s Robert Smith. Lucente’s Junior Jack debut Trust It was released to critical acclaim.

While developing a reputation for crafting smash hits, Lucente simultaneously developed a reputation as a remixer, reworking songs by Whitney Houston, Moby, Bob Sinclar and Utada among others.

Lucente’s fifth release on his Adesso Music label finds the Italian-Belgian house music producer and DJ reworking Virak’s “Sugar.” Centered around skittering beats and percussion, shimmering synth arpeggios, a motorik groove and soulful vocals and a euphoric hook, the Junior Jack rework of “Sugar” is a sultry, deep house take on the original — with a crowd pleasing accessibility.

Throughout the course of the past year, I’ve written quite a bit about Carré,  a Los Angeles-based indie electro rock act featuring:

  • Julien Boyé (drums, percussion, vocals): Boyé has had stints as a touring member of Nouvelle Vague and James Supercave. Additionally, he has a solo recording act Acoustic Resistance, in which he employs rare instruments, which he has collected from all over the world.
  • Jules de Gasperis (drums, vocals, synths, production and mixing): de Gasperis is a Paris-born, Los Angeles-based studio owner. Growing up in Paris, he sharpened his knowledge of synthesizers, looping machines and other electronics around the same time that JusticeSoulwax and Ed Banger Records exploded into the mainstream.
  • Kevin Baudouin (guitar, vocals, synth, production): Baudouin has lived in Los Angeles the longest of the trio — 10 years — and he has played with a number of psych rock acts, developing a uniquely edgy approach to guitar, influenced by Nels ClineJonny Greenwood and Marc Ribot.

Deriving their name for the French word for “playing tight” and “on point,” the Los Angeles-based trio formed last year, and as the band’s Jules de Gasperis explains in press notes, “The making of our band started with this whole idea of having two drummers perform together. It felt like a statement. We always wanted to keep people moving and tend to focus on the beats first when we write.”

The act specializes in a French electronica-inspired sound that blends aggressive, dark and chaotic elements with hypnotic drum loops while thematically, their work generally touches upon conception, abstraction and distortion of reality centered around geometric shapes and patterns, and a surrealistic outlook on our world.

The trio released their self-titled EP earlier this year, and the EP featured “Urgency,” a track centered round a bed of tweeter and woofer rocking beats, layers of shimmering synth arpeggios, bursts of slashing guitars and gauzy, electronic textures. And while being hypnotic and dance floor friendly, “Urgency” possessed a murky and menacing air that brought Ministry and Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails to mind.

Recently, the members of the JOVM mainstay act partnered with local act President Drone, who completely reworked “Urgency” into a minimalist yet propulsive track centered around stuttering beats, wobbling and shimmering synth arpeggios, industrial clink and clang that pushes Carré’s sound into an even more dystopian and murky direction.

Los Angeles-based duo Junaco — Shahanna Jaffer and Joey LaRosa — derive their name for a term that generally means rolling with the pace of life and enjoying the present; living and working with intention, and not just running on autopilot. The act can trace their origins to the duo having a mutual desire to make music for music’s sake, and to write honest songs that meant something for them — and that listeners may be able to have mean something to them, as well. Much like the term that inspired their name, the duo have developed a deliberate creative approach, eschewing the commonly-held attempts to placate the short attention spans of the blogosphere.

The Los Angeles-duo released their Omar Yakar-produced EP Awry last year, an effort that featured the lovelorn “Willow,” which to my ears brought Caveman, Eliza Shaddad and even Fleetwood Mac to mind — and “In Between,” which seemed equally indebted to 70s AM rock and Mazzy Star. Interestingly, Junaco’s latest single “In Between (Reprise)” is a reworking of the successful “In Between.” Collaborating with James McAllister, the reworked song is an ethereal and softer take on the song, evoking the confusing feelings of change, uncertainty and progress with a plaintive slow-burn.

“’In Between’ was one of the first songs we ever wrote, at a time when we both felt a lack of control in our own lives – unsure of how to get to where we wanted to be,” the duo explain in press notes. “Leaving town and writing felt like a step towards something – even though we didn’t know what that was. We didn’t intend to write stories, we just wanted to describe a feeling.” And with the reworked version the song, the band feels the song has come full circle from its original intent, now more than ever.

“There’s something about accepting the unknown that’s very comforting, almost feeling like a surrender. Each time we’ve played the song live, I’ve always felt a relief from just saying ‘i don’t know.’ Now, we’re experiencing a collective feeling of uncertainty – no matter who you are and what you believe. The reprise is a reminder.” 

The term ‘Junaco’ means rolling with the pace of life and enjoying the present; living and working with intention, not just running, which is what they seem to be doing with “In Between (Reprise).” With lyrics “I know this is the way I have to go, but I don’t know, I’ll be back and I will be what I show, when I go home,” Junaco expresses the conflicting feelings of change and progress through soft and lush vocal

With James McAlister as a collaborator, the expression of emotions in the song began to adapt and change: “Working with James McAlister in revisiting the song has given it a new color; he solidified our intention of creating a mood with our music.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Yumi Zouma Releases a Stylish Visual for Glistening Pop Rework of “My Palms Are Your Reference To Hold Your Heart”

Throughout the course of this site’s ten-plus-year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed synth pop act Yumi Zouma. Last year, the JOVM mainstays fiend Polyvinyl Record Co, who released their critically applauded, self-produced, third album Truth or Consequences earlier this year, an album that thematically focuses on distance — both real and metaphorical; romantic and platonic heartbreak, disillusionment and feeling (and being) out of reach.

For the overwhelming majority of the acts I’ve covered throughout this site’s history, touring is often the most important part of the promotional campaign for their new release. Frequently, before the tour, the band/artist/collective in question will begin to figure out how to re-contextualize both brand new and older material for a live setting, imagining how a crowd will react to what they’ll play in their live set. Of course, much like countless acts across the world, Yumi Zouma’s hopes to tour and play the material off Truth or Consequences to their devoted fans was canceled as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns.

Slated for an October 28, 2020 release, Truth or Consequences (Alternate Versions) is the JOVM mainstay act’s response to the lost opportunity to re-contextualize and explore the boundaries of the original album’s material through live fan engagement. Truth or Consequences (Alternate Versions)’ latest single is a reworked version of “My Palms Are Your Reference To Hold Your Heart.” Centered around glistening synth arpeggios, Christie Simpson’s ethereal yet plaintive vocals, a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitars, propulsive polyrhythm, the reworked version retains the song’s strutting hook but manages to give the song a tropical disco like air — all while retaining the original’s achingly wistful air.

Directed by the band, the recently released and incredibly stylish visual for “My Palms Are Reference to Hold Your Heart” features live footage of the individual members of the band playing the song, projected on the wall behind the band’s Christie Simpson, further evoking the sense of isolation from our friends and loved ones — and the other very human experiences we can’t have right now.

“This version of the song we affectionately shorten to ‘Palms’ started with just a few chords that I’d tried out underneath the vocal melody – I felt a little stuck with what to do next, but I sent the minimal scraps I had along to Charlie anyway, so he could give it a crack,” Yumi Zouma’s Christie Simpson explains in press notes. “When it came back the mood was completely transformed – into this sparkly, ABBA-esque dark disco feel that it has now. This video came about much in the same way, starting as an idea from Josh to shoot a live performance against projections of the rest of the band when we couldn’t all be together – and transforming into this James-Turrell inspired installation in an infinity-walled space, with programmed lights and a makeup artist and a black suit. Both ended up more slick, more fun, more flashy – and in (what felt like) the blink of an eye. So we hope you enjoy, and dance in your bedroom, and take a little moment of spontaneous silliness in a world that is undoubtedly weighing pretty heavy on us all right now.”

New Video: Cutting Crew Revisit and Re-work Their 80s Smash Hit

Tracing their origins back to when its founding members Nick Van Eede (guitar, vocals) and Canadian-born Kevin MacMichael toured Canada as members of The Drivers and Fast Forward respectively, the Grammy-nominated, Sussex, UK-based rock act Cutting Crew was formed in London in 1985. Within a few months of their formation, the band — then a duo — signed with Siren Records/Virgin on the strength of their demos. 

By 1986, the band expanded into a quartet and went into the studio to record their breakthrough full-length debut Broadcast, which featured their smash-hit single “(I Just) Died in Your Arms.” The song was a multi-format hit in the States, hitting number 1 on the Top 40, number 4 on Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, number 24 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks and an extended remix version landed at number 37 on the Hot Dance/Club Play chart. The song also landed on the top of the Canadian and Norwegian Charts while hitting in the top 10 of the singles charts in the UK, Switzerland, South African, Sweden, Ireland and Austria. Undoubtably, the act’s biggest song, it’s arguably one of the more memorable songs of the 80s — and as a result, you’ll hear the song in Hot Tub Time Machine, Stranger Things, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. 

Broadcast also featured “I’ve Been in Love Before” and “One for the Mockingbird,” both of which also received massive commercial success with the songs reaching the Billboard Top 10 and Top 20 Charts respectively. As a result of their success the band wound up opening for the likes of The Bangles, Jefferson Starship and Huey Lewis & The News, eventually playing their own sold-out headlining shows. 

The band went on to write and record two more albums — 1989’s sophomore effort The Scattering and 1992’s third album Compus Mentus. After Kevin MacMichael’s death, the band went on an extended hiatus but after about a decade, van Eede chose to revive the band with a new lineup. And with the new lineup, the band recorded their fourth album 2006’s Grinning Souls in MacMichael’s hometown in Nova Scotia. The band then went on to release 2015’s Add to Favourites. Since the band’s reunion, they’ve toured across Mexico, Canada, Australia and Japan. 

The band’s latest album Ransomed Healed Restored Forgiven was released earlier this year, and the album’s latest single finds the band re-working “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” with a string arrangement while retaining the song’s familiar and beloved elements — including that rapturous chorus. Certainly, as a child of the 80s listening to the original and the reworked version bring back a lot of memories — but while subtly making the song more contemporary. 

New Audio: Makaya McCraven Re-Interprets and Re-Imagines Gil Scott-Heron’s Last Album

Gil Scott-Heron was a Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician, best known for his critically applauded and influential spoken word work in the ’70s and ’80s, which fused elements of jazz, blues and soul paired with lyrics that focused on race, poverty and other sociopolitical concerns. Much ink has been spilled on how Scott-Heron’s Pieces of a Man, which features his most famous, most well-known piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and Winter in America have influenced hip-hop and neo-soul.

In the last decade of  his life, Scott-Heron battled drug addiction and had several stints in prison;  however, he still managed to be a remarkably prolific artist, recording, writing and touring when he was able. Interestingly, the Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician’s last album, Richard Russell-produced  I’m New Here was first conceptualized in 2005 and was recorded in a series of recording sessions that started in January 2008. Released in 2010, the critically applauded I’m New Here was Scott-Heron’s first album in 13 years. Arguably, one of the most personal albums of his lengthy and influential career, I’m New Here featured introspective and confessional lyrics touching upon and expressing themes of regret, reconciliation, redemption, pride, dignity, defiance and acceptance paired with sparse arrangements and a minimalist production.

During the last year of his life, the influential, Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician finished work on a memoir and returned to the studio with Richard Russell to record stripped down versions of some of his best known material. Both the memoir and the material, which was released as Nothing New was released posthumously on what would have been Scott-Heron’s 65th birthday.

Makaya McCraven is a Paris-born Chicago-based jazz drummer, beatmaker and producer, who has released a run of critically applauded, genre-defying and re-defining albums that includes 2017’s Highly Rare, 2018’s Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) and 2018’s Universal Beings through Chicago-based International Anthem Records. Interestingly, Highly Rare caught the attention of XL Recordings‘ Richard Russell, who recruited the acclaimed Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer to re-imagine Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.  Slated for release this Friday through XL Recordings, We’re New Again marks the second full-length interpretation of the album, following Jamie xx’s remix, 2011’s We’re New Here. (Coincidentally, We’re New Again will be released exactly a decade to the day of the original’s release.)

McCraven’s We’re New Again places the original I’m New Here sessions in a new context: using samples collected from McCraven’s improvised live sessions with new wave Chicago jazz musicians and vintage samples taken from the acclaimed Paris-born, Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer’s parents’ recordings.  McCraven’s re-imagining of the material attempts to reconnect  the legendary and deeply influential artist with his birthplace and hometown, as well as a lineage of jazz and blues that perfectly compliments Scott-Heron’s imitable voice. 

Clocking in at about 74 seconds, I’m New Here album track “Where Did The Night Go” is a hauntingly sparse and uneasy track in which Scott-Heron’s grizzled baritone recites half-sung, half-spoken observations on insomnia, loneliness, desperation and writer’s block. Last month, I wrote about We’re New Again’s first single, “Where Did The Night Go” found McCraven pairing Scott-Heron’s voice with a sample from Stephen McCraven Quartet’s “Silhouette of Eric,” gorgeous, fluttering flute and thumping boom-bap meets bop jazz-like drumming.  McCraven’s take on the song creates a warmer vibe than the original while giving it a deceptively anachronistic sound, as though it could have been recorded during the Pieces of a Man or Winter in America sessions. 

I’m New Here’s album title track “I’m New Here” is a folksy-leaning track in which Scott-Heron’s grizzled baritone is paired with a gorgeous and easy-going strummed guitar, which gives the song a contemplative, autumnal feel. Knowing that the legendary artist died a year after the release of I’m New Here gives the track an aching sense of mortality, just under the surface. McCraven’s re-imagining of the song gives the material a dreamy and ethereal air, as Scott-Heron’s voice is paired with a shimmering harp arpeggios, squiggling blasts of keys, some expressive guitar lines and boom-bap like drumming. But along with that it finds McCraven and company making a vital connection between hip-hop, jazz and poetry while pointing out Scott-Heron’s momentous influence. 

New Audio: Acclaimed Jazz Drummer, Beatmaker, and Producer Makaya McCraven Reinterprets Gil Scott-Heron’s “I’m New Here”

Gil Scott-Heron was a Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician, best known for his critically applauded and influential spoken word work in the ’70s and ’80s, which managed to fuse elements of jazz, blues and soul paired with lyrics that focused on race an other sociopolitical concerns. Much ink has been spilled on how Scott-Heron’s Pieces of a Man, which features his most famous, most well-known piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” and Winter in America have influenced hip-hop and neo-soul.

In the last decade of  his life, Scott-Heron battled drug addiction and had several stints in prison;  however, he still managed to be a remarkably prolific artist, recording, writing and touring when he was able. Interestingly, the Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician’s last album, Richard Russell-produced  I’m New Here was first conceptualized in 2005 and was recorded in a series of recording sessions that started in January 2008. Released in 2010, the critically applauded I’m New Here was Scott-Heron’s first album in 13 years. Arguably, the most personal albums of his lengthy and influential career, I’m New Here featured introspective and confessional lyrics touching upon and expressing themes of regret, reconciliation, redemption, pride, dignity, defiance and acceptance paired with sparse arrangements and a minimalist production.

During the last year of his life, the influential, Chicago-born, New York-based poet, author, spoken word artist, singer/songwriter and musician finished work on a memoir and returned to the studio with Richard Russell to record stripped down versions of some of his best known material. Both the memoir and the material, which was released as Nothing New was released posthumously on what would have been Scott-Heron’s 65th birthday.

Makaya McCraven is a Paris-born Chicago-based jazz drummer, beatmaker and producer, who has released a run of critically applauded, genre-defying and re-defining albums that includes 2017’s Highly Rare, 2018’s Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) and 2018’s Universal Beings through Chicago-based International Anthem Records. Interestingly, Highly Rare caught the attention of XL Recordings’ Richard Russell, who recruited the acclaimed Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer to re-imagine Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.  Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through XL Recordings, We’re New Again marks the second full-length interpretation of the album, following Jamie xx’s remix, 2011’s We’re New Here. (Coincidentally, We’re New Again will be released exactly a decade to the day of the original’s release.)

McCraven’s We’re New Again places the original I’m New Here sessions in a new context. using samples collected from McCraven’s improvised live sessions with new wave Chicago jazz musicians and vintage samples taken from the acclaimed Paris-born, Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer’s parents’ recordings.  It’s meant to reconnect Scott-Heron with his birthplace and hometown, as well as a lineage of jazz and blues that perfectly compliments the Chicago-born legendary artist’s imitable voice.

Clocking in at about 74 seconds, I’m New Here album track “Where Did The Night Go” is a hauntingly sparse and uneasy track in which Scott-Heron’s grizzled baritone recites half-sung, half-spoken observations on insomnia, loneliness, desperation and writer’s block. We’re New Again’s first single finds McCraven pairing the legendary and influential artist’s imitable vocals with a sample from Stephen McCraven Quartet’s “Silhouette of Eric,” gorgeous, fluttering flute and thumping boom-bap meets bop jazz-like drumming.  And while giving an eerie and uneasy track a subtle bit of warmth, McCraven’s take manages to feel deceptively anachronistic, as though it could have been recorded during the Pieces of a Man or Winter in America sessions.