Tag: A Tribe Called Quest

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Currently comprised of Gilbert Elorreaga, Mark Gonzales, Greg Gonzalez, Josh Levy, Sweet Lou, Beto Martinez, Adrian Quesada, John Speice and Alex Marrero, the Austin, TX-based act Brownout was formed ten years as a side project featuring members of the Grammy Award-winning Latin funk act Grupo Fantasma, but interestingly enough, the project has evolved into its own as a unique effort, separate from the members’ primary gigs. Over the past few years, the act has garnered critical praise — they won their third Austin Music Award last year, while composing and arranging work that’s unflinchingly progressive while evoking the influences of WAR, Cymande and Funkadelic. Unsurprisingly, the members of Brownout have been a highly-sought after backing band,  who have collaborated with GZA, Prince, Daniel Johnston and Bernie Worrell, and adding to a growing profile, they’ve made appearances across the major festival circuit, including Bonnaroo, High Sierra Music Festival, Pickathon, Bear Creek Musical Festival, Utopia Festival, Pachanga Fest, and others.

Throughout the course of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Austin-based act, and as you may know, the band has released five full-length albums: 2008’s Homenaje, 2009’s Aguilas and Cobras, 2012’s Oozy, 2015’s Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath and 2016’s Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath, Vol. II — with their last two albums Latin funk interpretations and re-imaginings of the legendary work of Black Sabbath. Of course, during their run together, Brownout has released a handful of EPs, including 2017’s critically applauded Over the Covers, their first batch of original material in some time.

As a child of the 80s, hip-hop was a nothing short of a revelation to me and countless others. Every day after school, I practically ran home to catch Yo! MTV Raps with Ed Lover and Dr. Dre and BET’s Rap City and during the weekends I’d catch Yo! MTV Raps with the legendary Fab 5 Freddy  — all to catch Run DMC, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Biz Markie, Das EFX, A Tribe Called Quest, X Clan and Public Enemy among an incredibly lengthy list. (Admittedly, I didn’t watch Rap City as much. Even as a kid, I hated their host and I found their overall production values to be incredible cheap. Plus, I really loathed how they almost always managed to either cut to a commercial or the end credits during the middle of a fucking song — and it was always during your favorite jam. Always.) 28 years ago, Public Enemy released their seminal album Fear of a Black Planet, and unsurprisingly, the album wound up profoundly influencing the future founding members of Grupo Fantasma/Brownout. The band’s Greg Gonzalez (bass) remembers how a kid back in junior high school hipped him to the fact that Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” was built on James Brown samples. As a teenager, Beto Martinez (guitar) speaks fondly of alternating between hip-hop and metal tapes on his walkman (much like me). And Adrian Quesada remembers falling in love with Public Enemy and their sound at an early age. “When I got into hip-hop, I was looking for this aggressive outlet . . .,” Quesada says in press notes, “and I didn’t even understand what they were pissed off about, because I was twelve and lived in Laredo . . . but I loved it, and I felt angry along with them.”

So as true children of the 80s and 90s, the members of Brownout, with the influence and encouragement of Fat Beats‘ Records Joseph Abajian have tackled Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet — with their own unique take on the legendary material and sound. And although they were eager to get back to work on new, original material, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay homage to one of their favorite acts. As Abajian says in press notes “I thought their sound would work covering Public Enemy songs.” He adds “it was good to know they were P.E. fans . .  We came up with a track listing and they went to work.”

Understandably, translating sample-based music to a live band turned out to be more challenging than everyone anticipated. Quesada tried to get into the heads of the legendary production team the Bomb Squad in order to reinterpret Public Enemy’s work. “Imagine the Bomb Squad going back in time and getting the J.B.’s in the studio and setting up a couple analog synths and then playing those songs.” And while some songs closely hew to the original, other songs use the breakbeats as a jumping-off point for Mark “Speedy” Gonzales’ horn arrangements, synth work by Peter Stopchinski and DJ Trackstar‘s turntablism. “Our approach is never in the tribute sense,” Adrian Quesada explains. “We’ve always taken it and made it our own, whether it’s the Brown Sabbath thing or this Public Enemy thing.”

Fear of a Brown Planet comes on the heels of several Brown Sabbath tours, and while being an incredibly tight and funky band, the members of the band are incredibly psyched to bring revolutionary music to the people, especially in light of both the current   social climate and that they’re not particularly known for having an overt political agenda. “If there’s any way that we can use the already political and protest nature [of P.E.’s music], we would like to try,” Beto says. “The album’s title, Fear of Brown Planet is definitely a relevant idea today and we’re not afraid to put it out there, because we want to speak out.”

Fear of a Brown Planet‘s first single is Brownout’s take on “Fight the Power,” and while retaining the breakbeats that you’ll remember fondly, their instrumental take is a funky JB’s meets Booker T-like jam, centered around an incredible horn line, bursts of analog synth and sinuous guitar line. As a result, Brownout’s take is warmly familiar but without being a carbon copy; in fact, they manage to breathe a much different life into the song without erasing its revolutionary sound or its righteous fury. Check out how it compares to the original below.

New Video: Brass Against the Machine Returns with a Funky Cover of RATM’s “Guerrilla Radio”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the New York-based collective Brass Against the Machine, and as you may recall, the act currently comprised of founding member Brad Hammonds (guitar, arrangement), Andrew Gutauskas (baritone sax, arrangement), Darius Christian (vocals, trombone), Sophia Urista (vocals), Mariel Bildsten (trombone), Wayne Tucker (trumpet), Oskar Stenmark (trumpet), Steven Duffy (sousaphone), the New York-based collective Brass Against the Machine specializes in covering protest music but with a unique sound and approach, as their sound meshes rock, alternative rock, hip-hop and New Orleans brass — and for repertoire that features covers of Rage Against the Machine, Living Colour, Gil Scott-Heron, Jane’s Addiction, A Tribe Called Quest, Led Zeppelin and a list of others.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0kJLW2EwMg&w=560&h=315]

The band is prepping for a series of live shows in the NYC area, which you can see below — and to build up buzz for those shows, the collective released an incredibly funky brass-backed interpretation of Rage’s “Guerrilla Radio” — and with vocalist Sophia Urista confidently taking filling the vocal role of Zack de la Rocha, there’s a decided and forceful reminder that women have long been the heart, soul and moral backbone of any resistance movement against corrupt and venal power — but also serves as a reminder, that music is a powerful weapon.

Live Footage: Check Out Brass Against the Machine’s Swaggering Cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of”

Currently comprised of founding member Brad Hammonds (guitar, arrangement), Andrew Gutauskas (baritone sax, arrangement), Darius Christian (vocals, trombone), Sophia Urista (vocals), Mariel Bildsten (trombone), Wayne Tucker (trumpet), Oskar Stenmark (trumpet), Steven Duffy (sousaphone), the New York-based collective Brass Against the Machine specializes in covering protest music but with a unique sound and approach, as their sound meshes rock, alternative rock, hip-hop and New Orleans brass — and for repertoire that features covers of Rage Against the Machine, Living Colour, Gil Scott-Heron, Jane’s Addiction, A Tribe Called Quest, Led Zeppelin and a list of others; in fact, they recently released an attention grabbing mashup of Beyonce’s “Freedom” with Rage’s “Freedom,” which you can check out below.

However, what I wanted to call your attention is to Brass Against the Machine’s  cover of one of my favorite Rage track’s “Killing in the Name Of,” which retains the original’s forceful and righteous fury while adding a swaggering and bombastic horn line; and interestingly enough, having a woman fill Zack de al Rocha role should remind the listener — or in turn, the viewer — that women always have long been the heart, soul and moral backbone of any resistance against power. And just as important, let this cover also serve as a reminder that music is arguably one of the most powerful weapons we have. 

The band is current prepping for their live debut at Brooklyn Bowl on December 18. 

Certainly, if you’ve been frequenting the site over the past 12-18 months or so you’ve come across a handful of posts on Melbourne, Australia-based emcee REMI  and his producer and collaborator Sensible J. The duo rose to national prominence in their homeland with 2014’s critically and commercially successful  Raw X Infinity, an album that was named Triple J‘s Album of the Week and the Independent Hip Hop Album of the Year by the Australian Independent Record Association, a well as receiving international attention from OkayAfricaJUICE, laut.deNPR‘s All Things Considered among others. And adding to a growing profile, the duo were named “Australian Breakthrough Artist of the Year,” and followed that up with touring nationally and across both the UK and EU with Danny BrownVic MensaDe La SoulJoey Bada$$ and Damon Albarn.

Last year saw the release of the duo’s critically applauded sophomore full-length effort, Divas and Demons, which paired their strengths — an incredibly adept lyricist and storyteller, whose stories possessed an uncommonly earnest, soul-baring honesty and an incredibly dope and soulful producer, whose sound and production nods at the great J. Dilla, DJ Premier and others; in fact, you’d probably recall “For Good,” a charmingly coquettish love song in which its male and female narrators have misunderstandings, bicker and fight, cheat and drive each other insane in a youthfully dysfunctional relationship featuring a guest spot from Sydney, Australia-based poet, visual artist and singer/songwriter Sampa The Great rhyming and singing over a warm and soulful production that nodded at The Roots and Erykah Badu‘s “You Got Me;” “Substance Therapy,” the album’s second single featured Remi rhyming honestly about how drinking, drugging and womanizing as an escape from himself and his depression only managed to further mire him in depression paired with a production that emphasizes the rapid vacillation of self-loathing, self-doubt, fear, anger, and desperate escapism of the severely depressed; “Lose Sleep” was a deeply personal song that drew from REMI’s own experiences a mixed race man in Australia and in the world — and in some way, he wanted the song to be a message to other mixed race kids about that weird feeling of feeling as though you could never quite fit in; but that his experience and story, as of those of others matters in a much larger story; and the last single I wrote about “Contact Hi/High/I” featured REMI along with a guest spot from  Hiatus Kaiyote‘s Silent Jay rhyming and singing about what seems to be a permanent state of adolescence, which constantly validates itself through vice and excess.

Interestingly enough, this year marks Sensible J’s solo debut — and his first single “Fire Sign” is a a collaboration with his friends and frequent collaborators REMI and Sampha the Great, which features the two rhyming over a thumping and swaggering, soulful groove, reminiscent of the aforementioned J. Dilla, thanks to a production featuring twinkling keys, boom bap-like drum programming and a ridiculous, anthemic hook; in fact, in a playful turn, the trio pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest — and it shouldn’t be surprising because much like the legendary Tribe and De La Soul, the Melbourne-based trio specialize in an overwhelmingly soulful, thoughtful hip-hop, serving as a reminder that the genre and its practitioners have always been wildly diverse; after all, NWA, Tribe, De La, Public Enemy, Kid ‘N’ Play, MC Lyte and others all existed simultaneously.

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this over the past few years, you’ve come across several posts featuring JOVM mainstay artist Rhythm Scholar, who has developed a reputation for being both incredibly prolific and for a series of genre-mashing remixes stuffed to the gills with both obscure and recognizable samples that are reminiscent of  Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys and Girl Talk. He’s also developed reputation for releasing a series of more straightforward and traditional-leaning remixes, including a breezy and jazzy remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” consisting of cascading organs, strummed guitar, double bass, warm blasts of funky horn and swirling electronics and a breezy, lounge funk/lounge jazz leaning remix of Tribe’s “Bonita Applebum.” 

Rhythm Scholar returns with a remix of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s 1991 smash-hit “Summertime” and while retaining Will Smith‘s cool delivery and the song’s overall nostalgia-tinged Roy Ayers-like vibe the remix adds bits and snippets of samples from Kool and The Gang, Dexter Wansel, James Brown, Dave Grusin, The Eagles and a few other hidden gems, including some soulfully meandering keys and boom-bap beats.