Three For Love Vol. 3–The Neptunes Edition

In case you didn’t check out the thoroughly enjoyable breakdown of The Neptunes’ ill catalogue over at Metal Lungies earlier this week, I’m keeping the vibe going by making this installment of Three For Love an extended Neptunes Beat Drop.

The first one I’m posting is a SERIOUS guilty pleasure of mine, so guilty that I’ll probably lose alot of male friends….but gain more FEMALE friends, so eat shit guys!  Of course I’m talking about the song…..

 

“Girlfriend”

 

by

 

 

NSYNC!

 

 

featuring!

 

 

Nelly!

I know….not hip hop.  However, when this song came out, I could not help myself to like it.  And that’s the mark of great songs/producers/artists–looking over the tracks the Neptunes have done, I realized how many I secretly loved in the past (“Danger,” “Southern Hospitality,” “Nothin”) but fronted in order to protect my image of “underground hip hop stalwart.”  What can I say–I was 18-22 years old and reading Kafka at Temple.  And I didn’t even do drugs! 

Now that I’m older and fatter, I have no problem enjoying a great song.  And that’s where “Girlfriend” comes in.  As a last gasp for NSYNC to stay relevant, “Girlfriend” coupled with “Gone” opened them up to the urban audience for the first time in their hair gelled career.  You don’t know how many people came up to me at Coconuts circa ’02 and said, “Yo dog, y’all got that NSYNC jawn?  Da jawn wif “Gone” or whatever?  It’s on Power 99 all the time.” 

“Gone” was a great ballad though I could’ve done without seeing Justin Timberlake’s bare feet and godawful cross tattoo in the video.  “Girlfriend” used the same clavinet sound from Beenie Man’s “Girls Dem Sugar” and the same Triton drums used on almost every Neptunes song from ’98-’04.  Nelly’s 2 verses are whatever, but I’d still much rather hear him spit that MC Lyrical Pyramid Purifier.  And the hook is as catchy as the clap at Nite on Broad.

I’m just Kidding like Jason–but why is he on the Olympics men’s basketball team?

Get it HERE and buy NSYNC HERE (or just borrow the CD from your kid sister/gay co-worker).

*****

Another forgotten gem of the Neptunes catalgoue is their remix of Sade’s “By Your Side,” an absolute gorgeous song from her comeback LP Lover’s Rock.  There is no guilty pleasure association in regards to Sade–the woman has been melting grown men since the 80s* and her backing band’s 2 albums as Sweetback are required for late night rendevous.

*I remember when Sinbad had his own show on FOX in the early 90s and in his apartment he had a framed picture of Sade which became a prominent prop/theme on the show.  As I recall, she wasn’t half naked or doing anything remotely saucy on the poster, but Sinbad could not help himself from gushing over her in the show.  I was too young to appreciate Sade at the time, but I imagine there were many grown men who felt like Sinbad at the time (though hopefully they weren’t wearing polka dot pants with a semi-Gumby fade). 

The Neptunes remix of “By Your Side” has more prominent drums than the original and combines an ambient flute with stutter step guitars and bright bells on the chorus.  It has a trip hop feel to it without being all cold and British.  It’s just as beautiful as the original with an updated sound that doesn’t get in the way of Sade’s vocals, which should never happen on any recording ever.  It manages to be contemporary without feeling forced or making Sade seem younger or hipper.

Listen to it HERE and buy Sade’s Lover Rock HERE

*****

Finally, this is an artist I’ve been meaning to highlight since I started this blog during the lean and trying times of May 2008.  Kenna is one of the best artists alive that only nerds know about.  He did have a song featured in a Verizon commercial last year and he toured with Nelly Furtado, but it’s hard to draw a pop audience to a tall drink of water from Cincinnati by way of Ethiopia who picks the weirdest Neptunes track to sing on.  And by weird I mean amazing.

“Sun Red Sky Blue,” with its guitar and rhythm reminiscent of The Police,  is from his last album Make Sure They See My Face which was incredible and got almost no pub.  Kenna’s sound is almost exclusively built by Chad Hugo, the heavily tatted “silent” member of the Neptunes who can play the tuba and wear T-shirts I could never fit in.  It’s more challenging work but more rewarding because Kenna’s voice is so distinct, his beats so layered, his persona so vacant.  I remember getting a bootleg copy of his first album New Sacred Cow in college and including at least 1 song from it on every mix CD I made for myself or others for a good 2 years.  Make Sure They See My Face is a more synth heavy and radio friendly album, but it doesn’t sacrifice the leftfield mambos that make his work with Chad Hugo so enjoyable the first time around.

Get the song HERE and buy everything Kenna HERE

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Three For Love Vol. 2

I’ve read tons of articles and blog posts about Hot Chip.  I never really got into all the hoopla until I heard their cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Seduction.”  Snoop’s version is the coolest thing a rapper with such a pimpalicious persona has ever done.  The video is brilliant, especially when he’s wearing the bonnet like Prince/working women during World War II while chewing on a vocoder tube.  “Gin and Juice” seems light years ago in comparison.

Hot Chip’s cover of “Sensual Seduction” is different in that they remove the intentional hilarity of a former LBC gangbanger making a cheesy electro R&B jam and focus on the matter at hand–getting those panties off!  It’s really hard to think that guys looking like this can pull women from the same pool as Snoop though:

Anyway, Hot Chip’s cover of “Sensual Seduction” is a slow burner built on a breezy guitar and some Roland drums.  There’s no real payoff–it’s ambient, meditative.  It would work in a makeout session as the song that soundtracks going from 1st to 2nd base.  Fellas, go your TIm Raines on:

http://www.zshare.net/audio/13230120470421fd/

…….

The early 90s were a great time in R&B because some of the biggest acts were so enamored with knockin’ da boots or wearing product in their hair that it didn’t yet occur to them to rip off whatever was big in rap music.  Sure, some of the lyrics were trashy, but dammit some of these guys had CLASS!

Shai was one of the few groups that didn’t make you think one of them had herpes.  Sure they ripped off Boyz II Men’s vocal stylings, but “If I Ever Fall in Love” is better than just about anything on Cooley High Harmony sans “Motown Philly,” including Michael Bivins’ “consulting” fees.  Oh and the guy wearing the neon green hoodie–is that the first Bape outfit ever captured on film? 

Here’s the link for Shai’s “If I Ever Fall in Love”:

http://www.zshare.net/audio/132304133b801bf3/

……

Finally, we have a song from Bilal’s sophmore album which has never seen the light of day.  Bilal is the most interesting singer to come of the Neo-Soul era (’99-’02) because point blank, dude scares me.  For real.  If I saw him in person, I’d hide in a broom closet.  There’s something about him that terrifies me–he looks a panther or a puma.  He’s definitely more of a Rated-R guy than the dude from the PG-13 movie everyone really hope makes it (to quote Michael Scott, “Swingers.  It starred Jon Favareau and the tall guy from Dodge Ball”).

Anyway, the guy’s got some pipes.  It’s been a joy to hear him contribute to songs by Jay-Z, the Clipse, Common, Dilla, Badu and more the past few years.  His first album wasn’t too bad, and “Soul Sista” is still thick and chunky 7 years later.  But what really excited me was hearing this song “Something to Hold On To” from his unreleased second album Love For Sale.  Jay Electronica recently rhymed over it for his demo, and I’m pretty sure Mr. Porter of D12 produced it.  Bilal’s version is phenomenal–arching, string-heavy, soulful, and modern.  Bilal is like the Kenna of R&B in that artists and industry insiders love the guy but he can’t catch a break from a major label.  Sigh…

Check out Bilal’s “Something to Hold On To” than write nasty emails to Jimmy Iovine demanding Bilal’s second album:

http://www.zshare.net/audio/1323074856759e34/

………

Buy Hot Chip’s music here
Buy Shai’s music here
Buy Bilal’s music here

“Love is like the measels: we all have to go through it”–Jerome K. Jerome

Three For Love Vol. 1

three for love

Here’s a little secret about most rappers: sometimes we just want to sing really good (or bad) love songs. Here’s the problem: minus Phonte of Little Brother, Mos Def, k-os, and a few others, we can’t frickin sing. At all. Most rappers would never admit this. Some are openly frustrated 70s R&B crooners (I see you Snoop and Ghostface).

With that in mind, I’m starting a segment called Three For Love. I’m going to spotlight 3 love songs I secretly wish I wrote.

The first track I picked sounds like someone in my position–all desire but not enough talent to be a certified crooner (whattup Dom P!). His name is Pharrell Williams, and he’s been surprisingly successful singing memorable hooks with not much…oh what’s the word…skill? “Frontin'” is probably the best example of this. Think about how BIG this song was when it came out 5 years ago, then think about if you’d ever want to hear Pharrelll’s falsetto ever again. If you watch the video again it looks like the genesis of hipster rap. And I’m still madly in love with the smokin’ hot redhead–any leads on her, fellas?

weird dress

I’m posting the 9th Wonder remix of “Frontin.” It’s based on a sample of “My Cherie Amor,” still my favorite Stevie Wonder song of all time. Like most 9th Wonder beats, it’s does the job of keeping your head bouncing while not getting in the way of the artist.

http://www.zshare.net/audio/1174291162a40ebd/

jamie lidell

Up next is a song from the new Jamie Lidell album, “Jim.” The track “All I Wanna Do” reminds me of Sam Cooke and slowdancing in the summertime. I was huge fan of Jamie’s last album “Multiply” even as James Blunt completely ripped off the same album cover (assclown). This time around Jamie ditches the electronic glitches and quirky effects for a straight forward ol’ soul album. “All I Wanna Do” has the hiss of analog tape, and that’s fine by me. Fellas, if you can’t close the deal with this song playing, may God have mercy on your soul.

http://www.zshare.net/audio/11742956285efd01/

Finally, we have the greatest hip hop love song of all time. Sorry Tribe, Common, LL, and Apache but Rakim’s “Mahogany” is the perfect comination of slick, sexy, visual, mature, and Memphis soul. I discovered this song on “The 18th Letter” double album I bought at the Franklin Mills mall in the winter ’97 as I was trying to write my own love song with a sweetheart from the great Northeast. That never panned out, but acquiring this song was worth the trip.

rakim

The one thing that always bugged me about this song is the line “You know how far a kiss could go, fuck around and miss the show.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but Rakim NEVER said the F word on any song besides this one. He’s the cleanest lyricist of all time, and yet he decides to say Fuuuuuuudge on a song about an all-world cover girl he met cooling outside the Palladium. Weird.

http://www.zshare.net/audio/11742991a6b4d9f9/

Buy Pharrell’s musichere

Buy Jamie Lidell’s music here

Buy Rakim’s music here