Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Madlib, Cut Chemist Honor Influential Composers

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

The psychedelic jazz composer David Axelrod (pictured) is not the same David Axelrod who masterminded Barack Obama's presidential campaign, but this Axelrod is more important for our purposes here at Pitchfork. This Axelrod got his start producing ridiculously lush soul records for Lou Rawls before going on to work his swirl on weirdos as diverse as jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and garage-rock freaks the Electric Prunes. And, weirdly enough, his work is probably more widely heard these days than it was when he was at his 70s peak, thanks to all the rap producers who have plundered his catalogue extensively. On songs like Dr. Dre's "The Next Episode" and Lil Wayne's "Dr. Carter", a lot of what you're hearing comes straight from Axelrod.

Over the coming months, VTech's Timeless Concert Series will honor Axelrod, along with a few other influential producers and arrangers--crate-digger faves all-- in a ridiculously cool-sounding set of events. The shows will take place in Los Angeles, at California State University's Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex. On April 5, Axelrod will perform along with a 26-piece orchestra at the series' final show, with turntablist J.Rocc opening.

The other shows will also feature orchestras and opening act DJ/producers; the openers will design a set based on the headlining composer's work. The first concert, on February 1, will feature Ethiopian jazz OG Mulatu Astatke and a 15-piece orchestra, with opening sets by Cut Chemist, Quantic, and Stones Throw label head Egon. On February 22, chamber musicians Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson will debut their "Suite for Ma Dukes", which pays tribute to deceased stoner-rap deity J. Dilla. That program promises special guests in addition to the usual orchestra and DJs. Since Dilla's past collaborators include guys like Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes and Common, and since those guys love paying him tribute, this could be a seriously star-studded affair. The March 15 show will feature the Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai, a 30-piece band, and opening sets from Madlib and DJ Nuts.

Wale Working With TV on the Radio

(swiped from Pitchfork Media)

Usually, when rappers work with rock bands, they out their own bad---- or at least totally pedestrian-- tastes. Witness, for example, Q-Tip enlisting Korn for a collab, or Coldplay's Chris Martin and his bizarre evolution into some sort of Nate Dogg 2.0. So it's heartening to see a young rapper pairing up with a great rock band, especially when the combination basically makes sense.

According to his manager, the as-yet-untitled debut album from the nimble Washington, DC rapper Wale will include beats from a whole lot of familiar names in the rap-producer roundtable: Cool & Dre, Ryan Leslie, Green Lantern, Sean C and LV. Best Kept Secret, the go-go inflected DC producers whose beats animated much of Wale's celebrated Mixtape About Nothing, are also on board, as is Mark Ronson, who signed Wale to his Interscope imprint Allido, and West Coast experimental dance music team Glitch Mob.

But there's an unexpected name on that list, too: TV on the Radio sound-sculptor David Sitek. Sitek's done a ton of production work outside his own band, manning the boards for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Scarlett Johansson, and Foals, among others, but Wale is the first rapper he's worked with.

Wale and Sitek have completed two tracks together. Antibalas alums Stuart Bogie and Todd Simon play horns on the tracks, while Breakestra's Dave Chegwidden plays congos. Rock star poet Saul Williams may handle the hook on one, and TVOTR frontman Tunde Adebimpe may sing on the other. Tre, frontman for the go-go band UCB (also doing some work with Sitek, according to Wale's manager) helped with melodies and horn arrangements.

The collaboration was arranged by Wale's management and Interscope, which also puts out TV on the Radio's albums. Speaking to Pitchfork, Wale said of working with Sitek, "It happened so fast. Once I got into the studio, I picked a beat out immediately, then another one." He continued, " It really pushes the envelope farther, as far as musicianship goes. The creativity level has got to be stepped up in 2009 for other artists."

Sitek is a native of Columbia, Maryland, a Baltimore suburb and about a 45-minute drive from DC, close enough that he probably grew up hearing Wale's beloved go-go on WPGC. And the apocalyptic herky-jerk funk that TVOTR perfected on last year's Dear Science isn't all that far removed from go-go. So even if this was a combination cooked up in an Interscope boardroom somewhere, it makes sense for these guys to be working together.

In any case, this video, which mostly centers on Wale's not-that-interesting jewelry-shopping travails, has some footage of Wale and Sitek goofing off in the studio.

The Sitek collaboration is indicative of what Wale is going for with his album, which he hopes to release this spring. "It's something different," he said. "I don't want to cover the same ground. I want to show a lot of diversity, I want to challenge the listener a little bit. I have a lot of fans who haven't really seen outside of DC. I want to show them different things." He said he already has about 50 tracks banked for the album, with plans to keep recording for the next three weeks. He's also working on tracks with

In other Wale news, he recently worked with Canadian synth-rocker Colin Monroe on a remix of Munroe's "Will I Stay", which appears on Munroe's new mixtape Colin Munroe Is the Unsung Hero, and this video shows the two working on it together. Wale's also featured on "Change", the big-in-England new single from Australian R&B singer Daniel Merriweather. And Wale's next single, "Chillin", produced by Cool & Dre, will include a hook from the inexplicably huge dancepop entity Lady Gaga. This guy is really covering all his bases. Maybe he'll even do some songs with rappers!

MP3: Wale: The Mixtape About Nothing
Stream: TV on the Radio: Heroes (David Bowie cover) [from the forthcoming Heroes War Child benefit compilation]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009