Author Archives: CKUT Music Coordinator

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Free Samples: Jay-Z’s R-Rated Gospel

Jay-Z’s long anticipated thirteenth studio album 4:44 finally arrived late last month and it has already topped the Billboard 200 chart. After a four-year hiatus, the LP is getting high praises from the hip-hop community and reminding listeners of all genres why Hov is without a doubt one of the greatest rappers of all time. Last month Jay also made history by becoming the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (which he could not attend because Beyoncé just happened to be giving birth to their twins). So, it’s safe to say that Jay-Z’s summer is probably going a lot better than yours.

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“Dead Presidents” (1996)
Song Sampled: “A Garden of Peace” by Lonnie Liston Smith (1983), among others

The breakout single off Jay’s debut album Reasonable Doubt, this track was certified gold just a few short months after its release. The song samples Lonnie Liston Smith’s “A Garden of Peace” for the main melody and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Oh My God (remix)” for its percussion, while the chorus is a sample of Nas rapping “I’m out for dead presidents to represent me,” from his 1994 song “The World Is Yours (Tip Mix).” Nas was originally invited to perform the chorus for Jay-Z and appear in the track’s music video, but he declined and thus began their public feud. Nas confronted Jay in his track “Stigmatic Freestyle” stating, “You show off, I count dough off when you sample my voice.” Jay-Z then responded in the song “Takeover” with the lines: “So yeah, I sampled your voice; you was usin’ it wrong/You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song/And you ain’t get a coin nigga you was gettin’ fucked then/I know who I paid God, Serchlite Publishing.” Their feud officially ended in 2005 at Jay-Z’s I Declare War concert, when they performed “Dead Presidents II” together.

annie jay z“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” [1998]

Song Sampled: “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from Annie (1982)

This is undoubtedly the song that skyrocketed Jay-Z to fame. It samples a high-pitched version of the musical number “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the 1982 film Annie, which is fitting as Jay raps about his rags-to-riches story. The song peaked at number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 41st Grammy Awards in 1999. Of the track’s inspiration, he says: “[One of my sister’s name is Andrea], but we call her Annie. That’s how the Annie sample came about. When I seen that on TV, I was like, ‘Annie?’ And then, I watched the movie. […] Any person that goes from ashy to classy or, you know, is from the orphanage or the projects—it’s pretty similar.” Jay later wrote in his memoir Decoded that in order to clear the sample, he sent a letter to the song’s copyright holders, lying about how he had seen the musical on Broadway as a child and written a competition-winning essay on it at school.

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“Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” (2001) 

Song Sampled: “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 (1969)

The first collaboration between Jay-Z and Kanye West, this track prominently features a sample of “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5. The song’s main hook, “H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A” uses the -izzle language code (which was invented by E-40 and popularized by Snoop Dogg) to spell out “H.O.V.A.” in reference to one of Jay-Z nickname “Hova,” which is play on God’s name (as in “Jehovah”, aka “Yahweh” aka “Hashem”). Jay debuted the song during the 2001 BET Awards and producer Kanye West explained that it was one of the defining moments in his life:

“I was on the phone with my girl, and she just started screaming, and my two-way                  [pager] started blowing up. I was just thinking, ‘Damn.’ That was like the time in the                [movie] ‘Five Heartbeats’ when they heard their song on the radio and they start running      through the crib. If they ever do a movie about me, that’s one of the spots they’re gonna      have to put in the movie. This song is really gonna change my life […] Until an artist of          [Jay-Z’s] caliber co-signs for you, the industry doesn’t believe in your skills. Now they              know.”

Kanye referenced this track on his 2004 song “Through the Wire” about his near-fatal car accident: “That right there could drive a sane man berserk/Not to worry, Mr. H-to-the-Izzo’s back to wi-zerk.”

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  Photo of Billy Squier  (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: Photo of Billy Squier (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“99 Problems” (2004)
Song Sampled: “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier (1980), among others

In Decoded, Jay writes that he used “99 Problems” to confuse critics by hiding a deeper meaning behind its superficial chorus. The hook “I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one” was taken from the Ice-T single “99 Problems” off his album Home Invasion (1993). Jay’s track was produced by legendary beat-maker Rick Rubin, who provided Hov with a guitar riff and stripped-down beat derived from “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier, “Long Red” by Mountain, and “Get Me Back On Time” by Wilson Pickett. “The guitars were a combination of old records that were sped up or slowed down, scratched in, or in some cases, we played guitars and then made a disc and scratched them in with a digital turntable. It was all processed and made new,” Rubin said of the track’s production. He recalled that it was comedian Chris Rock who was the inspiration for the song. Rock told Rubin about Ice-T’s track and its catchy hook and was convinced that Jay could make an even better song out of it. Said Rubin, “I told that to Jay, and he wrote the song based on the title. The idea was, it’s the opposite song. In the Ice-T original song, it’s all about the girls. Our idea was, ‘OK, this will be a song with the same hook about the problems.'”

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“Ni**as in Paris” with Kanye West (2011) 

Audio Sampled: Dialogue from film Blades of Glory (2007)

Fun fact: Will Ferrell is featured in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest hip-hop songs of all time. Inspired by Kanye West’s travels in Paris, the iconic song’s production was originally offered to rapper Pusha T by producer Hit-Boy. Pusha turned it down, claiming “it sounds like a video game. Get that shit out of here!” Then Jay and Ye got their hands on it and the track went platinum just under two months after it debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, just shy of two months after the album’s release. The smash hit also racked in the trophies, winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. During the Watch The Throne tour, the two would perform this track multiple times at each concert. The crowds loved it. When they reached Paris, it was performed 12 times in a row. Talk about balling hard.

– Matthew Martino

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: August 1, 2017

Hi folks,

I’m back in the office after a nice trip out west to visit family — spent a lot of time kayaking, biking, and hanging at the beach. Managed to avoid the forest fires, thankfully, and only had a couple smoky days during my stay… feeling very lucky about that. Now I’m back in the office, struggling through jetlag and some weird internet sketchiness thanks to system upgrades at McGill. These updates are impacting our internet connections and also our phone lines, so if you try to reach me and don’t get through please try again later this week.

Charts below reflect the past couple weeks of programming here, and there’s only a top 30 because it’s hard to compile genre charts when all your databases are down due to the aforementioned internet issues. :(
Apologies! Things should be back to normal next week.

Hope you’re all having a great summer!

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Sylvain Bouthilette, renowned visual artist and bass player for the legendary hardcore band Bliss, hosts If You Got Ears every Wednesday in August from noon till 2pm. As a break from our usual sound-art extravaganza during the Ears timeslot, we’re taking a left turn and venturing into the world of dub: drawing surprising lines between dub and minimalist composition, this residency will stretch your eardrums and minds into new & unexpected territory. Dub is spiritual, dub is cosmic, dub is political, dub is introspection, dub is action, dub is on the barricades and is a voice of resistance. From the Jamaican mothership, the British Stepper style and the international scene, Sylvain will be exploring all of its aspects and wants to bring you along for the ride. Dig it Wednesdays at noon, only on ckut.ca.

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – august 1, 2017

1. do make say think – stubborn persistent illusions – constellation CC
2. le fruit vert – paon perdu – three:four CC *
3. white hills – stop mute defeat – thrill jockey
4. not you – misty – fundog CC
5. jessica moss – pools of light – constellation CC * Continue reading

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: July 18, 2017

Hi friends,

I was lucky enough to catch fantastic Montreal expats Steve Jr (above) last week — they don’t make it up here very often and they totally killed it, as per usual. The night afterwards I also got to see Vancouver punks Cloaca rip it up with locals Rivalled Envy and Total Bliss… trying to get my fix of live music before I head out west to hang in the country with family for a bit. And that bring us to, yep, you guess it, VACATION ALERT: I will not be in the office from July 20th – 31st inclusive. Email if you like, but I will have limited internet access out on Anarchist Mountain. Charts and tracking will resume when I’m back in town. Thanks in advance for your cooperation in helping me and my inbox get a bit of chill time this summer.

Peace
xo
joni

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – july 18, 2017

1. united waters – the narrows – drawing room records
2. fiver – audible songs from rockwood – idee fixe CC
3. le fruit vert – paon perdu – three:four CC *
4. guerilla toss – gt ultra – dfa
5. aim low – scratched out – amplitude ambitions CC * Continue reading

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Concert Review: (Sandy) Alex G & Japanese Breakfast @ Le Ritz PDB

I couldn’t have picked a better way to celebrate America’s birthday. Kicking things off was Cende: simple, no-nonsense pop music played at a deafaning volume. Bouyed by their youthful energy and unpolished style, they ripped through a short set of formulaic yet enjoyable tunes. Following up, Japanese Breakfast slowed it down a notch with their slinky psych jams, tasteful bass riffs and shiny synth bouncing around underneath the ever-yearning lead vocals.

When the hour was upon us, the chorus of ‘Life is a Highway’ rattled the Ritz soundsystem as Alex and his band rolled onstage. The music hit fast and hard, coursing through the audience and uniting the room within moments with an impressive sense of command, especially for such a relatively young group. The majority of the set was dedicated to his latest album Rocket, including the early standout track ‘Bobby’ and its welcome addition of fiddle to the band’s instrumentation. Though much gentler on the album, the live addition of a stomping drumbeat allowed the song to hit even harder than I thought possible, leaving the crowd torn between head-bobbing and slow-dancing.

The songs are chunky and essential, like semi-polished stones, always build around the core of Alex’s raw voice. He sings mostly through clenched teeth, every measured note spat out, hints of the reserved energy that’s being held back. Only once did the dam breach, during an incredible rendition of ‘Brick’ — an explosive track in which he suddenely erupts in a scream as the guitars howl and rage only to drop away after a minute, giving way to the next piano-driven ballad.

Being an avid listener for years and having followed the group for some time, I can vouch that the presence of 2017 (Sandy) Alex G is immediately undeniable. The band is at its most fluid, less buttoned-down than ever, and with a masterful command of Alex’s expansive discography. They closed out the set by spending near half an hour just taking requests from the audience, not once balking at a buried gem from the depths of his Bandcamp but rather dropping into it confidently at a moment’s notice. The generosity of this final act may have dragged on too long for those less invested in the music, but for the fans it was glorious.

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: July 11, 2017

Hi folks,

I’ve been lying low over the past week fighting a gnarly cold (do they feel extra wicked in the summer, or is it just me…?)
However, I did make it out for a rad show last week celebrating a friend’s birthday, featuring ßtaß (above) and many others — it was a pretty all-star local crew fitting of the special occasion. Definitely worth leaving the house for!

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
For the month of July, local music-makers and pigeon enthusiasts Parker Finley, Sydney Lee, Rachel Nam, and Jess ManniquinHead (of MagicPerm and Lonely Boa) are hosting the Montreal Sessions. Tune in for a playlist chock full of local bands, ranging from chillwave to new wave to no wave and more. The series will also featuring live performances by Respectful Child, Lonely Boa, and plenty of others that you’ll need to tune in to catch… You know what to do: listen live each Tuesdayfrom 3-5pm, only on CKUT 90.3 FM and ckut.ca

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – july 11, 2017

1. corridor – supermercado – michel records CC *
2. le fruit vert – paon perdu – three:four CC *
3. guerilla toss – gt ultra – dfa
4. v/a – pentagon black compilation no. 3 – pentagon black CC *
5. best fern – covers ep – self-released CC * Continue reading

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Free Samples: Kendrick Lamar’s Poetry and Politics

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I decided to take a page out of Kendrick Lamar’s book with this article. Much like the Compton rapper did with his fourth studio album, DAMN., after completing my first three pieces for CKUT, I took more time than usual to craft the latest instalment of Free Samples. (The fact that I was on vacation for the past two weeks with limited wifi access obviously had nothing to do with it). However, unlike DAMN., I doubt this article will go on to win a slew of awards, sell millions of copies, or leave a lasting impact on its genre and pop culture as a whole. Just a hunch.

Known for his clever lyricism and bold subject matter, Kendrick has sampled everything from a 2015 Fox News report to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” making him one of the most unique and prominent voices in rap today.

 

alicia keys“Compton State of Mind” (2009)
Song Sampled: “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys (2009)

Almost a parody of sorts, Kendrick puts his own spin on Jay-Z’s love letter to the Big Apple. Borrowing the beat and hook from the smash hit featuring Alicia Keys on vocals, Kendrick paints a gritty picture of the notorious LA suburb, while also making it clear that he’s “just a good kid hoping [he] can spread love.” Kendrick reworks the chorus of Jay-Z’s track from “In New York/Concrete jungle where dreams are made of/There’s nothing you can’t do/Now you’re in New York/These streets will make you feel brand new/Big lights will inspire you” to “Compton, concrete jungle where dreams are made of/There’s nothin’ you can’t do/Now you’re in Compton/These streets will make you or break you/Expire or inspire you.” Continue reading

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: July 4, 2017

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Hello friends,

Montreal was lucky enough to get a repeat appearance from Les Filles de Illighadad last week, joined by a special guest drummer from Mdou Moctar’s band. Gig of the year? It definitely set the bar pretty high…

xo
joni

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – july 4, 2017

1. le fruit vert – paon perdu – three:four CC *
2. the pink noise – subtext – not unlike CC *
3. not you – misty – fundog CC
4. jessica moss – pools of light – constellation CC *
5. forest swords – compassion – ninja tune  Continue reading

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An Interview with Christopher Kirkley from Sahel Sounds

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Christopher Kirkley is the founder of the Sahel Sounds record label based out of Portland, Oregon and the man responsible for bringing Les Filles de Illighadad to Montreal during the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival in June 2017.

Louis Rastelli, director of ARCMTL (Archive Montreal) and resident CKUT DJ (Montreal Sound Ark on Fridays 3 – 5 pm), invited Kirkley for a conversation at Archive Montreal’s archive centre in the Mile Ex district a few days after the Filles de Illighadad concert on June 21.

There is a local connection to the Sahel Sounds label by way of the old underground record co-op Backroom Records, which ran from the mid 2000s until 2015 in a back alley just south of the train tracks in the Mile End. That’s where Warren Hill, local record collector and Backroom Records founder, began putting out cassette and LP compilations of old blues, gospel and music from around the world on the Mississippi Records imprint. Around 2009, Warren began visiting Portland regularly to coordinate Mississippi Records releases with the local record store of the same name. A chance meeting in the shop with Christopher Kirkley led to the first Sahel Sounds releases. Just a few years later, the label boasts a catalogue of around 50 albums, documenting dozens of Sahel musicians and acts whose music would not likely have ever been preserved otherwise. Among the best loved of these records are two volumes called Music from Saharan Cellphones, compilations documenting independently produced musicians and bands whose recordings were mainly shared through memory cards on cellphones.

Rastelli spoke to Kirkley about how this all began and about how he discovered Les Filles de Illighadad. By the way: don’t forget to catch them on their second swing back in Montreal this Wednesday June 28 at Sala Rossa!

L: I’m curious about the challenges you face dealing with the kinds of artists you work with. For example, all the stuff that you copy off of people’s memory cards, it must be a huge range of digital files?

C: Yeah, I try to copy as much as possible, and I use that to source a lot of material for the albums, because a lot of time they only exist as MP3 and there’s no higher quality version. When I was first doing that for the Saharan Cellphone compilations, they were basically found MP3s. I thought I’d find the artists and contact them to get the master files, but there were no master files.

L: Were you able to contact a lot of them?

C: Yeah, everything on there was fully licensed and I was in touch with everybody, which presented its own difficulties — just finding people based on an ID3 tag on an MP3. Nobody was putting their phone number out there, which they really should be… If you don’t exist on the internet but you’re using this underground network of distribution, it needs some sort of tag or some way to verify that your name is attached to the file. What would happen is you’d have local cyber cafes, and they were the most savvy ones because they knew how to use computers, they would take out the ID3 information and replace it with the name of their own cyber cafe, so for a long time I kept zeroing in on the cyber cafes.

I spent about two years travelling around West Africa writing the Sahel Sounds blog. I was over there on a one-way ticket just travelling and recording without any commercial angle. When I got back to Portland, that’s when I walked into the Mississippi Records shop with a bunch of CDs of recorded music that I was passing around, and I dropped one off at Mississippi Records, primarily because I wanted it in the store and I saw that they were selling music from that part of the world, some of the Sublime Frequencies releases for example. And I thought, “what do these guys know about West African music? Here’s a CD…” But I wasn’t really looking for any label or anything, I was just looking for people to share the music with and talk about it with. Continue reading

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: June 27, 2017

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Hi folks,

Had a busy weekend of friend hangs, a wedding reception, and a truly excellent afternoon noise show on Sunday featuring a great set by CKUT’s own Tamara Filyavich (above). I’m also gearing up for Les Filles de Illighadad to make a second appearance in Montreal tomorrow night — their show last week was really special, so it’s exciting to have the opportunity to see them again. If you’re in town, don’t miss it!

xo
joni

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – june 27, 2017

1. do make say think – stubborn persistent illusions – constellation CC *
2. couleur dessin – s/t – fixture records CC *
3. she-devils – s/t – secretly canadian CC *
4. house and land – s/t – thrill jockey
5. best fern – covers ep – self-released CC * Continue reading

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Album Review: Benjamin Booker – Witness

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Benjamin Booker is soulful garage-rock at its finest. His characteristic blues-meets-punk style, alongside his distinct husky voice, results in a unique, gritty sound that one might stumble upon in a New Orleans bar. On each track of Witness, Booker’s highly anticipated sophomore album, he croons on a number of subjects, from faithlessness to police brutality, resulting in a record that is emotional, raw, and highly intimate.

Production-wise, the album’s opener “Right on You” sets the tone for the record. Heavily panned right and left channels serve to isolate the instruments and Booker’s voice. This decision is consistent in every track on the album: there is no song on Witness where everything feels centred. The audience enters a unique kind of listening experience as the intricately balanced isolations allow for more instrumental clarity. One can hear the way each particular element adds to the song’s arrangement as a whole rather than focusing on how they all work together simultaneously in the track. Booker unabashedly introduces listeners to this novel sonic environment of Witness — he invites them to stay, yet remains nonchalantly uncaring if they don’t.

“Right on You” blends into “Motivation,” a track with a lo-fi vibe that begins with a tape-saturated acoustic guitar and a syncopated bass groove. In the chorus, slightly distorted violins swell in the left channel, offering an unconventional type of orchestration that brings an interesting contrast to the acoustic elements within the song. In “Believe,” the listener hears the soulful elements of Booker’s music: the background vocals are akin to a gospel choir, and they harmonize with Booker as he yearns to find a resolution in his search for faith: “I don’t care if right or wrong / I just want to believe in something / I cannot make it on my own.” The title track, “Witness,” is a commentary on police brutality and racial issues in America. Resonant lines such as “Thought we saw he had a gun / thought that it looked like he started a run” make this the album’s most poignant track by highlighting Booker’s strongest lyrics on the record.

Besides “Witness,” the most memorable songs on the record are the ones emphasizing Booker’s well-crafted guitar riffs. In “Truth is Heavy,” the guitar lick isolated on the right side and the bass riff isolated on the left create a unique melodic blend, exemplifying how the producer’s decision to include heavy pans augments the music’s emotive abilities.

Booker’s strength is his bluesy and garage-influenced guitar work, as it allows him to create groovy, head-bobbing rock tracks without being overly flashy. However, most tracks on the album offer only subtle dynamic changes; additionally, since the drum patterns tend to remain steady and simple, at times the songs on Witness seem to drag. Nonetheless, Booker delivers this static feel exceptionally well and this may have been his intention: he emphasizes movement and repetition so listeners can hone in on the pulse of the music in order to lose themselves within it.

– Review by Francesca Pastore