12 Essential New York Records.

8 02 2018

CBGB bowery OMFUG rock punk

 

I’m not someone who gets overly annoyed easily (but if you chew loudly or sniff constantly on public transport, I’ll probably want to smack you in the kisser.) However, after reading the apparent “essential” NYC records chosen by BBC 6Music, I got annoyed. In fact, it went beyond being annoyed. I am pissed off. A pissed off Punk who is absolutely infuriated by this list and I know that I am not alone in this.

If you want to share my rage, here is the list:

1. The Strokes – Is This It
2. Wu Tang Clan – Enter The 36 Chambers
3. Blondie – Parallel Lines
4. Talking Heads – 77
5. Nas – Illmatic
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
7. Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
8. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
9. Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
10. The Rapture – Echoes
11. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
12. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

 

I am a massive fan of Nas, Wu Tang, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes. The Strokes first record was my crutch for a long time, and I do agree with it being there- but not at the top. There is so much missing from this list- how can you even condense it down to 12 anyway? Maybe 20 wouldn’t even be enough.

So with my burning rage, I have to come up with my own list. I don’t want to claim that my list is correct or anything like that- it’s just an opinion. I could be wrong, or someone may feel like they agree with me. The severe lack of Punk in the list just makes me sad. I do agree, as I said with some of the records being there, but some are wrongfully missed.

Also, it isn’t in any order- I don’t like order, it makes me nervous.

Ramones-Ramones.

It was either this or Leave Home. I think Leave Home is my favourite Ramones record, but their debut deserves to be there because of the huge impact it had. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was about 14/156. The age where everything and anything can influence you. I remember hearing it and feeling like I had been born in the wrong era. Every song gave me this incredible feeling, and every song just made me idolise them. I think it is obvious that I worship Joey Ramone. Oh man, Beat On The Brat is one of my favourite Ramones songs. I love the lyrics and I love the humour in their songs but there is a real sensitivity in Joey’s voice that is so unique and beautiful. It’’ just such an iconic record. It was made to influence and to be played loud.

Lou Reed-Transformer.

The most important NYC record of all time. ALL.TIME. Why the hell wasn’t it included?! It’s pretty insulting to Lou’s legacy that this record isn’t on there. It’s not only a great NYC record; it’s probably my favourite record of all time. As a gay person, this record gave me this sense of freedom that I hadn’t found in any other record when I first heard it. I didn’t come out until years after hearing this record, but it gave me this feeling of being alright with who I was. Besides, me being gay doesn’t define me. Never has, never will Transformer is just the coolest record ever made. I hate the word cool, we know that but fucking hell Lou Reed was THE coolest person to have ever lived and he just smacks it in our faces with this record. Sally Can’t Dance and Coney Island Baby are obviously worth mentioning. Pretty sure my list could just be Lou and Ramones records. Vicious and Andy’s Chest…man alive! “You hit me with a flower.” That’s GOT to move you in some way. I love the lyrics to Vicious, and I think this whole record shows Lou in a different way, you know? He just expressed himself in a way nobody else had dared to. I still don’t think anything can touch this record.

New York Dolls-New York Dolls.

The clue is in the bloody name really. Absolutely criminal and horrendous that this record isn’t on the list. My mum got me into the Dolls at a very young age. I don’t even think I was a teenager. I remember finding her copy of the record, and being in awe of the Dolls in drag. How beautiful they were! I was drawn of course, to Johnny Thunders (the greatest guitarist of all time.) Subway Train is such a beautiful song. Jet Boy has this incredible snarl to it. The whole record oozes attitude that is so unique to the Dolls. The lyrics to Trash and Personality Crisis are just great. This record is New York through and through. It’s got the charm and grit. It’s got the attitude and bite. It’s a record that I always find myself going to time and time again, and discovering more things to love about it. It’s just timeless.

Richard Hell + The Voidoids-Blank Generation.

Alright so Richard isn’t from New York- but this record was recorded at Electric Lady Studios so, it’s a NYC record. And he moved there pretty early on, so it’s fine. It’s acceptable.

I am a Richard Hell obsessive. I paid £30 once for a Richard Hell t-shirt from a shop on Brick Lane. Yeah it was too much money, but it’s Richard Hell.

Blank Generation would easily be in my list of best Punk records. It’s got this raw attitude to it, and I just love Richard’s voice. As a singer and as a writer, I just love him. His autobiography is one of the best of its kind I’ve read. He has most certainly lived a colourful life. Sure he’s done questionable things, the little bugger. But, he’s made some incredible music along the way.

Suicide-Suicide

Suicide are probably the best duo of all time. Frankie Teardrop is the best 10 minute song of all time. Dream Baby Dream is a masterpiece. The whole record is a work of art. If any record can capture the roughness of New York in the 70s, it’s this record. It is such a grand record and well ahead of its time. It still is. Nothing and no one has ever come close to this. For me, I think Suicide are massively underrated but they have influenced so many bands that I adore. It still hurts and it still sucks that Alan Vega is no longer here. I remember when he passed; I had the same reaction most had for Bowie. Suicide were never afraid to push their sound and to make music that was entirely different. It is a beautiful noise that brings such pleasure and joy to the ears. It is a gritty record from start to finish, and they keep that grittiness throughout every record they have ever made.

The Heartbreakers-L.A.M.F

I think this was recorded in London, but Johnny Thunders was a New Yorker, The Heartbreakers were a supergroup. I did want to pick a solo Johnny record, but I remembered how much I am obsessed with L.A.M.F (it stands for Like A Mother Fucker.) and how One Track Mind is such a great song. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if Johnny was still here. Like I said earlier on, for me he’s the greatest guitarist of all time. His style was just impeccable and one of a kind. No one else could play like him. His style was way ahead of its time. He was ahead of his time.  He had this way of just magnetising you with every note. The record has been reissued so many times, but regardless of what version you have- it’s a genius record. It is proper Rock N Roll and has Punk foundations. Of all the records I own, I think this might be my most played. It’s one of those records I just really enjoy listening to over and over again.

Nas-Illmatic

Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time, that’s obvious. There are so many Hip Hop records I could have chosen. I know that The Big Picture by Big L is one of the best. I bought it when it came out, and to this day it is still one of my favourite records. Like Nas, Big L was and still is above the rest. Illmatic portrays New York in a way that most don’t want to hear. Nas is not, and has never been afraid to show the harsher side of life. From losing friends to growing up in the projects in Queens- he really takes you there. He’s a poet, a storyteller. Halftime is one of the songs on Illmatic that really show this. He makes you see the world and his world the way he does with Illmatic. Is it his best record? For sure. It’s one of the best Hip Hop records of all time. Nas has constantly brought out remarkable records that have, and still do influence so many. It’s one of those records that you can’t imagine not ever happening. It is such an important record- irrespective of what kind of music you’re into; it is such a phenomenal record. What he did with this debut record most want from their whole career.

A Tribe Called Quest-People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Tribe have always made consistently great records that are so experimental and diverse. They fused together all styles of music. There are so many records by them I could have chosen, but it felt right to go with their debut. It came out in a time where you had groups like NWA with their aggressive songs. Sure their songs may have been, but it is important to remember that NWA were telling us about the things that were happening in Compton- it is just as important and to an extent maybe more so. But this about New York right now. What I love about the first Tribe record is that it frees your mind, it gives you something that you won’t find anywhere else. Q-Tip and Phife are two great rappers, and I don’t think they have ever got enough credit it. Tribe’s records each have distinctive sounds. Push It Along is nearly 8 minutes long, Bonita Applebum is genius, I Left My Wallet In El Segundo is timeless and Luck of Lucien is just amazing. The samples on this record used range from Grace Jones to The Beatles to Lou Reed. It’s a record that quite simply, you need to own.

 Sonic Youth-Confusion Is Sex

I could have happily listed every single record by Sonic Youth. I’d have no idea where to start- so I went to the start. It’s such a heavy record; it’s a record that has influenced so many. It is powerful, it is loud and it has Jim Sclavunos on drums. What more do you need? (She’s In A) Bad Mood is such a brilliant way to start the record. Jim’s drumming is so brutal; they all just move you in a way that you wouldn’t expect. There is nothing calming about the sound on this record- they just rile you up in a way that is mind-blowing.

I think it is possible the record that shows us all just how amazing Kim Gordon is. I mean, we know that anyway but Confusion Is Sex has some awesome moments that just leave you inspired by Kim. Shaking Hell is my favourite on this record; it’s so aggressive and really brutal. The louder you play this, the better. The way she yells “Shake off your flesh!” is so hypnotising.

The Velvet Underground-Loaded

Maybe I should have gone with their first record. Maybe. But, Loaded is my favourite and I remember buying my copy of this in Brussels and feeling like I had won the lottery. My copy doesn’t play as well as it should but that’s because I am always playing it. I love listening to it and allowing Velvet Underground to take me some place really magical. Rock & Roll is such a fantastic song, and you can’t help but think you’re the person Lou has written about. Lonesome Cowboy Bill is out of this world- it’s not like anything else.

Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ is up there as being one of the greatest songs of all time. It’s one of Lou’s best, easily. I’ve written about this record so many times, and I’m sure I have never done it justice.

Television-Marquee Moon

I cannot make this list without mentioning Television, and this record. Many have regarded it as one of the best records ever made, and they aren’t wrong. It is such a wonderfully created record. From the vocals to the production- it is so effortlessly great and really does have a slick sound that you know is from New York. Every song on Marquee Moon is so distinctive. You hear one note, and you immediately know that it is them. The intro to the title song is one of the most iconic ones of all time. It’s an intro that just stays with you. You immediately go back to the first time you heard it as soon as it comes on. It’s just a magnificent record that definitely does deserve its status as being one of the greatest records ever made.

The Strokes-Is This It

There are a number of records I could have picked. I could have gone with Foxy Brown, Mos Def, Interpol, Talking Heads, Big L- so many. Why did I stick with The Strokes when I could have picked someone else? Because this record holds a lot of importance to me. It’s got me through hell and back. It still does. I adore Julian. I love his words, his voice and just him. It’s a record I constantly go back to. I can play it and I immediately go back to my first time hearing it. I was 15 years old, being bullied at school. I’d play it every day. And every single day I would imagine I was hanging out with Julian in New York City eating pizza, going to record stores and going to shows. This record was my escape, and it still is. It captures New York and it captures what music means to me. So from a totally personal point of view, this record is New York. This record is important. Again, it is one that is still a massive influence to bands. They are all great musicians, and there will never be anything else quite like it- just like all the records I have mentioned.

 

Like I said, there are so many records that could have been named. This is just my personal take. Maybe it is wrong, maybe it is right. It’s just a point of view, like the 6Music one is. But I just find it hard to accept that so many great and influential records were missed off.





NAS-Illmatic.

23 03 2013

“I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.
Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined.
I think of crime when I’m in a New York state  of mind.”

April 19th 1994. One of the greatest hip hop records of all time came out. For a lot of rappers, this record has been their blueprint. I bought it a good few years after it came out. It was one of the first hip hop records I bought with my own money. I wasn’t listening to hip hop; it was sheer poetry. Poetry in the most unconventional way possible. I’ve played it more times than I’ve played anything I own by Bob Dylan or the Velvet Underground. I guess, even though I favour a lot of bands more than most, I think hip hop will always have my heart. I cannot explain why, and that’s why I know it is real love. When you are able to explain why you love something/someone you probably need to re-think your love for them, because you shouldn’t be able to pin-point it. It should just be a fact. Unconditional and forever.

Illmatic is ten tracks of the ugly truth. Listen to NY State Of Mind; it isn’t the New York television shows portray. Nas’ version, his ode (in a sense) to New York is the raw truth. That’s what I’ve always loved about Nas; he just gives you the truth. I always hated the Jay-Z/Nas thing. Much like I hated the Tupac/Biggie battle. They’re all different, but had the same story. They all overcame their own personal struggles to make something of themselves. Two of them did it in a shorter time but left a legacy that will outlive us all.

With his debut record, you cannot deny that Nas pretty much revived the Queensbridge hip hop scene. He’s QB’s finest, easily. The way he couples words together on Illmatic was enough to make you take pen to paper and write your own story in any way possible. One of (if not my favourite) sample Nas uses on Illmatic is on the track, Memory Lane. He uses Pickin’ Boogers by one of the most underrated rappers ever, Biz Markie. But then the sample of Come In Out Of The Rain by Parliament on Life’s A Bitch is incredible too. A heavily sampled record, but it’s still flawless. I don’t think any true hip hop fan doesn’t own this. Even if they don’t own anything else by Nas, they cannot deny just how inspirational and how powerful Illmatic is.

The relaxed vibe of The World Is Yours makes you pretty much see how the film Scarface influenced a hell of a lot of hip hop artists (Jay-Z also sampled The World Is Yours on Dead Presidents.) It’s also one of the many highlights of Illmatic. I’ve listened to it so many times, and I don’t think I could ever find one song I love more than others. With every listen, I find another element to love. I notice more. As I listen to it with older ears, I find more to love. I can truly appreciate Nas’ way with words. I did when I bought it, but as I’ve matured (a bit) I can take more meaning from it, but one thing still remains; it is always going to a record a lot of rappers strive to make. They try to make their Illmatic.

Halftime is the one song I remember being hugely obsessed with when I bought Illmatic. I just played it over and over. My obsession was then turned onto One Love, pretty sure it was because Q-Tip was on it, and produced it. These were the two songs I remember fawning over. Then I just listened to Illmatic from start to finish on repeat. Over and over. But like I said, cannot pick a favourite but those two were the first I feel in love with. The way the words flow on Halftime is just ridiculous. It’s insane how someone so young could make music like that. He became one of the greatest immediately. That rarely happens.

I’ve stayed a loyal fan to Nas. I can’t imagine my record collection being without his music, it’d be senseless. Sure enough I cannot relate to a lot of his subject matters; but I know what it’s like to be frustrated with your situation and seeing no way out. Knowing you’re so far away from making something of yourself. But you find an escape. In words, music, anything. Creativity can cure some of it. The frustration in One Love, of hearing someone so young go through having friends killed to being in jail; no one should ever have to go through that. Regardless of age.

I learnt a lot from Nas. From how to make words flow as perfect as I can together (whether here or in my notebooks full of lyrics..no you cannot and will not see them) he just made it seem so effortless, but at times it can be a headache. Some of his records since have been hit or miss, but that depends on who you ask. I know a lot of Nas fans will regard the song One Mic (taken from Stillmatic) as one of the best hip hop songs ever made, and it truly is. Even if you were never a fan of Nas you really cannot deny how powerful that song is and how the dramatic build-up in the first few verses are. And also how the come down in the last verse just shudders your soul. Play it to anyone who says hip hop is pointless. They’re probably into the pointless stuff. Give them something they can feel.

It does make me sad, as a hip hop lover, that hip hop is no longer like this. It has lost some meaning in some respects- but hopefully someone will come along and be as great as artists such as Nas to Big L to Kurtis Blow. Illmatic was the soundtrack to New York in 1994 and it probably still is. Nas never has romanticised what he sees, that was obvious from the very start. Nothing ever needs to be covered up to look or sound nice- just let the truth out, but do it from the heart. That’s exactly what Illmatic did, and still does. Timeless and nothing short of a masterpiece.





Nas-One Mic.

23 09 2011

Ten years ago, Nas put out the album Stillmatic. Is it his best work? Well, that’s a personal call. Does it posses the greatest song he’s ever written? Of course. There’s a song on this album, that when I first heard it- I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t think anything this raw could exist. It has evoked so much imagery and feelings, even someone who hates hip hop would love this song.

One Mic, in my mind, is the best track Nas has ever recorded. I know a lot of rappers get a lot of shit for being accused of being like this, and like that. Listen to One Mic and you’ll get what Nas is about. His way with words on this track is just stunning. The way the track builds and builds grips you so tightly, you feel your frustration and eagerness boil over with him. The tension is so great, you feel it too. You feel every single word. There’s no way you actually couldn’t- unless you are made of stone and uneducated.

This isn’t a comparison because you cannot compare the two, but like Tupac; Nas is a true poet. There aren’t many of them about in Hip Hop anymore.

One Mic is a work of art. It’s a film in song form, there is so much going on. It is a whirlwind of sheer intensity. There’s anger, love, tension, violence within the song. The song empowers you in a way that no other can. So many turn to break-up songs for empowerment, why? Why would you do that? It’s shallow. You don’t need a song to tell you that you are better off without another. You should know that instinctively. With One Mic, you feel like you can take on the world, that you are unstoppable. That feeling is far greater than realising you are better off without another person. Sadly, not many see this. Oh well.

My favourite piece of imagery in the song comes in the first verse, “One knee I ducked, could it be my time is up. But my luck, I got up, the cop shot again. Bus stop glass bursts, a fiend drops his Heineken. Ricocheting between the spots that I’m hidin’ in. Blackin’ out as I shoot back, fuck getting’ hit!” This dear reader is utterly powerful.  You can picture all of this in your mind. You can picture Nas or whoever ducking down as shots are being fired. You can sense the panic he is feeling- then the relief comes when you know he’s alright. You can see the bullets hitting the glass pane on a bus stop, and a drunkard dropping their beer on the ground in shock. It’s such fantastic imagery but sadly- happens every single day. But does anyone raise awareness and report on it? No, they don’t. They ignore it. Well done Society, I hope you’re fucking proud.

The second verse is full of religious imagery, and as someone who isn’t religious it isn’t my place to say anything on it. If you’re religious, you’ll feel what Nas is saying in your gut. If you’re not religious, you can somewhat understand how much it means to Nas and how powerful it is.

The last verse, for me, is the greatest. It’s just the best thing Nas has written. Certain lines means a lot to, certain lines just make you feel so much. I don’t get how anyone could hear this and not be moved in any way at all; it’s just so bloody powerful.

“What I stand for speaks for itself.” Something so simple is just so powerful. He doesn’t need to justify himself, all he says and does sums that up. That’s how it should be, always. One should never ever feel the need to justify themselves. Go against what is expected of you. Fuck what anyone tells you to do, be your own person and grow a backbone. You have to; it’s the only way to survive. I love that line so much. It’s so dominating.

“What you call an infinite brawl, eternal souls clashing. War gets deep, some beef is everlasting. Complete with thick scars, brothers knifing each other up in prison yards, drama, where does it start?” Favourite part of the song, no doubt. I love “eternal souls clashing” there’s something about those three words that have some hold over you like nothing else in the song.

It’s quite simply one of the greatest Hip Hop songs ever written. Now, Hip Hop has been around for quite some time and yes there have been some amazing tracks- but there is nothing of this calibre. Obviously I’d always favour a Tupac or Eric B & Rakim track, but One Mic is on a completely different level. The way it builds and builds, the sound effects, the Phil Collins sample- everything about this track is mind-blowing. The video captures every single detail in a way that you may not get in the song. It’s total brilliance and I’m not entirely sure if anything has been as inspiring since.





Timbaland Top 10.

23 11 2008

I was listening to some of my old music earlier and heard a bunch of Timbaland’s old stuff. So I thought, a Top 10 is much needed. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because it’s Sunday and I’ve not got anything to do 9I have got stuff to do, I’m just not doing it!)

So, here’s my Top 10 Timbaland Produced Tracks :

10.  Timbaland & Magoo feat. Static- We At It Again

9.  Ginuwine- What\’s So Different

8. Nas feat. Aaliyah- You Won\’t See Me Tonight

7. Missy Elliott feat. Nicole Wray and MC Solaar- All N My Grill

6. Bubba Sparxxx- Ugly

5. Ms.Jade feat. Timbaland and Nelly Furtado- Ching Ching

4. Ginuwine- Pony

3. Timbaland, Aaliyah and Static- I Am Music

2. Aaliyah- One In A Million

1. Aaliyah feat. Timbaland- Are You That Somebody

 

There you go. My Top 10 Timbaland tracks. I was unsure whether or not to swap 1 with 1, however if it was my Top 10 Aaliyah tracks then One In A Million would be Number 1. No questions asked. My favourite song ever by my favourite singer ever- but that’s a different blog entry, which will be soon!