Category Archives: i used to love h.e.r.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Sarah Daly of Scanners

I’m really excited about the fourth installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential hip-hop albums (read intro). That’s because singer Sarah Daly of the London-based Scanners discusses in a quick Q&A an album that is one of my top three favorite hip-hop records. That only made me appreciate the group’s new LP Violence Is Golden (Dim Mak) all the more. Visit Scanners Web site or MySpace. Below is the mp3 for the single Lowlife.

MP3: Scanners | Lowlife

Tougher Than Leather (Priority Records, 1988)
Note: Deluxe editions, with previously unreleased songs and expanded liner notes, of Run-DMC’s first four albums, including Tougher Than Leather, were released last year by Arista. More information.

What’s your favorite hip-hop album?
“Tougher Than Leather by Run-DMC.”

How did you discover it?
“In a bargin bin in a record store.”

Why would you consider it your favorite?
“I just love all the tracks on it. It’s quite eclectic musically and the lyrics have a sense of humour.”

Did that album open you up to any more hip-hop?
“Well, more Run-DMC.”

What type of role (if any) has hip-hop played in your own music?
“It’s so all pervasive. It’s everywhere. you can’t help but be influenced

Probably most people would consider Raising Hell as Run-DMC’s seminal album or the one they’d most associate with the group. What’s different or more appealing about Tougher Than Leather (which happens to be my favorite as well)?
“It’s true that Raising Hell has all the hits that I associate with Run-DMC. In fact until Walk This Way I hadn’t heard of either Run-DMC or Aerosmith. I don’t think Tougher Than Leather production sounds that different to Raising Hell. I just came across it by accident. I love it maybe for no other reason than it was in my Walkman on the way to school. And I have some nostalgic attachment to it as a whole.”

Hip-hop has obviously evolved quite a bit since 1988, when Tougher Than Leather came out. What do you think accounts for its longevity and staying power?
“Hip Hop is now so utterly the mainstream. You hear it in the shopping malls and fast food restaurants across the world. But you can easily trace the influence of Run-DMC to platinum artists such as Kanye West and OutKast. I think that any music style that finds its place rooted so deeply into society will have longevity.”

Lastly, favorite track on the album … and why?
“Well I love Ragtime. It’s catchy and we all sing along to it in the car.”

Run-DMC | Ragtime

Previously on I Used to Love H.E.R.:
Pigeon John (De La Soul – De La Soul is Dead)
Joel Hatstat of Cinemechanica (Digital Underground – Sex Packets)
G. Love (Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full)
An introduction

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Pigeon John

The third installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential hip-hop albums (read intro), is written by LA-based emcee Pigeon John, a newcomer to the Quannum roster with his recently released Pigeon John and the Summertime Pool Party, available at eMusic. Much like the album and group he writes about, Pigeon John exudes an easygoing and sometimes humorous style that still makes a relevant point. … And the Summertime Pool Party includes “scenes,” much like De La Soul’s habit of conceptual skits.

mp3: Download Higher?! from … And the Summertime Pool Party.

De La Soul Is Dead (Tommy Boy, 1991)
Produced by De La Soul and Prince Paul

“I’d have to say that De La Soul’s De La Soul Is Dead is probably the most potent hip-hop CD in my collection. It was beautiful and tragic, that album. They dropped it right after their biggest cross over debut 3 Feet High and Rising, which pretty much redefined what hip-hop was and could be in 1989. They hit a bunch of success with their first record and hit Me, Myself and I, so much that people wrote them off as “hippie rappers,” “postive” and “soft.” Silence was loud when they gone. Then out of nowhere … BAM, De La Soul Is Dead. An international response to their international backlash.

“They were the first to make fun of themselves, use the weirdest samples imagined and break ground with almost every song and verse they laid. There was no one like them. No one.

“My favorite song on that record was Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa, a document of a young high school girl who was being molested by her dad. The same dad that all her friends thought was the coolest dad in town. She tried to tell her friends what was happening and everyone wrote her off and said she was bugging. The abuse continued until this young lady went into the same mall her dad worked as a makeshift Santa during the holidays. She confronts him. Then calmly, in the cold broad day, shoots her father in the middle of the mall. The song was written like a gossip letter by one of her friends that didn’t believe her. Now come on man … that’s hip hop. The first time I got chills listening to rap.

“Now think about what the average rap song is about today and you will see how stark and ahead of their time they were. And they were only 21 when it came out.

“De La Soul broke ground wherever they walked. In the way they dressed and styled (if you have dreads today, they are the reason you do), and the way they rapped, made beats and wrote concepts. De La Soul Is Dead will forever be my goal. The perfect balance between humor and tragedy … big up to De La and their 18-year career (another ground-break in rap).”

De La Soul | Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa

De La Soul | Millie Pulled a Piston on Santa (full mix)
(From Millie “cassingle”)

(On a side note, I’m really stoked that Pigeon John picked Millie as his favorite track. For a public speaking course I took at Arizona State, we had to do an oral reading of a poem. I picked De La’s Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa, successfully convincing my professor that hip-hop is poetry.)

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Joel Hatstat of Cinemechanica
I Used to Love H.E.R.: G. Love
I Used to Love H.E.R.: an introduction

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Joel Hatstat of Cinemechanica

The second installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential hip-hop albums (introduction), comes from Joel Hatstat, who played bass and recorded on Cinemechanica’s The Martial Arts, which was released earlier this year to positive reviews (Pitchfork | Coke Machine Glow | Tiny Mix Tapes). Hatstat, also working with Athens, Ga., project Pegasuses, offers incredibly insightful and inspiring thoughts on a terribly overlooked album of the ’90s. (Coincidentally, Cinemechanica plays at Modified in Phoenix on Oct. 3.)

Digital Underground
Sex Packets (Tommy Boy, 1990)
(Note: Cassette version includes four bonus tracks.)

“I don’t credit myself as a thief, but sometimes you just gotta grab what grabs at you, right? Sometime in 1990, when I was about 10, it struck me that rockin’ some tunes while mowing the lawn would make for a far more pleasurable experience. The only tape I knew about in the house, aside from various Weird Al records, was my brother’s copy of Sex Packets by Digital Underground. I didn’t know where it was, so I rifled through a few of his drawers in his bedroom until I found it. I never gave it back, and he never knew what happened to it. To this day I still rock that record and it still comes across as listenable and entertaining.

“Sex Packets was not only my introduction to Digital Underground, but also P-Funk, Jimi Hendrix, and Rap Music in general. The underlying brand of their ‘crew’ was impeccable. There was character depth; verses flowed from Humpty Hump, Shock G, Money B, Kenny K, MC Blowfish, Schmoovy Schmoove, and later Tupac Shakur. There were stupid costumes, party-tinged videos, and high concept. The “Sex Packets” themselves served as the vehicle for the entire album, as well as the 9-minute songs with bridges, verses, choruses and jazzy piano interludes. The best part of their style was that the characters and the music didn’t really seem to fit anywhere in the context of what was popular. Extreme, EMF, Guns and Roses and Scorpions are probably more in line with what was playing in my room at the time. To hear a Hendrix guitar line scratched on a turntable over top of a kickin’ 808 beat really made everything else just seem pointless. Then to pour a bucket of cred onto the whole mess, 7 minutes into Doowutchyalike the Packet Man comes in and shreds some of the nastiest piano I’ve heard for about 2 minutes over top of just straight beat. There is melody all over this record, there is even a slowjam that is sung instead of rapped. I haven’t heard a rap crew come forward with so much versatility and respect for music in the 15 years since its release. It set a bar long ago that I strive to achieve with all of my projects, most of which have nothing to do with the genre whatsoever.”

Peace, and Humptiness forever,


Digital Underground | Doowutchyalike

I Used to Love H.E.R.: G. Love
I Used to Love H.E.R.: an introduction

I Used to Love H.E.R.: G. Love

The first installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential hip-hop albums (read the introduction), is from G. Love, who was kind enough to chat with me on the phone from Atlantic City last week before a show. G. Love’s bluesy-rap style owes a lot to the narrative roots of hip-hop. His new album, Lemonade, is available on Brushfire Records.

mp3: G. Love feat. Blackalicious | Banger

Eric B. and Rakim
Paid in Full (4th & Broadway, 1987)
Produced by Eric B. and Rakim
(Note: Rereleased in 1998 on Island on two-CD “Platinum Edition,” featuring original remastered recording and disc of remixes. Buy it here.)

“It was a pretty popular record. … I was into hip-hop when I was kid. It’s one of the records you gotta get.

“When I discovered my style, when I was a street musician, I started rapping the lyrics to Paid in Full over this blues riff. That kinda led me to develop writing rhymes. … I was playing this song Days Like This … I finished playing it and I was jamming and feeling good and started rapping the lyrics to it. It was like an epiphany.

“That’s definitely one of the hip-hop records on everybody’s list. That’s been a record that, you know, that made Rakim. … There’s arguments about who are the best emcees. Rakim and KRS-One are like the best emcees of all time. That record was the first hit. …

“On Paid in Full (the song), it’s not even the chorus, it’s like one rhyme. An introduction, a rhyme that tells the whole story and then it goes out.

“Those records (of late ’80s/early ’90s) kind of influenced a whole generation of people. It was a definitive time … There’s the big debate now about commercial hip-hop or underground hip-hop. The underground just bitches about commercial hip-hop, and commercial talks about getting paid and fucking chicks.

“Back then, it was more about storytelling, I think. That’s what made it so important to me. Everybody was rappin’ and telling stories. Whether it was Fresh Prince or L.L. … Being a songwriter is what it’s all about. It can be funny shit or scary shit. Songwriting is all about telling stories.”

Eric B. and Rakim | Paid in Full

Next installment: Joel Hatstat of Athens, Georgia’s Cinemechanica.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: an introduction

I’ve been overwhelmed/excited this year by the number of superb hip-hop releases (Murs’ Murray’s Revenge and Cadence Weapon’s Breaking Kayfabe among my favorites), quite a turnaround from 2005, when the only LP that really stuck with me was The Craft by Blackalicious. (Though, maybe I wasn’t digging hard enough.)

What’s followed has been more posting about hip-hop than I expected from myself even though I’ve long loved the genre, counting A Tribe Called Quest, Run-DMC, De La Soul, Digable Planets, etc. as mainstays in my collection. I never intended this space to be devoted to one style of music over another, but, as it took shape, a majority of posts seemed dedicated to indie rock and all its variations. That’s probably more a case of my cyclical listening habits than anything. (Though I must have paid just enough attention to hip-hop to be linked by the heads at The Broke BBoys, Analog Giant and Los Amigos de Durutti, all of which have a distinct hip-hop flavor.)

The wide array of great hip-hop albums released this year re-energized my love for a genre that seems to polarize the indie-rock set. Response to many of my hip-hop posts has been lukewarm, which has both disappointed and surprised me. Either some folks really don’t like it or just don’t know where to start, a notion that got me thinking.

At first, I thought I’d keep a regular feature in which I discuss some of the essential hip-hop albums in my collection. Then I took it a step further: I’ll ask musicians the same question. Judging solely on comments and e-mails I get, I’m guessing a majority of people who swing by here are indie-rock fans. Ideally, I hope that my posts on hip-hop have served as an introduction to it rather than a means of exclusion.

There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between indie rock and hip-hop, and, short of delving into some cultural/economical dissertation, I can’t understand why. My little utopian fantasy is to shorten that gap. For example, would it surprise you that John Vanderslice is a huge hip-hop fan? Or that John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats is, too?

This excerpt from an interview with Vanderslice:

(Interviewer): You know, one of the things that I’ve been wanting to ask you for a couple of years now — whenever I pull up one of your songs on the computer, it’s always got the genre “hip-hop/rap” attached to it.

(JV): Yeah, because that’s all I care about. (We both laugh.) It’s funny I make a point of it, when I get my albums and send them to CDDB, I always want it to be under that. … I just think hip-hop is absolutely the most inspiring thing … for me personally.

I figure if you’re tired of having me shove the hip-hop down your throat, maybe you’ll be more inspired to check some out if an artist you listen to talks about it – what makes it appealing and inspiring. I think you’ll find that some of the most well-rounded artists (such as Vanderslice or Darnielle) have the most varied tastes.

Obviously, this disconnect works in reverse, too: I’m sure there are hip-hop artists/fans who don’t know much about indie rock. Perhaps that will be a sequel to this series.

Until then, I Used to Love H.E.R. will be a regular feature (once a month? maybe more?) around here. Musicians (of all types), bloggers, writers and other industry types will drop in and discuss, in their own words, essential hip-hop albums from their collections. If the well has run dry of contributions, I’ll offer up my own. Mostly, I just want to use the feature as a starting point where people can learn about great albums and then use it as a springboard to discover more.

On a final note, the name I Used to Love H.E.R. is cribbed from a Common song off the great 1994 album Resurrection (when he went by the name Common Sense). On the track, Common personifies (and practically eulogizes) hip-hop as a woman who loses direction amid money, “gangsta rollin” and a life of glamour (lyrics). Ice Cube interpreted the song as a dis on West Coast rap, prompting his response on the Westside Connection track Westside Slaughterhouse, to which Common retaliated with The Bitch in Yoo. Westside Connection came back yet again with Hoo Bangin’.

For the record, Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists, an indispensable rap resource, declared Common the winner.

Common | I Used to Love H.E.R.