(True Confessions of a Record Addict)
Another Unreleased Exclusive!
Okay, so what's it gonna be, kid? The rent's due. The Visa bill just came in, followed by the Mastercard and the American Express. Oh, shit...I forgot about that other stack over there...lessee what bills I forgot to pay last week: Ma Bell, the cable shit, electric, insurance for the whip, credit union...damn! On top of that I owe that kid Tee $80 for those records he got for me last month. Muthafuckas want they money. Ah-ight, let me check the assets and see what I can come up with. Savings account: ooh, that's lookin' kinda’ ugly right now, so let's not look at that for the time being. Checking account: not much better, but I gots a little sumpin' in there. Pocket account: well, it ain't on "E" yet, but it was feelin' a lot heavier yesterday.
So why is my billfold so much lighter today, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. I knew I had a small mountain of bills to pay off, but I also hadn't been to any of my record spots in maybe about two weeks. None of the used record shops to flip through crates of old vinyl and none of the regular record stores to get my dose of new hip-hop. Nothing. See, I'd been trying to cut down on my compulsive record buying in an attempt to conserve loot and play the role of a responsible adult person. But even though I vowed not to come within five miles of a record store, I was like Mookie with a crack bottle: them shits was callin' me, man. So what did I do on payday? I hopped my brown ass into the whip, drove around aimlessly with that pocket full of cream, and somehow found myself headed in the direction of one of my favorite record spots, no doubt.
It was like I had two little Soulmen sitting on my shoulders: one with a fly set of wings on his back and a halo floating inches above his Kangol, and another one with horns peeking out of his afro, toting a stainless steel pitchfork and kickin' all types of game in my ear. "Yo, brother...you been good for two weeks. You ain't bought shit, man! I'll tell you what, let's just go in the store and look around. Maybe pick up one or two pieces, that's all. What can that hurt?"
"Don't do it, Phill", countered the heavensent voice in my other earhole. "You step in that store, and you're going to spend up all of your money on records. And then, pray tell, how will you pay your bills?"
These thoughtful words of advice really seemed to set off the little devilish Soulman, who became hotter than a kid runnin' ball in a First Down goose sweatsuit in the middle of August. "Ay yo, FUCK that little bitch-ass kid on your left side, B! You know you want them goddamn records, so go 'head and buy them shits! Don't be a fuckin' pussy!"
After that the angelic Soulman on my left shoulder decided not to test his demonic counterpart...after all, he did have that big-ass pitchfork and everything. So with the inner dispute settled, I drove up to the spot, sifted through albums for about 90 minutes, and came out with a fat stack of wax under my armpit and a big chunk bitten out of my paycheck.
So now here I am on Saturday morning, feeling guilty that I spent that cheese, trying to figure out how the hell I'm gonna pay these bills. Fuck it, I'll worry about that later. Right now let me check out some of these joints I picked up yesterday that I didn't listen to yet. Hmmm, this is a record I never saw before, a group called The Purpose. Sounds kinda’ ah-ight, some blues shit. Not half bad for two dollars. Okay, what's this..."Are You Looking" by Congress Alley. I picked this up because Dr. Dre sampled some voices off of it and used 'em on "Nuthin' But A G Thing". Also, I think my man (from The Roots) Ahmir's father was down with this group. Sounds like some pretty tight soul, but it's not really my thing. Good to have for the collection, anyway. Lessee, next we have the rock group Surprize's "Keep On Truckin’" album, with one of the cheapest looking covers I've ever seen. There's one fat beat on here and that's about it, though. Somebody told me this next record, Emil Richard's "New Time Element", was hot. But as I listen to it, only one word comes to mind: bananas. This is definitely some other shit, so I'll just stick it in my "other shit" crate for future reevaluation.
Okay, what else...a sealed copy of The Wild Magnolias, that's always good to have. Copies of the Wayne Cochran album and "They Say I'm Different" by Betty Davis. Hmm, let me check out this piece by Bobby Calender: no beats, but maybe I can use some of the sounds on it. I dunno, the shit is weird. Some ol' Middle Eastern shit, it's kinda’ bugged. Well, I already know this Hugo Montenegro record is probably gonna be wack, but I'll check it anyway: ehh, sounds like garbage, but what the hell, it only cost...wait a minute! This shit's got a beat on it! I don't know why, but I just love to find beats on records that look totally wack. There's nothing like discovering shit on your own. It's almost orgasmic. Not quite on the level of power-u, but it's a damn good feeling anyway. True dat.
The nauseating aroma of a greasy swine-infested breakfast sizzling in my next door neighbor's cribpiece tells me that it's still early, so I guess I'll tinker around with my sampler before I hit the streets. I've been trying to hook up a track for my man Da'Rage to flow to, but I just haven't been feelin' it lately. My problem is that hip-hop and me ain't really goin' in the same direction right now. The kinda’ shit that I like--what I consider to be "real" hip-hop--is the kinda’ shit that ain't sellin' these days. The current formula seems to be a) make your music as R&B-ish as possible, complete with commercially smooth keyboard chords and the whole shit; b) come out with some ol' rah-rah about shooting and killing people, the drug dealer/pimp/stick-up kid lifestyle (or anything else that can earn you the ultimate goal: an all-expenses paid trip to the State Correctional Facilities); or c) both of the above. Think about it: how many recent gold or platinum rap acts haven't fallen under at least one of the aforementioned categories? Not many. It's nothing new; the commercial sounding stuff has almost always sold more than the underground. But at least you always knew that the true heads would be fiendin’ for that raw, street shit, regardless of what the charts and the award shows said was bangin'.
The sad thing is that nowadays it seems like shit has become so twisted that even most of the so-called underground people wanna’ hear emcees (excuse me, rappers) talk about their lives of the same old hos, weed , and gun clappin' over psuedo-R&B tracks and all too familiar samples. And what makes it that much sadder is that rap is actually becoming more and more diverse in a lot of ways, with a lot of extremely talented artists doing a lot a new things and also bringing back some of the old styles that have been missing for a long time. But the most interesting music still gets lost in the industry shuffle while the same old shit keeps blowing up like a fertilizer bomb.
There are always lovely exceptions that sneak through the cracks and give me the optimistic feeling that maybe this shit isn't dead after all. But as I sit here going through a stack of records, looking for something to sample that the multitudes might like, I'm feeling lost. Should I hook up this Phil Upchurch joint that I love, even though I know most people probably won't get it, or just be the 67th person to sample Zapp's "Computer Love" in hopes of a big hit? Another dilemma. I need help, y'alI.
"Psst... Yo, Phill."
Uh oh. Not you again. The little devilish guy...
"Look, B: sittin' in the house crying about the state of current hip-hop is not gonna’ help you feel better. But you know what will make you feel better? What always makes you feel better?"
No. Don't even say it...
"You need to go out..."
But I've got to pay these bills...
"...and buy some more..."
Yo, what happened to my little man on the left shoulder with the wings comin' outta’ his back pack? I thought he was supposed to be here to talk me out of buying any more records.
"Oh, that herb? Me and my boys caught him before he could reach you, black. He's in emergency right now, gettin' my pitchfork surgically removed from his ass."
God, do I need a ten step program...
RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM THE SOULMAN
Strangest battle that I've heard about in a long time: My man Mr. Kiko the Toilet Rhyme Writer got a call a few weeks ago from someone who'd heard word of his skills on the mic. This mysterious call from out of the blue was made by no other than WuTang's crazy man, The Ol' Dirty Bastard himself! Ol' Dirty, in his own incomparable drunken style, challenged The Toilet Rhyme Writer to an impromptu battle of skills right over the phone, and what followed was a short but furious exchange that probably rivaled the Hearns-Hagler bout. No word on who won, but I'm calling the phone company to see if they might've gotten that shit on tape or something...
In the Soulman's deck this month: The D & D All Stars joint, Funkdoobiest's "Dedicated", and the whole entire Mobb Deep album. I'm late with this, of course, ‘cause I still ain't gettin’ new shit sent to me 'til it's old shit... Ups to The Soul Mutt in Manhattan, Kajisas, for hookin' a brother with the K.M.D. Black Bastards bootleg. Good lookin', kid... Send those letters to THE SOULMAN, P.O. BOX 12323, PHILA. PA. 19119. If you want a short reply, don't forget to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your letter. Until next time, peace.