Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Homemade Fishing Rods

Imagine this scenario for a second:

You're one of the most famous rappers of your generation. Your debut garners god-like praise and incredible comparisons. Your sophomore album then draws in the millions of fans that had slept past the first one. At this point, basically every opportunity you could want you're able to secure. You do a movie, start a super group, work all-star collaborations, and stand next to legends of the game and Billboard's most touted. Then, after doing the rounds, you decide to scale it back, switch up the profile, and lend your voice to an album that only few from your fanbase will ever even hear of. The album probably won't go gold or get MTV rotation, but, for you, it's not even a second thought. After all, you've been Nas, the rapper, since '91, but you've been Nasir Jones, the son of Olu Dara, since '73; you're side-by-side with your dad now.

When Olu Dara released his 1998 LP In The World: From Natchez To New York, though most only knew his son, as an accomplished jazz musician for thirty years, Dara ensured that his music would be recognized for more than just a guest appearance. Nas might have been a selling point, but the strong blues and soul that In The World also featured would be its most convincing.

Before Mrs. Butterworth became a kitchen staple, and back when legend told that molasses could double as a medical cure, you would have been likely to find a container full of Alaga Syrup around. It was tradition: thick, rich, and flavorful. This is important to note, because that texture, that tradition, is the perfect way to describe the very shape and sound of blues, the music you'll often hear from Olu Dara. (Only difference is that too much of this won't turn your kidneys to raisins.) At its best, blues is the rough soundin', guitar-pluckin', backporch-wailin' styled music that, in an instant, can transport you to a time when your grandfather told stories, the two of you lake-side, fishing, poles all made out of a branch and some spare line. You know, that kind of heart and soul that comes only so often but stays with you for forever. And that's percisely the world of In The World, rich like syrup and as soul satisfying as a childhood fishing trip.

Starting at the dinner table, with vegetables fresh from the corn man's yard, Olu Dara then journeys through a rain shower, straight to a shopping trip in Natchez, Mississippi. Providing an appropriate backdrop to his cornet, trumpet, and vocal explorations, Dara is joined along the way by some of the best musicians in the industry. Even his eldest son, Nas, comes along for the spoken-word, steady-nod Jungle Jay:

The world's so big yet so small, it's one block
Many die mentally before they reach what they wanted
I choose to get blunted / and cruise to One Hundred
Twenty-Fifth street / music loud as hell in my jeep
However, perhaps ITW's true peak comes in more ballad form, such as on Harlem Country Girl. The slow, vintage roll of cymbals and a snare, the horn that expresses as much longing as it does melody, the guitar picking that seems to just pull memories off the shelf, and Dara's rough but warming vocals all prove the power of song to reach into your soul and massage away whatever pains you're facing. This is the type of music that's just waiting for you to reel in.

Olu Dara: Harlem Country Girl
Olu Dara: Natchez Shopping Blues
Olu Dara f/ Nas: Jungle Jay

*NOTE: This entry was primarily written by one Rakeem Cedric Twatt.--Fletch


Anonymous Nigeria said...

Nas's verse on Jungle Jay is amazing. Makes you wonder why he didn't do more spoken word.

August 25, 2006 5:43 PM  

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