Welcome to the monthly series where I write about the ideas and inspiration behind the Spotify playlists I release on the first of every month.
Lately I’ve dedicated a good amount of time studying and practicing meditation. One of the practices I found myself most intrigued by in the past month was a type that has you sit with all types of emotions — enjoyable, challenging and everything in between.
This month’s playlist is a musical journey through that meditation practice. The arrangement of songs took me chronologically through moments when I’ve felt empowered, joyful, in love, nostalgic, sad, angry, open-minded, carefree, passionate, and empowered once again. The list of emotions certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it touches on a lot of the things I’ve been reflecting on through this practice. I figured I’d explain or tell a couple stories about just a couple of them. I don’t expect you to have any considerable connection to the actual experiences, but knowing that these journeys are something we all go through as humans, I hope it serves as a starting point to explore, remember and sit with different emotions you’ve felt throughout your life.
For the first time in my short academic career, skipping my 9:05 class paid off (sorta-kinda) this morning when I noticed this little diddy skirting across Twitter. As he says in the first lines of the track, “Cole Summer” isn’t related to his upcoming sophomore-LP Born Sinner, but it is a smooth, Lauryn Hill sample that will definitely feel right at home for your day drinking this summer. Born Sinner on June 25th.
Fortune Family’s back with a new single, Fam-uh-la. The other week, Lydia had a great post the other week about samples used in songs, and this one has a lot of samples itself so I thought I’d take you through them.
First, let’s get to the music. Hop samples “Shadow of Lo” by Return to Forever. Return to Forever is a jazz-fusion band from The Big Apple, led by well respected pianist Chick Corea. They made their mark during the 70’s, and came back just a few years ago to do some shows and record new music. Chick Corea is a pretty incredible dude — he played with The Legend Miles Dewey Davis III back in the 60’s — so his chops and credentials are mightily legitimate.
Now, the lyrics. The female voice you hear is Lauryn Hill, sampled from the Fugees song “Ooh La La.” As members of the Fugees, Hill, Wyclef Jean, and rapper Pras Michel were huge; they had a Grammy Winning record in 1996 with “The Score,” which went platinum 4 times over. Then, in 1997, the group went their separate ways, all managing to promote successful solo careers. Hill went on to record her magnum opus, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Clef went on to produce for such acts as Santana and Destiny’s Child, and Pras went on to record with hip-hop god Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Not too shabby all around, I’d say.
The sound clips, to me, add a lot to the song. The first is Bob Ross a painter. Kind of the Richard Simmons of his craft, truly a pleasure to watch.
You’ve also got a clip from Dumb and Dumber, and one from the Peep Show at the end. All in all, a whole lot of different sounds went into creating this song, and it’s cool to see how it all comes together.
Seems like there’s an awful lot of women
In whose honor I would
Like to raise my glass
And give a toast
One night last summer, I thought I had run into an awkward situation with the guy I was rooming with at the time. I don’t remember the details, but it was like a Tuesday night, the roommate was out, and there was nothing to do. Think you know where this story’s going? Wrong. Well maybe, I don’t remember, but anyways. So, I call up one of my best friends who lived right below me, and he comes up to hang out. The fluorescent lights in my room were super harsh and invasive, so usually at night I’d flip on the colored Christmas lights I’d strung 360 degrees around my room. Perfect mood lighting. I don’t remember the course of events, but the activity for the night ended up being us just sitting quietly in the perfect mood lighting, listening to my beautiful stash of chick singers. Usually bro’s don’t listen to Regina Spektor and Cat Power together, but that’s what we were doing, and it was awesome. About an hour later the roommate walks in on what looks like a pretty serious bromantic situation. There’s a smirk on his face as he throws his bag down and closes the door, but then he just sits down, nods in agreement to the great music, and closes his eyes. And what I learned that day is that nothing solidifies a male friendship like mutual respect for one’s taste in soft, female-sung music. Who’d’thought?
Besides from my mom (who, of course, is the best chick singer I know), my first introduction to female singers came from Dad. All the girls he had a crush on in college: Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Carol King, Mary Travers (from Peter, Paul, & Mary), etc. Apparently they were all hotties way back in the day, but by the time I was listening to them they were even older and geezier than my Dad. But I was in my oldies phase, and I loved them like I loved all my oldies. I credit Peter, Paul, & Mary for sparking my lifelong appetite for folk music and, later, Dan Bern for solidifying it.
In terms of chick singers of the past, there are some icons of female song that I refuse to leave off my list, even though I admittedly still don’t have much of their music. Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Nico. The Ella song below “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is the perfect, holiday-time, bundling up song. I hate the cold, but it almost (almost) makes me wish it were winter already so I play that song as I prepare for a classy, brisk night out on the town. The Aretha song will always have a special part in my heart, even though I always feel awkward and self-conscious playing it in public. Finally, the Nico song is the sample for probably my favorite mashup ever, “Slow Down” by Big Z Remixes.
I just finished eating an entire block of Jarlsberg cheese. I’m gonna regret that in the morning. Ok, getting off track….moving on. I’m pretty sure I’ve blabbered on about Feist in a number of my posts, so I’ll do it again. She’s amazing, and her voice is flawless. But surprisingly, I’ve found a few other artists in the last year or so who I dare say give her voice a run for its money. These women are truly fantastic, and I highly recommend giving them a listen and looking up more of their music:
There’s one chick singer on this post/mixtape who could kick the shit out of all the other women in the post (and probably all you guys reading this). And that’s Pink. Say what you will, but I proudly tromp around the gym rocking out to her furiousness. This is one of those songs that I remember exactly where I was when I first heard it. I was smashed at a super janky tourist bar in Beijing, coming back from an even jankier bathroom. I’m walking down the stairs back to my friends, and “So What” comes almost loud enough to blow my face off. It was awesome.
MP3: “So What” – Pink
One of my musical ambitions is to become better acquainted with female hip-hop artists. I know of quite of few, but I know of them mostly through features and the odd single. But as I’m sure you all remember from Nicki Minaj’s verse on Kanye’s “Monster,” female rappers can tear shit up. Jesus Christ. Of the female hip-hop artists whose albums I have, one of my favorites (and obviously one of the legends) is Lauryn Hill. Check it.
MP3: “Rill Rill” – Sleigh Bells
MP3: “Anyone Else But You” – The Moldy Peaches [[for my brother, who sings it almost(…) as well]]
MP3: “Wicked Games” – Coeur de Pirate (The Weeknd cover)
In case you don’t want to download all the songs individually, you can download a zip of them all here: