18 Oct 2019

Song Crush: Gang Starr, Michael Kiwanuka, Sturgill Simpson

From Song Crush, 5:17 pm on 18 October 2019
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Photo: RNZ / Pinky Fang

Homegrown guitar fuzz, classic New York hip-hop beats, dancehall riddims from France, and noisy Nashville country-rock are a few of the sounds you’ll hear on Song Crush this week. 

Brad Sticky Warrington and Elliott Childs are in with host Kirsten Johnstone.

Gang Starr - Family and Loyalty (feat. J.Cole) 

Gang Starr is considered one of the pillars and legends of East Coast hip-hop, and DJ Premier has made a lot of 90s hip-hop fans very happy with the release of a new Gang Starr track ‘Family And Loyalty’, featuring J. Cole.

This is the first music released by Gang Starr since 2003, when they went their separate ways. Sadly, Guru died from cancer in 2010, and this track features posthumous vocals from Guru and a verse from J. Cole. DJ Premier said in a press release - “When it comes to this generation of emcees, ones that are lyrically on the level that Guru was on and someone that he would want to work with; Cole is that guy”.

Premier's characteristic production style of cut up jazz, boom bap drum breaks, funky scratch hooks and Guru's unmistakable monotone flow have Gang Starr fans fizzing! Following the release of this track, a new Gang Starr album has been announced. One of the Best Yet is due for release on 1 November and will feature Jeru The Damaja, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, M.O.P. and J. Cole. This is a great time to be alive! Sticky.

Michael Kiwanuka - Hero 

The new song from  England-raised Ugandan Michael Kiwanuka is a mid-tempo, retro-60s number that pays homage to fallen heroes, and points at police brutality against young black men. Producers Danger Mouse and Inflo invoke Jimi Hendrix’s warm, fuzzed out guitar without sounding like pastiche, and give the song crispy snares and tasteful strings. If you haven’t caught on to Michael Kiwanuka yet, this could be a good starting point to dive backwards. KJ  

Remember To Breathe – Sturgill Simpson

A lot of artists release songs or albums about how annoying it is being a successful musician. It’s never been the most ingratiating sentiment in the world, but few have done it with as much style as Sturgill Simpson. Sound & Fury is a big departure from the psychedelic country of his previous work. It’s a middle finger to his success and the idea of who or what Sturgill Simpson is, 

The majority of the recording was done in a motel in Michigan with Sturgill and his band as the producers and it features a sound influenced in equal measure by hard rock, funk and hip-hop. It’s not what you would expect from Sturgill Simpson, but it’s a lot of fun to listen to. EC

L’entourloop and Skarra Mucci - Bangarang

French production duo L'entourloop have dropped a sure fire banger for the dancehall! Bangarang features a typically intense ragga vocal from long time collaborator, Jamaican Skarra Mucci aka the Dancehall President.

L'entourloop are serious beatmakers who use scratches and samples that are cut and pasted with a french flair, bringing together the sounds and cultures of France, Jamaica, and New York in a head knocking marriage of reggae and hip-hop! L'entourloop's EP 'Golden Nuggets 'is out now. Sticky

Ben Woods - Good 2 Be Sleeping

Christchurch musician Ben Woods has adopted the idea of Andipodean Gothic and brings a meditative quality to what is essentially a post-punk album. 

The last song on his debut Put is a slow-growing stunner of a lullaby, which starts with talk box guitar and adds quiet textural synths, a Dirty Three like violin part, and his out-of-body, but perfectly enunciated voice. KJ

Julien Baker - Tokyo 

Julien Baker is a singer and songwriter who performs solo and as part of the group Boygenius with Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. Like her bandmates, she has a penchant for slowly building, sparse songs that contain beautiful melodies and emotionally heavy lyrics.

'Tokyo' is a song about the contradictions in life. Not getting what you expect, particularly from love, and not wanting to stay in one place yet knowing the risks of making a change. It starts off with a deceptively cheery guitar loop before paring down to just guitar and voice, before building to the cathartic crescendo. It’s a prime example of what makes Baker stand out as an emerging songwriter. EC

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