Out of body experience, hard to explain
Like the pyramids and gods I remain
I know pain, like Kurt Cobain,
Or hate. Or AI playing hurt the whole game.
Dig into the Earth's brain for worse gain;
Focused like Young Blood on his first chain.
I used to write shit to please niggas:
Now I write shit to freeze niggas.
Whether iced out, or American Pie sliced out,
I sit in the room with the lights out.
Whether diced out, or with the hair spiked out,
I sit alone in the room with the lights out,
Electric! Wire! Hustle! Flower!
Electric! Wire! Hustle! Flower!

--Common--from "Electric Wire Hustle Flower"--Electric Circus

There's something about Erykah Badu. Not only is she a former teen rapper turned the most soulful and expressive singer of our generation, but she also has the Earth Mother quality of being to be able to inject that soul and expressiveness into others. She dated André 3000 of the brilliant hip-hop duo OutKast and it wasn't long before he was experimenting wildly in music, helping bring about the commercial and critical phenomenon of the group's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. album.

After Badu and André broke up, an event that led to the sublime emotional event of Badu's Mama's Gun, she took up with Common, who could already make a fair claim to be the best lyricist in Hip-Hop (and the sort of mind a lot of today's insipid literary poets could learn from). The result was Electric Circus, a truly daring and musically inspired album. I hope no one thinks I'm using a disrespectful terms term if I echo what someone said on (I think) OkayPlayer: Badu reverse thugged both Common and André in the sense that she catalyzed their transformation from intelligent hard-core to the multidimensional.

"Electric Wire Hustle Flower", for example, is a very well crafted collaboration with hard rock band P.O.D.. Too often in Rap/Rock collabos the energy of the instrumentation overwhelms the lyrics. No such problem when Common is the lyricist. It's refreshing for someone of Common's caliber to admit:

I used to write shit to please niggas

And this song is arresting proof of his boast:

Now I write shit to freeze niggas

Building on Black Power imagery, and touching on the famous Grunge icon, he flips it smoothly into appreciation of Allen Iverson's ankle-breaking skills (or is that a reference to increasingly smart computer game AI)? He keeps working in this way until he closes the verse with the vivid image "Whether diced out, or with the hair spiked out, I sit alone in the room with the lights out,

Wicked stuff if you can see beyond the next DJ Kay Slay tape, but the problem was that Common's fan base had always been the hard-core underground crowd, and they were not amused at this transformation. See Art of Rhyme's interview with Common:

[AOR]: Out of your body of work, fans were most divided by Electric Circus, how would you personally rank that amongst your albums?

[Common]: I feel it was the most diverse and out-there album, I can't say it's one of the best or weakest. It got the weakest response, but that don't necessarily make it the weakest. Later on people may respond and say that was some creative stuff, we just weren't there at that time. I may have taken them too far at that time. I would say that it's still a good album to me. It wasn't one of my best if I look at it right now, but it may eventually be something that people say is very, very good. How I feel, it's still an expression of me at that time. It's hard for me to say it's one of my best, but I know this album is one of my best.

Apparently he was too far ahead of some of his fans, but I'm grateful for his daring, and I know that Chimezie is, too. It gets the Copia stamp of approval. We're definitely looking forward to Common's new album BE, especially given his hot single "The Corner" and the other advance song, "The Food".

More on Common later on today.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Zap Zap Zap Mama

Wow. Last night Zap Mama ripped the lid off the Boulder Theater in support of Ancestry in Progress. As I said,, I'd been looking forward to the concert, but I had no idea what I was in for.

First thing that needs saying: I don't care what your musical predilection is. If you have the merest hint of eclecticism about you, and you love a good show, do not miss Zap Mama when they come your way. I can't think of a single other person for whom I'd give such a universal recommendation, but I'd be amazed if anyone was unmoved in a Zap Mama concert. They jaunt through Japan, India, both Americas, Europe, and, of course, West Africa in a pretty impressive sweep of musical style. But don't call it "world music", as some reductionist critics do. This is no patch-up of the alien mediocre. Zap Mama are sheer virtuosity by any standard.

I've heard a lot of people talk about Bobby McFerrin's vocal range and skill. Marie Daulne, Zap Mama band leader, is easily a match (Zap/McFerrin would be a killer collabo). Marie has no earthly right to be able to make some of the sounds that came out of her mouth. If you have/get the album, listen carefully. I think I can safely say that any sound that was not obviously made by drums, bass guitar, bass upright, electric guitar or keyboard (plain organ voice, mostly) or turntable cut it probably came from a voice, either Marie or one of the other singers. And Marie's voice: plaintive, assured, earthen, ethereal, reedy, robust, she affects it all.

And she is one of the most striking women you'll come across. Not just lissome and beautiful, but also cultured, artful, expressive, energetic and very playful (she closed the concert with some classic hip-hop moves, including the reverse worm). She bounced effortlessly around the stage while exercising that shape-shifting voice in a panoply of languages. At one point I was thinking to myself "this woman has more of The Goddess in her than anyone else I've encountered", and soon thereafter, a CU Boulder coed-looking chick turned to me and said "Oh my god. She's a goddess. I've like, never had a goddess so close I could almost touch her" (we were in the front row). I nodded. I can quite feel where she was coming from.

Boulder Theatre was packed, and as usual, the Boulder crowd ate it up like suya on Id el-Fitri. I barely had space to shake like Bandy Bandy. And speaking of "Bandy Bandy", that was the song that immediately followed the encore, and pretty much the entire crowd try fi wind up them waist. If you go to Zap Mama's Web site, the sinuous bass chord progression that greets you is from "Bandy Bandy", and it's as infectious as it comes. Closing with an extended version of Follow Me, Marie gave the whole band in turn a chance to amp up the crowd. They'd already taken us all over the musical map, from India ("namaste" as Marie modestly said, with proper soft voicing on the "t"); through Europe, playing songs such as "Ça Varie Varie"; through her native Zaïre (now "Congo" again), adding to several of the songs a strong Soukous flavor not present on the album, and acknowledging each explosion of the crowd with a very melodious "mmmmeeeeerci beaucoup"; Japan, playing "Alright" (and yes, she does both onnagata and aragoto in the extended, Kabuki-like intro); South America, playing songs such as "Vivre"; and New York City, with a few brief demos of old-school Hip-Hop. Zap Mama didn't spare any opportunity for crowd participation, and the crows was very willing. It wasn't just the standard call-and response--I nearly lost my keys when she had us shake them in the air as makeshift maracas during "Show me the Way".

The only sad note of the night was that Lori didn't come. She hasn't heard much Zap Mama, and I didn't realize how universal the concert would be in its appeal. The funny thig is that my good friend Tony had been inviting me to catch Zap Mama at his Aggie Theater for years, but I never got around to it. We shall not make such a mistake again. When we saw Erykah Badu last year in Denver, we were all riding the high for months, including the kids, who imitated our imitation of Eryka's overhead hand slide through her extended set of "Woo". Zap Mama is at least as powerful an experience, and we'll catch her together next time.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Tu crois que le monde est à toi,
Qu'il t'appartient;
C'est ta chose, tu en disposes,
Sans qu'il ne reste rien

--Les Nubians--Demain--Princesses Nubiennes

My generic pass at translation:

You believe the world is yours
That it belongs to you
It's your thing, it's at your disposal
Without which [without you?] there's nothing left

O-ou yes, Hélène et Célia Faussart, Les Nubians. Les soeurs chantant. Les soeurs sexy.

As I recall, I heard "Makeda" in a Boulder record store, and, besotted, ran to faire le connaissance of whomever had produced such gorgeous music. I saw Les Nubians at the Fox Theater in Boulder a couple of years ago. Comme d'habitude, the Boulder crowd was well up on their music, and the energy was amazing. Their encore was a sublime tribute to African music, followed by a crowd-participation version of Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster". It strikes me how consistently wonderful my concert experiences in Boulder are. It may be a white bread town in all demographic reality, but in spirit, Boulder doesn't fake the funk. I'm looking forward to seeing Zap Mama at the Boulder Theatre tomorrow. Oui. Soi-même Zap Mama. Quelle chance pour moi.

C'est mardi, which means the day for La Table Francophone of Boulder. I've been going most Tuesday evenings for the last few months. I go to work on my spoken French, and to hang out with my friends, many of whom these days are francophones. Une soirée avec mes amis. Quelle chance pour moi.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


As I look back on my life
To get where I am I had to sacrifice
You slammed my name in your magazine
This business gets hard trying to stay a queen
You're checking for me, you need to check yourself
And be someone, not someone else
Don't you know I heard you're trying to take mine
While I shine, you're living fake lives
Don't ya know I heard you tryin' to take mine
But while I shine, you lip and fake y'all styles

[All to the tune of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"]

--Queen Latifah--Paper (featuring Jaz-A-Belle & Pras Michel)

Queen Latifah: "Give me that beat, fool, it's a full-time jack move"
Marvin Gaye: "Alright. This is that next generation I was looking for. Damn my crazy-ass pops"

Just kidding. She didn't actually jack the beat: she used the tune, approximated the lyrics, and then laid it on a spare, sassy, mellow-funky beat. Overall, a pretty tight caper. Dana Owens the Queen is always entertaining (and nice to look at, with that smooth thickness).

I just caught the ridiculously over-done Paul Hunter video for this song (actually a combo of "Bananas/Paper"--clip) on VH1 Soul (what would I do without that channel?) For some reason I'd never seen it, though I used have the song on a favorite mix tape. It's surreal listening to this soothing sound set against incoherent scenes of Mad Max types battling in space, but whateva. It's just nice to hear the track again.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Just like that, Hasina was the son of all man
Type blood. He a realer fighter, super fro.
Bust it. The beast may want a war in the summer;
Thus, I rock my camoflage playing corners
Represents kites, while they pimp hip hop
I strategize my joints; you know it don't shtop
And it don't pop son, its p-ject 'round together
For beats, and concrete, when I'm creamy with my stilleto
got 16, for the imperial fascist
Bomb beats brothers, and honeys we 'bouts to set it
Domino theory, 'cause they stalled our flow
Collecting pitchforks, till they free Geronimo
Why you blaze up. Right on. I say my fist raise up.
While you bent, I represent... what!...
Uptown, Downtown, across; wherever
Meet me at the Crooklyn, we can piece it all together.

--Butterfly of Digable Planets--"Dial 7 (Axioms of Creamy Spies)", Blowout Comb

Hasina is a Swahili name, meaning "good" but I never figured out just what Butterfly meant there. I do know that Butterfly must have built up quite the pitchfork collection before Johnnny Cochran finally sprang Geronimo Pratt from jail.

But anyway, sing it like that Ladybug and Sara Webb: "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey." Lori informed me that not only have Digable Planets reunited, but they'll be in Boulder in June (Fox Theatre). I'm not sure how I missed the news that they're back and working on an album, but I'm amped on the prospect. I loved their frank use of classic Jazz samples on Reachin' and I loved their Black Panther Funk on Blowout Comb (including the sublime "For Corners" and the cool, playful "Borough Check"). Most importantly, I love Mecca/Ladybug and Ishmael/Butterfly's mega-hip, abstract metaphors and laid back flow. Many of their lines are timeless quotables for Lori and me. Just from Reachin':

"What is really what when the supreme court is, like, all in my uterus"

"They harassed me at the clinic and called me a murderer. Now that's hate."

"In the scheme of things time is unreal. We're just babies. We're just babies, man."

"Hanging out, relax, ain't nothing to fo. Checking out some Frome, some Sartre, Camus."

"As bosoms float by keeping Doodlebug in heat"

"Hit it like a Dig Planet, god dammit!"

and of course

"You down with Digable Planets, you's a hipster. Shit."

Digable Planets--Reachin': A New Refutation of Time and Space Digable Planets--Blowout Comb

The Digable Planets were also one of my first concert experiences with Lori (can't remember whether we saw them before we saw Me'Shell Ndegeocello). We were walking to the venue, at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and another black guy happened to be walking with another white girl in front of us. Some students riding by in a bus yelled out the window. "Hey, you black guys better stop stealing all our dates". The girl in front of us, unfazed, said to her companion "you'd almost think we were back in Philly". I've never been able to figure out exactly what she meant. Anyway, the concert was the bomb, especially the explosion that occurred when Ladybug shushed the crowd so we'd get the full effect of the killer Art Blakey sample that forms the backbone of "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)".

I guess we'll see if they still have that magic June 13th. "We groove like dat. We smooth like dat. We funk like that. We out."

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

King Sunny Ade invades Boulder

E je ka jooooo! Ka anyi gbaa egwu! (That's "let's dance!" in Yoruba and Igbo, respectively).

Last night Lori and I went to see King Sunny Ade at The Boulder Theatre.

The concert started with a very lukewarm opening set by Obi Obadebe (whom my friend Ejovi AKA Joe thought was related to the great musician Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe). Always wonder when you see a West African band with three players. We don't do very much part-way, and our bands typically start with eight musicians. It was cool to hear highlife played in public in the U.S. outside my parent's circle, but somehow I'm doubtful about the Obadebe/Osadebe connection. Apparently Boulder is a bit of a hot spot for highlife musician visitors, mostly Ghanaian, and there is a big highlife concert coming up this Friday. I'll have to pay attention.

Anyway, Sunny Ade himself took the stage with a band of 12, and completely commanded it. I love watching the subtleties of great band leaders (Buckwheat Zydeco is a good example). Ade worked flawless timing and very clean playing out of his big group with deft looks, nods, and gestures. I've always marveled at how highlife, soukous and juju bands have such sharp and clear instrumentation, and I caught a glimpse of the process on stage.

Most importantly, the music was wonderful. Playful, energetic, thick, punctuated by the insistent talking drum (Ade probably makes better use of the talking drum than any other popular musician). Ade hopped around the stage like a man 30 years his junior. The audience followed his lead (as usual for Boulder there were a lot of hippies, old and new). They even crowded the stage to "spray" the musicians. Fun to see some of our traditions embraced by others. Ade occasionally gave a charge the revels by bringing out the heavy duty dancing girls. I found myself doing all the old high school / college dances from O wa mbe to Foot Patrol.

Lori jammed a good bit, for one almost 6 months pregnant (not that preganacy has ever done much to dampen her energy). She went to the sitting area for the occasional spell, but she had a lot of fun. We ran into my friend Joe and his girlfriend Carmella. Joe and I chatted about our own memories of Nigerian music in Nigeria, (we're 20 and 15 years removed, respectively, from the actual country). Carmella is from Galicia and before Ade came on we chatted about the parallels between Spain's politics of regional nationalism and Nigeria's. One point I made was that political differences in Nigeria tended to fail in two areas: food and music. To be sure, music like Ade's is pretty universal, especially live, as it should be, and last night's experience underscored that point.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Six a.m. -- getting out of bed again
Can’t get back in -- ‘cause sleep ain’t gonna pay the rent
Day to day -- they've got you working like a slave
Taking credit for the work you gave and stealing your raise -- well I...
I know you’re down, when you gon’ get up
I see you're down, when you gon’ get up

-- Amel Larrieux -- "Get Up"

Ah, one of the best songs to wake up with (or fall asleep with, or just...). If anyone could be said to have a voice that caresses the ear, ex-Groove Theory chick has it on lock. Her voice is a soft, succulent marvel. And I love the mellow-but-odd stylings of the video. And "Get Up" just the intro to one of the best albums that came out at the turn of the century. Oh, you slept on it like everyone else? I see you ain't down. When you gon' get up?

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


And then he turned his power on and the ground began to move
And all the buildings for miles around were swaying to the groove
And just when he had fooled the crowd and swore he wouldn't fight
We rocked his beat with a 12 inch cut called Disco Kryptonite

-- Cozmo D of Newcleus -- "Jam on it"

I've had old-school hip-hop in my head lately. T La Rock's "It's yours", UTFO's "Roxanne, Roxanne" and "Bad Luck Barry", Kurtis Blow's "Basketball", and of course all sorts of stuff from Grandmaster Caz, The Trecherous Three, Afrika Bambaata and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. It's just been coming into my head unbidden. And when I think of the great classic "Jam on it", I get the most powerful memories of illegally jumping the fence at my boarding school with a few of my fellow hip-hop nerd friends and walking to Okigwe town to loiter about the local record shops. We'd ask the owner to play the Wiki Wiki Wiki song over and over. Serious psychedelic cosmic slop. I was too young (12 or 13) for it to have occurred to me that those dudes must have been on some heavy grass when they wrote that.

And by the way, I love the way that the French group Saïan Supa Crew (French hip hop is killing it right now, f'real) take on Newcleus's touch of a dude interjecting comic relief in a helium gassed up voice.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


Words by others have always given me a lot of the energy I need every day, but I don't find my inspiring words from the typical quotation repositories. As a student of poetry and hip-hop, my influences are often fairly unusual. In Quotidie (Latin for every day), I'll share selections in the hopes that they might inspire someone else as well.

To kick it off, what better than the namesake of my brother and Copia partner? Bright Chimezie was a big one-hit wonder back home in Nigeria with his smash hit "Okoro Junior". The lyrics were a complaint against those who had abandoned their African roots in cultural taste:

I went to a disco party
I requested for African sound
The whole people call me Okoro Junior
Imagine oooh...
In Africa ah...
Okoro le Okoro
Okoro le Okoro...

Bright Chimezie probably wouldn't find the Ogbuji brothers quite native enough, but never fear, we'll never keep things too far from the old Motherland.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia