“HIT n RUN” – Phase One, “HIT n RUN – Phase Two –
Prince – NPG Records
When Prince released two albums on the same day in 2014 it would mark His Royal Badness’ return to Warner Bros. Records, the label that signed him in the mid 70s. From his 1978 debut album “For You” to classic albums like “Controversy”, “1999”, to the stellar “Purple Rain” soundtrack to 1987s opus “Sign “O” The Times”, the label stood by His Purple One until Prince wanted to release music at a frequency that the label could not handle.
After signing a 100 million-dollar record deal with Warner in the early 90s, Prince declared war on the label, which he felt was trying to stifle his creative output. He took to writing “Slave” on his face with eyeliner and hired famed Black entertainment attorney L. Londell Macmillan to get him out of his contract.
After ventures with EMI, BMG, Sony, Motown and some indie projects, he returned to Warner in a move that shocked many, and in the fall of 2014, Prince released two sets on the same day; the rock joint “Plectrum Electrum” with his all girl rock band 3rd Eye Girl and the brilliant and confessional “Art Official Age.” These subsequent releases sub-titled; Phase One and Phase Two are like codas for “Age”, released exclusively on Tidal. “Phase One”, while it clearly does not contain content with the magnitude of debt as found on “Age”, nonetheless delivers hard-hitting music that goes to many different cities with tasty results.
From the funky techno of “X’s Face” to the Euro dance of “FALLINLOVE2NITE” to the soulful metal of “HARDROCKLOVER” to the neo-soul remix of “This Could Be Us”, whose original version was from “Age”. “Mr. Nelson almost has him in a Drake-like groove. The plain out funky “Shut This Down” almost harks back to the “Housequake” days. More than simply just a coda, Phase One is a great album in and of itself.
Phase Two starts off much more rock-oriented with the Black Lives Matter theme, “Baltimore”, which Prince performed for the first time at The Black Lives Matter benefit concert in Baltimore last year. “RocknRoll Love Affair Is Just That.” “Screwdriver” would not have sounded out of place on 1980s “Dirty Mind” with it’s new wave punkish sound. The ballads “When She Comes” and “Revelation” provide the compulsory Prince baby-making music. “Xtralovable”, taken from the 1999 sessions and updated makes for the classic “Minneapolis Sound.” Both Phases are winners. And sho’ nuff funky!
Rating – Both albums – 8/10.
“Man Plans God Laughs”
– Public Enemy – Slam Jamz 1988’s Records
When you’ve been a creator of music masterpieces those works can be one of the worst things ever used against you. Whether you be Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Miles Davis or one of countless music legends who have released albums that have changed the creative parameters of music, you just can’t seem to win in subsequent releases. No Matter how good.
Long Island, New York’s Public Enemy released what is considered the most popular hip-hop album of all time, In 1988’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.” Then in 1990, they released what’s considered (“musically” speaking) the greatest hip-hop album ever, “Fear Of A Black Planet.”
P.E. front-man Chuck D. and his lyrics of pro-Black struggles and socially conscious commentary, need no introduction. Controversial, but always popular hype-man (the genre’s first) Flava Flav, is always seen by many as the face of the group.
But one of the main reason’s for Long Island’s finest musical success was the production team known as The Bomb Squad.
The Bomb Squad’s personnel consisted of brothers: Hank and Keith Shocklee (nee Boxley), Eric “Viet Nam” Saddler and Chuck himself.
After crafting music sound scapes like “Nations” and “Fear”, the knob-turners and beat-makers were sought out to create more hits for the likes of Slick Rick, 3rd Bass, Vanessa Williams, Bell Biv Devoe, Janet Jackson, Run-DMC and countless others.
The sound was a mixtures of complex samples, live instrumentation and lots of “noise.”
After the departure of Hank Shocklee from the Squad, New York’s Gary “G” Wiz (a Shocklee protégée so to speak) took over the reins as chief beat-maker and the group released the vastly under-rated “Apocalypse ‘91” – The Enemy Strikes Black in the same year as the title suggests. But the production sound changed with mixed results (at the time) in future releases.
Followed by a few more Def Jam releases, the group then went independent and released “There’s A Poison Goin’ On” on Atomic Pop Records. “Poison” featured some of the group’s greatest beats and production since Fear.
Then came the experimentation of their next releases, which even included fans remixing classics via internet technology as evidenced on 2002’s “Revolverlution” with less than stellar results.
While the group must be lauded for their efforts in trying to revolutionize (no pun intended) the industry, fans began to scratch their heads.
Now on the group’s 15th album, Chuck came up with yet another unique concept. A short half-hourish set like the classic 60s Soul albums by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Carla Thomas. Figuring into the recent “Black Lives Matter” movement, the album’s sub title is “If We Don’t Matter NO Lives Matter.”
Courtesy of Chuck’s recently cemented friendship with The Rolling Stones, the set’s opener borrows from Mick and Keith with the title “No Sympathy From The Devil,” which obviously also borrows from the teachings of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Chuck raps on “Devil”: “It was you that got into the devil’s bed, didn’t you see this coming?”
The Techno-driven “Devil” leads us into “Me To We” with its call-and-response chorus which is new lyrical ground for P.E., with Flav droppin’ a jewel in there as well for good measure. The title track also weighs in with some Techno influence possibly stemming from their collaboration with Moby a few years ago.
“Honky Tonk Rules” borrows a sample from The Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” with a bit of country rock influence that also touches new territory for Chuck and company. A couple tracks like “Give Peace A Damn” and “Lost In Space Music” have relevant messages with beats that could have marinated a bit longer.
Chuck’s message of Black Power in the face of white supremacy is more relevant than ever. Which is why P.E. still remains one of the best live acts in the world. Now we just need to head to the lab to create some new musical noise to give this important message an even stronger musical back-drop – Rating=7/10.