September 29, 2015
You may not know this, but I use to be an MC. An ‘ill’ MC.
My rhymes, my delivery, my wordplay were masterful (I guess back then I would have said funky fresh or dope,right? Educated Negroes…) When I was seventeen, graduated from high school and enrolled in a junior college, I still had my eyes set on becoming a hip hop superstar. A good friend of mine hooked me up with, who I thought at the time, was the best DJ in Kansas City. He was the producer and DJ for a group called the Kool-Aid Crew, DJ Doc Scratch aka Eric Allen. He was five years my senior so I thought I was big time. Hooking up with Doc and becoming a dynamic duo? You couldn’t tell me a damn thing!
He had his own make shift studio in the basement, and I’d go over there when I got off of work at 11:30 PM from washing dishes at a nursing home. We’d spend the first two hours of the night just listening to beats he had made or digging in the crates. I LOVED digging in the crates! Going through milk carton after milk carton of classic R&B, gospel, jazz, and pop records was one of my favorite past times. This was when sampling was an art form, a craft; painstakingly listening for snares, high hats, vocal riffs, bass lines, and mellowed horn sections took skill and I took great pride in it.
One of the first songs that I sampled was entitled “Convert Action” from one of the most pioneering jazz collectives of the seventies. The Crusaders. They, along with Herbie Hancock, Grover Washington Jr. and a handful of others did an excellent job of fusing traditional jazz rhythms and the popular funk sound of the time. As you watched Saturday morning cartoons,and your mother hung clothes on the line in the backyard to dry, the Crusaders was the band playing behind Randy Crawford as she told you about the pulse and rhythm of the Street Life. Ironically, in my junior year in college, while working at a Camelot Records store over the summer I met the Crusaders’ high school music teacher from Houston. I’ll explain what a record store is in another post,kids. (or as Prince called it in ‘Under The Cherry Moon’, wrecka- stow).
(L to R: Stix Hooper, Wilton Felder, Wayne Henderson, Joe Sample)
I was introduced to their classic albums like Southern Comfort, Unsung Heroes, and The Second Crusade, but the music teacher went on and on about how masterful the album Images was. He was right. Although I love Southern Comfort, Images has been sampled a ton by artist such as A Tribe Called Quest, Big L, Tyrese,etc. And to commemorate the recent passing of brother Wilton Felder (Saxophone player and founding member of the Crusaders), the record were sharing today is my second favorite Crusader joint of all time, and the song that made me a huge fan of the band and Joe Sample (co founder and pianist). My number one Crusader record is A Ballad For Joe Louis from Southern Comfort. You just have to take out an afternoon to peruse their catalog for yourself. Click the pic above of the band to check out Convert Action. Click the pic of the Images cover for another classic joint entitled Marcella’s Dream.
Now go buy your mother one of those front loading dryers. A nice one. Nobody hangs clothes on the line in the backyard anymore.