Mark Devlin hits a couple of European capitals for some DJing action this month.
First off, it’s all about Paris on Saturday 1st November. Despite spinning in almost every other country in Europe, this actually marks MD’s first ever time gracing a pair of decks in France. The party is an R&B Fabulous affair at Salons Du Louvres, a stylish upmarket spot in the city’s Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
A week later, on Saturday 8th, it’s a return to the Croatian capital of Zagreb, for a musically diverse session to keep the punters bouncing at Maraschino Bar.
As ever, pics, diary reports and video snippets from each gig will be posted soon afterwards.
Hold tight for another big batch of tape rips from the vaults soon. In the meantime, here’s the audio from when MD guested on DJ 279’s Sunday Nite Flavas show on Choice FM in April 2002.
The feature is Three From The Old School, where a guest selects a trio of all-time favourite hip-hop tunes, and explains why each means so much to them. To discover MD’s choices, just click on the download link below.
The ten that are blowing up the radio airwaves and/ or rocking dancefloors this month.
SHAUN BOOTHE: THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF BOB MARLEY (White)
Inspired by Nas’ ‘The Unauthorised Biography of Rakim’, this is the second in a twelve-part video series appearing on Youtube, each volume paying lyrical homage to a particular black legend, (first was James Brown, next is Muhammad Ali. Toronto MC Boothe does an admirable job of fitting Marley’s life into a four-minute potted history, which is never short of fascinating.
T.I, KANYE WEST, LIL WAYNE & JAY-Z: SWAGGER LIKE US (Atlantic)
Taking a line from MIA’s fascinatingly original ‘Paper Planes’ as its central sample, any joint that combines the four most talked about US rappers of 2008 was guaranteed to be a hard-hitter, if only for the hype value alone. Happily, this goes further, each MC doing them over the slightly sinister resonant rhythm track.
DAP-C FEAT. TALIB KWELI, LIL WAYNE & ROYCE DA 5’9: MA MONEY (White)
A killer combination cut of the kind that comes along only rarely these days. Strictly on the underground tip – grimy lyrics over a stark, abrasive, relentlessly rolling beat. Hell, even Wayne sounds vaguely blazing on this!
BEYONCE: SINGLE LADIES/ IF I WERE A BOY (Sony)
The Knowles Hitmaking Factory, (powered as much by pops Matthew as by Beyonce or Solange themselves,) know a trick or two about pulling a catchy girl-friendly club bubbler out of the air, and it can’t have taken long to put all the elements together for ‘Single Ladies’. It’s no ‘Crazy In Love’, but it’ll get asses shaking and tonsils wobbling. ‘If I Were A Boy’, meanwhile, sees B slip into meaningful songwriting territory – even if the same theme was explored only last year on Ciara’s ‘Like A Boy.’
LL COOL J: OLD SCHOOL NEW SCHOOL/ IT’S TIME FOR WAR (Def Jam)
LL’s quality control may have been patchy at times, but you can’t take away the fact that he’s now been putting out hit records consistently for almost 25 years. Seriously, is there any other artist who can say this? His ’08 album, ‘Exit 13’, is a return to hard-hitting form, and these are the two standout cuts. Boom-banging energetic hip hop the way it should have always remained.
ESTELLE Featuring SEAN PAUL: COME OVER
Estelle’s style sits comfortably in reggae territory, as evidenced a few times on her excellent ‘Shine’ album, and this follows ‘No Substitute Love’ in semi lovers’ rock fashion. Sean Paul’s interjections join with the catchy melody to make this a mainstream winner.
DEVIN THE DUDE: CAN’T MAKE IT HOME (Cinematic)
… as opposed to Devlin The Dude, which is of course me. Known primarily as an entertaining sidekick of Dr. Dre, it’s only now that Devin stands to be recognised as an A-list artist in his own right. This certainly does the trick – Nate Dogg-style vocal meanderings about the consequences of a heavy night on the tiles, over a blissfully souled-out beat.
SIR SMURF LIL: A NEW BLOODLINE (Album) (Grindstone)
Don’t be put off by the nonsensical artist name. The Hackney wordsmith comes with a truly absorbing and mesmeric selection that’s enough to restore any cynic’s belief in the art of real hip hop. Standout cuts are the sublimely-rhythmed ‘Blossom’, the surreal ‘Graveyard Shift’, and the touchingly poignant ‘The Lord’s Chorus’, set to an interpolation of Grace Jones’ ‘Slave To The Rhythm.’
TRAEDONYA Featuring PATRA: ALL NIGHT LONG (Prohibition)
Jersey City native Trae’s been around for a minute, and was credited with creating the genre of ‘hip-hopera’ on her ‘Naked Gun’ of a few years ago. Here, she gives her considerable vocal powerhouse an airing on a cool update of the Rick James/ Mary Jane Girls evergreen, and deserves extra props for re-introducing the world to Patra, the undisputed queen of mid-90s reggae dancehall.
BOBBY VALENTINO: BEEP (DTP)
Not too complicated a songwriting formula here, and an ‘Umbrella’-style monster it ain’t. But I guess we can be grateful there’s no goddam vocoder all over it! Bobby stays in the familiar twittering midtempo mould for which he’s now known.
The legendary Scratch Perverts turntablist crew put in a live performance as part of 300 at The Regal, Cowley Road, Oxford. Friday 24th October 2008.
Mark Devlin’s Beatmasters mix series continues this month with the latest instalment. But this one’s a little different!
While the other volumes have handled contemporary producers like Timbaland, Kanye West, Swizz Beats and Just Blaze, this one’s a real crate-digger as we take it back with the two dudes that totally ran the black music scene in the 1980s. We’re talking Jimmy ‘Jam’ Harris and Terry Lewis.
The Jam & Lewis sound is highly distinctive, and it’s easy to overlook just how prolific these guys were. Starting out as members of the funk group The Time, (prior to their sacking by Prince,) in their glory years, they produced output from Alexander O’ Neal, The SOS Band, Sounds Of Blackness, Change, Cherelle, The Force MDs, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant, revitalised the career of A&M label boss Herb Alpert with a funky new sound, and have been behind the boards for virtually all of Janet Jackson’s output from 1986 to date. Hell, they even did a joint with The Human League!
Anyone who was listening to black music in the 80s and early 90s is going to feel those memories come surging back. For anyone who’s too young to remember, just sit back and enjoy some beautiful sounds from beautiful times, which paved the way for the stuff that’s around today.
With such a wealth of material on offer, (just check the playlist – 42 tracks spanning the 22 years from 1984 to 2006!!), this one’s longer than usual, clocking in at well over an hour. It has to be said that the sound quality varies a bit from track to track, but that’s little surprise considering many of the tunes were lifted off vinyl that’s been sitting among the cobwebs and dust of the garage or loft for the past few years. (Can you imagine how long it took just to dig out all the records in the first place?!)
So, here’s the Download link. Listen, absorb and enjoy the sound of two true masters of the game:
THE BEATMASTERS MIX: JIMMY JAM & TERRY LEWIS
JANET JACKSON: LET’S WAIT AWHILE (1986)
JANET JACKSON: FUNNY HOW TIMES FLIES… (1986)
SOS BAND: WEEKEND GIRL (1984)
FORCE MDs: TENDER LOVE (1985)
HERB ALPERT: MAKING LOVE IN THE RAIN (1987)
RALPH TRESVANT: SENSITIVITY (1990)
HUMAN LEAGUE: HUMAN (1986)
ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: A BROKEN HEART CAN MEND (1986)
SOUNDS OF BLACKNESS: I’M GOING ALL THE WAY (1991)
JANET JACKSON: NASTY (1986)
MARY J BLIGE: LOVE IS ALL WE NEED (1997)
USHER: YOU REMIND ME (2001)
HERB ALPERT: KEEP YOUR EYE ON ME (1987)
ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: FAKE
SOS BAND: THE FINEST (1986)
SOUNDS OF BLACKNESS: TESTIFY (1991)
CHERELLE & ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: NEVER KNEW LOVE LIKE THIS (1988)
ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: THE LOVERS (1987)
SOS BAND: JUST BE GOOD TO ME (1984)
SOS BAND: JUST THE WAY YOU LIKE IT (1984)
CHANGE: CHANGE OF HEART (1984)
JANET JACKSON: SO EXCITED (2006)
JANET JACKSON: ESCAPADE (1989)
CHERYL LYNN: ENCORE (1984)
SOUNDS OF BLACKNESS: OPTIMISTIC (1991)
ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: CRITICIZE (1987)
CHERELLE & ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: SATURDAY LOVE (1985)
ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: WHAT’S MISSING (1986)
ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: WHAT CAN I SAY TO MAKE YOU LOVE ME (1987)
JANET JACKSON: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY (1986)
HERB ALPERT Featuring LISA KEITH: DIAMONDS (1987)
JANET JACKSON: WHEN I THINK OF YOU (1986)
JOHNNY GILL: RUB YOU THE RIGHT WAY (1990)
JANET JACKSON: RHYTHM NATION (1989)
CHERELLE: I DIDN’T MEAN TO TURN YOU ON (1988)
JANET JACKSON: ALRIGHT (1989)
JANET JACKSON, LUTHER VANDROSS & BBD: THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE (1992)
JANET JACKSON: CONTROL (1986)
SOUNDS OF BLACKNESS: THE PRESSURE (1991)
JANET JACKSON: ALL FOR YOU (2001)
CHERELLE: EVERYTHING I MISS AT HOME (1988)
ALEXANDER O’ NEAL: WHEN THE PARTY’S OVER (1987)
There’s a brief video snippet on the making of the mix right here:
Meanwhile, just a reminder that all ten of the previous volumes in the Beatmasters series are still available if you missed any. Here’s the links that you need:
DJ Premier mix:
Dr Dre mix:
Kanye West mix:
Pharrell/ Neptunes mix:
Swizz Beats mix:
Just Blaze mix:
Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins mix:
Marley Marl mix:
Anyone who’s read my book ‘Tales From The Flipside’ might recall me mentioning a dude called Damien Mendis in one of the early chapters. We went to school together in the backwaters of Oxfordshire, and since then he’s gone on to become a highly successful record producer working on both sides of the Atlantic. A quick glance under his name on www.discogs.com shows his extensive track record so far, the highlights being remixes on Foxy Brown’s ‘I’ll Be’ and Brandy’s ‘Full Moon’. Sadly, we lost touch at the end of the 80s, and apart from a brief reunion when he visited a club I was spinning at in Bristol in 1997 with his act Akin, we haven’t seen each other since.
Damien’s now back in the UK for a short while, and in the first week of October, we finally got the chance to link up in a quiet pub in Witney. Catching up on twenty years of career memories was always going to take a while, and I feel we did pretty well to get it into three and a half hours. It was fulfilling to exchange stories on what each of us has been up to since the days when we used to bring radio cassette players into school on Tuesday lunchtimes to avidly catch Gary Davies revealing the brand new Top 40 on Radio One. Really shouldn’t leave it so long next time.
Regular business for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with ‘Just Buggin’, G’s and 300 at The Regal respectively. Saturday 4th involved my monthly trek to The Second Bridge in Bath. The venue’s just opened its trendy new feeder bar upstairs, and I took a quick look before descending to The Vaults level. All town and city centres have their hazards at 2am on a Sunday morning, and Bath is no exception. The town’s got a high student population, and their levels of responsibility and tolerance when it comes to alcohol leave a lot to be desired. While in cities like Newcastle and Glasgow you might worry about getting your windscreen aggressively smashed, in Bath, naïve, spoilt college kids out of their minds of champagne and falling into the road is more the thing to watch out for.
When it comes to hip hop towns, Abingdon, just South of Oxford, isn’t exactly up there with the likes of London, Bristol and Nottingham. I should know – I lived there for eight years. So I was intrigued when I came across an Abingdon-based MC by the name of Gillespie on Myspace, and promptly invited him in for a live radio spot on ‘Just Buggin’ on Wednesday 8th. Gillespie’s made use of the mundane way of life in his hometown as inspiration for his lyrics. As a result, his songs come across as a kind of musical version of a Mike Leigh or Ken Loach movie – gritty social realism. As well as addressing heavy issues like Britain’s gun and knife culture, however, he knows how to fool around and display a sense of humour. His resulting live freestyle made for another piece of classic radio. There’s a piece of footage from the session on my Youtube channel – www.youtube.com/markdevlintv
Once the rest of the weekend was out of the way, (ending with Que Pasa in Watford on Saturday night), Parveen and myself were free to set off on a long-awaited luxury hotel break. She’s now seven months pregnant and feeling the strain so I felt a spot of pampering was in order. Flying’s out of the equation at this late stage, so we’d booked into the Alexander Hotel in West Sussex for the Sunday, followed by the Spa Hotel in Royal Tunbridge Wells for the next night. Being the last time we’d get away before the big occasion, we made full use of the hotel’s facilities, (which notably marked my first time in a gym and swimming pool for an embarrassingly long time.) The weather held out, too. The pattern’s always the same; I get so entrenched in my work, I find it difficult to initially make the break and relax. But after a couple of days away from the computer, not to mention an incredible Destress massage, I’d have been more than happy to spend another week.
It was back to the grindstone on Wednesday. I now produce two weekly radio shows. Besides ‘Just Buggin’, I put together an hour-long revival mix called ‘The UK Throwback’ for K Sera Radio, a new black/ urban station operated by Australian Radio Networks. (Check it out at www.kseraradio.com) Only a few years ago, such an arrangement would have been nigh-on impossible; the time taken to get a DAT tape halfway round the world, even by courier, would have presented logistical and administrative nightmares. Now, in the age of FTP and upload sites, a show can be sent down under in minutes. My show airs on Sundays at 6pm Australian East Coast time, which equates to 8am on Sunday in the UK, a time when, if I’m not fast asleep, something has gone seriously wrong.
My newly-washed Case Logic CD wallet got exhumed for G’s on Thursday night. The previous week some careless twat had knocked an alcopop into it, causing sticky havoc. The only way to remedy things had been to strip the wallet of all CDs, (which had to be individually wiped down,) soak the wallet in soapy water, then dry out in the airing cupboard. (I’d overlooked the fact that the cover interiors were made of cardboard, so now the whole thing’s weirdly mis-shapen.) It’s this type of ‘accident’ that makes me so wary of adopting a laptop-based DJing approach. CDs can be replaced, but the impact of having some fool knock a drink in to your laptop just doesn’t bear thinking about. I’d also be terrified of leaving it unguarded in the booth even to go to the toilet for a few minutes. Maybe it’s just the DJ company I keep?
Although getting paid twice on the same night is never a problem for me, I can’t say I’m a great fan of playing more than one gig in a night. The racing around, combined with trying to put in a top-notch performance at both gigs, is just too hectic. The latest situation occurred on Friday 17th, anyway, with a schedule which at least looked neat and manageable on paper. First off was 300 at the massive Regal in Oxford, a night that’s turning out to be rammed every single week. My set was interspersed with a performance from an electronic one-man-band by the name of James Yuill, who looks more like an accountant than a dance music star. He sings, plays guitar and programmes live beats in a fusion of indie and electronica. Not entirely my cup of tea musically, but a fascinating performance from a name who’s seemingly poised to become big news.
On after me each week are a succession of student DJs from Oxford Brookes University, and for the third week running, the guy up next had failed to turn up with a pair of working headphones. Like the others, he’d simply assumed he could use the previous DJ’s cans, not considering the possibility that I might have to leave with them straight away. I’ve no idea how they’ve coped playing to a packed room from up on a stage when I’ve exited with the only working pair, but to honest, it’s their problem. Ensuring you’ve packed a working pair of headphones before you leave for a gig is fundamental to being a professional.
After battling my way across the Regal dancefloor, I had two hours to get to Bournemouth for a 2-4am set at Toko, right in the town’s lively club and bar hub. This marked the opening session of Sweet As Candy, a new night being operated on the club’s lower level by Bournemouth DJ Adam Bomb. For one of those inexplicable reasons that’s hard to put your finger on, the town’s venues had taken a hit on numbers, and Toko wasn’t busy. We did, however, manage to play some seriously heavy tunes to a few appreciative heads. Toko’s DJ booth was unlit, and the only way I could read my CDs was to constantly flash my mobile phone’s display light on them. I eventually realised that every time I’d been doing this, I’d been inadvertently entering the phone’s internet mode. It’s going to be an expensive bill next month. It was 6.30am by the time I eventually fell into bed. Twelve hours later, I was back on the road for the latest instalment of Vivente at Que Pasa in Watford, finishing at the blessedly ‘early’ time of 1am.
300 at The Regal on Friday 24th marked the appearance of The Scratch Perverts, and I had the job of hyping up the crowd before their performance. An extended job, as it turned out, with them arriving 30 minutes late. As is the standard DJ etiquette, I started to point out to Prime Cuts where the booth monitor control was on to the Pioneer DJM909 mixer. ‘It’s OK, I know,’ he said. ‘We designed it’. Oops. The Perverts went on to captivate the crowd with an energetic three-man, four-deck, two-CD, two DJ-mixer set, which was far more into electronica territory than anything resembling hip hop. I’ve posted a piece of footage on www.youtube.com/markdevlintv, where you can see just how rammed to the rafters this night was.
The only other thing to say about the weekend was that the extra hour of sleep after The Bridge owing to the clocks going back was very much appreciated!
I’ve visited a handful of European cities in a single day, and Madrid became the latest on Tuesday 28th. I headed out at the crack of dawn, arriving home after a very scary snow-bound return at 9pm. The occasion was a quick meeting with the European Vibe club promotions crew, who handle the city’s most successful urban music parties. It’s run by English ex-pat Scott Edwards, and we discussed some potential new contributions to their magazine, along with a couple of Spanish gigs in ’09. Sadly, it pissed down all day, the strong winds blowing my umbrella inside out several times, but being my first time in the Spanish capital, the elements had to be braved in order to take in some of the sights. My beloved Apple iBook is finally back from repair and the day marked the first time I’d been able to use it to pass the time on a flight for several weeks. Editing an audio mix on headphones sure beats crosswords.
The last excursion of the month saw another double-header, starting off with The Regal. Being Halloween, the queue of freakishly-dressed punters was already stretching round the block when I arrived at 10pm, and there was barely room to move on the spacious dancefloor. The 300 night is nothing if not diverse. A week after The Scratch Perverts, I was given the job of introducing an extremely camp snake charmer act complete with lesbian sex simulation, and a 12-foot python. You know, as you do.
Straight after finishing, I set off for Swindon to guest alongside Dale Colsell, aka DJ Cybernetic, at the launch of his new monthly Cybernetic Soul night at Rehab, (formerly The Studio.) This promised to be highly musically satisfying, having been marketed as a night of real music for people who feel music. As anticipated the night had drawn a quality mature crowd, and between us we dropped a very broad selection of 80s grooves, soul, funk, disco, old school hip-hop and neo-soul. This was exactly the sort of gig I’d choose to go and hang out at on a night off – and there’s not many I can say that about. The only thing that marred an otherwise perfect session was the club’s sound system, which had been set to eardrum-splitting decibel levels. My ears were still ringing the following morning. I recently read the account of Way Out West’s Jody Wisternoff concerning the acute case of tinitus he picked up from playing a gig with mind-melting decibel levels. It’s certainly a cause for concern.
… and that was October.