Jun 4, 2013

Max Tannone - Ghostfunk (get it) (AMAZING MASHUP!)

Released in July 2011, Ghostfunk pairs one of my favorite hip-hop artists, Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, with vintage African funk, high-life, and psychedelic rock music.


Max Tannone Projects) I'm not going to lie to you. Lying never accomplishes anything. Team Buzzine was struggling this week. We couldn't seem to find anything to write up for this week's column. I'm not saying there was nothing decent sliding across the desks; there just wasn't a clear winner. There was nothing really exciting...at least nothing really exciting to me at the end of a long and exceptionally difficult week. I had pretty much resigned myself to penning a late-night, semi-apologetic, admittedly uninspired and particularly short review of one of the many decent but not mind-blowing tapes that I listened to today. With nothing tugging at me, I headed out to get a surf and to stop contemplating the sensibility of writing a weekly recommendation. Around 9:30 tonight, I got out of the water at 3rd point in Malibu, and took the long walk through the lagoon back out to PCH. I got to the car, loaded up the surfboards, put on some pants and checked my phone. And there, illuminated by the fattest full moon of the year, was the most magical email I've gotten in recent memory.
Our esteemed music editor, Mr. Shaw (Shawdizzle, Shawmageddon, ChainShaw, or any other of a slew of hip hop names) is not one to exaggerate, and he doesn't mess around when describing the quality of the music he's listening to. So when I read the rave review he was giving to the newly released Max Tannone mash-up record I was bewildered. I don't think I've ever read a more enthusiastic recommendation for review. Now, if you read the Jaydiohead review that was printed in this same column many months ago, then you know that we are all huge fans of that project and we really dig all of Max's work. Despite his admiration, Mr. Shaw's description of Max's newest mash-up (forget mash-up -- I'm coining a new phrase: SMASHup) describes it as better than Jaydiohead. He defines it as destroying Jaydiohead.  He thinks it's legendary -- as the capo di tutti of smashups.

And he was right.
The new record is a ten-track offering entitled Ghostfunk, which combines vocals (and some production elements) from Ghostface Killah, with early to mid-'70s African soul, funk, and psych numbers. And it is perfect. 
I'm not even gonna front like I'm familiar with any of the music that Max merged with Ghost's voice on this album. My knowledge of African music is limited to a couple semesters of African Music at NYU and regular reading of "Awesome Tapes From Africa." And that makes this smash all the better. Every track on this tape is new to me. And relatively, I'd guess that every track on this album is new to Max Tannone. This isn't stuff we heard on the radio as kids. It isn't stuff we passed around or recognize from samples. This record had to require a good deal of listening and inspiration, research and intuition, grind and contemplation. Luckily for me, this album is accompanied by a PDF which credits all of the samples, so at least I can write about it from a more than theoretical standpoint.
If you know me, you know that I am a Ghostface Killah fan. And if you read my work, I'm sure all three of you know that I loved Apollo Kids. And one of the reasons that I dug it more than any Ghost album in recent memory was because it combined Tony's trademark lyricism and storytelling with tracks that were a little more diverse than usual. The album was still very '70s, but it wasn't just built on standard soul tracks -- it delved into spaghetti westerns and Star Wars. It was fresh. And if Apollo Kids was fresh with the samples, then Ghostfunk is fresher than fresh. It's raw. This really is a brilliant concept for a Ghostface smashup record. And it's exciting. When I heard the opening horns in "Make It N.Y.," I expected Johnny Pate...but then I heard the heavy one-drop organ hits and realized I had no idea what was about to happen. The music is sick. And the production leaves space for the the music, which is a quality that, with the exception of The Roots, is sorely missing in mainstream hip hop. Oh, and there's some turntableism on this one. Word. 
Starks, if you're reading this, GET AT MAX TANNONE! Dude should be producing your next album.  And if you're really, really reading this, can you please get at me with the stem tracks for "Laced Cheeba"?  I need those. For real. I have the best live instrument remix ready for that joint!  And Max Tannone, if you're reading this...you're killin' me, dogg. You know I can't afford all the records I have to buy now that I'm obsessed with '70s African soul. 
As far as the Ghostface half of this marriage, it's...well...it's Ghost. Dude's never phoned-in a verse in his life. Of course it's impeccable. More importantly, the verses are extremely well-selected and are pulled from nearly every album in the Ghostface catalog (along with some Raekwon and AZ joints).  Max digs as deep as "Ironman" to pair vocals from "Daytona 500" with "Danger" -- a track that features a psych blues guitar that would make Jimi proud. What's better is that it fits so well. It sounds as though a session player laid it down to accent Ghost's bars.
Max uses another track from the same album as "Danger" entitled "Lord Have Mercy" to accompany Ghost's "Three Bricks" from the Fishscale album. If you're a hip hop fan, you know about this track. "Three Bricks" is Ghostface Killah's response/tribute to expansion upon Biggie's "Niggas Bleed."  "Niggas Bleed" is perhaps the best story ever told in the history of hip hop. It's essentially a Tarantino film in three minutes. And Ghostface, as hip hop's finest living storyteller, put together "Three Bricks" after Biggie died as the greatest form of audio dap anyone had ever heard. For those of you who have no idea what any of this means, think of a "Space Oddity"/"Major Tom (Earth Below Us)" dynamic.  The original track was somber, but this version is a eulogy.
Really, everything fits on this smashup.  I listened to it a few times while burning through this review, and it's hard to choose a standout. At the moment, I'm spinning "The Same Girl," which combines Ghost's "Never Be The Same Again" with "Little Girl." This one is great because it combines a classic Ghost story with a super dry funk guitar, and then layers Carl Thomas' smooth R&B vocals from the original version with the dub vocal chorus from "Little Girl." This may be my favorite track on the record, or it may just be the track I'm listening to right now. Ain't that about a man for you?


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