Second Spins

Banda Black Rio – “Mr. Funky Samba” (1977)

On the closing track of his 2009 opus The Ecstatic, Mos Def flows over a latin beat that presents an interesting contrast to the bleak hip-hop and middle-eastern influenced sounds on the record. Going in over a mostly-unadulterated break Ghostface style, the artist currently known as Yasiin Bey maneuvers over a raw cut that sounds fresh over 30 years earlier after its release. The sample source in question is Banda Black Rio’s “Case Forte”, a tune from their debut album Maria Fumaça.

One of funkiest outfits ever to emerge from Rio, the band infused traditional Brazilian rhythms with soulful grooves influenced by their Black American counterparts a little further north. The aptly titled “Mr. Funky Samba” is no exception. Like all of the tunes on Maria Fumaça, it’s an instrumental groove that can stand beside the oeuvre of soul-funk legends like Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, and George Duke. Check it out, but be warned: this Second Spin is guaranteed to make you move.

Words by @BrotherHayling

Nas – “The Game Lives On” (c. 1994)

Before he dropped his first classic, young Nasir Jones was already proving himself to be hip-hop’s most gifted young story teller. This early cut resurfaced years after it’s recording, and offers a glimpse into the prodigal talent that would become QB’s finest. The track was later rehashed as Project Windows on 1999’s Nastradamus, complete with a Mr. Biggs-era Ronald Isley hookFeaturing his trademark rasp that belies his tender age and a melancholy piano loop, the Illmatic era relic is arguably far more powerful then the version that saw major label release. Just goes to show you, sometimes the unpolished gems are the ones that shine the brightest.

Words by @BrotherHayling

I-Level – “Heart Aglow” (1983)

I-Level were a short-lived blip on the global pop radar that demand a second spin thirty years after their debut. The dance-oriented trio’s number “Give Me” was a crossover hit in it’s day, and hip-hop heads may remember it was interpolated by Q-Tip 15 years later on ATCQ’s The Love Movement.

This ballad on the trio’s debut album features warm vocals from Sierra Leonean vocalist  Sam Jones over lush production British producers Duncan Bridgeman and Jo Dworniak. Simultaneously tropical and urban, the comforting tune blends the emerging electronic music tropes of the time with live instrumentation that could pass as a not-so-distant cousin of early Sade. Truly ahead of their time, the group disbanded after their second album yielded marginal sales in 1985. Co-producers Bridgeman and Dworniak racked up several session credits in the subsequent years, however Sam Jones’ whereabouts are unknown. Allow yourself to get lost in the unapologetically 80s vibe, and you might find your heart aglow, too.

Words by @BrotherHayling

Bilal – “All For Love” (2006)

This week Bilal Oliver unveiled his much-anticipated album, A Love Surreal. While the effort marks his third official studio release, most fans know it’s actually his fourth album. Love For Sale, which should have been his second commercial release, never saw the light of day after gun-shy executives shelved the project indefinitely. (His then-label Interscope decided the project was unmarketable after the project leaked.)

Although the project ended up in major label purgatory, promotional CDs and white label vinyl pressings ended up in circulation worldwide. Many of the songs from the project have become staples in Bilal’s live set, and “All For Love” remains one of Mr. Oliver’s greatest works. Equal parts folk, soul, and blues, the underground favorite may have actually had a decent shot at crossover success. This heartfelt reflection on love lost is haunting in the most beautiful way possible, and certainly worth a second spin.

Words by @BrotherHayling

OutKast – “Roaches and Rats” (c. 1996)

In late 2005, André and Antwan had the music world waiting with bated breath as they prepared their feature film debut Idlewild and its accompanying soundtrack. On the heels of the universally acclaimed Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, longtime fans and new comers were waiting after three years of silence from the Southernplayalistic emcees. While the duo’s sixth studio album didn’t quite live up to expectations, a one-off leak months ahead of the release still demands repeated spins after the forgettable album has faded from memory.

Recorded in the early years of OutKast and Organized Noize’s groundbreaking partnership, the actual recording of “Roaches and Rats” was made years before it’s late 2005 leak. The single’s laidback, jazzy vibe harkens to their 1996 sophomore record ATLiens, and is a must have for any longtime listener.

Words by @BrotherHayling

BrotherSpanky- “365 (Valentine’s Day)” (2011)

Since the advent of music recording, the love song has been the most crowded topical territory by far. Whether you’re celebrating new love or lamenting heartbreak, chances are you’re just one click away from finding dozens of appropriate tunes for the occasion. With enough romantic tunes on your iPod to fill up the whole Hallmark section, why celebrate “Valentine’s Day” through song yet again?

Far from cliché, this independent release from BrotherSpanky was one of several carefully crafted songs from his 2011 Soul Beauty 2: The Love EP, which featured the producer on all instruments, production, and vocal duties. The good brother takes a step back from the usual 2/14 romantic fare, accompanying the tune with visuals that spotlight his DIY creative process from soup to nuts. Elements of Motown, disco, and funk, create an intimate soundscape for this D.C.-based auteur to paint shades of true love— even if you’re able to fight the urge to soulclap along with the soulful outro, chances are you’ll want to revisit this one all twelve months of the year.

Words by @BrotherHayling


Pure Essence – “Third Rock” (1976)*

Pure Essence is one of countless soulful outfits whose sounds were almost lost to the dustbins of time. This funky crew of Cincinnati musicians included iconic vocalist Dwight Trible, along with an unknown young drummer named L.A. Reid. (Yes, that L.A. Reid.) Thankfully, recent discoveries have brought their sounds back to life for a new generation of listeners.

Unmistakably a product of the Age of Aquarius, one of their few existing tracks includes a funky bassline that would make Bootsy proud, and a hazy wah guitar lying somewhere in between the sounds of Sly and Eddie Hazel. Originally the product of a tiny label called Mantra Records, “Third Rock” was released on a 45 in 1976. (The band’s only other known recording, “Wake Up Parts 1 & 2”, was released by Mantra the same year.) A year after the single’s release, it appeared on Cincinnati radio station WEBN’s “The Album Project #2”, a grab bag of output from local bands.

“Third Rock” was almost destined for obscurity until it was rediscovered by Stones Throw Records’ then-general manager Egon, who reissued the record on his Soul Cal imprint in 2005. Stones Throw would subsequently include the cut on its 2006 Chrome Children compilation, an eclectic album that was co-sponsored by Adult Swim. Not every tune has nine lives, but fortunately for crate diggers this gem has lasted long enough rock for another day.

Words by @BrotherHayling

*This is the first installment in a weekly feature that will revisit forgotten singles and deep album cuts across eras and genres.