Arts Desk

Music 2008: Chitlin’ Circuit Soul, Rap, R&B, Latin Pop, African and Indie

I discovered my rap, R&B, and chitlin' circuit soul favorites via that old-fashioned medium, the radio, while finding my Spanish language, African, and indie-rock faves via the internet, publicists, and word of mouth. With the wealth of music out there, marketing and advertising gimmicks and strategy continue to be crucial in spreading the word to different audiences. As I note below, one of my top 10, Ms. Jody, got local WPFW radio play on one program, but since her Southern soul label doesn’t send her music to rock-oriented publications or websites (and provide them with an angle spelling out why her music should be of interest to their readers), or get her on soundtracks (hello M.I.A.) many folks have no idea she exists.

1. Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne

Yea, Tha Carter III is uneven but the singles from this sounded wonderful on the car radio. It was even fun hearing 14-year-olds at little league games trying to recite the gloriously ragged, tongue-twisting lyrics of “A Milli” and high-schoolers on city sidewalks chanting the “Whee Ooh Whee Ooh Wee (like a cop car)” verse from “Mrs. Officer.”

"Mrs. Officer":

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2. New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, Erykah Badu (Universal Motown)

I ignore her stupid Farrakhan plugging lyrics and focus on the funk.

"The Healer":

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3. Niña de Fuego, Buika (Warner Music Latina)

Imagine if Nina Simone was born in Equatorial Guinea, grew up in Spain, and visited Portugal and Brazil. Others can retreat in the woods with Bon Iver, I’ll take this.

"La Falsa Moneda":

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4. MTV Unplugged, Julieta Venegas (Sony International)

In a just world Venegas would have filled the Kennedy Center Concert hall not once (as she did), but twice, if only indie twee fans, old-school power-poppers, and your cousins and nieces who listen to 99.5 had been exposed to her, yes it is in Spanish, pop.

"Algo Está Cambiando [Live]":

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5. Down in New Orleans, Blind Boys of Alabama (Time-Life)

Pair up old-school gospel vocals with funky New Orleans horns and you get this pleasant effort.

"Free at Last":

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6. Microcastle, Deerhunter (Kranky)

Rock’s like jazz and everything else these days, it’s all been done before, but some manage to throw those ingredients together and still make it sublime. Bradford Cox and company utilize shoegazer fuzz, postpunk, psychedelia and indie guitar pop and meld it into vibrant tunes.

"Cover Me (Slowly)":

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7. I Never Take a Day Off, Ms. Jody (Ecko)

Not marketed to the Sharon Jones-loving indie crowd or pale-faced blooz-loving bud-drinkers, Ms. Jody is a soulful, bluesy wailer who sings double-entendre lyrics over synths and minimalist guitar rhythms, not bar band cliches. You can often hear her on Saturdays between 12 and 2 on WPFW 89.3 FM and online. She’s part of a still thriving world of chitlin' circuit soul that lives from Southeast DC down through PG and Charles County down to its home in Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama.

"I Never Take a Day Off":

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8. The Recession, Young Jeezy (Def Jam)

My other fave raspy-voiced rapper.

"My President (feat. Nas)":

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9. Desert Crossroads, Etran Finatawa (Riverboat)

Get members from two different nomadic North African tribes to come together and you get mesmerizing guitar lines, Arabic-feeling vocals, and distinctively syncopated calabash percussion.

"Iguefan":

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10. Fearless, Jazmine Sullivan (J)

“Need U Bad” is like Lauryn Hill Singing over a Sly and Robbie dub reggae meets R&B beat while on “Broken Windows” Jazmin’s powerful vocals soar over old-school strings and handclaps that hearken back to early ‘60s Ben E. King-style NYC R&B.

"Bust Your Windows":

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