Archives for posts with tag: RC & The Gritz

Album Review: RC & The Gritz, Pay Your Tab (Rexamillion Productions, November 2013)

payyourtabalbum-300px1RC & The Gritz is a Dallas TX based collective of R&B and Hip Hop musicians that is most famous for backing Erykah Badu from time to time. The band’s leader, RC Williams, is said to be Badu’s current musical director.

What drew me to this album was the cut featuring Badu on vocals, “Leave Me Alone,” which will surely and quickly climb numerous urban radio charts. It’s an instant classic in Badu’s repertoire and a track I had on repeat for a good dozen listens.

However, a marquee guest vocalist isn’t what makes this group’s recording debut, Pay Your Tab (Rexamillion, 2013) a record worth picking up. On the contrary, what gives this album staying power are the other tracks that showcase the substantial songwriting and musical talent of RC & The Gritz.

Pay Your Tab’s 11 tracks are solid, each in their own way. There are finger-snapping R&B cuts like “Summer Boo,” “Hush,” and “Melodies.” There is the darkly edgy hip-hop opener “C7#9,” a reggae track, “Love Love Love,” and even a cross-over pop-ready tune featuring Snoop Dogg and Raheem DeVaughn, “That Kinda Girl.”

It’s especially encouraging to me to see groups like this break out because the market for new music seems to be skewed to pop and a particularly shallow form of hip-hop. RC & The Gritz occupies a much smarter and musically advanced niche between R&B, Jazz, and Hip-Hop that is woefully underrepresented in today’s music. Kudos to Badu and the other backers of this project for giving this music a chance to spread and flourish.

The Players: RC “Rceeezy” Williams, keyboards/Vocals; Cleon Edwards, Drums; TaRon Lockett, percussion; Braylon “Brother B” Lacy, bass; Claudia Melton, vocals; and Jah Born, MPC (drum machine)

2013 in Review: New, New to Me, and Those We Lost

There were many solid new releases this past year and many had two things in common. First, they were introduced to me via Gilles Peterson’s (@gillespeterson) BBC6 program, Worldwide, a staple in my listening. Second, three of my top 5 were released on Blue Note Records.

New Releases:

Looking back just 12 months, there were so many good albums released that I had enough fodder for a top 10, with Omar’s The Man winning the year.

10. Kon, On My Way
9. Brand New Heavies, Forward
8. Mario Biondi, Sun
7. Alice Russell, To Dust
6. Ed Motta, AOR
5. Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick, Leap of Faith
4. Jose James, No Beginning No End
3. Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2
2. Gregory Porter, Liquid Spirit
1. Omar, The Man

Other notable releases were Quadron’s Avalanche, Da Lata’s Fabiola, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, RC & the Gritz’ Pay Your Tab, and Wild Belle’s Isles.

New to me: Rediscovered

Chakha Khan & Rufus – Before Chakha Khan’s 80’s resurgence, her career was launched with the 70’s funk and soul band, Rufus. Their album, Street Player (UMG Recordings, 1978) is a particularly good showcase of the bands smoothness and how well suited Khan’s vocal style is to their music. The track, “Destiny,” is essential listening.

Harvey Mason – I posted a Harvey Mason playlist after discovering this drummer who made his mark on numerous jazz and fusion classics.

Skee-Lo – An oddball find from 1995 when hip-hop albums were so prolific that it was hard to cut through the clutter to find those that would last. Skee-Lo’s album, I Wish (Ultra Moda Music, 1995) holds up today with its pleasing blend of melody and rhyme. It’s also a hip-hop album that’s not afraid to have some fun.

Ben l’Oncle Soul – Neo soul has been played out in my books for some time now. But Ben L’Oncle Soul’s self-titled release (Mercury Music Group, 2010) had a fresh take because a) it’s mostly sung in French; and b) the artist makes the music his own, not trying to mimic crooners from the 60’s and 70’s but celebrating his voice and music in his own way.

Notable Passings

  • Donald Byrd – One of my musical heros. An innovator and prolific melodist. Tributes to him abound on the internet as the year closes out. Nice to see him getting such wide recognition.
  • Stompin’ Tom Connors – A Canadian folk music treasure whose lyrics and music are essential Canadiana
  • George Duke – A keyboardist and innovator in the vein of Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock
  • Lou Reed – Another innovator and catalyst who influenced rock and punk acts through the 70s and 80s

Most Anticipated in 2014

Q-Tip, The Last Zulu – This project has been on the radar for some time now but it’s hard to nail down a release date amongst the hype out there. The album is said to include, in some form, a reunion of original A Tribe Called Quest members.

Zara McFarlane, If You Knew Her – The follow-up from her excellent 2011 debut Until Tomorrow (Brownswood)

Jose James – His second release on the Blue Note label is in production, according to James’ facebook updates.

Prince, Plectrum Electrum – The recently released (and excellent) single, “Breakfast Can Wait,” will be on the album as will tracks featuring the rock-centered 3rd Eye Girl who are touring with Prince.

Happy, peaceful, and musical New Year!