Don Cornelius, Hi-Fi Soundsystem, and Thaddeus David
RIP, Don Cornelius, founder of Soul Train, who passed last week and whose impact on black culture has been massive, to say the least. I don't know what to say. All I know is that one of my favorite moments on any song is on Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" when Marvin, genuinely surprised, exclaims, "Say, Don! Hey, man, I didn't know you was in here!" Maybe that scene's happening again right now.
Well, kids, it's freshly February, and the Members Only mossie has already kicked off 2012 with two must-have releases. Hopefully, last week you got to see Hi-Life Soundsystem open up for Hieroglyphics. Their new Langston Hugh Hefner: Love, Weed & Other Vices finds Khingz and B-Flat in what immediately scans as their natural element: a supremely languid, breezy sound by Crispy that envelops like cushy velour interior in an old-school Cadillac, rolling and dipping like a smoker's favorite couch—on wheels. Accordingly, the soul is up-front with terrific features from singers Isabella Du Graf, Lurrell Low, Jerm, and Phillip Hines III. It's all an immediately more fitting setting than the slightly more cramped motifs of their self-titled debut. A palpable balance is here: Khingz—on their debut a noticeably more polished MC than B-Flat—downshifts from his frenetic, flying-guillotine style into a steady, smooth engine purr. B-Flat, his flow clearly more Armor All–ed than the first time out, is right there, slickly taking the joint without looking and drawing deep. The Hi-Life is rowdy onstage, but Langston couldn't be more kicked-back. It's an easy listen with a finish as slimy as their album's namesake's smoking jacket.
I first met Thaddeus David at now- defunct Pike Street boutique Laced Up (that space currently housing the just-opened boutique Alive and Well), where he was frequently behind the counter chopping with homies/customers (usually the same thing) or slapping new cuts and mixtapes. That shop was quite the hub, and its legacy can be felt from some of the young artists who frequented the spot, among whom Thad, then known as Young TH, was an upperclassman. He's maintained a most respectable GPA since those days, from growing his rep with a solo mixtape (Hustlers Honeys & Hipsters), a string of releases with his State of the Artist familia (out of which he typically remains the people's choice), to today, when he emerges the graduate—the "Young" shrugged off, now simply called by his first and middle. His just-released Maven clocks in at just shy of an hour's worth of satisfying Seatown fly shit, smooth like top shelf and potent as the $15-per-gram shit. But underneath it lies a certain well-considered sobriety, whether it's in his focused delivery ("Spent time on it/Still actin' like it's effortless") or his palpable humility. Fly but never swag-drunk or dragging where he could be styling, Thaddeus clearly draws on lessons he learned from the older gods, as evinced by his jazzy beat selection and tracks like "Jones" (a non-album track that Thad assures me will see light of day), where he cascades over a pastiche of restitched samples from Illmatic. He does each justice, and Maven itself lives up to the town's considerable anticipation. Hit up www.membersonly206.com for the sounds.