Volume I of Manual Labor's monthly music rotation comes from Todd Cadley. As most of us are home-bound, it's important to keep some energy flowing, and what's a better way to do that than to listen to music. Enjoy!
Music has been an integral part of my life, as I think back to my days in college (Fordham Ram!), where my roommate bought turntables to play house parties. From there, it opened me to a world of music that hits so many different genres. I think my playlist below reflects that appreciation.
That love continued throughout my life, as I started my work-life in the music industry, and also side-hustled as a DJ during my five years living in Charleston. And this mixtape (can I say mixtape?) was built through the mind of my short-lived DJ life, weaving through different genres of music - from jazz to hip hop to trip hop to indie dance to turntablism to reggae. It’s how I would think of playing a set Friday or Saturday night.
I love when people cover other artists’ music. Unfortunately, some are just whack. But enter El Michele’s Affair’s interpretation of the Wu-Tang Clan. My only thought is "it's just f*cking awesome". And that was a risky move - but EMA brought the noise and brought the funk in this jazzy album, and in this instance one of my favorite Wu tracks.
Jazz has always been one of the most influential genres for hip hop, and when you first start listening to this song, you think Dr. Dre, right? Wrong. You should think David McCallum and David Axelrod. Just like you should think of all the great artists from Blue Note or Verve, or *insert the records you found digging for beats in some sweaty, old record shop*. This track exudes that late 1960s/early 1970s detective show that was on replay when we were kids. So much body and composition to this track. That said, Dr. Dre used it and other samples to create one of the best bodies of hip hop of all time: The Chronic.
If you know, you know. A cult indie band out of the UK that was put on the map with the album, “Dummy.” Portishead helped bring about the genre of trip hop, which was also made popular by groups like Tricky, Sneaker Pimps and Massive Attack (remember the intro song to the show “House”? - yeah, that’s Massive Attack). What Portishead did to trip hop that many others couldn’t was fuse breakbeats, jazz influences, electronica and the sweetest voice of Beth Gibbons.
Most of my music on this mixtape comes from artists from the 90s and 2000s. Except this. I can’t get enough of Yaeji, and the music influences I hear in her music range from 80s 808-synth to Everything But the Girl to 90s breakbeats. And she sings in both Korean and English. This track is from her new mixtape (see, I’m not the only one…), but check out her previous work. It’s so fun and refreshing.
Loved when people saw the power of combining funky breakbeats with great rap. Some might think Cut Chemist is an electronic DJ/composer - and he is, but he’s also a hip hop DJ/composer who has made some killer music along the way (also see DJ Shadow below). If you want to go down a rabbithole on this genre of music, watch the documentary “Scratch.”
One half of the formidable duo known as Gang Starr (Guru RIP), DJ Premier is one of the greatest hip hop producers of all time (along with Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, MadLib, J Dilla, Q-Tip, RZA and El-P). What he did as part of Gang Starr helped pave the way for so many groups after him. And he’s still making it happen. I shared an elevator recently with him and he couldn’t be a nicer and a more appreciative guy when I acknowledged what he’s done for music.
Like Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow comes from that California chopped-up hip hop beats that makes him so unique and real. When I heard his album “Endtroducing,” I fell immediately in love, and went deep into researching turntablism and how to make music off other samples in real-time using decks (see also Kid Koala, Invisibl Skratch Picklz, Beat Junkies, X-Ecutioners, A-Trak). Love that his music and influence is still vibrant and alive today - as his latest work includes Run The Jewels and De La Soul.
While not a cover (you know I love covers - and keep updating my covers playlists - check them out!), I also love the perfect remix of a song that maintains the integrity, but moves it in a different direction. Mark Ronson is such a genius and he turns a song I loved as an original into a song I may love even more as a remix. To put a reggae blend onto this song gives it an entirely new dimension - it’s got that Skatelites vibe to it (see below). And if you’ve never listened to his album “Version” - do it. Like, right now.
If you want to better understand where American ska came from, there is no better band to listen to than The Skatalites. If you also want to hear where great rock bands from the 70s and 80s like The Police, and their early recordings came from (“Canary in the Coal Mine” for example), then listen to bands like The Skatelites. How can you not love this?
Saving my favorite band of all time for last. The Beasties were a staple from the first time I listened to “Licensed to Ill,” and grew into a mad crush with “Paul’s Boutique” and “Check Your Head.” They were so underrated as a funk jazz jam band, and even put out two albums of instrumentals. And their influences range from every jazz artist they could sample to the likes of The Bad Brains. I still get excited when I hear the three MCs and one DJ. Go watch the Spike Jonze documentary on the Beasties that just came out...so good and will make you shed a tear. RIP, Yauch.
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