A COLLOQUY ON MUSIC WITH D. FELTZ, PHYFE DOUG, AND THICK TEE BONE PART II

TTB: When we last left off, we had just finished watching "My Shot", a number from the groundbreaking musical that has been packing them in on Broadway in unprecedented fashion--Hamilton. What did you think? DF: Creative song I guess. Nothing you can actually sing though. Lots of catchy rhyming or quasi-rhyming. I assume all those guys have wonderful singing voices, but there is nothing in the song that would allow them to demonstrate their vocal talents. They just repeat a rhythmic line for about five minutes with a couple of brief refrains of "I'm not throwin' away my shot". Sometimes it's just a patter song. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

PD: Damning with faint praise again? DF: Actually, in some ways I'd like to make a comparison in favor of hip-hop music. The iconic R&B/Soul artist James Brown focused much more on rhythm and verbal energy than on melody. I respected his performances, but with a few notable exceptions his songs were not ones I wanted to play all the time. Those tunes often sacrificed melody for a repetitive and very catchy beat. Below is a very young James Brown with a medley of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Feel Good", both monster hits for the "Godfather of Soul".

TTB: Wow! That energy is off the charts. DF: But you can see what I mean here. Minimal melody but electrifying kinetic energy and more than a little posturing. James Brown, of course, carried on the tradition of being "caped" on stage by his backup singers (see below), a tradition that preceded him in the Gospel scene and followed him in 80s pop. Below is about as minimal a song as one can find, Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing" from a recording of The Midnight Special. Check out those dancers! Oh, the 70s!

DF: Like to see Kanye try to rise from a split like that! As you can see, no real melody. Just a repeated line accompanied by a wicked rhythm section and some funky brass. I see this as an obvious predecessor to hip-hop. Most modern R&B has moved to a smoother musical language than found in the works of funkmeisters of the past, but the current star Janelle Monae might be James Brown reborn! The current star could ​not have existed without the inventiveness of the former star. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwnefUaKCbc

TTB: That's the video of her big hit "Tightrope". I saw her perform it at the R&B Soul Sisters concert at the White House recently. That's where she really tried to channel James Brown.

DF: Notice there is a brief interlude with hip-hop artist Big Boi, whose rap forms the bridge in the song's construction. You look at the lyrics of the song and they are, shall I say, um, lacking? Here is that bridge: You gotta keep your balance Or you fall into the gap It's a challenge but I manage Cause I'm cautious with the strap Do damage to your cabbage that A doctor cannot patch Why you don't want no friction Like the back of a matchbook Daddy Fat Sax will fold you And your MacBook Close shows, shut you down Before we go-go backwards Act up, and whether we high or low We gonna get back-up Like the Dow Jones and NASDAQ Sorta like a thong in an ass crack Come on

DF: Come on, indeed! But to be honest, I just don't care! (Though the forced rhyme of MacBook to matchbook might be a little too strained for some listeners! And the NASDAQ rhyme? Yikes!) The song is so infectious and the funky bass line so intoxicating. Who can listen to this without a foot tapping?! Speaking of that White House performance, this one is for you TTB:

PD: Hey, let me get a word in edgewise already. I want to talk about a commercial that I saw a while back. It was performed by a hip-hop duo from Philly called Chitty Bang, although I think they have split and only one of the guys constitutes Chitty these days. What do we ​think about this?

TTB: Hey, it's really catchy. The rhymes are extremely simple but they're pretty close most of the time, right? The melody is also minimal. But it's a catchy riff. Pass the Oreos. AND...a glass of milk!

PD: Well, maybe we should see how more sophisticated songs work? DF: Save that for next time.