Hip-hop is famously all about the local. And from a listen to Elephants On Acid, Cypress Hill’s latest opus, you might assume DJ Muggs got reacquainted with a few old haunts during its making. But for the group’s ninth album, the group’s long-serving producer wanted to take them beyond their LA stomping grounds, far from American borders. Muggs wanted to take Cypress to the Middle East. “I went to Egypt,” he says on the phone from New York. “I went and sat with shamans, I slept in the king’s chambers, I smoked hashish in rented studios, I saw all the street musicians. I don’t know why, I just decided [to go]. I had a vision. I said, ‘I gotta go to Egypt’. It wasn’t planned. I just woke up and I had to go to Egypt.”
For a sudden plan, it proved to be a fruitful trip…
Dancehall is often written off as being reggae’s poor relation: it’s the bad boy music of the Caribbean. Yet such divisions rarely hold up, since talent, like water, is always searching for fresh openings.
Agent Sasco, formerly known as Assassin, is usually thought of as a dancehall artist, but his latest set, Hope River, tells a different story. It’s a concept album, drawing from memories of the past, and easily his most progressive work to date.
That’s because he now has creative freedom, after freeing himself of record companies and the need to satisfy third parties. These days he can express himself just as he pleases, and he’s also done a lot of soul searching judging by the lyrics.
“It’s the kind of work that I’ve always wanted to do,” he says of the new album, during a recent visit to the UK. “At this stage of my career, I want any compromises to be few and far between… ”
Sometime in the late eighties – now too long ago and made murky by the mists of time to extract an accurate date – I attend a Hammersmith Odeon gig by Zapp featuring Roger Troutman, in the company of former Echoes correspondent, present day cab driver and occasional croquet player, Ian Moody. Our press seats are only about 10 rows from the stage and pretty central, but we don’t get to spend much time actually sitting in them, since a running order packed with funk gems like Dancefloor, Computer Love, It Doesn’t Really Matter, I Can Make You Dance and the one that kicked it all off for the band, More Bounce To The Ounce, has everyone up and grooving right from the off.
Out front, Roger is in decidedly playful mood. At one point he strips down to a ‘naked’ suit, fooling us all into thinking he was really going to reveal his actual tackle. What fun. At another…
Several years ago Wayne Shorter declared, “When jazz gets too macho it gets boring.”
Words of wisdom from the legend, for sure, and a particularly on-point statement in an age when women are becoming ever more visible in what can be a testosterone-charged artform. Flautist Nicole Mitchell argues that there is now considerably greater receptivity towards female contributors in a number of roles other than that of the decorous singer, who [for the most part] is not a composer. It was never always thus.
“Yeah, the more people hear, the more they’re gonna be amazed and not make assumptions, because the best compliment I used to get was, ‘You sound like a man… ”