A classic conversation amongst musicians is why do D’Js deserve to be earning so much money and who the hell do they think they are calling their one hour D.J set a gig.
I remember when songs with classic basslines used to rule the dance music airwaves. Classic examples would be songs like she’s Strange by Cameo, Don’t stop the music by Yarborough and People, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition (still a floor filler on your wedding gig).The list goes on…
At some point around the mid 90’s the word chops became the new buzz word amongst musicians. Live music had been regulated to the classic open Mic night, the D.J would finish their floor filling set, the band starts to tune up and we’re off. Let’s see what everyone has been practicing this week. Actually! an even better idea, lets just entertain the musicians in the audience, wouldn’t want to be seen as the guy that “just plays the god damn song”. If you didn’t have chops you weren’t happening. The sound of whoo’s and wee’s fills the air every time the bass player or drummer would start their lick fest four bars after the tune had started. This was the beginning of the end for live dance music. The word Soul got buried six feet under.
Meanwhile the DJs were steadily plodding along in the background playing four to the floor, ostenato basslines. The word R’N’B replaced the soul music department in the local record shops, down went the tempo’s and out went the funk. Reggae seemed to lose it’s footing for a little while but managed to regain it’s ground with a big thumbs up to the european reggae scene.
The producers and musicians decided to change the rules related to what makes people dance and decided that clever musicianship and slow tempos is going to be the new norm (and it was for a short while) and Neo Soul was born.
My final days as a DJ were coming to an end, there’s a few funky tunes still hanging around the record shops, Dre’s still churning out some P Funk and the Erick Sermon Remix of D’ angelo’s Dreamy Eyes is funky as hell. Neo Soul is on it’s way in.
Don’t get me wrong I loved the whole Neo Soul movement and soul fans still do. Jill Scott live is still a classic soul album. But what happened to that whole wave of soul artists that rode the wave behind D’angelo and Erikah Badu between 1996 and the early 2000’s.
Some soul music still happens at the Jazz Cafe in London but at 10.30 the D.Js about to take over and we’re gonna clear all you muso’s out with your woo’s and wee’s so that people can down to some normal dance music.
D’angelo has decided to ignore what everyone else is doing and stick to the old school rules. Anyone who’s witnessed his live show will know that it’s a dance gig with grooves that just go round and round for ages until you are drawn in. Reminiscent of the day my life changed when I saw George Clinton live playing one groove for 15 mins.
Not saying that there is not a place for slow clever music with lots of changes. Snarky Puppy are doing a good job but any so called soul producers and musicians ( if they still exist) need to stop whining and “take back the night” (classic example) bass, drums and simplicity is the key to your return.