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Heat Rocks

Heat Rocks

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Scorching guests and sizzling records: join music writer Oliver Wang and music supervisor Morgan Rhodes each week as they invite their favorite artists, critics and scholars for in-depth conversations about the albums that shape our lives. Each week our special guests will take you deep into their heat rocks from the world of hip-hop, soul, dance, jazz, funk and more. Get with us!
64 Episodes
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G Yamazawa on Kanye West's "The College Dropout" (2004)
The Album: Kanye West: College Dropout (2004) Kanye has had a...not great year. From a public relations standpoint, it's been nothing short of a disaster. And yet...'Ye remains one of the most intriguing (if not also infuriating) pop acts we have, evinced to us by the fact that two different guests - rapper G Yamazawa and R&B legend Macy Gray - both asked to talk about Kanye West albums when they came on our show. By further coincidence, they came on the same day to tape which also happened to be the day of West's now-infamous Saturday Night Live appearance. West was also supposed to drop a new album that evening, Yandhi (spoiler alert: he didn't). Sufficed to say, all things pointed West that day, so much so that we were a little worried about releasing these episodes lest our listeners were suffering from too much Kanye fatigue. And yet...both conversations (the Macy Gray episode, about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will drop next week) were so compelling that we couldn't help ourselves. This one, with Yamazawa, was especially great in revisiting the old Kanye, chop-up-the-soul Kanye of College Dropout, where the young producer-turned-rapper came firing out the gate, putting the hip-hop world on notice that "oh sh---, Kanye raps too?" For G Yamazawa, then a young'un growing up in Durham "North Cack," West made a huge impression with his humor, sly politics and of course, the beats. Yamazawa, now relocated to L.A., knows something about sliding between worlds as a former champion spoken word poet turned MC (peep his new Money Is Time album) and together, we discussed what it was like for all of us to discover West's new persona back then, his taste in samples, and what era of West we gravitate towards. More on G Yamazawa "Southern Fried Asian: G Yamazawa" (Nerds of Color) "In Poetry and Hip-Hop, George 'G' Yamazawa Found His Self" (NBC) Website | Twitter | Facebook More on College Dropout "14 Things You Didn't Know About Kanye West's The College Dropout" (Capital Xtra) "Kanye West's The College Dropout: An Oral History" (Billboard) "The DNA Of Kanye West's The College Dropout" (Noisey/Vice) Show Tracklisting (all songs from College Dropout unless indicated otherwise): The New Workout PLan G Yamazawa: Drumma Some Chaka Khan: Through the Fire Through the Wire Last Call All Falls Down Slow Jamz Lil Jimmy Skit Workout Plan Spaceship Little Brother: Slow it Down Luther Vandross: A House Is Not A Home Slow Jamz Marvin Gaye: Distant Lover Spaceship The ARC Choir: Walk with Me Jesus Walks All Falls Down (Demo) All Falls Down Intro Kanye West: Wake Up Mr. West Breathe In Breathe Out Jesus Walks I'll Fly Away Get Em High Last Call All Falls Down Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
EP62: Iman Omari on J*DaVeY's The Beauty in Distortion (2008)
The Album: J*DaVeY The Beauty in Distortion (2008) Heat Rocks co-host Morgan Rhodes is a huge fan of J*Davey and a huge fan of Iman Omari. Naturally she was beyond thrilled when Iman accepted an invitation to come on Heat Rocks and chose J*Davey's 2008 brilliant debut album "The Beauty In Distortion" to discuss. J*Davey's breakout project was one of the jewels in LA's emerging future soul scene a decade ago. Their sound, a fusion of soul, synth, funk and pop gained a million fans and caught the ear of tastemakers everywhere. This album had a profound influence on his production choices pushing him in the direction of avant-garde soul. More on Iman Omari Iman Omari Loses Love to 'Another' (Soul Bounce) Meet MusiKXian Iman OmarI Instagram | Twitter More on The Beauty in Distortion J*Davey Talks LA Style (XLR8R) J*DaVeY: the beauty in distortion! Promo" J*Davey's Wikipedia Entry Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Beauty in Distortion unless indicated otherwise): Division of Joy Everybody Touch It Iman Omari: Midnight Mr. Mister (Future Screw Remix) Cowboys and Indians Finer Things Private Parts Might as Well Everybody Touch It Kim Burrell: Prayer Changes Things Kim Burrell: Holy Ghost Private Parts Cowboys and Indians Division of Joy Everybody Touch It Private Parts Finer Things No More Enterception Camera (Gangsta) Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there. If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
Jeff Weiss on Drakeo the Ruler's "Cold Devil" (2017)
The Album: Drakeo the Ruler: Cold Devil (2017) When we invited L.A. music writer Jeff Weiss to join us, he was adamant that there was only one release he wanted to talk about: Cold Devil, the full-length, acclaimed mixtape that the upstart Los Angeles rapper, Drakeo the Ruler, dropped nearly a year ago. Drakeo is part of the Stinc Team and is helping lead a wave of emergent talents that also includes 03 Greedo, Ketchy the Great and Ralfy the Plug. The longtime writer behind The Passion of the Weiss music blog, Jeff has been championing Drakeo for several years now and in particular, he's written extensively on the rapper's tumultuous legal challenges, including first interviewing Drakeo when he was locked up. Our conversation touched on Drakeo's legal situation, the rapper's gift of slanguistic gab and the current state of West Coast rap music. More on Jeff Weiss Interviews with Drakeo: 1 & 2 Shots Fired Podcast Website | Twitter More on Cold Devil "L.A. rapper Drakeo the Ruler is a man in demand" (LA Times) Album review (Pitchfork) "Drakeo The Ruler Is Different, And Different Is Good" (Stereogum) Show Tracklisting (all songs from Cold Devil unless indicated otherwise): Out the Slums Drakeo the Ruler: Mr. Get Dough Big Banc Uchies Flu Flamming Ion Rap Beef Red Tape, Yellow Tape Neiman and Marcus Don't Know You Flu Flamming Out the Slums Blamped Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
Chris Molanphy on George Michael's "Faith" (1987)
The Album: George Michael: Faith (1987) In the fall of 1987, it wasn't a foregone conclusion that George Michael's solo debut, Faith, would be a hit. As successful as Michael had been as half of the Wham! duo, going solo was always going to be a risk but as it turns out, it was one worth taking. Faith turned out to be a runaway hit, not simply a #1 album but spawning four different #1 singles, including the lively title song which became the best-selling song of 1988 in the U.S. It wasn't without controversy however, especially with conservative outcries against the song, "I Want Your Sex," and its video for being too racy or explicit, all the while Michael, as we learned later, was insinuating hints about his own changing sexual identity into different verses. These were all topics of discussion that came up with our guest, Chris Molanphy, creator and host of the Hit Parade podcast which analyzes chart histories to provide incredibly in-depth discussions about pop music. Chris takes on the sometimes arcane peculiarities of music charts and uses them as a way to jump into far broader discussions about pop trends, figures and transformations. Chris had previous taped an episode of Hit Parade devoted to the parallel careers of Michael and Elton John and he brought that wealth of knowledge to our conversation. More on Chris Molanphy "Commerce Vs. Consumption: A Revolutionary Rethink Of Billboard's Album Chart" (NPR's The Record) Pitchfork portfolio Website | Twitter More on Faith "'Keeping the 'Faith': Six Writers Remember the Six Classic Hit Singles From George Michael's 30-Year-Old Debut" (Billboard) "30 Years Ago: George Michael Goes Solo on 'Faith'" (Diffuser) Molanphy's article "Keanu and the Remarkable Chart History of George Michael, “Black” Music Star" (Slate) Show Tracklisting (all songs from Faith unless indicated otherwise): I Want Your Sex (Parts I & II) Wham!: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go George Michael: Careless Whisper Hard Day Father Figure I Want You Sex (Parts I & II) Sinead O'Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U One More Try Hard Day (Shep Pettibone Remix) Hard Day Kissing A Fool Father Figure Hand to Mouth Limp Bizkit: Faith Faith Estelle: No Substitute Love Kissing a Fool Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there. If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
Women Behaving Boldly #6: Evelyn McDonnell on Janelle Monae's "Dirty Computer" (2018)
The Album: Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer (2018) To close out our Women Behaving Boldly mini-series, we brought things all the way up to the present by tackling a 2018 album. Our guest, music writer and journalism professor Evelyn McDonnell wanted to talk about Atlanta's Janelle Monae and her recent LP, Dirty Computer. Between her various alter egos and concept-driven albums, Monae's been a critic's darling since she first broke out ten years ago and the intervening decade hasn't dimmed her creative appeal a bit. Dirty Computer, and its accompany mini-movie of music videos, touches on many of Monae's favorite themes: sci-fi futures (some good, some not so good), fluid identities (including her own evolving sexuality), and some of the most soul/funk/rock/pop concoctions you can imagine. If Monae's recent gem was a perfect capstone to our six weeks of Women Behaving Boldly, it was perfectly matched by the guest who chose it. McDonnell is one of the most accomplished music journalists of her generation, having previously written the books Queens of Noise, about the Runaways, Army of She, which is about Bjork, and Mamarama, which is about Evelyn herself.  Her latest is the massive anthology, Women Who Rock, a 400 page edited anthology that focuses on over 100 of the most important women in pop music history, written by many of our favorite writers including both Lynnee Denise and Ann Powers, both of whom also contributed to our Women Behaving Boldly series. More on Evelyn McDonnell Evelyn McDonnell on Bullseye. More on Women Who Rock Blog | Twitter More on Dirty Computer The album's "emotion picture" mini-movie. Album review (Pitchfork) "Janelle Monáe On Owning Her Queer Identity With 'Dirty Computer'" (Billboard) Show Tracklisting (all songs from Dirty Computer unless indicated otherwise): Make Me Feel Janelle Monae - Sincerely, Jane Janelle Monae - Tightrope Pynk I Like That So Afraid I Like That Pynk Aerosmith - Pink Django Jane Screwed Make Me Feel Americans Don't Judge Me The RH Factory - Poetry Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
Women Behaving Boldly #5: Joan Morgan on Lauryn Hill's "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (1998)
The Album: Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) On August 25, 1998, Lauryn Hill, the breakout rapping/singing star from The Fugees released her first (and only) solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. On August 25, 2018, exactly 20 years later, the Heat Rocks crew invited author Joan Morgan to join us to talk about that album and her new book about that album, She Begat This. Call it a happy coincidence, call it kismet but either way, call it an amazing conversation.  It's difficult to overstate the singular importance of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. This was a generation before artists like Drake made singing + rapping into a popular form; Lauryn was wading into unknown waters when she put this together. As we discuss, her own label had to be pushed to even put the album out but once they did, it became an instant smash: multi-platinum sales, the first "Best Album" Grammy award for a hip-hop album, and it elevated, for better or for worse, Lauryn - still in her early 20s - to becoming one of hip-hop and R&B's most important figures. Of course, in the years since, controversy has dogged her, especially regarding her live shows and two decades later, her legacy is a complicated one, as we get into. Joan Morgan would have been an ideal guest even if she hadn't written a book about the album; her bonafides as one of the great cultural critics to emerge in the 1990s were already well-established, least of all in her 1999 collection of essays, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost. Joan's based in New York, finishing up a PhD at NYU, but she happened to be in town on that fateful 20th anniversary day to come chat with us. More on Joan Morgan Paris Review review of She Begat This Joan interviewed on The Cypher podcast Twitter | Instagram More on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill "The Selling of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (Okayplayer, 2018) "Inside The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (Rolling Stone, 2018) "My favourite album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (The Guardian, 2011) Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill unless indicated otherwise): Ex-Factor The Fugees: Ready or Not The Fugees: Nappy Heads (Remix) Lost Ones Pro Era: THE PE CYPHER (PT 1 & 2) Doo-Wop (That Thing) Lost Ones Nothing Even Matters To Zion The Fugees: Killing Me Softly with His Song Sweetest Thing The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill   If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
Women Behaving Boldly #4: Ann Powers on Madonna's "Like a Prayer" (1989)
The album: Madonna: Like a Prayer (Sire, 1989) For the fourth installment in our Women Behaving Boldly mini-series, we spin the clock back to an episode we first aired a year ago: Ann Powers, talking about Madonna’s Like a Prayer from 1989. From the beginning, we knew this episode in particular would make a perfect fit with the WBB series. After all, few pop artists, female or male, have done more to transform the pop landscape since the 1980s than Madonna, often times inviting scrutiny and criticism in the process for pushing the proverbial envelope on what people found acceptable by musical artists in that era. And to have Ann Powers, one of the country’s premier music critics, here to break down Madonna’s import was a gift unto itself. If you missed this the first time, we’re excited for you to hear it now. And if you heard it before, revisit this gem from our vaults. This week, Morgan and Oliver are joined by Ann Powers of NPR Music and author of the new book, Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music. Together, the three dug into Like a Prayer, Madonna's critical breakout album form 1989. As Ann lays out, Madonna had already established herself as an MTV-era mega-star with her previous albums but Like a Prayer, with its then-controversial sexual politics and surprising personal candor, marked a new level of artistic ambition. More on Madonna and Like a Prayer The "Like a Prayer" video NPR Music's review of Like a Prayer for their "150 Greatest Albums Made by Women" list. More on Ann Powers: Ann Powers @ NPR Music Ann on All Things Considered, talking about Good Booty Her Twitter Tracklisting (all songs from Like a Prayer unless indicated otherwise): Like a Prayer Madonna: Like a Virgin Till Death Do Us Part Express Yourself Act of Contrition Love Song Cherish Keep it Together Like a Prayer Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there. If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
Women Behaving Boldly #3: Joi on Betty Davis' "They Say I'm Different" (1974)
The album: Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different (1974) As part of our "Women Behaving Boldly" series, we decided to re-air the episode that launched Heat Rocks: our interview with future soul trailblazer and architect Joi Gilliam. This was one the pilot episodes we recorded in the spring of 2017 and when we left the taping, we turned to one another and knew this show had potential. The pairing of artist and album came from Morgan and it was inspired: the undersung Betty Davis, one of the most original and fascinating figures of the 1970s, being feted by future soul artist and Dungeon Family-affiliate Joi, an artist very much cut from Betty's cloth but a generation later. We had a fantastic conversation about the importance and uniqueness of Betty and what she's meant, especially, to waves of Black women artists who've followed in her path in the 40+ years since. On a personal note, this also meant a lot to Oliver because he's written three sets of liner notes on Betty Davis albums (including They Say I'm Different) and interviewed her extensively as part of that. He forever holds a torch for her. More on Betty Davis: Betty interviewed by Jesse Thorn on Bullseye An interview with Oliver Wang on Betty Davis for Light In the Attic Pop Matters review of Betty Davis and They Say I'm Different More on Joi: Joi's website Joi is Reborn as "SIR Rebekkah Holylove" on New Album (SoulBounce) Joi's newest album SIR Rebekkah Holylove Twitter|Instagram Tracklisting (all songs from They Say I'm Different unless indicated otherwise): They Say I'm Different Joi: Sunshine & The Rain Bone Crusher: Never Scared Joi: Fatal Lovesick Journey Don't Call Her No Tramp Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him Ice Cube: Once Upon a Time in the Projects They Say I'm Different 70's Blues Special People Joi: If I'm in Luck I Just Might Get Picked Up Shoo B Doop and Cop Him He Was a Big Freak Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
Women Behaving Boldly #2: Aretha Franklin Retrospective feat. Lynnée Denise
The Albums: Aretha Franklin: Young, Gifted, and Black (1974) Aretha Franklin: Jazz to Soul (1994) Aretha Franklin: Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul (2007) Heat Rocks had always planned to sit down with DJ Lynnée Denise, an LA-based DJ and music scholar, but when Aretha Franklin passed on August 16th, we invited her to come talk with us about the Queen's life and legacy as part two of our series Women Behaving Boldly. What a fantastic decision! Admittedly, Queen Aretha's discography is too vast and too fire to be discussed on just one show so we cherry picked our favorite heat rocks: Oliver (The Queen in Waiting - The Columbia Years), Morgan (Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul) and DJ Lynnée Denise (Young, Gifted and Black). The three of us, brought together by a shared love and reverence for the Queen talked about her incredible voice and gift of interpretation and DJ Lynnée unpacked the Aretha's relationship with the church, with Detroit, with her instrument(s), with black folks and of course, her place in the canon of music. Heat Rocks is thankful for an opportunity to spend an hour talking about the undisputed Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, with DJ Lynnée Denise who dropped some nuggets of wisdom on us. More on Lynnée Denise The Afro-Digital Migration: A DJ's Journey from Hip-Hop to House Music Website Our favorite Aretha performances Soul Train (1973) Blues Brothers (1980) The 1998 Grammys More on Aretha Aretha's Wikipedia Entry "At Aretha Franklin's Funeral, Gospel was the Heart - and Backbone" (NPR) "Soul Survivor: The Revival and Hidden Treasure of Aretha Franklin" Additional Aretha Links Aretha Franklin in Pictures (CBS News) With George Michael "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me" Freeway of Love Show Tracklisting (all songs by Aretha Franklin unless indicated otherwise): I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) Rock Steady EPMD: I'm Housin' Rock Steady Young, Gifted and Black Soulville Border Song (Holy Moses) The Long and Winding Road At Last (Let Me In Your Life Outtake) Nina Simone: To Be Young, Gifted and Black Young, Gifted and Black Elton John: Young, Gifted and Black The Heptones: Young, Gifted and Black Bob and Marcia: To Be Young Gifted and Black I've Been Loving You Too Long Day Dreaming Just for a Thrill Drinking Again This Bitter Earth Jump To It One Step Ahead Mos Def: Ms. Fat Booty Ain't But the One I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) [Demo] At Last (Let Me In Your Life Outtake) So Soon Rock Steady (Alternate Mix) Are You Leaving Me [Demo] Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there. If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
Women Behaving Boldly #1: Oliver & Morgan on Millie Jackson's "Caught Up" (1974)
The Album: Millie Jackson: Caught Up (1974) Some months ago, Oliver and Morgan kicked around the idea of celebrating women over the course of a few Heat Rocks episodes. We decided we'd package it as a series and Oliver came up with the name "Women Behaving Boldly". Gotta love it. To kick off the series, we chose the incomparable, ahead-of-her-time, OG provocateur Mildred Virginia Jackson known professionally as MILLIE JACKSON. Millie Jackson is the Queen of Raunchy Rap. She spent much of the seventies singing about relationships and situationships. Her lyrics and conversations in the interludes of songs talked about complicated adult dramas like infidelity and divorce. Her words were raw and honest but also grown and sexy. 1974's Caught Up, her fourth release was a concept album which dealt with the before during and aftermath of an affair told from varying perspectives. Oliver and Morgan sat down to talk about all the elements that make this album fire - a heat rock. More on Millie Jackson Millie Jackson's Wikipedia Entry Millie Jackson's Biography Millie live @ The Apollo Millie's tribute to Otis Redding Phuck U Symphony More on Caught Up Caught Up's Wikipedia entry My Favourite Album: Caught Up by Millie Jackson" (The Guardian) Show Tracklisting (all songs from Caught Up unless indicated otherwise): So Easy Going, So Hard Coming Back Rihanna: Needed Me Millie Jackson: Phuck U Symphony Millie Jackson: All the Way Lover The Rap Millie Jackson: Gospel Truth The Rap All I Want is a Fighting Chance It's All Over but the Shouting A House for Sale Gladys Knight and the Pips: Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye) I'm Tired of Hiding The Rap The First Time I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love to You A House for Sale Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!
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