27 September 2019

"Metropolis" by the Humble Brothers (2003)

Keeping on the recent videogame-instrumental theme, I decided to do research on a song that caught me completely offguard.  First off let me say that by and large I stopped playing videogames many moons ago.  But I'm still aware that more money is being pumped into them than ever, and some series like NBA2K or EA's FIFA actually go out and hire top-of-the-line artists for their soundtracks.  If I actually do play a game, it'll probably be something like say EA's SimCity, i.e. a strategy game that doesn't require a bunch of button crunching.  So when I did recently sit down for a refreshing round of city building, I was totally shocked to hear this:

That's a song called Metropolis by a musical duo called The Humble Brothers.  The track is from the soundtrack of SimCity 4: Rush Hour, a game that dropped way back in 2003.  I don't really know how to explain Metropolis except to say that I was taken aback when I first heard it and have developed somewhat of an addiction to it since.  But perhaps it was due to the fact that once again it is in a relatively-mundane videogame, where I was totally not expecting to hear something like this.  So I decided to post it to see if others have the same reaction also.


The Humble Brothers are a musical duo consisting of Ken "Hiwatt" Marshall (Canada) and Traz Damji (Tanzania).  Their genre is electronic music, which would imply that all of the instruments and perhaps even the voice featured in Metropolis are actually computer-generated.  And if so I would truly be amazed.  More likely the song uses some samples, such as for the violins and those African drum-sounding things.

Information on The Humble Brothers is sparse, but based on their Wikipedia page it would appear that whereas the layman may have never heard of them, the industry at least know what's up.  But for the most part, it seems that the bulk of their work has been in the videogame sector.

Ken "Hiwatt" Marshall at work via his Facebook page - notice how all he's using is a laptop.
Traz Damji via his own personal webpage, which as of the writing of this post is still under construction.
The Humble Brothers don't appear to have any joint website up and instead have individual pages as linked above.  So it's not clear if they are currently active as a unit.  And the last album they dropped in unison appears to be back in 2009.


There's some other sleepers on the SimCity 4: Rush Hour soundtrack also.  I guess it's only logical that such an intellectual game would also feature some engaging music.  And I look forward to hopefully hearing some more of the The Humble Brothers' work soon.

22 September 2019

"Tell Me Mama" by Tony! Toni! Toné! (1993)

A woke up a few days ago with this track inexplicably playing in my head.  So I was like might as well do some research on it.


Tell Me Mama is derived from Tony! Toni! Toné!'s third album, which was entitled Sons of Soul.  That album went double-platinum, peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 200 and was one of my personal favorites.  I tried listening to it recently, and it has understandably aged.  But if not for its lengthy mid-song dialogue, Tell Me Mama would still be slappin' today.

The cover to Tony! Toni! Toné!'s Sons of Soul.  I never would have noticed
 that pyramid in the upper-right corner back in the day.
Tell Me Mama was released by Mercury Records and Wing Records with the rest of the album on 22 June 1993.  Its concept is quite simple, relaying the feelings of a dude who has f*cked up his relationship with the woman he loves.  He kinda admits that he did so by 'playing the role of a pimp', as in manwhoring.  But still he is apparently unable to ascertain at which point exactly the romance 'went wrong' and thus is left in a state of confusion.  Or more specifically, he is in his feelings and wants homegirl back.  Thus the song concludes with him asserting that 'needs' and 'got to have' her.


Tony! Toni! Toné!'s lead singer was Rapheal Saadiq, who had one of the most-engaging voices of R&B's heyday of the 1990s.  I think it's safe to say that Tell Me Mama is one of his favorites amongst fans.  He also dropped this ill track called Ask of You in 1995 which hopefully I'll get a chance to write about later.

A picture of Tony! Toni! Toné!, a family band, taken in 1988.  In the middle is Raphael Saadiq, and respectively on the left and right are D'wayne Wiggins (his brother) and Timothy Riley (their cousin).
The other Toni! who yaps in the middle of the song is D'wayne Wiggins, who is actually Raphael's big brother and a guitar player in addition to vocalist.  And then we have their cousin, Timothy Riley, holding down the drums and keyboards for the group.

There are three co-writers of this song.  One is the aforementioned Timothy Riley.  The other is is listed as R. Wiggins, which is obviously another name for Raphael Saadiq, whose birth name is actually Charles Ray Wiggins.  And then there's a third writer called Z'Ann, who I can't find any information on.  Meanwhile the entire band is credited with producing the Sons of Soul album.


I've embedded the track below just in case you want to give it a listen.  It'd be cool if I could like put a whole new generation onto a relatively-obscure yet enjoyable track from back in the 90s.

18 September 2019

"Never Been Part II" by Wiz Khalifa (Instrumental 2012)

I have an affinity for hip-hop instrumentals.  What I like about them is that the listener can think about anything he or she wants as opposed to being fed ideas via lyrics.  And that's not to say that I have anything against Never Been Part II by Wiz Khalifa, which features Rick Ross and Amber Rose, whom he would marry a little over a year after this track was dropped.  Rather I just really, really, really like the instrumental to the song.

The cover of Taylor Allderdice, Wiz Khalifa's 2012 mixtape which features Never Been Part II.
The first time I heard Never Been Part II was at a friend's house, and I was immediately taken aback not only due to it sounding dope but particularly by the fact that the instrumental features a sample from Chrono TriggerChrono Trigger is a videogame that originally came out in 1995 for the Super Nintendo and is considered by many to that console's finale project.  The game itself is highly-acclaimed, and that extends to its music score, which has even been performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.

Most of the tunes were composed by a Japanese artist named Yasunori Mitsuda, who specializes in music for use in video games.  The tracks he created for Chrono Trigger which is relevant to this post is called Secret of the Forest.  You can have a listen to it below:

This is the selfsame song that is sampled in Wiz Khalifa's Never Been Part II, which was produced by Sledgren, a Grammy-nominated artist from Pennsylvania and one of Wiz's regular collaborators.  Have a listen to the way he flipped it:

I mean that's some international collaborating for your ass.  And it clearly lets me know that Sledgren at least must've also been a fan of Chrono Trigger.


A lot of people see sampling as a form of plagiarism, but to me it's an art form.  Like it amazes me how someone can take a 1990's videogame tune - as impressive as it may be - and transform it into a hip-hop instrumental.  In fact it makes me very interested in listening to other Wiz Khalifa that Sledgren has produced, especially for Wiz Khalifa, such as the original version of Never Been, in which he also sampled one of Yasunori Mitsuda's Chrono Trigger tracks.

12 September 2019

"Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers (1971) / Michael Jackson (1972)

This is a song I had been aware of for some time, having heard the Michael Jackson version back in the day.  Recently a homey sent me a link of Ain't No Sunshine being performed by none other than Stevie Wonder, which is embedded below.

That was during Bill Withers' 2015 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Thus it's safe to conclude that Ain't No Sunshine is his signature song.  To help give insight on how miraculous an event this was, Bill Withers "was working a a factor making toilet seats... at the time he wrote the song".  In other words he was not a professional musician, with Ain't No Sunshine actually being the first song he released ever.  And the track went on to achieve a number of accolades, including making Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.

This is partially due to its easy-to-follow and universally-identifiable message of the singer missing the hell out of his shorty, who has apparently forsaken him.  But it's also because the way Bill Withers established it as a song that has an intrinsic soul.  Thus it takes an artist like Stevie Wonder to really be able to pull it off.  And that also brings us to the next artist, Michael Jackson.

MJ would have recorded this song when he was about 13 years old.  Anyone who thinks that Jacko got his foot in the door via dancing never heard him sing as a child.  In fact Michael Jackson perhaps had the most-powerful voice of any child in recorded history - powerful enough for him to be the man of the house before even becoming a man.  And for those who aren't familiar with that talent outside of common Jackson 5 hits, I suggest you take a listen to his rendition below:

And on the (American) B-side to the song lies another early-MJ sleeper, I Wanna Be Where You Are.


A number of artists, including Paul McCartney, have covered Ain't No Sunshine in the past.  But given the intrinsic power of the song, it's understandable why perhaps more recognizable singers haven't attempted taking a stab at it.  In other words the legacy of this song is such that only those who can genuinely sing should attempt to make a memorable rendition of it.

07 September 2019

"Summer Girl" by Haim (2019)

This is a song I came across a short time ago and realized additional research was required.  The reason being that honestly, I thought that it may be an ode to Lucifer.

The cover art to Summer Girl by Haim

Haim is a girl group from Los Angeles, California.  The band consists of three sisters - Este, Danielle and Alana.  Este Haim, being the oldest, is currently 33 years.  Alana Haim, the youngest, is 27.  The middle sister and most popular member of the group, Danielle Haim, is 30.

The Haim sisters which, according to their heights, would be from left to right Alana, Danielle and Este.
Since I'm approaching this article referring to religious matters, it is perhaps noteworthy to mention that the Haim sisters were brought up Jewish.  However as of now they "are not particularly religious".  


This origin of this song dates back to 2017 when Danielle Haim's boyfriend, Ariel Rechtshaid (who is also one of the producers of Summer Girl), was diagnosed with cancer.  Danielle's touring lifestyle did not allow her to be with him 24/7.

But whens she was around or communicating with Ariel, her goal was to be "this light that shined on him when he was feeling dark".  In other words she made a conscientious effort to help Rechtshaid overcome his depression.  Or looking at it poetically, she wanted to brighten up his day, like the summer sun.  And this song is based on that sentiment.  So basically, most of the lyrics point to the idea of the singer being dedicated to making her man happy, i.e. his "summer girl".

And at times, especially during the first verse and chorus, it does seem as if she is singing about a particular, earthly individual.  However I want to focus more on the second verse and outro, where she starts referencing otherworldly beings and claims that one of them is her selfsame boyfriend.

In the second verse, again in regards to her lover, Danielle states that he has "lightning" in his eyes and has "fallen from the sky".  To those who are familiar with Biblical quotes, that statement can perhaps be interpreted as a reference to Lucifer.  This is based on a symbolism Jesus said in the Book of Luke concerning this character:
"I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."
So we have commonalities between Jesus's quote about Satan and Summer Girl based on mutual references to an individual falling from the sky and being associated with lightning.

Then in the outro, the song also mentions "angels coming down".  And those familiar with Biblical lore would know that Lucifer was an angel who had "fallen" - or come down - "from heaven".  So that's another lyrical incident arguably supporting the idea of Danielle Haim identifying Satan as her boo.

But at the same time, on a Biblical level the lyrics could possibly be flipped to insinuate that she is instead talking about Jesus, since he also used the metaphor of lightning to describe his own actions.  Indeed there are a number of similarities between Biblical terminology used to describe Jesus and Satan.  So the next logical step was to resort to the music video and look for imagery supporting either one of those theories.

The video itself features the ladies stripping down from winter clothes into bikini tops.  And whereas something like this may have been risque 30 years ago, honestly it's a bit mild by today's standards.  But overall, I didn't catch anything that appeared to be an overt religious or even political reference outside of a sign of support for the LGBT community.

And considering that the homosexual and Luciferian agendas are intertwined, her stance on the issue, in combination with the lyrical content of the song, can be loosely interpreted as Haim indeed singing to Lucifer.

But this is a circumstantial conclusion.  So I decided to dig deeper into the issue using Google.  And what came up was an article based on symbolism used in the video for a song Haim dropped (as a feature of Calvis Harris) back in 2015 entitled Pray to God, which is about the singer recovering from a broken heart.

And as the artticle suggests, there is plenty of imagery potentially related to this post in that video.  For instance at one particular juncture Danielle appears dressed in all-black, resembling a witch.  Also the title itself is quite-striking.  But at the end of the day Haim doesn't appear to really be doing anything out of the ordinary in the music industry these days.


That is to say that there are countless rumors of popular musicians being affiliated with Luciferian cults these days.  And many of their songs, despite these individuals not being anymore religious than the next man, have a number of religious references.  And once again, these artists are known more for being worshipers of Satan than the opposite.  So conclusively, if it were later proven that this song is such an ode, I personally wouldn't be surprised.  But that being said, I also wouldn't particularly mind listening to more Haim tracks.

05 September 2019

"Just Like Water" by Lauryn Hill (2001)

I decided to research this song because it's one of my favorites from back in the day, like occasionally it just randomly plays in my head.  Moreover it may be the last truly-good track that Lauryn Hill ever made.


Lauryn Hill (born in 1975) was by far the most-successful female hip-hop artist of the 1990's.  Her classic 1998 album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), set the record for most Grammy nominations (10) and actually Awards won (5) by a female artist in a single year.  She originally came out in 1994 as a part of the Fugees, along with Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel.

As can be ascertained from the artwork above, Lauryn was a Rastafarian.  And acknowledging the spiritual side of life has always been her style.  This formula worked out well earlier in her career but not so much by the time MTV Unplugged 2.0 (2001) rolled around.

The cover to Lauryn Hill's MTV Unplugged 2.0


A lot transpired in Lauryn Hill's life between the release of the two aforementioned albums, and her work reflected this reality.  Indeed a critic from Entertainment Weekly described MTV Unplugged 2.0 as "perhaps the most bizarre follow-up in the history of [popular music]".  Or put into layman's terms, whereas Miseducation was really, really good, MTV Unplugged was really, really whack.  And the reason for such was apparently Lauryn going through a major identity crisis at the time.

So instead of sticking to the sound fans had come to know and love, she decided to re-brand herself as a "hip-hop folk singer".  And even that's a stretch, because there wasn't really anything hip-hop about MTV Unplugged 2.0, at least not from what I remember my singular time listening to it.  Indeed I think it's safe to say that many of her fans felt just as myself, that Lauryn had somehow betrayed us by deciding to transition into hardcore-folk music.  I mean it's only her and a guitar on the album.

But in Hill's defense, I imagine she must've gone through hell not only being the lead positive-role model in hip-hop but also due to the jealousy she must have faced from other artists due to her success.  But at least MTV Unplugged did produce one sonic gem, which is Just Like Water.


I'm not going to even try to breakdown all of the elaborate metaphors she uses in this track, because they all ultimately lead back to one idea anyway.  The singer is interacting with someone.  The only thing we know definitely about this individual is that it is a male.  And via her interactions with him, Lauryn Hill is undergoing some type of monumental, edifying, internal transformation.  Thus the titular "water" is an allegory pointing to what's happening to her on the inside, as in a type of purification.  And once again, the entire experience is made possible by her dealing directly with the aforementioned entity.

And the reason I say entity is because there is really only two ways to interpret who she is singing about.  The most-likely explanation would be that Lauryn is referring to some type of spiritual experience and thus is alluding to a spiritual entity.  Either that or she is singing about a romantic interest.  And honestly, the lyrics of this song are a bit to heavy-handed to be referring to a lover.


Just Like Water dropped on 7 May 2002 with the rest of MTV Unplugged 2.0, which came to us via Columbia Records.  The song was written and produced by Lauryn Hill.  And the team is basically just her and her guitar.


In reality Lauryn Hill, as historically successful as she was, only had a pop-music career which lasted less than a decade, as the release of MTV Unplugged 2.0 pretty much ended her tenure as a trending artist.  Perhaps that was the intended plan.  But at least one memorable song came from the project.  And if you aren't familiar with Just Like Water, I suggest you take a moment to give it a listen via the video embedded below, especially if you're a Lauryn Hill fan or have an affinity for a cool guitar track.