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Sunday, August 2, 2009

'Til My Tape Pop #1: Cosmo Baker- Love Break

This is a new interview idea for HITS. In this section, I'll discuss some of my favorite mix tapes with the DJ's that made them. I hope to cover a broad range of era's, styles, and regions. If you have a tape you would like included in the series, please shoot me an email. You can find my email address in my profile section. Big shout outs to Cosmo Baker for helping me set this thing off proper.

DJ Sorce-1: A lot of the music on Love Break was music that I’d either heard before or heard sampled before but wasn’t intimately familiar with. To hear it all on one mix…it blew my mind. I was a senior in college at the time and I started listening to it all the time. It’s one of those mixes where the sequencing and song selection are perfect. How did the concept to take a minimalist approach with mixing on a bunch of soul classics come about?

Cosmo Baker: It’s funny how the first Love Break came about. I had a gig in Philadelphia and had to drive from Brooklyn. Me, DJ Eleven, and DJ Crooked decided we we’re all gonna drive down to Philly together and hang out at the gig while I spun. Knowing that we had a two hour drive ahead of us, I decided to put some songs on a CD that I’d really like to listen to while driving. I did a rough version of Love Break as a CD I was just going to listen to for my drive to Philadelphia. We listened to it in on the way to Philly and on the way back. By the time we got home Eleven was like, “Yo man, you gotta put that out as a mix tape. That’s a really thorough mix.” I had done a couple of mixes that were kind of in that vein before, but nothing that was completely focused on classic slow jam soul music.

Love Break Tracklist:
01: Kool & The Break Introduction
02: Samuel Jonathan Johnston "My Music" (Used by Jadakiss)
03: Tom Brock "There's Nothing In This World That Can Stop Me From Loving You" (Used by Jay-Z)
04: The Dramatics "In The Rain" (Used by The Notorious B.I.G., Beenie Sigel, Bun B)
05: William Bell "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" (Used by Ludacris, Dilated Peoples)
06: William Bell & Mavis Staples "Strung Out" (Used by Cam'ron)
07: Nina Simone "Baltimore"
08: Gwen McCrae "Let's Straighten It Out" (Used by Wu-Tang Clan)
09: L.T.D. "Love Song" (Used by J Dilla, De La Soul)
10: The Isley Brothers "Hello It's Me"
11: The Meters "Wichita Lineman"
12: Eddie Kendricks "If You Let Me" (Used by Masta Ace)
13: Al Green "Light My Fire"
14: Heatwave "Star Of A Story" (Used by A Tribe Called Quest)
15: Curtis Mayfield "The Makings Of You" (Used by Monica)
16: Marvin Gaye "Come Live With Me Angel" (Used by G-Unit)
17: Gene Chandler "Tomorrow I May Not Feel The Same" (Used by Talib Kweli, Kool G. Rap)
18: The Dells "Does Anybody Even Know I'm Here"
19: Ethel Beatty "It's Your Love"
18: Aretha Franklin "With Everything I Feel In Me"
19: Joe Simon "Before The Night Is Over" (Used by Outkast)
18: David Ruffin "Common Man" (Used by Jay-Z)
19: Z.Z. Hill "That Ain't The Way You Make Love" (Used by Madvillian)
20: The Jackson 5 "We Got A Good Thing Going"
21: The Isley Brothers "Here We Go Again"
22: Madeline Bell "Make That Move"
23: Milton Wright "Keep It Up"
24: Odyssey "Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love"

After I decided to make an official version, the response was kind of overwhelming. First I put it up as a free download on The Rub site. Literally, within an hour and a half of putting it up, it had so many downloads that it crashed the site. We had to revamp it and put it up again as two separate MP3’s. Again, it crashed the site. At that point a few people said that they would host it for me on the free download tip. That was when I decided that I needed to put it out as physical product. People started buying it, the response was good, and as a result I put out Love Break 2 and I’m almost done with number 3.

Download a generous snippet of Love Break 2.

DJ Sorce-1: It’s funny that you said you made it for a road trip. Last summer I broke up with my girlfriend and hadn’t been listening to Love Break that much in the months around our break up. I took a road trip at the end of the summer and loaded up my CD binder with music for the drive. Love Break was one of the CD’s I put in and it was in rotation the entire trip. It’s perfect ride music to think about life and just reflect.

Cosmo Baker: It’s definitely good driving music. There have been tapes made before of original songs that have been sampled. For the most part, with a few exceptions, all of them were somewhat scattered. They’d play seven seconds of one sample, and then throw in 15 seconds of another, and so on. I always felt that didn’t do the songs justice. You gotta let a lot of those songs breath man. We’re in a day and age when people’s attention spans are so short that they want instant gratification and as soon as they get it they’re on to something else. That kind of runs contrary to my philosophy with playing music. With some records, you have to give the whole presentation. With that in mind, with the sequencing of Love Break, I wanted to make it like a perfect ark. That’s the thing with mix tapes, there’s a certain arc to it that has to happen. Have you ever seen High Fidelity?

DJ Sorce-1: Yeah, I love that movie.

Cosmo Baker: Well, there is that scene where he’s talking about the art of constructing a mix tape. He talks about highs and lows and reaching certain crescendos. All that stuff really rings true in the process of making mix tapes and I always try to keep that in mind while working on a tape.

DJ Sorce-1: That’s one of the interesting things about Love Break. You didn’t do anything over the top with scratching or blending, but you can tell there was a lot of effort put into the mix just by the way it flows.

Cosmo Baker: Actually, on the original version of Love Break, I did a doubles routine of The Supremes “It’s Time to Break Down”. That isn’t on Love Break, but it was on one of the original versions. I had a little doubles routine, but it was the only song where I did doubling or cutting. It sounded awkward. It kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. After realizing that routine didn’t fit, I decided in favor of letting the songs breath over doing any complex mixing or blending.

I really think that the art of selecting has been overshadowed over the past few years, especially with the advent of Serato. Everything is readily available; therefore DJ’s have a tendency to burn through records really fast. It’s almost like some DJ’s aren’t really considering what they’re playing. I recently made a Valentines Roll mix, which in all honesty, wasn’t even blending records, it was just playing records. In essence, with certain songs, the blending and the mixing can detract from the songs them selves, especially with these slow jam love songs. It’s almost appropriate to not mix the records.

DJ Sorce-1: I’m 25 and I love music, but I don’t have a deep knowledge of soul music. Your mix really sparked a desire to know more about this kind of music. I was talking to one of my friends about how the kind of music on Love Break might be some of the best music ever made. The lyrics are so honest and these songs are from a time when people were actually singing in the rawest form without the help of technology.

Cosmo Baker: That brings up a point that I was thinking about recently. I’m just as much a fan of contemporary R & B as the next guy, but I think that a lot of contemporary R & B lacks a certain honesty and vulnerability which is conveyed in the lyrics and music of R & B from a few decades ago. Those elements are definitely sorely missed.

DJ Sorce-1: Absolutely. When I talk to people about this CD, I always bring up the song “Wichita Lineman” by The Meters. It’s like the song is being told by an average everyman with an amazing voice. The lyrics are something a lot of people can pull meaning from.

Cosmo Baker: That’s such a beautiful song. Originally, it was a Glen Campbell song. It was a pretty big hit for him when he released it in the early 70’s.

Download Glen Campbell's version of "Wichita Lineman".

Lots of times artists during that time did cover versions of big hits. There is something about the way The Meters do their version that is so heartbreakingly beautiful. Not just the instrumentation, and not just the way it’s sung; it’s the total package. That’s a common thread that I tried to find with all of the songs I selected…a certain overall intensity of each record.

Download The Meter's version of "Wichita Lineman".

DJ Sorce-1: I’ve also used the phrase “heartbreakingly beautiful” to describe numerous songs on this mix tape. Another song that really kills me is Heatwave’s “Star of the Story”. That’s one of my favorites.

Cosmo Baker: I used to play that song incessantly. Many, many years ago I was with a girl for a while and then we broke up. I was distraught. I would play that song all the time. It totally conveyed how I felt. I felt like I didn’t need to express myself at all because I could listen to that song and they were expressing themselves in a perfect way that matched where my heart and mind were at. That song always strikes a cord and makes me think about…shit (laughs).

DJ Sorce-1: One song that is really interesting to me because of the use of string instruments is William Bell’s “I Forgot to Be Your Lover”. On some of these tracks it’s easy to overlook the instrumentation because of the power of the singers’ voices, but if you listen to the background of that song it’s very powerful. I was wondering if you wanted to talk about the mix of great vocals and background music.

Cosmo Baker: That’s such a beautiful record. I first heard it on a mix tape Soulman put out years ago. After hearing it for the first time, I became obsessed with finding that record. I eventually did find a copy of it in a dollar bin somewhere. William Bell was signed to Stax and that record is a perfect example of just how tight the studio band was for Stax. All the elements of the instruments are really powerful and at the same time really subtle. They never overpower his voice. The music is a perfect compliment to his voice and the lyrics.

It’s funny because that song has been sampled a bunch of times by people like Dilated Peoples and Ludacris, but when you listen to the original you’re just like, “Holy shit, this is the next level.” The R & B singer Jaheim did a cover of it years ago. Although it was definitely different because it was a contemporary R & B song, it still kind of conveyed the same energy with a more updated feel. To me, that’s a testament to its power and how well written a song it is. That’s what makes classic records. Not if it gets a lot of airplay, not if it does well on the charts, but because somebody like you or I can listen to it thirty years after the fact and be struck by the power of it. That’s a classic record.

Download William Bell's "I Forgot to be Your Lover".

DJ Sorce-1: When you bring up the lasting power of these songs, it kind of puzzles me that when I look at the Love Break track list, many of these artists are unknown to the average American music fan.

Cosmo Baker: There are definitely artists on there that are huge like The Isley Brothers, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone. Then there are some artists who are not as well known like Ethel Beatty, The Dramatics, William Bell, and Samuel Jonathan Johnston. I think one reason might be that for so long the music world was just as segregated as the real world. So where you would have an artist like The Dramatics selling out mad records in the black community, they wouldn’t cross over to the pop charts like a contemporary pop singer today.

DJ Sorce-1: I agree. Although I’m sure there are other reasons why some of these artists aren’t better known, race seems to have definitely played a part. We’ve talked about a few cuts on this mix tape that have deep meaning for you. Are there any other records on Love Break that you have a personal attachment to?

Cosmo Baker: Well, for the most part, I have a personal attachment to every record that’s on there. Every record has certain significance, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be, “I listened to this when I was breaking up with a girl” or “I listened to this when I was first dating this girl”. The Samuel Jonathan Johnston record is one that my friend Rich Medina put me up on at the party in Philadelphia we used to do together called The Remedy. The Aretha Franklin record is a record that I had in my crates for years and never listened to. One day I decided to throw it on and I was like, “Oh my god, this record is mind blowing.”

DJ Sorce-1: I get the sense that you’re one of those people that when you listen to a song, it often puts you back into a certain time and place.

Cosmo Baker: Word up. One of the things that I’m most proud of with the Love Break series is that I was able to present music that a lot of people are unfamiliar with and spark their interest. In your case, you said that you didn’t know a lot about classic R and B and soul and my mix set you off and made you want to check for that kind of music. That’s kind of how it works. At least, that’s how it worked in my case. I’d listen to records and want to learn more. It’s a never ending process and there is so much music out there to discover. I learn new shit every day and I don’t plan on ever stopping.

Download a generous snippet of Love Break.

To order a copy of Cosmo's Love Break CD, click here.

To learn more about Cosmo, check out his website.

And, if you like, read on as Cosmo talks records with me.


Anonymous said...

Good read. Nice work.

Ol C said...

Great interview

DJ SORCE-1 said...

Thank you, I'm glad you liked it!

cuefunk1 said...

very dope...i've heard alot of these breaks on Soulman mixtapes...

Antoine Zurich said...

hi fellas. thanks for the interview.. I just heard the love break the day before yesterday at a friends place, here in switzerland. man!, I instantly fell in love!! and here I am listening to this shit and reading about it... thanks for the interview and thanks for the mix, cosmo!!!