First, full credit for today’s feature by Amerigo Gazaway goes to Andrew Miles, who resides in London, UK and is probably as big of a music geek, if not more so, than Kevin, Rich, Michael, Christina, Darren, and me. He flagged these two albums to a group of common friends and music fans, and I’ve been playing them quite frequently.
Amerigo Gazaway is a producer and musician from Nashville, Tennessee. In 2011, he started the “Soul Mates” series, where he’s merges the work of two well-known artists into one. His first project was called “Fela Soul”, which combined the music of Fela Kuti and De La Soul to create a great compilation of funky, soulful, Afro-beat. His latest project sees Gazaway take the hip hop of Yasiin Bey, who is better known as Mos Def, and the legendary Marvin Gaye. And because both artists have very extensive discographies, Gazaway produced two lengthy albums.
The first, Yasiin Gaye: The Departure (Side One), is R&B, funk, and hip hop revelry. Most of the album has Bey in the lead role with Gaye providing supporting vocals. “Inner City Travellin’ Man”, “I Want You ‘Til Summertime” (which merges Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” with Mos Def’s “Summertime”), and “Ms. Fat Booty” are the standouts on this incredible album, seamlessly blending the two artists’ songs. The production on the album is expertly done whereby the album gives the impression that Bey and Gaye were in the same studio recording the entire album.
The second album, Yasiin Gaye: The Return (Side Two), offers a much different take than Side One. Instead of focusing on Gaye’s soulful vocals and amazing songs, Gazaway turns his attention to Gaye’s work as a producer. As Gazaway writes on his Bandcamp site about the album:
(Gaye) was doing a lot of what we do now, in terms of looping and pulling samples from other pre-recorded sessions decades before hip-hop made it common practice to do so. This also gave me the room to feature other artists and re-present those classic Mos [Def] verses in a new context.
The resulting product also shows the expanse of Gaye’s talents, where the sounds he created 30, 40 years ago are being replicated or “newly created” today. And so while we remember Gaye for his hit singles that brought people to their feet and belted out the chorus to hits like “Let’s Get It On”, “Mercy Mercy Me”, “Inner City Blues”, and countless others, Side Twoslows us the other side of Gaye, one that is more soulful, groovier, and funkier than the singer we’ve come to love.
Consequently, whereas Side Onewas uptempo and one that you could get up and dance to, Side Two is more of an album to lay back and chill out to. The first main track on Side Two is Mos Def’s “Travellin’ Man”, which provides a great comparison of the different approaches on the two albums and show just how funky Gaye was. And as Gazaway stated above, some of the other artists featured on Side Two include The Temptations on the funky “Undeniable”, Chuck Berry on “Ghetto Rock”, and Talib Kweli on the intense and stirring “This Means You”.
Just as you think you’ve heard everything possible from Marvin Gaye, along comes these two great albums produced by Amerigo Gazaway. We get an opportunity to hear what Gaye’s music could sound like today, and Gazaway’s projects confirm that Gaye was an individual well ahead of his time and that his music has and will continue to endear for years, decades to come.
Visit Amerigo Gazaway’s/Soulmates’ Bandcamp site to hear and download for free (yes free!) Yasiin Gaye: The Departure (Side One) and Yasiin Gaye: The Return (Side Two). You can also hear Fela Soul and his James Brown tribute, The Big Pay Back Vol. 3: J.B. & The Soul Mates.
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