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REVIEWS ABOUT THE ALBUM “DARK MATTER’
When Afrika throws down the opening riff to “Got That Vibe” you know you’re in for a ride. A quick perusal of musical guests confirms that the master of unpredictable unions (previous collaborators range from James Brown to Boy George to Johnny Rotten) is at it again.
Those who have long confounded themselves with the question of whether Mr. Bambaataa is a rap, hip hop, jazz or funk artist will find little solace here. mean, he’s obviously a new age Egyptian potentate of electronica and selectronica in its many forms, with a different musical genre rising in every house.
Gary Numan, of late ‘70s “Cars” fame, sits in on his own “Metal.” The concept of melding funk, rap, and robot electronica is enough to cause lesser talents to cower, but for Afrika it’s old hat. He is the force, remember, that brought Kraftwerk to the black streets of New York, and is therefore a foundation stone of club, trance, and innumerable derivations that defy categorization. By the time that MC Chatterbox hops into Numan’s electronic pogoings it seems like the most natural thing in the world.
“Dark Matter” can be understood in terms of Black culture dancing towards paradise. The funk riffs are heavenly and more than enough to power a locomotive by woofer alone. Never mind what they do to your ass…moving at the speed of light ain’t half of it. The invocation is one of shadowed dancers moving in manners that defy any calculated definition of movement, and instead declare for a spiritual one.
The liner notes alone are worth the price of admission. Afrika weaves a tale of African paradise lost, and a cry towards redemption. Esoteric allusions (“Almighty Ra,” “the spell of Leviathan 666,” “zero point energy or Vril power,” “Amarus, Quetzlcoatls…Druids) mix with Desire-era Dylanesque cadence and intonation.
Afrika doesn’t leave anything, or anyone, important out. King James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, Booty Collins, Amnesty International, the African National Congress and Uncle George Clinton are name-checked into a heady mix that equates the Gods of major and minor religions as the “Supreme Force.” The
spiritual message is as potentially unifying as the musical one, if fraught with even greater elements of danger and adventure.
It could all be a paean to a mystical Black intellectualism, except that it isn’t exclusionary in that way. On “Take You Back” Afrika notes that New York and DC are “in the house,” but doesn’t stop until he’s included Germany, Poland, and Spain. If you’re starting to sense that boundaries are nonexistent, or
at least blurred, you’re being drawn into it.
The metaphysical posturing will strike some as powerful and others as pretentious, but there’s no denying the drive of the music. It’s difficult to think of a decent party where you couldn’t turn this CD up to full effect. I can see it working for Deadheads and jazz cats and funkmeisters and rappers and metal freaks and teenyboppers…I mean, the Manilow and classical crowds might find the arrangements somewhat lacking in definition but, you never know, those people have been waiting for decades to bust loose like this!
It rocks and gyrates and moves in mysterious ways to a ubiquitous and invisible pulse. Things get better because of this, in manners tangible and tantric. When TC Izlam chants “You can’t get me, my mind is free” on “Almighty Ra,” he’s singing about much, much more than gangbangers or the selective service. “No Dope Fiends on the Floor” only covers one of the more malignant contemporary manifestations, and is probably comparable in some way to the turf battles that
surfers have over waves.
Afrika Bambaataa hasn’t invented a process, after all Antonin Dvorák was already making bizarre musical concoctions including elements of Black American music in the late 1800s, and Ivy League icons from Kierkegaard to Nietzsche have offered learned commentaries on the (potentially dangerous) power of music. Afrika Bambaataa isn’t so much saying something new, as saying something that poets and sages have recognized throughout the ages, in a new way.
“We’ve got Love Power, it’s the greatest power of them all.” Carried by a musical wave that swings you from your hips and carries you in a pattern towards
Clayton Trapp is the author of the novel Snap Once, and a regular contributor to FM Sound. His web page is at
is a welcome blast from the past, a stiff upper lip in the face of the overproduced, homogeneous hip-hop that clogs today’s radio waves. Afrika Bambaataa throws us back to the age of Grandmaster Flash and Kool Moe Dee, flashing more street cred here than most modern MCs could hope to muster after a straight year of cohosting TRL.
For the R&B newbies out there, here’s a quick history lesson: Afrika Bambaataa has been spinning records since your dad was in grade school, and he casts a broader shadow over rap and dance culture than Puff Daddy or Tupac. There likely wouldn’t even be such a genre if it weren’t for Afrika Bambaataa. His seminal Planet Rock is one of the most important records of the past millennium, and his influence can be heard (and felt) in everything from disco and rock to electronica. He’s also been a lifelong advocate of peace and nonviolence, and has used music as a universal mediator for over 20 years. True to form, Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light is vintage Afrika. It has a message of tolerance and empowerment, an armada of guest MCs and a unique retro vibe that meshes dancefloor crunk with mix tape aesthetics. Most importantly, given the current climate of crotch-grabbing, attitude-fueled hip-hop, it’s simply a lot of fun.
Each track straddles the timeline of the past three decades, one foot perched upon the minimalist electro-funk of the ’80s and the other tapping squarely in the here and now. Bambaataa, a former DJ and producer renowned for his creativity and unpredictability, here utilizes every modern production technique available in a “kitchen sink” approach, making each of Dark Matter’s tracks a global party. He cribs from the Middle East on opener “Got That Vibe”, pays homage to Kraftwerk on “Metal” (featuring, among other Bambaataa devotees, Gary Numan), and invokes Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson on “Soul Makossa”. “Take You Back” splits the difference between The Sugarhill Gang and garagey disco, while the title track’s low-key throb and bursts of pure soul would make Parliament Funkadelic proud.
However, Bambaataa isn’t all throwbacks. “Just a Smoke” is one of the most dextrous dance tracks I’ve heard in years, and “2137” could have been lifted from the last Blackalicious album. The man responsible for giving De la Soul and A Tribe Called Quest their start updates that timeless mid-’90s sound on “Shake “N” Pop Roll” and serves up some James Brown samples on the simmering “Pick Up on This”. He even has time to extend the message on the smooth and funky “No Dope Fiends on the Floor”, reminding us that an older, wiser Afrika Bambaataa hasn’t lost sight of the vision that drove him from the streets to the turntables a quarter-century ago. As such, Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light is a history lesson at the speed of light. You never quite know where any given song is headed next, but you know you’ll enjoy the trip.
— Justin Kownacki
* * * (3 stars out of 5)
Afrika Bambaataa and the Millennium of the Gods: Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light
Afrika Bambaataa’s spirit rises above glut of hip-hop swagger.
Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted October 29, 2004
*** Afrika Bambaataa and the Millennium of the Gods, Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light (Tommy Boy): Hip-hop culture has been relentlessly commercialized since Afrika Bambaataa helped draw the original Bronx blueprint in the 1970s.
Although the music has always had a swagger, post-millennial MTV rap is often obsessed with the size of custom wheel rims and other bling-worthy but ultimately meaningless subjects. As it always has, Bambaataa’s spirit rises higher on this new album, crafting jazz, R&B and electronica into something uplifting.
A funky Eastern groove is the foundation of the opening “Got That Vibe,” featuring the rhyme-spitting skills of King Kamonzi. Like much of the material here, the song features spacey-sounding lyrics that are mystical — or just vague for anyone not captivated by the beat.
That sound is hard to resist, a stylishly produced concoction of polyrhythmic percussion accented by brilliant horn splashes and atmospheric keyboard effects. With arrangements that segue from disco-tinged electronica to muscular James Brown workouts, the allusion to movement in the album’s title is appropriate.
Gary Numan guests on Bambaataa’s reinvention of Numan’s “Metal.” The insistent New Wave beat is flavored by crazy corkscrew keyboard riffs and a breakneck rap interlude by MC Chatterbox.
Unfortunately, the result sounds too much like a dance remix devised by a mere mortal instead of a legend with Bambaataa’s galactic potential. Cool, but not that revolutionary.
Dark Matter comes closer to its stellar goal on the title track, which rumbles along on a brisk background of tribal drums punctuated by a horn section and funky bass. The shouted chorus, again featuring Kamonzi, captures the album’s positive spirit: “Time to shine, time to shine the light.”
The raucous attitude to the track, which ought to catch the attention of Outkast fans, is expanded on “Shake ‘n’ Pop Roll.” The beat is a bit more deliberate, though it opens the door for all kinds of sonic experiments: Melodic bass lines, pounding piano, scratching and odd vocal grunting.
Bambaataa doesn’t get really crazy often enough on Dark Matter, but his imagination soars enough to let his bright spirit shine through.
Reviewing key: ***** excellent; **** good; *** average; ** poor; * awful.
Audio: Afrika Bambaataa – “Got that Vibe” (Afrika Bambaataa : Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light) Oct 29, 2004
Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light Tommy Boy
It has been 22 years since Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force released “Planet Rock,” a seminal hip-hop cut that borrowed its funky electro goodness from the German act Kraftwerk, and Bambaataa is still perfecting the beat, whether it’s in hip-hop, breakbeat, or drum and bass form. After releasing severalDJ mix CDs (including Electric Funk Breakdown), he presents an album of original material in Dark Matter Moving at the Speed of Light, bringing together several producers (Leftfield’s Paul Daley, Überzone) and MCs (King Kamonzi, TC Izlam) for a world party. Songs such as “Metal,” which stars two generations of disciples, Gary Numan and MC Chatterbox, best express where he is at: playfully self-referential with a futuristic edge.
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b. 30th April 1962, Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.A.
Tashan is a first-rate soul and R & B vocalist.
He has had the misfortune of being stylistically in the wrong era.
His sound is too earthy and raw for the Urban Contemporary mainstream, yet not Southern and bluesy enough for the Southern market.
Despite these musical obstacles, he is held in high regard amongst soul purists, especially in the U.K.
While he is also well-versed in hip-hop and rap via his New York upbringing, his Def Jam LP’s have included some blistering duets with Alyson Williams.
Tashan started off in the mid-’80’s by writing and producing ‘Yours for a Night’, which was recorded by rappers Whodini.
He was signed to Def Jam / Columbia in 1985 and ‘Chasing A Dream’ was released in 1986.
That outing was well received by the critics, with ‘You’ve Got The Right Attitude’, a duet with Alyson Williams, being popular with the soul purists.
Tashan’s debut, also featured vocal input from Audrey Wheeler and Cindy Mizelle.
‘On the Horizon’ followed in 1989 and contained the popular and socially aware track ‘Blackman’ along with the fine ballad ‘Tears Of Joy’.
Surprisingly, neither attracted widespread major label interest, although these outings were highly popular in Europe amongst the ‘real soul’ circuit.
His third album, ‘For The Sake Of Love’ (seen by some as Tashan’s equivalent to ‘What’s Going On’), was released in 1993, with ‘All I Ever Do’ and ‘Romantically Inspired’ being well received by the fans.
Tashan is currently in the process of recording some new material and is looking for an outlet for the material.
For those of you who enquired after his mothers health (there were reports Mrs Tonie L. Graham was unwell), I am told that all is well with her, which is great news.
Chasin’ A Dream (Def Jam 1986)
On the Horizon (CBS 1989)
For the Sake of Love (Sony Music Entertainment 1993)
Life Goez On (Powerkingdom Records 2002)
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