By Skin Wade (@SkinWade)
So, what went into putting together Upscale Urban? It’s a good vibe, many years in the making. A cool grooving head nod that never falls off beat. Some of the memories are smokey, or is the word hazy?
It’s undeniably post-Marvin, but it never happens without Marvin…or Curtis…or Stevie…or Donald Byrd…or the Mizell Brothers, and obviously others. There’s funk and soul and jazzy soul and funky disco absolutely matters.
It really takes roots when Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr and the “jazzy” rap groups start doing their thing. When the rappers are influencing the R&B folks who originally influenced the grooves the rappers rocked, the cycle spins in new ways. And then D’Angelo came out, and it changed everything. Sure, there was the Acid Jazz movement that predated that, but this was REALLY that. This wasn’t doing what they did – which was kinda what “that” was. This was fusing what they did with what the rap producers did, and then you have the new “that”…and that was where it’s at.
So, D’Angelo does his thing, and one night on his first tour in the Fall of ‘95 in support of Brown Sugar, he does a show in Fort Worth, TX and the opening act is called Erykah Free, and D’Angelo’s manager saw the future. On that night, Erykah Badu was born and then THAT exploded…it went on and on, and on and on…
Later, The Roots recorded “You Got Me” with Badu (written by a lady named Jill Scott) and then…wow…it’s on! Of course you had Maxwell before that and you always had Sade – she matters in all this for sure, but even her most influential record was hip-hop inspired on the production side.
And how did we not mention Soul II Soul yet?? That was ’89 pre-Acid Jazz, though….REWIND!! And you can’t forget Loose Ends.
So it’s clearly many different things, and people need terms to describe those things. But ultimately, it’s a vibe that you know when you hear it. A vibe captured on this project by guys like Jah Born – the same Jah Born that produced Miss Badu’s “On and On” – and the phenomenal bass grooves of Nigel Rivers, and the sweet guitar touches of my man, Adrian Quesada – yeah, he knows the vibe…
We did this because we know this…and we feel this…and it grooves…and you’re gonna love it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff "Skin" Wade and his partner Ruben Ayala are the production team that oversees and develops the Velocity Label for FirstCom. He's a full-on music and basketball nerd and his family seems OK with tolerating him, which is nice.