OK, we asked Nathaniel Mayer and Phat Kat — an old “hit-making” soul singer and a young, up-and-coming rapper — to give us top ten lists of the records that not only soothed troubling childhoods, puberty and the attendant street hassles, but also helped make them who they are. In other words, those tunes that changed their lives.
Mayer is so bad-ass that’s he’s got two nicknames, “Detroit’s Baddest” and “Nay Dog.” He had a smash hit before you were born in 1962’s “Village Of Love” on Detroit’s storied Fortune Records. (The single was that label’s biggest record ever — hit No. 22 on the Billboard pop charts. Nay Dog’s new one, I Just Want To Dance With You (Fat Possum) is not only aptly titled, but also made more than a few year-end critics’ lists in Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop poll. The album is spare and punchy and dare-we-say “soulful,” rife with tender and twisted alcoholiday blasts of soul/street ruckus that sound like old-school urban Detroit (though his band, The Shanks, is led by ex-Detroit Cobra Jeff Meier). The hard-living 61-year-old Mayer has logged many frequent flyer miles traveling to hell and back. Good thing he’s still around to croon about it, eh?
1. “The Village of Love” — Nathaniel Mayer: Of course!
2. Anything by Little Willie John, Hank Ballard, Roy Head, Kenny Martin or Jackie Wilson.
3. “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue?)” — The Temptations
4. “Get Up Offa That Thing” — James Brown
5. “Creation of Love” — Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers
6. “You Really Got Me” — The Kinks!
7. “I Love the Way You Love” — Marv Johnson
8. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” — James Brown
9. “Try Me” — James Brown
10. “The Wind” — Nolan Strong
Saturday at Small’s.
Ron “Phat Kat” Watts is still pushing his way out of hip-hop’s underground, but that doesn’t mean it’s been a bad year for the Detroit rhyme linchpin and Rhythm Kitchen alum. He’s emerged from his status as the fifth member of Slum Village by trading on their underground/indie take-it-to-the-kids manifesto. Barak Records released his solo debut, The Undeniable LP, last June, and since he’s left no stone unturned, touring the world (knocking ’em dead in Europe) with SV and others, and keeping his schnozzle to the ground, bringing (soon-to-be-mainstream) new-school urban Detroit to the kids.
1. “The Message”— Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: Every time I hear that joint it takes me back to this yard party back in the early ’80s, where I first seen someone die of a shotgun blast. Right when the song started to play, that’s when the chaos started.
2. “Planet Rock” — Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force: This joint again takes me back to the crazy ’80s; my brothers and cousins had a gang called the Baldhead Boyz and this was their theme song. They even had a little dance they all used to do when the song came on.
3. “Mama Used to Say” — Junior: My pre-teen years, running with the neighborhood knuckleheads. It just reminds me of all the dumb shit I used to do. It’s a blessing that I didn’t end up in jail or deceased like most of the kats I ran with.
4. “The Freaks Come Out at Night” — Whodini: It was like 2 a.m. and I was up watching this video show called Soul Beat and that was when I first saw the video. It had live footage from the Fresh Fest, the first hip-hop tour. After I witnessed that I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
5. “Paid in Full” — Eric B. & Rakim: This song was the sound track for the streets when crack was at an all-time high. I watched it destroy the whole East Side and the black family structure. And I lost a lot of friends to violent crimes and lifetime jail sentences. Real talk.
6. “My Philosophy” — Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One: This joint takes me back to high school (Southeastern High). I was one of the only kats with a ride then, and this song was in heavy rotation in the whip. I still bang it to this today.
7. “Ain’t No Half Steppin’” — Big Daddy Kane: This is just a classic song. And he was every emcee’s favorite, for real — that dude made style a must in hip hop. The high-top fades was in full effect.
8. “Mass Appeal” — Gangstarr: This song takes me back to 1994. I met Gangstarr at a local record store and I played my song for them. Guru gave me number to call and just like that I was signed to Payday/Polygram records. Real talk.
9. “Life’s a Bitch” — Nas: The Illmatic was a classic and still is. This is one of my favorite songs to roll up and smoke one to. When I first heard that joint I was like “Damn, life really is a bitch, then you die.”
10. “Don’t Nobody Care About Us” — Phat Kat, aka Ronnie Cash: This song really set it off for me. It’s like the national anthem in different countries. It was crazy when I got to Paris, Germany, London, Amsterdam, Norway, too many spots to name. I was in Brixton — a grimy section of London — and these wild Jamaican kats approached me like “the only reason we came here was to see you do ‘Don’t Nobody Care About Us,’ and if you don’t perform it we will tear this place up.” For some strange reason I believed this dude. When I did the song the place went ballistic.
Wednesday at the Majestic.
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