Before we leave Carmel for good, we stop by a Starbucks and I cop a sandwhich and an amazing cinnamon bun. The kind that requires a knife and fork. I split the sandwhich with The Ep and put him down on the bun.
We continue our trek in earnest through some of the most beautiful scenery that I’ve ever seen. There are tourists all along the highway and the beach. Seagulls, penguins and children with digital cameras are spotted every couple of miles. Couples of every age are walking. Bicycle riders are enjoying the ride in safety.
The Ep has a love affair with Cali. A couple of times a year, he flirts with the idea of relocating permanantly. He hasn’t figuerd out how to make it work just yet but she’s calling him on the reg. He answers her frequently and they have an episode, two or three times a year. He takes a room at their hideaway in Venice beach and they do their thing.
His Biggie like love of Cali is fascinating to me. I’ve never loved any place but NY. For me, all others are just cheap imitations. NY means; music, food, women, spots and opportunity. You can walk down a street in The City and seriously chage your circumstances. There’s no place like home.
Cali is pleasant on the eyes but NY is a matter of the heart. Because I grew up with, and have been deeply influenced by hip hop, The City’s greatest cultural contribution. I was provided with a soundtrack of love songs from my town. NY was a place where you learned to find beauty in the ugly. Especially in the era of Reganomics.
This morning’s trip requires no training to appreciate the beauty of it. I’ve been a bit passive about the i-pod programming but now I’m inspired. We get warmed up with a little Wes Montgomery and Freddy Hubbard. Then, I scroll through the album files and choose, Kool & The Gang’s Light Of Worlds. The pinnacle of the band’s seventies output, it’s an afro-centric plea for higher purpose. It’s jazz funk and representative of the Nation Of Islam’s influence on their native Jersey City.
You can hear strains of Coltrane, Sly and big band throughout. Not suprisingly, The Ep connects with the midtempo, The Fruit Man. The jawn ends with a guy hawking apples, watermelon, oranges and the like. The classic, Summer Madness is the featured bit of genius.
Like most everybody else, The Ep has heard, Summer Madness countless times. The jawn that Lebron James had playing when he jumped into the swmiing pool dressed as the elder in that hot Nike add of a few seasons back. But he’s suprised that this is the same band that released; Ladies Night, Celebration, Get Down On It and the other eighties disco offenses. He remarks that, “…they sound like two different bands. What happened?”
I tell him, “The need to crossover and sell more records to white folks, the opportunity that the dance music market provided and the direction that Eumir Deodato took them in, changed their sound.”
Deodato was a Brazillian jazz, funk, pop keyboardist, arranger, producer and artist who recorded for the hip jazz label, CTI. He was a multi genre specialist, who was competitive in every area he chose to be.
As a band leader, he’d damn near had the record of the year in ’73 with a funked up smash version of the, Theme From 2001: A Space Odyssey. A transformative instrumental that launched him to national prominence.
Later, he’d work with Earth Wind & Fire on their, All ‘n All album and laced them with the track, Brazillian Rhyme. The classic interlude and beat break that featured a raging guitar solo from Al McKay. He also had a run with the majors, when Warner Bros. tried to cash in on the jazz funk craze by signing him, George Benson and Al Jarreau.
Deodato’s Warner Bros debut, Love Island contained the haunting, San Juan Sunset. The basis of the loop for Lupe Fiasco’s Paris Tokyo. There’s a remix of the Fiasco jawn that features; Pharrell, The Ab and an impressive new rookie songstress, Sarah Green that’s required listening.
No doubt that Eumir was timlessly cool but his collaboration with Kool & The Gang resulted in some other shit. When ever I run into Kool around campus, I think of the heat that the band had before they went pop.
We soon leave the coast and we’re up in the hills. We pass by what has been identified as the, “most expensive gas station” in the country. 60 Minutes has done a piece on the literal highway robbery being perpetrated here.
They were asking over 6 bucks a gallon for premium. They also have espresso for sale. We pass on the gas and the coffee. The Ep pulls out some fruit, a muffin and some water from an earlier stop.
As is the norm with The Ep, the question of food soon becomes an issue. Shortly after the stop, we exit off into some small town with one main drag and a forgotten name. It’s slightly more inland. It’s nearly 100 degrees at 11:30 am. We are providing local diversity for a few hours.
We drive down the center strip in search of the flavor. There’s a little cafe that looks like the real. From the outside, it appears to be the kind of spot that sells boldly reinterperated visions of turkey sandwhiches with very limp lettuce and five or six kinds of sparkling water. They aren’t open for business.
We circle back to investigate a spot that I thought had the look. There’s a brick facade and the word bakery is on the window.
Most everyone inside the place is slightly over weight, cheerful and eating. The joint is packed. We’re seated next to two women and a guy. The Ep has got a phone call to handle so I order.
The corned beef hash, scrambled eggs with the short stack is the play. The oj is fresh squeezed. The Ep comes back from the call and he’s feeling it and goes the same direction. He stops short of the short stack and decides to cop a freshly baked cinnamon bun.
The hash is a revelation. The Ep begins to testify. One of the women at the other table has been scoping our plates. I break the ice.
Turns out that she’s an Orange County resident who has relocated from Louisiana. Her companions are her sister and brother in-law. She’s an opera singer and asks about our hustle. She smiles and loudly tells her fam, “See, I told you they were in the record business.”
The fashion statement that’s being made by The Ep’s stingy brim is a dead give away. Later I tell him that he looked like he was a bass player for Robert Randolph with that hat on.
We pass a few enjoyable words about The Louis Armstrong festival that is held near the Phat Lady’s native Lafayette. I ask if there are any covers of Pops’ catalog performed. As it turns out, it’s just music played in his name.
We finish and say our goodbyes. The road beckons. Back out on the highway we are listening to, Loose Ends’ Gonna Make You Mine and the rare, Don’t Worry, Bernard Wright’s Who Do You Love and of course, a few aspirational tracks from Donald Byrd’s Places and Spaces album.
The mood changes and there’s a need to rock a little LL Cool J. Both The Ep and I are Def Jam alum so the music of The Greatest Of All Time has resonance.
There are 67 jawns available to be heard. We go in. The intensity of. Mama Said Knock You Out, rocks us. The smooth begging of, Around The Way Girl amuses. The pimping posture of, Booming Sytems and Big Ole Butt reminds us, that this is the MC who ladies love. The quirkiness of, Going Back To Cali seems even more appropriate. We reflect that James Todd Smith was a beast.
The highway, coast, jazz, funk, hip hop and soul all combine to remind me how the concept of freedom can be reinforced in simple ways.
The Ep is still talking food. Every time we drive by an In And Out Burger he asks if we need to stop and check one out. I’m beginnning to wonder if The Ep has a tape worm. I decline. Several times.
We hit the 10 and see a hottie in a black Porsche two seater. We paly tag with her for a few miles. She resembles Kim Kardhashian’s mom and she’s on an old fashioned car phone for her entire drive. She’s engrossed in her conversation.
As we’re pulling back into LA, The Ep does what he does and suggests another meal option. This time? Roscoe’s Chicken ‘n Waffles. How much temptation can one man take? I give in.
We choose the one on Gower and Sunset. The location nearest to Paramount Studios. We get there early in the dinner hour. Perfect for a table, shitty for a parking space.
We drive around the block and find a spot 1 block over. We’re seated right away. The smothered chicken livers with onions are speaking to me. I freak it with the collards and rice. I get waffles and give one to The Ep. He does the wings and some other stuff.
My cold is still with me but I haven’t noticed it all day. I get dropped of at Rena’s. She’s gone back home to NY and left me with the keys. It’s a good thing that she did. Miss MTV had invited me to stay with her but I haven’t heard from her since the previous weekend.
The Rock The Bells Tour would move on to Denver without me. Tribe would not be headlining nor would they perform at all. Phife’s health and old beefs would cause the band to break up again. Plans for a new record have been cast aside. In their absence. Talib Kweli and The Mos Def most special one regrouped their back pack crew, Balckstar headlined and got money.
Later in the the week, the eyes of the country would be turning toward Denver for other reasons. The historic Democratic National Convention would nominate the first black presidential candidate. News of this event would dominate the airwaves for the weeks that followed.
I came home to a quiet and empty house. No Rena, no lesbian, no rabbits. The silence was a welcome change. The sun was setting and I don’t turn the lights on. I crumble into the couch.
The Rock The Bells Chronicles has been a look back at a tremendous month spent witnessing the strength of hip hop, community, family, food and travel. I was an eyewitness to history and a guest of friends.
After the Denver gig, the tour moved on to Seattle, Wa. I was not in attendance. I spoke with The Abstract Poetic at length the day before and he never mentioned that he and my favorite rap band of all time would regroup one more again and rock.
The Ep went north, handled his and called to say that, “Tribe is here.” We shared a laugh about the Ab’s secrecy and heat.
Jayson Jackson, The Epecurean will be taking over this page and filing the next and final installment of, The Chronicles. It will be his impressions of the RTB Seattle gig.
I will be returning from time to time to share insights and observations that will hopefully keep you Plugged In. Keep It Hot.
to be continued….
1 love To Tribe, De La, Nas, Dante, The R, The Pharcyde, The Blackeyed Peas, The Green Eyed Bandit, Parish Making Dollars, Red and Meth, Busta Rhymes, Hammer, Jay Electronica, Spank Rock, Amanda Blank, DJ Khalil, Chace Infinite, Moe Stewart, Quiana Wallace, KD Flygirl, Faith Newman, Chrissy Murray, Michael Gonzales, Karuna, isabel, DJ Beverly Bond, The New Royales, Dead Prez, Plug 1, Plug 2, Plug 3, Prince Paul, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, The Funky Diabetic, Rebecca, DJ Scratch, Moti Shulman, Rahman, Preservation, Kobe Brown, Dave Gosset, Brian Koppelman, C-Line, Manjit, Jane Morledge, Stack Money, Miguel Mojica, Dante Ross, The Godfather Of Soul, El Torro Negro, The Hazzard Crew, The Hidden Beach clique, Umi, JB and Chang, Jonelle Boumel, Karen Kaufman Wilson, TP, Cory, Sade, Giada, Joan Morgan, Sophia Chang, Rush, Dr. Jeckyl, Nik Boogie, Pamela Gibson, BMC, Toni Ann, DJ Aphprodita, Light, Muhammad, Carolyn Benitez, Shacazia, Salaam Remi, Shaheen, Super Nat, D Prosper, The Standard Miami, The Hudson, The Clift, The Palo Alto Four Seasons, The Ab, The Ep, Rena and…The Wirk