Etta James has been fighting a bout with both dementia and chronic leukemia for quite some time. Her doctor has now announced there’s nothing left to do for her but pray. Having lost a homie to leukemia myself years ago I can testify to what a horrible and devastating disease it is. But Mrs. James is still with us for now, and in stead of preparing something to post in her honour when the inevitable happens and she, hopefully painlessly and peacefully, leaves this world, let’s try to give her some roses while she can maybe still smell them. Thanks Mrs. James, here’s to the inspiration and great tunes you gave us.
Kohndo – Amours Et Peines
Etta James – Sunday Kind Of Love
Kohndo is one of the big names of French rap but even for those unversed in his native language there’s plenty to enjoy. Flow and pacing are universal and so is a stack of soulful samples. In 2006 he even recorded an album in Detroit (Deux Pieds sur Terre / Stick To Ground) where he worked with Slum Village and Dwele and seamlessly meshed with their aesthetic. It was more a case of mutual inspiration than biting the Detroit sound though, as Kohndo had already clearly demonstrated over the course of his long career that he knew how to ride a great sample. Case in point, this track from his 2003 alum ‘Tout est écrit’ which takes Etta James’ cry for a love that lasts “beyond Saturday night” and laments over the pain of a failed relationship. Grown man shit.
Troublemakers – Get Misunderstood
Etta James – St. Louis Blues
Another French entry is the instrumental track ‘Get Misunderstood‘ by the Troublemakers, who dial things back a notch for a smooth laidback joint from their 2001 debut ‘Doubts & Convictions.’ Perfect music for a Sunday morning, either to ease through your hangover or eat a croissant with your significant other. The original on the other hand, while easily recognizable, is a much more bluesy affair and features a background choir thaty gives it much more drive than the Troublemakers give it. Comparing these two is a perfect example of how much character vocals can bring to a track, and Etta James sure had a characterstic voice.
Royce Da 5’9″ – Security
Etta James – Security
Since we were on the subject of rappers and producers in Detroit with an affinity for soulful samples anyway, how about Royce nickel nine lacing a Mr. Porter beat on his latest solo album ‘Succes Is Certain?‘ On the joint with the same title as the one it takes its sample from Royce reminisces over his fallen friend Proof, the former D12 rapper and Detroit lynchpin who he was estranged from for a while but who brokered the piece between Royce and D12 that would ultimately allow the Detroit friends to reunite. Sadly, Proof is no longer around to witness Shady 2.0, but it’s only right Royce his last indie album before returning to join his iconic comrade Slim pays a fitting tribute to their mutual friend. The horns and heartdriven wails from Etta James’original provide the perfect backdrop.
Young Jeezy – That’s Who I Am
Etta James – God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)
Despite having roots in gospel Etta James wasn’t afraid to tackle this song by Randy Newman. The lyrics may come across as saciligious to some but contain some questions certainly worth asking about religion in general. It has a sarcastic tone but doesn’t lack in intelligent talking points and manages to entertain, have a sly sense of humour and be thought-provoking all at the same time. Etta infused it with warmth and made it a beatifully bluesy jam that the Heatmakerz would use to stay true to their name when lacing a beat for Jeezy. I would’ve included a version with Jeezy’s lyrics if I were able to find one but Youtube isn’t interested. Doesn’t matter much, Jeezy’s lyrics probably aren’t as impressive when compared to the original anyway. That beat sure knocks though.
Kanye West – Addiction
Etta James – My Funny Valentine
When Kanye first rose to prominence he quickly bridged a new audience with those still enamored with the sampling masters of the 90s. While Mr. West certainly had developed his own style and still continues to do so his first two albums clearly took a degree of inspiration from producers like Pete Rock, Rza and The Ummah. Not bad company to be in, and it wouldn’t take long until he could count them among his peers and would work with all of them. While still in his soul-sampling heyday Yeezy took Etta James’ ‘My Funny Valentine‘ to construct the basis of ‘Addiction,’ a song poking fun at his own basest instincts on what’s arguably his best album to date, ‘Late Registration.’ It’ll make you smile.