vinyl review

Manu Dibango – O Boso (London, 1972)

Manu Dibango has been churning out his soulful blend of jazz, funk and afrobeat for over half a century, despite in the Western Hemisphere being remembered often simply as a session player in Fela Kuti’s Africa 70, or more likely, not at all. Dibango, arguably the most important saxophone player alive in Cameroon, if not the whole of Africa, deserves more of the recognition that he so aptly received, with the release of O Boso, over forty years ago. His most successful album, released in the middle of his career—he actually has been active since the 50’s—offers a multitude of musical styles that defy easy categorization and a clear time-stamp. Lead single “Soul Makossa” practically invented disco, but looking back at this untarnished masterwork, which introduced the dance mantra “ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako ssa” (refrained from Lafayette Afro Rock Band to Michael Jackson to Kanye West, and anyone with a passing interest in shaking a leg), is reflecting on the beginning of modern dance music in the late 20th century. Despite the single’s rarity in the Bronx upon its quiet release, it was a short time before the record went from coveted radio and dancehall gem to being covered by anyone who wanted to keep a beat longer than the then-standard three and a half minutes. The rest of O Boso is equally lasting, despite offering some somber turns in contemplative afro-folk tracks like “Lily” and the unlikely jazz fusion bellwether “Hibiscus”. Dibango has released countless albums, all worth seeking out, but this is the diamond in the rough worth coveting for a musical lifetime. Timeless and peerless, O Boso was a perfect glimpse of bright things to come in propulsive 4/4 time.

Vincent Zed

De La Soul – Three Feet High And Rising (Tommy Boy/Warner Bros., 1989)

One quarter of a century down the road that has been hip-hop’s journey from its
golden era to boom-bap selling pretzels in Rold Gold commercials, De La Soul’s
debut is holding up very well, thank you. It was a watershed moment in rap, only
partly thanks to the fresh stylings of members Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove and
Pasemaster Mase. Their “Daisy Age” style and the era it beckoned arrived fully
formed, and had the three eschewing standard profanity and boasting for positivity
and inclusiveness. (The closest they get to shock rap here is referring to a female as
a “garden tool”, and only facetiously—not exactly a tact shared by contemporaries
NWA or 2 Live Crew.) Before the 90’s brought In Living Color, Do the Right Thing
and Cross Colors overalls, the three young wordsmiths, backed by initiate Prince
Paul, represented one of the most vibrant movements in the much smaller hip-hop
universe at the time, and America in general. Prince Paul, who produced the
entirety of the album and its many template-setting interludes, deservedly has been
immortalized for his deft filtering of samples through a rose-tinted lens. Whereas
the Bombsquad, responsible for building Public Enemy’s early and best beats out of
gnarly funk breaks, created a minefield for Chuck D to issue commands over, PP
stitched together a picnic blanket of sound. Never do the tracks threaten to taken
center stage, but rather embrace each vocalist in a supportive hug. Seriously.
Whether it be “The Magic Number”, “Eye Know” or “Buddy” (featuring fellow Native
Tongues members Jungle Brothers and Q-Tip), the love is palpable and the rhyme
delivery and production, positively lofty. Twenty-five years on, this near-perfect
introduction to De La is still rising.

Vincent Zed