Summer is sexy, rife with thug-love bangers on the radio and sandy assignations by the shore. So here's some potential mix-tape cuts to enhance your rep as a sex-o-lette:
LOS AMIGOS INVISIBLES, Venezuelan-Nuyorica dance band extraordinaire, wowed 'em during last weekend's Carlotan Rock 2006 at NoDA's Neighborhood Theatre. As the disco house outfit set out to conquer Caracas' club scene at the dawn of the '90s and sought to expand the parameters of dance music beyond the same old salsa and merengue templates, it's fitting to spotlight "No Es Fácil Amar" as a spur to hip truth. The lilting, heart-constricting take on Afrobeat should (along with rum) deliver any potential mate into your clutches. LAI's latest CD, Super Pop Venezuela (Gozadera), is not merely Venezuelan music redux stretching back to the 1960s but also a fount of similar sultry luxuries.
BLUES-ROCK WILL NEVER DIE so long as major label vaults and the ailing concert industry have their way. Fortunately, not all of this genre's product is as stale as George Thorogood's backstage leftovers -- thanks to Indigenous guitar godlet Mato Nanji. Nanji's ax chops should've been fitting to land him a slot on the upcoming/umpteenth Clapton tour; meanwhile, though, he's got some great blues power to hawk on Chasing the Sun (Vanguard), including funky, blazing "The Way You Shake." For a redbone gal like me who always envisions Plains princes (like Nanji, the fine-ass Nakota Sioux) as, erm, playmates, this is superb news.
KEANE MATCHES an Anglo version of Rufus Wainwright's fey, romantic lyricism with a more muscular spin on Sigur Rós' atmospheric arrangements. The result is less glacial, more yearning, as on Under the Iron Sea opener "Atlantic." Many African pagans throughout the diaspora believe they came from the sea, and to it they shall return. Most of my dreams materialize around the ocean -- not merely in summertime. And so the aforementioned song's soaring synth washes, coupled with the lachrymose crescendoes of "A Bad Dream," provide a deep wall-o-sound for fleeting moments of sensual ecstasy.
BUSTA RHYMES keeps dodging rumors about his sexuality, even as the Down Low and other dubious practices disproportionately imperil women of color. While Ole Bussa remains mum on his true nature, he still toes the line between roughneck and conscious MC on the aptly titled The Big Bang (Aftermath). The Dr. Dre production is full of, um, seasonal bangers: crass ("Get You Some"), metafizzik ("New York S***"), cross-generational macking (Rick James' ghostly guest spot on "In the Ghetto") and bluesy ("Been through the Storm" featuring Stevie Wonder). Plus: "I Love My B****," co-starring ultra hook-ers Kelis & will.i.am. Swing it on the prowl.
SUMMERTIME AND the livin' is horny ... at least in the cacophonous, carnivalesque sonic dystopia of Argentina's Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and LA rock legends Fishbone. Their ska-rific, brass-replete cover of Bacharach-David's "What's New Pussycat?" (made famous by Welsh belter/undying sex god Tom Jones) and louche, predatory sound with mestizo flava and distorted beauty characterizes this standout track from the 10th anniversary reissue of Silencio = Muerte: Red Hot + Latin (Nacional). ¿Que pasa, Pussycat? This here sex bomb es muy caliente.
BONUS TRACK: back before the digital addiction took hold, "agit-rap godfather" Gil Scott-Heron and his multi-instrumentalist podnuh Brian Jackson dropped one of their last great collaborations: 1980 (Arista). As this is the season of the loss of music biz legends (Phil Walden Sr., Arif Mardin), it's hard to believe now that Scott-Heron was an early/prestige signing on this Clive Davis-helmed label long prior to the venerated hitman's association with American Idol. Immigration is the hot issue this year, and one would do well to revisit Gil's magnificent standard about the tragedies of Mexican border crossings, "Alien (Hold On to Your Dreams)."
What's not hot: the press reports that Scott-Heron is HIV-positive and bound for lockdown in NYC due to leaving rehab. Scott-Heron and Jackson were schoolmates of my father's at Lincoln University, and the former has always been a key culture hero of my father's sister and mine. As recorded at Malcolm Cecil's Tonto (the prototypical synthesizer/studio key to Stevie Wonder's genius 1970s run), 1980 is a mostly brilliant coming-of-age cycle for the generation of 1960s black revolutionaries. That Scott-Heron's genius now fades to black when we need his biting sociopolitical analysis most should serve as a cautionary tale to all who would march with powder instead of righteousness.