The Wire Withdrawal

The Wire, TV

Yes people, you will be pleased to know that I finally finished watching The Wire. Okay, I realise the series finished in 2008 but I was probably too immature to really appreciate the nuances of the underlying tension between the citizens of Baltimore and the police department. Plus, they didn’t start showing it in on the BBC until AT LEAST 2009. And that was, like, really late in the evening. People have work in the morning, you know. Let me live.

When I woke up last weekend to do my usual Sunday routine of lounging about, I went to put the DVD into the DVD player and suddenly came to the realisation…THE WIRE IS OVER (for me anyway)!! What will I do in times of sloth? How will I relax? Where will I turn when I want gritty social commentary mixed with some dark humour about Baltimore; the drug trade, docks (snore), politics, schools and media? I don’t know many television series’ that covered as many diverse areas in such great detail while still delivering a message without coming across as too preachy.

As I look back on my prolonged love affair with The Wire, I can’t help but think that the cast of characters and it’s diversity was made it such a great show. I really felt like I went on a journey with them, through the ups and downs and all the in-betweens. The evolution of some of the younger characters on the show was especially fascinating to watch and Season 4 was definitely the standout season, in my humble opinion. From Wallace to Michael to Dukie, each had to make decisions that would ultimately have an impact on not only themselves but on their nearest and dearest. It was deep stuff.

If you haven’t seen The Wire, then I urge you to get involved immediately, if not to join me on the late-list. In fact, you will join such elite company as myself and the President of the United States, Barrack Obama. While it’s obvious that alongside our dress sense and overall coolness, Uncle Obama and myself share a lot in common, it’s our mutual appreciation for Omar, brilliantly portrayed by Michael K Williams, that would really cement our friendship (in my head). When was the last time you saw a gun-toting, Robin Hoodish, homosexual, gun-toting, intelligent gangsta on TV? Don’t worry…I’ll wait… Yes, The Wire broke stereotypes. In fact, the show must go down as one of the few dramas to portray African Americans at all levels of society; from the political system to journalists, right down to the crack-head on the street.

The Wire was also an education in Baltimore slang (for better or for worse). The term “re-up” was always something I thought was exclusive to The Clipse, but alas I was mistaken. Along with the slang, the whole style, attitude and music made it all seem very authentic and transported me back to the early 2000’s. It almost had me wanting to bring out my baggy jeans (RIP 2003 to 2008) and durag (still in action) one last time for a walk round the streets of London.

So now it’s all over, the boxset has been completed and I feel a void in my life. I’ve woken up in the night in a cold sweat wondering if the 5th season really was the end? Will I ever see these characters again?

But as any recovering addict knows, after addiction comes recovery and I need a new outlet. The makers of The Wire went on to make another show, Treme, but it never quite achieved the critical acclaim of it’s predecessor. So now I ask you – what TV series can I watch that can attempt to match the awesomeness of The Wire?? I’m stuck in a TV timewarp and need waking up, people…

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Funk Fridays: Rick James – "Give It To Me Baby"

Funk Friday, Rick James

Yes, I’m aware it’s not Friday but…”Never mind what you thought it was…It’s Rick James, bitch!”

For fans of the Chapelle Show, the name Rick James conjures up images of high heels on couches, excessive drug-taking and beds full of 10 women at a time. And while that probably isn’t too far from the truth, let’s try and remember Rick for the thing that matters. No, not his illustrious hair (which could probably be a post in itself) but the music.

Rick James was one of those artists that wasn’t afraid to take risks. His style was funk infused with rock and his fashion was pure flamboyance. “Give It To Me Baby” and the accompanying video embody those elements, especially the sheer campery of the last few scenes and Rick in his speedos cavorting with his conquest. How many stars would do that in a video now??

This track is personified by the infectious bassline that is ever present through the song and the chorus is simple but straight to the point.

As far as samples go, this song hasn’t been as blatantly ripped off as you would have thought but notable samples include:

  • Jay-Z – “I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me) – Not so much in the instrumentation but the chorus lifts from the Rick James classic.
  • MC Hammer – ““Yo Sweetness” – The man and the legend, MC Hammer appreciated real music and looped Rick James’ vocals in the chorus once again. They need to drop this song in a club. Like now. (bonus points to MC Hammer for sampling it again on an earlier track “Let’s Get It Started”)

Funk Fridays: Tom Browne: Funkin’ for Jamaica

Funk Friday, Mariah Carey, music, Snoop Dogg, Tom Browne

1980; the beginning of my favourite decade of music. The year that former movie star Ronald Regan stunned politics by becoming the President of the USA, millions were hooked by Dallas’ ‘Who Shot JR’ saga; and the summer Olympics controversially came to Russia. Alas, those events pale in significance to one of the finest musical contributions not just of the decade but of all time *Kanye voice*, when Tom Browne produced this classic anthem, Funkin’ for Jamaica.

 

Tom was a jazz musician in the late 70’s but found fame when this hit blew up. Starting with the blare of the trumpet at the beginning and building slowly, with the addition of the drums, then the piano and bass, the groove is irresistible. Becoming a chart hit in both the UK and the US, this song is still a firm favourite decades later.

 Along with Funkadelic’s Not Just Knee Deep, this has to be one of the most sampled songs in hip-hop history and seems to be one of those songs that you turn to if you are in need of a hit – budding producers, take note. I could probably go on for ages listing the number of times that this song has been sampled but alas they cannot touch the original. However, here are a couple of my favourites anyway:

 Mariah Carey, even during her kerrraaazzzyyyyy ‘Glitter’ period had the sense to use this song on a track with the former James Brown for the 00’s man of the moment, Mystikal back in 2001. ‘Don’t Stop (Get on The Floor)’ was a quality song from the Glitter soundtrack that brought Funkin’ for Jamaica right up to date.

 

On Snoop Dogg’s classic ‘Whats My Name’ the little known club remix (and quite possibly the best remix known to man) uses the Funkin’ for Jamaica bassline in the body of the track before substituting the chorus with “Snoop Doggy Dogg, that what he is….let him get in to you…” Ahhh, the Deathrow label. Experts at making crude choruses sound so darn catchy (shout-out to Nate Dogg on “Ain’t No Fun”).