9 posts

Is It Time to Give Back to Monica Lewinsky?

Monica Lewinsky, she of the infamous blue stained dress, has penned what some may label an explosive essay for Vanity Fair of which critics and other scandal-rubberneckers are mining for scurrilous admissions of guilt, guile, or other verifiable sins, and maybe, just maybe, a little vinegar thrown onto the honeyed path of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. After all, what could this would-be homewrecker have to say after fifteen years of self-appointed media exile that could be worth more than the briefest of romps through the pages of glorified tabloid fodder? Continue reading

Microsoft Nails It With a Nostalgic Trip Down Memory Lane

Microsoft posted a new advertisement promoting Internet Explorer, and for any twenty-something growing up in the nineties, it’s an almost-sniffle-inducing trip down memory lane. Slap bracelets, ying yangs, pogs (what WERE those?), Hungry Hungry Hippos, Air Jordans, light up sneakers, Tamogotchis (why did you run away, little friend, every time?) and my personal favorite – the bowl hair cut. My brother rocked a bowl hair cut from about 5th to 10th grade. I’ll never forget the day when he changed to the “new” stylish haircut of the boy band inspired spikey gel look of the 2000’s. Continue reading

Rave Music aka UK Hardcore aka Breakbeat Hardcore

In the early 90’s the UK was the epicenter of a new genre of music: rave. Otherwise known as breakbeat hardcore, UK hardcore, “rave” was an amalgamation of US techno with UK acid house. This was before the music branched off in to house, breaks, techno, trance, and jungle. This was an era when taking a couple E’s and dancing all night in a dirty warehouse was a new thing. If you like any genres of current dance music, it pays to know where it came from. Its also Friday. This music will literally make you flash back … the last time you heard it was in 1993 and you were on a tab of acid and a couple hits of E.

Bomb Scare – 2 Bad Mice:

This is the prototype of all breakbeat-orientated tracks to come. It was a dance music first- produced at home in someone’s bedroom and not in an expensive studio with racks full of equipment. It gave hope to anyone with a synthesizer and a sampler, that you COULD produce a track that would be played in clubs all over the world. This tune was limited by the technology of the time: 8 second mono samples. It works though. This tune blew up, to this day its played in clubs. Pretty good for no budget bedroom production.

Goldie – Kemistry

The sweeping synth lines of this tune made it stand out to listeners. Rave music gets pretty. Its still slow, but gives a hint as to what dnb will be in the future.

Top Buzz – Living in Darkness

This seminal tune from ’92 incorporates a 4-on-the-floor “house” style kick with breakbeats. Genres like hardcore and gabber took the same formula, distorted the kick drum, and sped it up. Very innovative for the time. Its about 143 bpm, about the speed of modern day breakbeats or trance.

Rufige Cru – Terminator

Ok, so even as a DJ who specializes in breakbeats, I’ll admit that a lot of tunes are unforgettable and are meant to be thrown away after six months or a year. A lot of production is driven by the new *hot* sample cd, or synth lines are taken directly from the presets of brand new synthesizers. The early 90’s had a revolution in how music was produced due to cheaper and more powerful samplers. Before 1980 the only way to play a sample (a snippet of audio) i.e. the cash register sound in the Pink Floyd tune “Money” would be to either play it off of analog tape, or actually hold a cash register up to a microphone during a live performance. In the early 80’s samplers came around. A sampler is basically a computer that you can record a snippet of sound on to, that’s triggered when you hit a key on a keyboard or synthesizer. Early samplers could only hold small amounts of sound … we’re talking 8 seconds, maybe … at a resolution between “crap” and “1920’s telephone.” In the 80’s samplers became affordable as computer processors became ubiquitous, and those 8 seconds of crappy sounding sound could now be 20 seconds of tape-quality sound. This tune is important because of the drum sample (the breakbeat during the breakdown.) Notice how it plays at a very low pitch, then keeps pitching higher and higher? If you were to play a sample with an 80’s sampler, the only way to make a sampled sound increase its pitch would be to increase its speed. Increasing its speed doesn’t really work if you’re making dance music that’s trying to keep a constant beat. This tune was THE FIRST ever piece of music to have a sample that increased in pitch, but its speed stayed the same. This blew minds in the early 90’s. Cher’s song “Believe” was the first to use autotune as an effect, this tune was the first to use pitch adjust. It wouldn’t have happened if the producers hadn’t bought a brand new, top of the line sampler a couple of days before they produced this tune. Not only was it something that ravers got down to, but audio engineers bought the crap out of the tune to listen to it and be BLOWN AWAY by the drum beat pitching up. Yeah, kinda lame now, but trust me, it was a BIG deal.

Q Project – Champion Sound – Alliance remix

This tune sort of epitomizes the stripped-down ragga sound that would become popular in the UK during the mid-90’s. A ragga vocal sample, a breakbeat, and a HARD bass was all you needed. “Rave” became serious right here. (UK Electronic Dance Music always had sort of a Jamican thing going on, but this tune made a lot of Black kids get in to “Jungle”.) A note on the “Jungle” term. At this point people weren’t referring to tracks like this as “Rave” but rather “Jungle.” “Jungle” is synonymous with “Drum and Bass” however most people will agree that “Jungle” tends to be more stripped down, incorporate Ragga/Hip Hop samples, and isn’t as “techy.”

LTJ Bukem – Atlantis (I need you)

Most of the tracks I’ve put up have so far been sort of … hard. This tune proved that not all breakbeat had to be hard and in your face for you to dance to it. A “chill” breaks tune? NEVER!

Origin Unknown – Valley of the Shadows

By this time, there was “house” and “trance” and a separate “jungle” room at raves. This was the TUNE back in the day. A vocal taken from a US Space launch, a cheesy Brit sample that could be about taking drugs (more like seeing God or an angel or something) coupled with a BOOMING sub bass. The synth used here was a Roland Juno-106, one of the classics of all dance music. They really went wild with the arppegiator, but this tune is still rocked, in its original form, today.

Aphrodite – Summer Breeze

Aphrodite was/is known for producing a whole heck of a lot of jungle hip hop remixes. Kind of nice that he took an old (lame) Seals + Croft hit from ’72 and re-worked it.

Omni Trio – Renegade Snares – Foul Play Remix

The drums. Every effect that the most modern samplers could throw out was used in producing this track. Like Terminator before it, it blew minds. Heck, it even charted in the Pop charts in the UK. Pretty nice for a vinyl that was being sold out of the back of someone’s car. UK Pirate stations by now were playing pretty much all “Rave” music, and Jungle/breakbeats were a staple.

Deep Blue – The Helicopter Tune

That intro is clever synth work, not a helicopter sample. These guys hit it out of the park in terms of drum programming. Listen to this tune, and one of the earlier ones, and the first thing you’ll notice is the fidelity. Whereas the first tunes sounded like they were being played out of a speakerphone, the drums on this tune are crisp, clear, and have some depth. You can thank technology.

Alex Reece – Pulp Fiction

Gone are the synths, the pianos, the over-enthusiastic MDMA references. Jungle was here. Stripped down, deep, dark, moody, and danceable. Jazzy too! Breaks were never the same after this tune. Live Jazz musicians started having their drummers bang out drum and bass beats. You can’t go to a jazz concert nowadays without hearing an “amen” break. This beat is indicitive of a “2 step” beat, which spawned the “2 step/garage” fad to come at the early 90’s.

DJ Zinc – Super Sharp Shooter

In the 90’s, “urban” stations didn’t play UK hip hop, they played stuff like this. Jungle. Samples are taken from “Release yo ‘Delf” by Method Man and “It Gets No Rougher” by LL Cool J. UK hip hop labels SCRAMBLED for producers to remix US Import Hip hop after this release. This tune also completely started the whole “Jump Up” Jungle craze.

DJ Zinc – Ready or Not (Fugees Remix)

This tune was so massive it got airplay on US Hip Hop stations. When the whole “Mash Up” genre started to get big around 2006, some jackasses tried to press up copies of this tune and pass it off as new. Sorry! After this tune, DJ Zinc was booked at raves worldwide. Hey, its fun!

Congo Natty – Junglist

Okay, so by this time, it wasn’t “Rave” music. It was “Jungle.” Congo Natty is a group of rastas who were associated with the Greensleeves Reggae/Ragga label, who branched out to Jungle when it got hot. They were sort of notorious. Usually when one presses up records, you’ll press up a batch of say 1500 or 2500 and send them to record distributors for consignment. A distro then holds on to them, sells them, and sends you money at the end of the quarter. These guys made distros pay UP FRONT, and instead of charging like $3/record they charged something like $5. As a result, a lot of distros didn’t carry Congo Natty releases. That didn’t stop this record from completely blowing up, because it increased its value. You could go to shops in 1995 and they’d be selling this plate for $40. It was outrageous. However, people LOVED this tune. I remember even a couple of years ago people asking me if I could play it at clubs. This record did have negative consequences though. Every raver wearing camo now became a “Junglist” and a lot of Black Jamacians in the UK took offense to its supposed racial undertones. “The Jungle” was a part of Kingston that a lot of these guys were from, they coined the term, and it had no racial “Black people are uncivilized and from Africa” meaning, but still, shortly after people started calling this music “Drum and Bass.” “Rave” was dead.

So yeah, that’s Drum and Bass until about 1995. Those tunes are in roughly chronological order and they’re some of the standouts from that era. I’ll be posting more stuff to annoy your neighbors with later on!

How to Dress Like Brenda Walsh

You can’t talk about the ’90s fashion revival without mentioning Beverly Hills, 90210. Today’s designers are taking more than a little inspiration from the halls of West Beverly – many of their clothes seem to be taken directly from the angsty teen with a heart of gold, Brenda Walsh. From Minnesota to LA, Brenda had the perfect ensemble for any locale or occasion. Here’s how to make a few of them your own.

Summer, Summer, Summertime

June will be here any minute now.  You’ll need to look your best when you frolic on the beach, and nothing says summer fun like soggy denim.  You, too, can rock Brenda’s beach look above.  First, pick your shade of choice from American Apparel’s many-colored Stretch Twill High-Waist Side Zipper Shorts.  Let’s go with Butternut. Next, pair it with JCrew’s Stripe Button-Back Tee. According to the site, the tee is their It Silhouette of the season and everyone’s just mad over its “new boxy shape.”

To tie the ensemble together, you’re going to need a statement piece. Nothing says HBIC of the BHBC (Beverly Hills Beach Club) like a chunky belt buckle. This Melamed Vine-Buckle Belt from Sak’s is pricey, but looking better than that bitch Kelly doesn’t come cheap.

Too Sexy for Your Shirt

What if you’re traveling abroad and want to scream “sophisticated polyglot”? It won’t matter if your French accent is lacking when you’re wearing a chic peekaboo ensemble. Because when Jacques leans in and whispers “I can see your bra,” what he’s really saying is “Je t’aime.”

Brenda mastered the femme fatale look here:

You can make it your own by pairing Urban Outfitter’s Pins and Needles Long-Sleeved Lace Top with the wide-strapped Vanity Fair Illuminations Bralette.

Warning: With a look this hot, Kelly will steal your style faster than she can steal your boyfriend.


Gotta Be Bold

Being a teenager is hard.  Sometimes Brenda had the weight of the world on her shoulders; other times, it was the weight of her blazer wearing her down.

Power shoulders cost power bucks. Try this strong-shouldered Paul and Joe blazer with shawl lapel for $254.11 from The Outnet. Balance those bold shoulders with Urban Outfitter’s whimsical Square-Knot Headband.

Some people may say Levi’s Relaxed Tapered 550 Jeans are more “mom jeans” than “California teen dream jeans,” but a certain summer of ’91 pregnancy scare reminded us that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.


Whatta Man

Of all her varied looks, you could argue that menswear chic is the Quintessential Brenda. Tons of brands let you sport this look today even if you don’t have a twin brother’s closet to raid.

If your mother is a TV icon and money’s no object, Paul Smith’s Spring Summer 2011 Collection will meet all your menswear needs. The line features oversized, jewel-toned suits, in addition to the Bengal striped classic shirt, Tromp L’oeil trousers and spot silk tie shown below. Ditch the polka dot tie for something more colorful and fun, like this Stefano Ricci Patchwork Mixed-Design Tie, available at Neiman Marcus for $635.

If you’ll be picking up extra shifts at the diner to finance your glam ambitions, don’t fret.

Stop by American Apparel instead and pick up their Unisex Denim Long Sleeved Button-Up Shirt and Micro-Poly High-Waist Pleated Pant. Then, head over to KMart and pick up a multi-toned Structure Paisley Tie.


Don’t Just Stand There; Let’s Get to It

All that’s left to do is hit the malls. If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll never spend the morning stressing over the perfect outfit again: