Everybody Loves My Life
Roy Ayers Jr. has been called the Godfather of Neo Soul, and his Roy Ayers Ubiquity project was aptly named, as the track Everybody Loves the Sunshine has been a ubiquitous sample in hip hop history. Joe and Toby connect the dots to Mary J. Blige’s second album and its title track, My Life.
What we geek out over in this episode: Vibraphones, Lionel Hampton and his Big Band, Arthur Lyman, The Wiggles, Kendrick Lamar, Common’s Resurrection, Takuya Kuroda, José James, A Tribe Called Quest, Jeff Redd, Father MC, Method Man, shutting off alarms in church.
Bonus Material: A sampling of samples of Everybody Loves the Sunshine
EP 36: Everybody Loves My Life
Play My Life
Joe: Hello and Welcome to Riffs on Riffs, where we explore the collision of original and sampled tracks and the artists who made them. I’m your host, Joe Watson, and I’m here with my co-host, Toby Brazwell. Together, we listen to the legendary tracks and the timeless — but sometimes not-so-well-known — songs they sampled from. Toby, what are we listening to today?
Toby: We are listening to My Life by Mary J Blige off of her 1994 album of the same name.
Joe: This song just hearkens to a happy place. It just kind of reminds me of bees and things and flowers.
Toby: I think I may know why that is. Why don’t we hop in the Delorean and see what track was sampled to make this hit?
Play Everybody Love the Sunshine
Joe: Toby can you tell the good people what we are listening to.
Toby: We are listening to the song Everybody Loves the Sunshine by the legendary jazz icon and Godfather of Neo Soul, Roy Ayers. Why don’t you tell us a little more about Roy?
Joe: Roy Edward Ayers, Jr. was born on September 10, 1940 in LA. He showed a love for music at an early age, and was playing boogie woogie piano and other instruments by the age of 5.
Toby: He also had another life changing moment at the age of 5. He and his family went to see a concert by the legendary vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and his Big Band. As Lionel was cruising the aisles after the show, thanking fans, he noticed an especially excited young boy.
Joe: That boy was Roy Ayers, and Lionel handed him his vibraphone mallets. The rest, as they say, is history. At the age of 17, Roy’s parents gifted him his first set of vibes.
Toby: Can we talk a bit about what a vibraphone is exactly? I feel like that’s a setting I put my mobile on in church so I don’t get dirty looks from the preacher.
Joe: That is always a smart move. Remember to shut of your alarms, too. They will go off regardless. Not that I’ve ever had that experience or anything.
A vibraphone is a set of tuned metal bars and is part of the percussion family. Remember those toy xylophones you played as a kid? A vibraphone is not all that different, just bigger and badder.
Toby: It’s typically played with 2 or 4 mallets, and is a popular instrument in both jazz and classical music. We just talked about Lionel Hampton, let’s take a listen to his appropriately named song, Hot Mallets to hear some stellar vibraphone work.
Play Hot Mallets
Joe: Lionel played with everyone from Benny Goodman to Buddy Rich, Charlie Parker to Charlie Mingus, and even Quincy Jones. Again, one of those times where the word “legend” is appropriate.
Toby: The vibraphone was also the instrument of choice for the King of Lounge Music, Arthur Lyman. Let’s hear the track Yellow Bird from his 1960 album, Percussion Spectacular.
Play Yellow Bird
Joe: Mr. Lyman may havemade this a hit, but I think he was missing a little bit of something I can’t quite put my finger on. Thankfully, one of your favorite groups came along and did a fantastic cover in 2004. Let’s listen to how The Wiggles get their Yellow Bird groove on.
Toby: Alright partner, I am setting some serious boundaries right now. If you play another Wiggles song on this show you’re going to be flying solo for the rest of the episode.
Joe: I mean, if you want to miss out on music and dancing, magic and games, so be it. You want to get back to Roy Ayers?
Toby: I think that’s for the best. Let’s start with his 1963 debut album, West Coast Vibe, and listen to a track called Young and Foolish
Play Young and Foolish
Joe: In the early 70s, besides his solo work Roy started a project called Roy Ayer’s Ubiquity. Let’s take a listen to the song We Live in Brooklyn, Baby, off of the 1972 album He’s Coming.
Play We Live In
Toby: This song has been sampled a number of times, including an interpolation by Kendrick Lamar on his 2012 song Good Kid. Let’s hear that.
Play Good Kid
Joe: In 1974, Roy Ayer’s Ubiquity released the ablum Change Up the Groove, which contained the track The Boogie Back. Let’s take a listen and see if it sounds familiar.
Play The Boogie Back
Toby: That definitely sounds familiar, because it’s featured prominently on the NWA track Eff the Police off of their Straight Out of Compton album. As you might imagine, we can’t play any of that on a family show, so you’ll have to take our word for it.
Joe: By 1975, Roy had begun his crossover into R&B sounds, and the album Mystic Voyage hit #13 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop charts. The lead single of the same name also reached #70 on the charts, let’s hear Mystic Voyage
Play Mystic Voyage
Toby: We get to our first featured track, Everybody Loves the Sunshine in 1976, again off the album of the same name. Let’s take another listen.
Play Everybody Loves 2
Joe: Besides being sampled heavily for our second featured track, Mary J Blige’s My Life, this song has been used a ton — at one time it was one of the most heavily sampled songs in hip hop. We should explore some more of those samples in our bonus material, but for now I want to showcase a sample by one of your favorite artists.
Toby: If you start playing the Wiggles or Kidsbop, I’m dropping the mic.
Joe: I’ve got a legitimate fav of yours this time, and someone you recently saw in concert. Let’s hear how Common used Everybody Loves the Sunshine for his song Book of Life on his 1994 Resurrection album.
Play Book of Life
Toby: I’m glad we could find some common ground there, I was getting worried.
Because of Roy’s heavy influence on R&B, he earned the moniker “The Godfather of Neo Soul” — though his influence can certainly be felt on many genres.
Joe: I love how a song like this can be beautifully rendered in so many different spaces. Let’s hear how jazz trumpeter Takuya Kuroda covers Everybody Loves the Sunshine on his 2014 album, Rising Son.
Toby: That track features jazz baritone José James on vocals, who did a cover of the 1937 George Gershwin tune They Can’t Take That Away From Me on the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. Let’s hear that.
Play They Cant Take
Joe: Speaking of soundtracks, that song was first song to Ginger Rogers by Fred Astaire in the movie Shall We Dance. I will have to dig that one up.
Toby: Jose James also recently did a cover album of Bill Withers tunes — another artist we both love and did a Riffs episode on.
Joe: Be sure to check out our Riffs back catalog for any episodes you missed people! Alright, let’s take a listen to one more Roy Ayers’ track, this one from his 1977 album Lifeline, and song called Running Away.
Play Running Away
Toby: A Tribe Called Quest sampled this for their song Description of a Fool from their 1989 album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Let’s give that a spin.
Play Description of a Fool
Joe: We’ll revisit a little more of Roy’s influence in our bonus material, but for now, I think it’s time that we focus on our 2nd featured artist. Toby, tell us a little bit about Miss Mary J Blige.
Toby: With pleasure, Mary J Blige was born on Jan 11, in 1971 in the New York borough of the Bronx. She did spend some time in GA before moving back to New York.
Joe: She was one of three children and her mother was a nurse and her father was a jazz musician. Unfortunately, her father was a Vietnam vet that suffered from PTSD and alcoholism. Sadly, he left the family in the mid 70’s and the family existed mainly on Mary’s mother’s earnings.
Toby: As if that wasn’t enough, Mary was also sexually assaulted an early age and that got her involved in drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. She dropped out of of school in her junior year of high school.
Joe: Despite the personal issues, this didn’t stop Mary from her love of music — illustrated by the fact that she sang in her pentacostal church and later joined a band based in Yonkers called The Pride. She and the band recorded a cover version of the Anita Baker’s Caught up in the Rapture, and Mary’s mom got that recording in the hands of none other than Jeff Redd.
Toby: You mean the Jeff Redd that did this?
Play: LOVE HIGH
That was Jeff Redd’s single called Love High from his debut album entitled Quiet Storm released in 1990. Besides being a recording artist he was also the A&R runner for Uptown Records, and he’s the man who got this recording of Mary J Blige into the hands of CEO Andre Harrell. Harrell obviously liked it and signed Blige as a back up vocalist for artists like this guy.
Play: I’ll Do 4 U
Joe: That was Father MC with his hit single I’ll Do 4 U from his 1990 debut album, Father’s Day. I’m sure that a lot of you also hear the Cheryl Lynn sample Got to Be Real. This track reached #1 on the Rap Hot 100 singles and #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts
Toby: There’s a sentiment in regards to the likelihood of one’s success in business. Location, Location, location. Well, while at Uptown Mary’s location allowed her to work with none other than Sean “Puffy” Combs. Puff became the executive producer for Mary’s first album which was entitled “What’s the 411, the title of which was a nod to her past job as a 411 operator. The album was released on June 28th , 199 and features the production talent of Devante Swing, Tony DOfat, Dave Hall, Mark Morales, and Mark “Cory” Rooney. There’s a lot of things you can say about Puff, but one thing that’s for sure is this man knows how to develop talent and get the most of his artists.
Joe: Let’s take a listen to the first single to come from this album, You Remind Me, which reached #29 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot R&B charts.
Play You Remind Me
Toby: It’s a dope song, but let’s take a listen to one of my personal favorites. This is her 2nd single, Real Love. This to me is where Mary separated herself from all the other R&B acts.
Play Real Love
Joe: I like the song, but tell me why this one in particular stands out to you.
Toby: I will answer that question with another question. What do TLC, Jade, SWV, Sade, Bobby Brown, Silk, After 7 and Brian McKnight all have in common?
Joe: They all make appearances on the Brazwell slow jams tape?
Toby: They all released albums in 1992. Some of them were AWESOME albums, but Mary’s album was raw. She really embraced hip hop and in doing so really gained a lot of fans both male and female. Her album actually has an interlude that features Busta Rhymes to prove the point. One could say that TLC did a lot in that regards, but if we are being honest, there isn’t a member of TLC that can compare with Mary vocally. Her 2nd single really shows the official marriage between hip hop and R&B. Let’s hear Real Love.
Play Real Love
Joe: That single really shows the marriage between hip hop and R&B. You have the nice vocals from Mary and mixed with the drum break sample from hip hop group Audio Two and their track Top Billin — another group we discussed in an earlier episode.
Toby: When I thought about Mary J’s influence on music, I have to agree with BBC Muic’s David O’donnel who stated that this about the album.
What's The 411? is, arguably, one of the most important albums of the nineties. Not only did it signal the arrival of the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, but it also broke every rule in the book, fusing hip hop beats with R&B melodies. The album created a recipe that would lead to the contemporary R&B sound of today.
Joe: Her album eventually was certified triple platinum and her voice was compared to the likes of Anita Baker and Chaka Khan. That’s some high praise, Toby, would you put her in that category?
Joe: One thing that you mentioned earlier is that Mary was embraced by the hip hop generation a lot more than any diva or diva in the making before. As illustrated by this remix of the hit single I’ll be there for you/You’re all I need to get by from Wu Tang MC Method Man. Let’s take a listen:
Play: I’ll Be There for You
Toby: One reason why people love Mary is that you can feel her pain in her music, especially given the fact that she writes a lot of her own lyrics. That takes us to her second album which contains our second featured track. Let’s take another listen to My Life.
Play My Life 2
Toby: So i have to be honest, I feel like I got through college and became an adult listening to Mary. So although I never met her, I have to say that her music brings back a lot of memories. As many times as I’ve heard this album, it hit me different listening to it now. I felt like it was a friend crying out for help and made me feel like reaching out to support. Is that weird?
Joe: No sir, music is nothing if not pure emotion. You certainly don’t need words to feel music, but the lyrics of this album certainly indicate that she was going through some tough times.
Toby: I hear you buddy. Maybe it’s a factor of being older, wiser and a reflection of the state of mental health in this country, but it does appear that she has made it past those demons because she has certainly had a very successful career.
Joe: Mary ‘s J’s second album, Be Happy was released on Nov 29th, 1994. It’s important to mention that this album focusses on her struggle with alcohol and drug abuse and being clinically depressed. Let’s take a listen to her first single entitled Be happy. Pay special attention to the lyrics.
Play Be Happy
Toby: I love the message on this song. This song used an instrumental sample of "You're So Good To Me" by Curtis Mayfield and a re-sung vocal portion of “I Want You” by Marvin Gaye, and thus keeps up with the recipe of marrying hip hop samples and smooth vocals. As an added bonus, the video was directed by Hype Williams who directed one of my favorite Hip hop movies of all time BELLY.
Joe: Back to the music. On Mary’s first album she did a remake of Chaka Khan’s Sweet Thing and for this album she decided to do another cover. This time it would be the song I’m Going Down originally recorded by Rose Royce from the Car Wash movie soundtrack. Let’s take a listen
Play I’m going Down
Toby: It’s funny how even though this song was a cover song that it worked perfectly with her overall theme of the album. The expression of pain and struggle.
Joe: As we have said countless times with other artists, we won’t be able to get into all of Mary’s music and I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to revisit her discography in the future. But best believe that she has accomplished a ton.
Toby: Agreed. Rolling Stone has listed the My Life album as one of the 500 Greatest albums of all time and Time magazine has listed it on their All Time 100 album list
Joe: She has released 13 studio albums- 8 of which have achieved multiplatinum success
She’s won 9 Grammies, 12 Billboard awards and earned 3 Golden Globe nominations
Toby: and let’s not forget that she just recently ventured into acting as seen on Netflix’s Umbrella Academy. With all of that hard work, no one can say that the Queen of Hip Hop Soul didn’t work for the throne.
Joe: Alright sir, let’s get back to Roy and, shall we say, ubiquitous samples of Everybody Loves the Sunshine. I know you’ve got a list that includes a lot of your favorites artists. You ready to dive in?
Toby: Let’s start with Mos Def’s aka Yassim Bey’s track entitled Life is Real off of his 2004 release The New Danger.
Play Life is Real
Toby: Anyone who knows me well knows that Mos Def has always been one of my favorites. But we can’t also forget the Naughty by Nature track Sunshine from their Poverty Paradise album released in 1995. Let’s give that a listen
Joe: Treach’s flow is one of those that is so hard to duplicate. He’s definitely one that can raise some eyebrows with his rhymes. Good stuff. You got more for me?
Toby: I’m so glad you asked. Up next we have West coast underground MC Erule’s and his single called Listen UP. This track brings back a ton of memories, because before my boys and I had money to buy equipment we used to buy singles that included instrumentals and then write and perform to them.
Joe: Well so we’ve now looked at both east and west coast mcs that have used this sample. How are you going to stick the dismount with the last artist?
Toby: Well I thought that I would mention a group that we haven’t mentioned on this show yet. Lord Jamar, Sadat and Grand Puba aka… Brand Nubian. This is their track called Wale Up from their self titled debut album released in 1990.
Play Wake Up
Joe: I think you’ve proven that everyone does indeed love the sunshine, judging by the fact that the song has been sample 141 times. We don’t have time to get through all of them, but let’s recap what we discussed today. We started with Roy Ayers and his song Everybody Loves the Sunshine. And our second featured track was My Life by Mary J Blige.
Toby: Our bonus material that focused on other artists that have also sampled this Roy Ayers hit, like Mos Def, Naughty By Nature, Erule, and Brand Nubian. This episode has been a ton of fun. What do we have on deck for our next ep?
Joe: I think its time we talk to our brothers and find out who’s chicken and who can dance.
Joe: Until then, if you enjoyed today’s episode, please rate and review the show — it really helps. As always, thank you for listening to Riffs on Riffs.