Who was 24-Carat Black?
Hosts Joe Watson and Toby Brazwell take a hard look at legendary tracks of the past and present, connecting the dots on the music they sample and the songs that inspired them. Join us for Season 3, where Riffs takes a deep dive into the tragic world of 24-Carat Black, the band everyone has heard, but nobody has heard of.
People Say You’re That Somebody
Before her death at the young age of 22, Aaliyah had released three certified platinum albums, starred in two major film roles, launched the Timbaland and Missy Elliot revolution and became an innovator of the 90’s generation R&B music scene. Joe and Toby reminisce on the life, legacy and music of Aaliyah, and the 70’s funk band that inspired her Grammy nominated hit single “Are You That Somebody?” from the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack.
What we geek out over in this episode: New Orleans second line, Aaliyah’s hits, history of the baby coo, Record Producer Timothy ‘Timbaland’ Mosley, Jodeci, and the music of Record Producer Allen Toussaint.
Bonus Material: New Orleans sound: the Neville Brothers, Aaron Neville “Everybody Plays the Fool” (1991), Galactic feat. Cyril Neville “You Don’t Know” (2011) and Dumpstaphunk.
People Say You’re That Somebody
🔊“Are You That Somebody?”
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. What’s up Toby?
Toby: Not much man! Good to be here!
Joe: 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: This is a track called “Are you that somebody” from the artist known as Aaliyah. This track was produced by Timbaland and was featured on the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack in 1998. Now Dr. Doolittle was a ctional character known for the ability to speaking to animals, and this track was most de nitely known for speaking to the masses.
Joe: It certainly did! This song was ranked 24 of the 50 best songs of the 90’s by Rolling Stone magazine. Spin magazine listed it as #18 of the top 20 singles of the 90’s. And it earned Aaliyah a Grammy nomination.
Toby: Let’s hop in the Delorean and nd out what track was sampled to produce this hit.
Toby: Joe can you tell the good listeners what we are listening to?
Joe: We are listening to a 1974 track called “People Say” by the Meters. The Meters were a New Orleans band considered to be one of the originators of the funk sound. The group consisted of Art Neville on keyboards, Zigaboo Modeliste on drums, George Porter Jr. on bass, and Leo Nocentelli on guitar.
Toby: As Porter has stated, they didn’t create the New Orleans funk sound, but they definitely made it popular. He says, “I think we brought it to the rest of the country and the rest of the world. There would always be some guys that got together on the weekend and jam, and there’d be some serious funk going on. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time, because we were the only organized group that played it all the time.”
Joe: That, and they all just happened to be fabulously talented players!
Toby: Definitely that! Their first hit was the 1969 funk instrumental “Cissy Strut”. It reached #4 on the R&B charts and #23 on the Billboard 100. Let’s listen:
Joe: You can definitely hear why Zigaboo’s drum work has been sampled by hundreds of hip-hop artists. It’s almost like the drums lead this song as the main focal point.
Toby: Definitely an innovator and a heavy influence on future generations of drummers. And I love this quote on his approach to the instrument, “Your biggest teachers were those two things you got on the side of your head. (…) It’s got nothing to do with rudiments, nothing to do with time signatures, but it’s got a lot to do with what you hear.”
Joe: And he certainly payed homage to the greats like Smokey Johnson that he learned from. Here’s another quote, “whatever your definition of Zigaboo is, it’s just a collage of all the drummers that I heard play in my lifetime from New Orleans.”
Toby: Let’s talk a little bit about that New Orleans sound, or what is sometimes referred to as second line sound. What does that refer to exactly?
Joe: Mardi Gras Indian Chief Jake Millon describes it as the characteristic rhythm that underlies the music of black New Orleans. His quote: “Some people call it funk, but to us it’s strictly second line.”
Toby: You can’t talk about New Orleans without talking about Mardi Gras. And you can’t have Mardi Gras without a parade. So if we are talking about brass band parades in New Orleans, the “first line” is the main section of the parade which includes the band. The “second line” contains those who are following the parade and dancing along to the music.
Joe: In that second line a snare drummer often follows along with the brass band, playing polyrhythms either o of the main beat or improvising along with the band. This rich tradition has a prominent place in our musical and cultural landscape.
Toby: Second line also had a profound in uence on the Godfather himself, James Brown. He worked with two drummers in the early 60’s, Charles Connor and Clayton Fillyau, that inspired him to dive head rst into the densely interwoven rhythms of second line and apply them to all the instruments in a band.
Joe: And because all of those o beats and syncopated rhythms turn into a runaway train if not corralled somehow, it’s important to have a landing spot somewhere. That’s where the concept of The One came from, which we talked about in an earlier episode. As long as you land on and accent that rst beat of every measure, you can have all the fun you want with the spaces in between.
Toby: I’ve also heard of second line rhythms referred to as “between the cracks,” which sounds to me like the nal resting spot for all the coins that fall out of my pocket when I’m chilling on the couch.
Joe: Well, that’s actually not a bad analogy! Think of it as a strange musical vortex. Much like your disappearing sofa change, it can sometimes be hard to chart where certain rhythms fall in second line music. Let’s see if I can give a quick demonstration. (demonstrate)
Toby: It seems to me like the best way to understand this is to hear it. Zigaboo and The Meters are masters of second line rhythms. Let’s listen to Hey Pocky A-Way, o of the same 1974 Rejuvenation album that People Say is from.
🔊“Hey Pocky A-Way”
Joe: That pattern is somewhere between triplet shuffle and and straight quadruple meter. It’s between the cracks. You have to hear it in order to feel and understand it. But it’s got such a great slippery groove.
Toby: I also love the slippery way that Timaland slices up “People Say for Are You that Somebody.” Let’s take a listen again to the intro of “People Say”, and then pay attention to how Timbaland gives it his own second line spin for “Are You That Somebody.”
Joe: This track is just one example of how The Meters have always gotten much respect and love from other artists. In fact, Mick Jagger was such a big fan that in 1975 The Meters opened for The Rolling Stones on their US and Canadian tours, and also for their European tour the following spring.
Toby: That love and respect for The Meters’ music is reflected in how many times they have been sampled in hip-hop by artists like Heavy D, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Musiq, Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC, N.W.A, Ice Cube, Scarface, Cypress Hill, EPMD, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, The Beastie Boys, Naughty by Nature … the list is endless.
Joe: Alright Tobe, let’s dive a bit deeper into our next featured track, “Are You that Somebody?” by Aaliyah.
🔊“Are You That Somebody?”
Joe: Let’s start at the beginning and discuss how Aaliyah became a star. Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn, NY but moved to Detroit with her family by the age of 5. She was enrolled in voice lessons at an early age, and since her mother was a vocalist and her uncle was an entertainment lawyer, one could have predicted that Aaliyah would have a future in music.
Toby: Now this wasn’t just any uncle. Her uncle was Barry Hankerson, who managed gospel group sensation the Winans, as well as singer Toni Braxton and singer/ songwriter R. Kelly. Aaliyah was introduced to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer on her debut album entitled “Age Ain’t Nuthin’ but a Number.”
Joe: As far as the music goes that pairing of R Kelly and Aalyiah was very successful. 70k copies sold in the first week successful. Double platinum successful! All at the age of 15. As far as the personal side of things, things get really weird. Obviously R Kelly and Aaliyah spent a lot of time together and a strong bond was formed, but rumors started to surface that their relationship was more than platonic.
Toby: There was evidence that both Aaliyah and R Kelly were married and that Aaliyah lied about her age and stated that she was 18 instead of 15. The marriage was annulled and along with the marriage, so was contact with R Kelly.
Joe: So where does that leave Aaliyah?
Toby: It leaves her without a producer! Enter Timbaland. Timbaland met Aaliyah and started work producing her 2nd album “One in a Million”. Timbaland was a bit nervous at first working with Aaliyah.
Joe: Well that’s understandable, since Timbaland was just starting out, and Aaliyah was already a successful act. But as time would show there was no need for him to be.
Toby: Agreed. Let’s listen to one of the Timbaland produced singles from Aaliyah’s second album. This track is called “If Your Girl Only Knew” and was written by Missy Elliot.
🔊“If Your Girl Only Knew”
Joe: Aaliyah’s One In A Million album was released in 1996 and peaked at 18 on the Billboard 200 charts, selling 3 million copies in the US and 8 million copies worldwide.
Toby: In the midst of all of that she still found time to become a Tommy Hilfiger spokeswoman and graduate from high school. She was featured on the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack with our featured song “Are You that Somebody”. This track was produced by Timbaland and was written by by a cat named Static Major – one of the members of an R&B group called Playa, which we’ll talk more about in a bit. But what’s crazy to me is the timeframe in which this song was written and recorded.
Joe: Yeah, it is crazy. Basically, they get a call from Aaliyah’s uncle Barry. He tells Timbaland a deal is already done and they need to provide a song for the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack. The pay is good, $400k good. The caveat? They have to have the song written, recorded and mastered by 9am that morning. And since it was already almost midnight, that left them a very tight window.
Toby: In that short time span they made magic! Timbaland created the beat, Static major made the hook, and Aaliyah lent her sultry soprano. The rest, as they say, is history.
Joe: Speaking of history, Toby, are you familiar with the Wilhelm Scream?
Toby: That’s the stock sound effect that’s used in tons of movies, right? I want to say it’s been used in over 300 films, including all the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and numerous Disney flicks.
Joe: You are correct sir. Apparently it was originally labeled as “man getting eaten by alligator” in the sound library, and was voiced by Sheb Wooley for the 1951 film Distant Drums. Sheb Wooley, by the way, is the genius behind this song:
🔊“Purple People Eater”
Toby: Which he apparently wrote in only an hour. Imagine if he had a few more hours like Timbaland did for “Are You That Somebody?” But I’m curious, Joe. Why do you bring up the Wilhelm Scream?
Joe: Because we have our own version of that with the baby coo in “Are You That Somebody?” This sweet little baby has been heard in many songs over the years. Let’s take a listen to the end of the Rascal’s 1969 song “Look Around:”
Toby: And it also closes out Prince’s 1982 track, “Delirious.”
Joe: Fast forward a couple of decades, and TNIGHT used it for their 2012 track, “Bugg’n.”
Toby: Of course, this baby makes a recurring appearance on “Are You That Somebody?”
Toby: Joe, can you imagine the royalties this little bundle of joy must be raking in?
Joe: If only we knew who it was. Turns out, no one can identify the baby in question, not even the guy who made the original recording.
Toby: Yep. In 1962 and ‘63, an audio engineer named Michael Scott Goldbaum traveled up and down the east coast recording everyday sounds for Elektra, which was released as a sound library called Authentic Sound Effects Volume 8 in 1964. Unfortunately, he has no record or recollection of who the baby actually was.
Joe: I kind of like that we don’t know — it makes it feel like somehow we are universally connected and that at the end of the day, we all are that somebody.
Toby: Back to Aaliyah, who was really coming into her own. She began to pursue her interest in acting and was cast in 2 films. Romeo Must Die was the first and co-starred martial art start Jet Li. As if that wasn’t enough, Aaliyah also served as the executive producer on the soundtrack, which featured 4 of her songs. One of those songs was the Timbaland produced track called “Try Again”. Let take a listen to that.
Joe: Static Major wrote that song, and it’s a beautiful thing when a producer, artist and writer sync up and settle into a perfect groove. The Aaliyah, Timbaland and Static Major combination worked on several songs, including “We Need a Resolution” and “More than a Woman.” Let’s listen to a couple of these tracks. Here’s “We need a Resolution:”
🔊“We Need a Resolution”
Toby: Here’s my favorite Aalyiah Track entitled “More than a Woman.”
🔊“More than a Woman”
Sadly, we lost Aaliyah on Aug 25th, 2001. On her way back to the States from filming in the Bahamas, Aaliyah died in airplane crash.
Joe: We can all agree that she died way too young. I’m just glad that we are forever blessed with the music that she did give us while she was with us.
Toby: Agreed. Timbaland was pretty emotional about the loss of Aaliyah and said as much in a quote: “She was like blood, and I lost blood. Me and her together had this chemistry. I kinda lost half of my creativity to her. It’s hard for me to talk to the fans now. Beyond the music, she was a brilliant person, the most special person I ever met.”
Joe: Timbaland did find a way to move past this tragedy and forge a very successful career. The list of artists he’s worked with includes Jay-Z, Beyonce, Brandy, Chris Cornell , Madonna, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Bjork, Nelly Furtado, Ginuwine and of course Justin Timberlake, among others.
Toby: Let’s discuss Timbaland and how he became the much sought after producer he is today. Tim Mosley was born in Norfolk, Virginia. My best friend has a saying that goes like this: “If you hang with 9 losers you’re bound to be the 10th” and I think the reverse can be said as well. Tim was high school friends with some very talented people including a production group called SBI (stands for Surrounded by Idiots) which included Neptunes producer Pharell. He also was friends with twins (Terrance and Gene Thornton) aka Pusha T and Malice of the hip hop group known as Clipse and superstar rapper and songwriter Missy Elliot.
Joe: Wow! With talent like that around you, it’s no wonder he had the success he’s had. Seriously- I can just imagine Oprah being in one of their production meetings… And you get a hit, and you get a hit …
Toby: So Missy Elliot was part of a group called Sista and Timbaland produced some music for their demo tape. These tapes caught the attention of producer Devante Swing from Jodeci. I remember that Devante was a pretty big deal back in the 90’s due largely to the success of Jodeci. Jodeci was a well known male R&B group from the 90’s that could be described as the amalgamation of gospel soul and hip hop. They sold over 20 million records with tracks like “Feenin.” Let’s take a listen to that:
Joe: let me guess…. This was one of the tracks on your slow jam tape.
Toby: You know me so well! Interesting factoid about Jodeci — their second album entitled Diary of a Mad Band almost got no pub when it was released due to a disagreement with their label Uptown. Regardless, it didn’t stop the album from going double platinum. Well as the story goes, Missy introduced the man behind the Jodeci sound, Devante Swing, to Tim, and is actually credited for giving him the name Timbaland a er the well known brand of construction boot.
Joe: That’s probably for the best since his previous nickname was Timmy Tim.
Toby: Yeah Timbaland was definitely an improvement. Timbaland started working with R&B groups initially but really got his big break with working on Ginuwine’s hit single called “Pony.” Let’s take a listen to that. This song goes hard in the paint!
Joe: We could easily do a whole new episode on Timbaland, his music, and his producing. In fact, I think we should someday.
Toby: Agreed on that. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at another megaproducer related to our first featured artist, The Meters.
Joe: Allen Touissant is a legendary composer, musician and producer that not only worked with The Meters, but with artists ranging from Lee Dorsey to Dr. John to Robert Palmer. Toussaint was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009, the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2013 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
Toby: Touissant was a session piano player for artists like Fats Domino before releasing his first album on RCA records in 1958, The Wild Sound of New Orleans. Going by the name Al Toussan at the time, the album was comprised of instrumentals, mostly written in the studio, primarily by Touissant. One of the tracks was called “Java,” and you can hear that New Orleans flavor already.
🔊“Java” - Allen Touissant
Joe: As was the case with a lot of Touissant’s work, this composition was later made a hit by another artist. In 1963, trumpet player Al Hirt took Java to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts. It won the Grammy for Best Performance by an Orchestra or Instrumentalist with Orchestra in 1964. Let’s take a listen:
🔊“Java” - Al Hirt
Toby: After a stint in the army from 1963–65, Touissant returned home to New Orleans, formed a production company, and began working with singer Lee Dorsey. They had a couple of R&B hits and then hit the top ten on the pop charts with Working in a Coal Mine. Let’s take a listen.
🔊“Working in a Coal Mine”
Joe: Interestingly enough, Toussaint said that he and Dorsey “didn’t know anything about a coal mine.“ Dorsey was an auto body guy, and when his career went on a decline in the early 70’s he went back to his auto repair business.
Toby: The life of a musician — always hustling, even AFTER you’ve had some hits.
Joe: He did make a comeback however, and even opened for The Clash on their 1980 US tour. Seems like an odd pairing, but I guess you have to think outside the box if you’re trying to rock the casbah.
Toby: The Touissant legacy certainly lives on in hop hop. Touissant wrote and Dorsey sang the 1966 track ”Get Out of My Life Woman." See if you recognize this intro beat.
🔊“Get Out of My Life”
Toby: That beat has been used hundreds of times, including by Cypress Hill on “Hits from the Bong,” and “Beck on Where It’s At”, but perhaps there is no sample better than this one:
🔊“Just a Friend”
Joe: That, of course, is Biz Markie and his 1989 hit “Just a Friend.” Seems appropriate that he would sample “Get Out of My Life Woman,” because that seems like the logical response once he got wise to his girl’s shenanigans in “Just a Friend.”
Toby: Even after they began releasing their own albums in 1969, The Meters continued to work with Touissant as session players on numerous albums.
Joe: One of the biggest hits they performed on was the Mac Rebennack penned song “Right Place, Wrong Time.” That’s a cat you may recognize by his other name — Dr. John. Touissant produced his 1973 album, In the Right Place, and the song “Right Place, Wrong Time” charted in the top ten that summer. One of my favorite tracks, let’s take a listen.
🔊“Right Place Wrong Time”
Toby: A guy that was in the right place at the right time was Robert Palmer. Long before he was addicted to love and simply irresistible, he worked with Allen Touissant on Palmer’s 1974 debut album, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley. The title track was written by Touissant and originally recorded by Lee Dorsey in 1970.
Joe: This album is steeped in New Orleans funk. Once again, The Meters lay down the groove, but they aren’t the only legends to play on the album. Steve Winwood, Bernard Purdie, and Lowell George also lend their prodigious talents to the record. Let’s listen to Robert Palmer and “Sneakin Sally Through the Alley.”
Toby: You ain’t lyin about the funk! Of course, Robert Palmer went on to a hugely successful solo career that included two Grammy’s and that iconic music video for “Addicted to Love,” not to mention his work with The Power Station.
Joe: Some like it hot my friend! Speaking of which, Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?
Toby: Ummmm, Joe, you know what that means, right?
Joe: Sure. When I was a kid my mom told me it means “Would you like to dance with me?” I figured with all the funk hitting our eardrums we’d just get a big ol’ dance party up in here.
Toby: That’s not quite what it means, unless you’re talking about the mambo of the horizontal variety. It means “would you like to sleep with me.” I think mom was probably giving you some age appropriate translations.
Joe: Oh. Ohhhhhh. Goodness. Not what I meant. Sorry ‘bout that. And I’m sure my high school French teacher is throwing shoes at the speakers right now!
Toby: No problem, glad we got that cleared up! And, you aren’t the only one that wasn’t really clear on the meaning of that phrase. Let’s take a listen to one more Allen Touissant produced track, this one from Labelle, and their 1974 #1 hit “Lady Marmalade.”
Joe: “Lady Marmalade” was written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, and the Labelle track was produced by Allen Touissant with Vicki Wickham. And of course, The Meters provide the instrumental foundation.
Toby: This song is about the seedier side of New Orleans and a certain lady of the evening propositioning a guy named Joe. What’s funny is that Patti Labelle, the lead vocalist on the track, had no idea what she was singing about, saying: “I didn’t know what it was about. I don’t know French and nobody, I swear this is God’s truth, nobody at all told me what I’d just sung a song about.”
Joe: Well, in 2001 Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Pink and Lil’ Kim made sure everyone knew what the song is about when they recorded it for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. If there was any doubt, one only had to watch the video. Their cover was also #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, and also a number-one hit in the UK.
Joe: There is so much rich history with the New Orleans sound, and for our bonus material today, let’s take a listen to some of the bands that are keeping that sound alive in a big way.
Toby: I feel like we can’t go much further without talking about the Neville Brothers. Not many acts have brought Louisiana to the world like these guys.
Joe: You are absolutely right! We’ve already talked about Art Neville, one of the founding members of The Meters and the eldest of the Neville brothers. The others are Charles, Aaron, and Cyril. In 1989 they won the Best Pop Instrumental Grammy for their song “Healing Chant” off their Yellow Moon album.
Toby: They’ve been staples in the music industry for decades, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a minute to listen to Aaron’s silky tenor. Truly a voice that’s one of a kind. Let’s listen to his 1991 cover of the Main Ingredient song “Everybody Plays the Fool."
🔊“Everybody Plays the Fool”
Joe: The youngest brother, Cyril, is a great segue to some other monsters on the New Orleans funk scene. In 2010, he toured with Galactic, and I had the pleasure of seeing them on this tour. Talk about a band that tears the roof off the joint. Let’s have a listen to a cut off of their 2011 live album, The Other Side of Midnight, and a track that features Cyril Neville called “You Don’t Know.”
🔊“You Don’t Know”
Toby: I love how many of the musicians in the New Orleans scene are either actually related or simply treated as family. They are always playing together and keeping the music connections tight. And the horns. My goodness. So much talent, whether you’re talking about the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Soul Rebels Brass Band, Trombone Shorty, the list goes on.
Joe: I am so glad to hear you love horns as much as I do my friend! And while the whole band is fantastic, I have to give a special shout-out to drummer Stanton Moore, who has often stated Zigaboo Modeliste as a heavy influence and is definitely a monster on the skins. Let’s take a listen to another live track from The Other Side of Midnight, this one featuring The Soul Rebels and Corey Henry. Such a great blend of so many music styles, including hip-hop, on this track.
🔊“From the Corner to the Block”
Toby: Alright, one more cool connection. Funk is apparently in the bloodlines. Aaron Neville’s son, Ivan, and Art Neville’s son, Ian, formed a band called Dumpstaphunk that the New York Times once called the best funk band in New Orleans. Let’s take a listen to a track called “I Wish You Would” off of their Dirty Word album.
🔊“I Wish You Would”
Joe: This track has equal amounts New Orleans and Parliament Funkadelic funk! I dig it. Bootsy baby!
Toby: Alright Joe, that’s all the time we have today. We’ve covered a lot! Thanks for joining us as we talked about our first featured track, “People Say” from The Meters, and the song that sampled it, “Are You That Somebody” from Aaliyah. We also talked about mega- producers Allen Touissant and Timbaland.
Joe: Definitely a jam-packed episode. Toby, what are we going to get into on the next episode of Riffs on Riffs?
Toby: We are going to take a completely differnt spin on Mardis Gras, one that will set you adrift on memory bliss. I know this much is true — it’s going to be a great episode!
Joe: I am looking forward to it! In the meantime, let’s finish up with one last track. One new release I’m really looking forward to in 2019 is from the singer Banks, whose debut album Goddess is one of my favorites and contains the platinum-selling single “Begging for Thread.” Her voice has often been compared to Aaliyah’s, although I think they have a completely different vibe. However, Banks did do a live acoustic cover of our featured track, Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody,” and it’s a thing of beauty. We are going to take you out with that today, so enjoy. As always, thanks for joining us. I’m Joe Watson…
Toby: And I’m Toby Brazwell.
Joe: Thank your for listening to Riffs on Riffs.
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