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BLACK & PROUD

by MAXWELL DARTEY

Aretha Franklin – Songs of Faith: Aretha Gospel

The black church is one of the most important institutions in music. Many of the finest voices ever recorded were molded in choirs, including the greatest of them all: Aretha Franklin. What’s crazy about Songs of Faith is that the Queen was just 14 years old when it was recorded, but she sounds like a full-grown woman. As soon as you drop the needle on this one, you’ll catch the Holy Spirit.

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2Pac – Greatest Hits

Over 23 years after his death, 2Pac still remains a folk hero in hip-hop: part poet, part revolutionary, part hellraiser. Greatest Hits offers a complete portrait of Pac’s career with classics like “California Love,” “Dear Mama,” and “Changes.” A great album for both casual fans and hip-hop heads

Barry White – The 20th Century Records 7-Inch Singles (1973-1975)

If you think that Barry White was just a big dude with a sexy voice, you’re playing yourself. What many people don’t realize is that he was one of the most talent musicians ever: pianist, producer, conductor, and possibly the greatest arranger of strings of all-time. The instrumentals on this collection alone are reason enough to get it.

Bobbi Humphrey – Blacks And Blues

It takes a bad woman to make it in the world of jazz as an instrumentalist, especially when the instrument is a flute. Bobbi Humphrey was a bad woman. Blacks And Blues is a slept-on classic and easily Bobbi Humphrey’s finest work. Did I mention that the Mizell Brothers produced this joint? Again, a slept-on classic.

Dr. Dre – 2001 (Instrumental)

The Chronic is and always will be one of those hip-hop records that is in the GOAT conversation. But for me, 2001 is Dre’s best work as a producer. The beats on this record are RIDICULOUS. And when you dig into the samples, it makes you appreciate them even more. If you’re not bobbing your head when you’re listening to “Still D.R.E.” I’m not really sure I can be friends with you.

Eric B. & Rakim – The Complete Collection

This one is historic: the first ever career-spanning box set for a hip-hop group. Who better to give that honor to than Eric B. & Rakim? With packaging inspired by Dapper Dan (shoutout Freddy Anzures), this joint gives you all of Eric B. & Rakim’s albums -each on 2LP- as well as a booklet with complete liner notes and 2CDs of rare cuts. A true salute to the rap gods.

GZA – Liquid Swords Deluxe Marven Edition

There’s really not much I can say about Liquid Swords that hasn’t already been said. But what makes this special is the Marvel art. Comic book lore has always part of hip-hop culture and that marriage is perfectly displayed here. Not only do you get the unique Marvel variant cover, but also a lenticular print AND an exclusive comic book. C’mon, son!

Imamu Amiri Baraka – It’s Nation Time: African Visionary Music

I don’t want to get too hyperbolic here, but this may be the wokest record ever reissued at UMe. Short history lesson: In the 70s, Berry Gordy launched an imprint of Motown called Black Forum that released a series of Afrocentric records. Possibly the best of those is Nation Time. If you don’t know Amiri Baraka, you’re going to have do some homework (do yourself a favor and read Blues People). The dope thing about this record is that it actually has some heavy hitters on it: Idris Muhammad, Reggie Workman, Gwendolyn Guthrie, Gary Bartz, Lonnie Smith, and James Mtume all get busy on this one.  

James Brown – Say It Live And Loud: Live In Dallas 08.26.68

1968 was also the year James Brown recorded “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Say It Live And Loud captures the Godfather of Soul’s first live performance of the single weeks after it dropped, and the crowd was hot for it. Not to mention, this also features the famous live version of “There Was A Time.” 

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Janet Jackson – Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814

This is going to sound crazy, but I think Rhythm Nation is underrated. I don’t think Janet Jackson gets enough credit for wanting to do a “conscious” album as a pop artist, especially given how big a hit Control was. But then again, when you’re messing with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, it’s hard not to hit it out of the park. And she did. I cannot overstate how much of a hit this record was. So much that it had singles reach number one in THREE different years: "Miss You Much" in 1989, "Escapade" and "Black Cat" in 1990, and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)” in 1991. 31 years later, Rhythm Nation still bounces.

Jay-Z – The Black Album

The Black Album will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first CD that I bought with my allowance money when I was 10 years old. I remember staying up until 3 in the morning listening to it and studying the liner notes. Maybe this album would mean a bit more if it actually was Hov’s last album. But over 16 years later it’s still my favorite. 

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

A Love Supreme is one of those records where I remember exactly when and where I was when listened to it for the first time. This is more that just a record. It’s a spiritual offering. It’s 40 minutes of John Coltrane putting his soul on wax. This is one of those records where I literally feel every single note every time I play it. It’s just a beautiful record.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

To Pimp A Butterfly is more than just a classic hip-hop record. It’s a treatise on the black experience in America and deserves to be held in the same regard as Souls of Black Folk and Invisible Man. There are so many things to unpack about this record that I’d need an entire notebook, so I’ll spare you. But that being said, To Pimp A Butterfly has been topping a lot of people’s Best of the Decade lists, and rightfully so.

Marvin Gaye – You’re The Man

This is a special one for me. Marvin Gaye is my favorite Motown artist and I’d been waiting for a chance to work on a Marvin Gaye project the moment I start at UMe. Luckily, I got my chance (shoutout Harry Weinger). You’re The Man was supposed to be the follow up to What’s Going On but was scrapped after the single “You’re The Man” wasn’t a hit. We’ll never truly know what that record would’ve been had Marvin gone ahead with it. But, man, I think we came pretty damn close. True Marvin heads know that these songs have been featured in various deluxe editions but never before on vinyl and never sounding this dope (I’m biased, of course). Salaam Remi blesses this record with new mixes including his take on “Symphony” which is straight butter. And let’s not forget fresh liner notes from the one and only David Ritz.

Mary J. Blige – HERstory Vol. 1 45 Box

All of my DJ’s out there will appreciate this one. With a special assist from Andrew “Monk” Mason, HERstory brings together Mary J. Blige classics with rare remixes, some of which have never been on 7-inch vinyl. There’s a ton of heat here including beautiful packaging that was inspired by the classic Uptown Records color scheme. If 45’s aren’t your thing, there’s a 2LP and CD version as well, son there’s something for everyone.

Miles Davis - The Complete Birth of the Cool

Birth of the Cool doesn’t get the shine that Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew get but that doesn’t mean it’s any less significant. It marked the first time that a young Miles Davis stepped out from the shadows of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and led a group of his own. It also marked the first of many times that Miles Davis changed the face of jazz. While the singles this band released in 1949 and 1950 didn’t make a splash commercially, they were packaged together in 1957 as the album we know as Birth of the Cool. This reissue marks the first time since 1957 that the tapes from the original ‘49/’50 singles were used for a vinyl reissue. You also get a second LP of live material on vinyl for the first time and a tremendous essay by Ashley Kahn takes a deep dive into the history behind Birth of the Cool.

The Roots – Things Fall Apart 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Before their gig on The Tonight Show the Roots were darlings of the underground hip-hop scene. In 1999 they released their breakout album, Things Fall Apart, which features their Grammy-winning hit “You Got Me” and put them on the path to 30 Rock. This package features the original album remastered plus a third LP of bonus cuts curated by Questlove. Speaking of Questlove, not only did he and Black Thought also contribute essays for the included booklet, but he also does track-by-track commentary for the album and the added bonus material. But, wait, there’s more: if you’re real one, the collector’s edition also features the four alternate covers that were released in 1999 (as well another brand-new alternate cover) with clear LPs.

RAMP – Come Into Knowledge

RAMP stands for Roy Ayers Music Project so off the bat you know what you’re in for (and if you don’t know who Roy Ayers is, you better ask somebody). A must have for record collectors and sample heads, Come Into Knowledge features the track “Daylight” which has been sampled by a who’s who of hip-hop (the most famous being A Tribe Called Quest on “Bonita Applebum”). This reissue has a classic tip-on jacket for that old school feel and the vinyl is 150 gram so your turntable will thank you.

TERRY CALLIER – WHAT COLOR IS LOVE

I can’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Terry Callier. Being a brotha playing acoustic guitar in the 60s and 70s didn’t exactly put you on the superhighway to stardom. But this guy was Michael Kiwanuka before Michael Kiwanuka. This record is just so damn beautiful. Produced and arranged by the great Charles Stepney, What Color Is Love goes down smooth like a cup of hot tea. 

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Parliament – Mothership Connection

A stone cold classic. That’s what this record is. Mothership Connection is not only a pillar of the funk canon but also one of the building blocks of hip-hop. Without this record there is no Dr. Dre. Without this record there is no Ice Cube. Without this record there is no Snoop Dogg. Without this record there is no Kendrick Lamar. 

Black & Proud

BY MAXWELL DARTEY

Maxwell is an A&R Manager at UMe and the producer of The Complete Birth of the Cool vinyl reissue by Miles Davis and the Things Fall Apart Deluxe Edition vinyl reissue by The Roots. 


He also hosts a local LA-based radio show where he pays tribute to “the heroes of black music, both sung and unsung.” 


Hip-hop in the streets, jazz in the sheets are words to live by.