A couple of weeks back, Oakulture wrote about the high talent level of Oakland’s female vocalists. In the comments section, educator and cultural mover and shaker Hodari Davis suggested we add Candice Antique Wicks to our list. The omission wasn’t intended; we simply hadn’t had a chance to hear Wicks perform, or listen to any of her material.
After Saturday night’s show at the Legionnaire, not only can we add her to that list, but it can be safely said she’s in a league of her own. Wicks, who prefers to be called Antique, has a new project with Tommy “Soulati” Shepherd called Antique Naked Soul. The group has just released an eponymous experimental soul album which eschews traditional instrumentation: all the sounds on the 10-track CD are supplied via voice, whether Antique’s leads and layered harmonies, Jayme Brown and N’Gala McCoy’s backing vox, or Soulati’s beatboxed basslines, snares and kick drums, trumpets, turntable scratches, and occasional raps. The album treads upon some classic terrain – including the gospel standard “Wade in the Water” and the James Brown funk throwdown “The Payback” – as well as original tunes like “Fools Gold,” “Moment of Honesty,” “Kongress” and “Warrior.” Oakulture doesn’t say this lightly, but Antique Naked Soul is as creatively exhilarating an album as anything that’s come out of Oakland in a long time.
As good as the album (handed out free to invitees Saturday and available here) is, the band Antique Naked Soul sounded even better live. The show commenced with Antique on stage with a couple of microphones and a couple of samplers. She proceeded to lay down a cappella vocals in layers, building up tracks out of sample loops, then singing over the top of those tracks. Her set was super dope – that tactic for live performance allows for zero distraction from the vocalist’s technique and approach. It’s a minimalist way of looking at live music, but one which allows for intimate glimpses into the artistic process. The only other artist we’ve seen who’s done something similar is Zap Mama, circa early 2000s, at Bimbo’s.
Antique finessed her way through a slightly-altered version of “Summertime,” changing the lyrics to reflect an urban reality that wasn’t quite as blithely positive as Gershwin’s version; “The bills are mounting/ and the gas is high” were substituted for the more familiar words, “fish are jumping/and the cotton is high.” Another song paid tribute to Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist who passed earlier this year.
During a set break, Davis addressed the crowd. Talented local artists, he said, need to be heard and seen in other markets. “Our goal is to get local artists as much exposure as possible,” he told folks.
For the second set, Antique (who changed her outfit) and Soulati were joined by Brown and McCoy. The a cappella band ran through many of the album tracks, and every song sounded like a highlight. The low-end supplied by Soulati on “Lay Low” slapped as hard as any trap rap beat in recent memory, while the background harmonies recalled the glory days of En Vogue. Antique’s leads soared majestically over that melodic, rhythmic foundation, with lyrics which addressed life in today’s urban cities: “don’t roll through the hood with your guard down cause these streets don’t care about you/ we fed up with the struggle, done turned to the hustle, living in war zone.” Another song, “Money,” presented a scenario many can relate to: a friend who dodges phone calls after being lent $100. What a nice, honest change the songs made from the celebration of material excess that saturate mainstream music nowadays. Naked Antique Soul also pulled off spectacular renditions of “The Payback” and “Wade in the Water,” along with Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” while Soulati showcased his ability to morph into seemingly any instrument during a solo set.
All in all, it was a remarkable performance, especially in the intimate confines of the Legionnaire’s upper room. Oakulture now has a new favorite band. Being hipped to talented artists that had previously flown under our radar is one of the best things about Oakland’s local music scene.
It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a year since legendary DJ Matthew Africa was tragically killed in a car accident. Africa is gone, but not forgotten: this past Wednesday, an all-star lineup of local spinners paid tribute to him at the Night Light, on what would have been his 41st birthday.
Africa’s legacy includes being a friend, mentor, and music resource for an entire generation of Bay Area DJs. A beat-digger supreme, he was known for being up on the original source material for hip-hop samples and for his encyclopedic knowledge of breakbeats.
It sends chills up the spine to read Africa’s last blog post, announcing his August 2012 appearance at the 45 Sessions: “This Friday I’m playing at the 45 Sessions, an all-45 monthly hosted by some friends from the Oakland Faders crew, DJ Platurn, E Da Boss & DJ Enki. (Also playing with us, the homie stromie Joe Quixx!.)
These days I really never play 45 sets except when I’m out in NYC and drop in on friends who do vinyl parties like Mr. Finewine or JBX. The last time I remember doing that on the west coast was for an all-45 45th birthday party for my friend DJ Stef (an idea I may be biting sooner than I wish).
As a warm-up for the 45 Sessions, I made a little mix, pulling out about 100 records and sort of going from there. It’s mostly 70s era funk and soul– lots of classics, some recent favorites, some oddities. Hopefully there’s some “oh shit, it’s great to hear that”, some “wait, what the hell is that?” and maybe an “ooh, he’s got that?” or “wait, that’s on 45?!?” or two.” (a link to that mix is here.)
Oakulture was at that show, and took a picture of Africa playing during his set, which became the centerpiece for an altar, displayed Wednesday. Also on display were pictures of Africa and his homies over the years.
Despite the heavy emotions many felt over Africa’s loss, the overall mood was celebratory, as DJ after DJ dropped great tune after great tune. Platurn and Joe Quixx’s sets were particularly memorable and very much Africa-esque, as they weaved in and out of original sample material and the hip-hop tracks that utilized them. Not much more that can be added, except, we miss you, Matthew!
Oakulture loves us some house party, and we especially love Halloween-themed house parties, because everyone dresses in costume. One of the best annual house parties in the Town every year is the Hellaween bash thrown by DJ Styles at 1027 Lofts in the Fruitvale District. Though we arrived at the party fairly late—after the Antique Naked Soul show—it was still in full swing, with Styles, Aebl Dee and Riddm manning the sound system, and hordes of costumed revelers grooving and having a great time. The best costume? Probably the guy who dressed as the shark from “Jaws,” complete with half-eaten surfboard. Though we left at about 2:30 am, rumor has it the party went on until 4:30 in the morning!
This week’s picks:
Supernatural Seoul: Ghosts of Dogtown, 10/31, 7pm, $40, Fusebox, 2311 #A Magnolia St.
Future Shock Halloween with Bang Data and Foreign Legion, 10/31, 10pm, free, the Legionnaire, 2272 Telegraph
Future Ancestors by Dignidad Rebelde – Solespace 1 yr Anniversary, 11/1, 6pm, free, Solespace, 1714 Telegraph
No Half Steppin – works by Marlon Sagana Ingram, 11/1, 6pm, free, Shoe Groupie, 1623 Broadway
Ensemble Mik Nawooj, 11/1, 10pm, $15, Yoshis Oakland, 510 Embarcadero
Ricky Vincent author talk, 11/2, 2pm, free, Oakland Main Library, 125 14th St.
A Sexy Halloween featuring Gyptian, 11/2, 9pm-3am, $30 (presale), New Karibbean City, 1408 Webster