Wednesday, March 03, 2004


Oscar Brown, Jr. is a modern Renaissance man: producer, playwright, singer, composer, actor, social reformer, wouldbe politician, musician and director. Oscar has been all over the map and is still kickin' it.

The tracks posted here are all from Oscar's 1960 debut album, "Sin & Soul... And Then Some", a potential contender for best freshman release.

Edgy, political and hep as hell with smooth vocal flow and swingin' sounds; "Sin & Soul" has some legitimate contention as the greatgreatgranddaddy of conscious hip hop. A decade before Small Talk at 125th and Lenox dropped, Oscar was slingin' rhymes about the slave trade ("Bid Em In"), chain gangs ("Work Song") and black beauty ("Afro Blue").

Forty years plus later, these tracks are still exciting, cutting-edge stuff and Oscar Brown continues to stir it up. A longtime political activist, he recently performed his newest song at an anti-war rally, a "'simple blues' entitled 'Bullshit'".

Certainly some of Oscar's unjust underappreciation has to do with his unwillingness to fit into square pegs; most of his albums are out of print in the States and are available only as imports.

Time to put the spotlight back where it belongs.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Meet Oscar Brown Jr.

Oscar Brown Jr. - "Dat Dere"

Yep, same song as yesterday, this time blissed out mellow and spruced up with some great lyrics.

Brown's tribute to his "inquisitive child" is a touching bit of storytelling that reminds me somewhat of Stevie's "Isn't She Lovely?"

Great mixtape fodder for all the new parents out there.

"Hey Daddy, what's a 'square'?"

Oscar's bio
"Oscar's original plays include... the musical Big Time Buck White which appeared on Broadway and featured Muhammad Ali in its title role."
"We were really young zealots, and that went on till I got booted out of the Communist party when I was thirty years old, about 1956.
It was one of those situations where 'you can't fire me, I quit!' (laughs)
We fell out on the race question. I was just too black to be red!"

EXCELLENT incendiary interview (he claims to have discovered the Jackson 5!) plus thorough discography overview/recommendations.
Primo readin'.


Oscar Brown Jr. - "Work Song"

Brown takes a funky little jazz tune and turns it into moving prison blues.

Audacious and sweaty. Definitely one of my all-time favorites.

You'll be singing the chorus the rest of the week.

Check out Oscar's new album "Live Every Minute"
The reviews are lukewarm, but still probably worth a sniff.


Oscar Brown Jr. - "But I Was Cool"

Oscar was a contemporary and friend of Redd Foxx; this song reads like a draft for a stand up routine.

The gibbering screams of torment are inspired.

"This is what I said:
But I was cool."

And I discovered then that this is something that they dont want. They're ready for the guy who says "Off the Pig!", 'cause they're ready for that. They wish the hell you would come with that, you know? Because they want to kill you. But if you say something that is going to endear you to other people, if you're going to create sympathy, if you're going to create beauty, if they're going to see you in another light: that the establishment will not tolerate!"
A brief, more recent interview with Oscar.


Oscar Brown Jr. - "Somebody Buy Me a Drink"

Hip-hop smoothed out on the R&B tip, with a pop feel appeal to it; plus one hell of a well-told story.

Tom Waits before Tom Waits was Tom Waits.

This was my old pal John List's fave song.
Hope you Google your way here someday, son.

Purchase "Sin & Soul... And Then Some" from Amazon
Another must have for your collection. His versions of "Afro Blue" and "Forbidden Fruit" (definitely NOT the Holiday version) alone are worth the price of admission.


Oscar wasn't the first to rap over jazz beats. Tomorrow we'll take a look at another proto-hip hop/jazz pioneer from the early fifties(!): King Pleasure.
Don't touch that dial.


More breakdown on my blogroll:

Contributing is the two filters I do most of my extemporaneous posting to.

Sportsfilter is where I first cut my teeth.

I was a longtime Metafilter lurker and eventually grew so tired of lurking that I climbed on-board over there this past November.

My early posts over there were so clunky and link-laden that I was accused of autism; I took that as encouragement and proceeded to put together a pair of OBSCENELY complicated posts that still rank as some of the work I'm proudest of... even if they are kind of scary to look at.

Take a peek and tell me what you think: the first was about the Boston Red Sox Curse, of all things (I'm not a baseball fan); the second was an overview of "animal sportsmanship" (with 95 interior links [insert interrobang here]).

These posts were something less than time efficient; I think that second one took over twelve hours to put together.

Ultimately, I was unhappy with not having control over the layout and frustrated by lack of response, so I set off in search of greener pastures to do my more obsessive work.

These days I mostly _read_ SPOFI and post or comment only if the topic is something I'm especially motivated by.

I _DO_ continue to contribute to the Lockerroom (the SPOFI equivalent of Meta's Talk) with a weekly mini-feature: the "Sport or Not a Sport" poll.

SPOFI is a great forum and highly recommended for all you ESPN junkies, but I needed something for my wilder side.

Thank tracicle for Monkeyfilter.

At only four months of age, MOFI has become a 600+ member community freestyle fray of newsfilter, weirdfilter, sciencelinks and injokes galore. Initially created as a Metafilter clone for frustrated wannabes, MOFI has turned into a different beast: a filter that prides itself on its politeness and restraint.

Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Monkeyfilter is.
You have to see it for yourself.

Seriously, any of you metalurkers out there should totally stop by MOFI ("the lavender alternative) and join in the fray. We'll save a cuppa cockpunch for ya.

Mix CD's were sent out about five days ago to Gardner Linn in California and "Zia" in London; hopefully we should shortly be receiving reviews for publication.

If you'd like to take part in the next set of mix madness, leave a message in my comments with your email and I'll get in touch with the first two commenters. I'd love to make this an worldwide thing, but with international postage running over five bucks (you'd better like this damn thing "Zia"!) I think I may need to make it U.S. only... unless you could pitch in a couple of bucks for stamps; in which case, by all means let's make it happen!

This weeks mix CD theme is THE LETTER B.

If you want a CD, you're obliged to write a review within a few days of receiving said disc for publication in th' Hut.

Leave a message at the tone.


I'm starting to worry that my general loquaciousness is starting to overwhelm the page with clutter.

What's your opinion; is it time for me to try to redesign or is the layout okay?