Today, America votes to elect the president who'll serve for the next four years. In 2009's FADER #59, Philly-born and Brooklyn-based DJ Cosmo Baker selected this group of old songs to celebrate the beginning of Barack Obama's first term.
The Impressions This Is My Country (Curtom 1968)
This album was recorded in perhaps the most turbulent year of the ’60s. A major war was in full swing and the citizens of America were more divided than ever (sounds kind of familiar). Curtis Mayfield was an innovator in infusing politically and socially conscious messages into music, and he hit his stride with this album. Rocked by the deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, Mayfield tells the man that all is not lost on the song “They Don’t Know,” singing, Every brother is a leader. And now, forty years later, it seems as though the country has listened.
Joe Henderson Power to the People (Milestone 1969)
After the death of John Coltrane in 1967, there was a palpable change of mood within the jazz community. The music started slanting towards the spiritual, and that trend combined with the burgeoning black consciousness movement. The emerging sound of funk was then fused with jazz and placed within its avant garde structures. Henderson and his contemporaries (several of whom appear on this album, including Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette and Ron Carter) were instrumental in this new movement. Titling it Power to the People was a clear declaration of purpose and, although it’s strictly instrumental, the message within the music is quite clear.
Styles P f. Jadakiss & Eve “We Gonna Make It (Remix)” 12-inch (Ruff Ryders 2001)
Straight up, this is my shit. There’s nothing more triumphant sounding than that Samuel Jonathan Johnston sample with those horns and strings just killing it. The refrain, We gon make it/ We gon make it, just makes me think of victory. I wish that hook was on infinite loop in my head, and I really think this should have been the official Obama campaign theme. Now if only I could get the shit that the government got, like bathtubs that lift up and walls that do 360s.
McFadden & Whitehead “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now (Phillies Version)” 12-inch (TSOP 1981)
This Philly disco classic is the ultimate in positive empowerment messages set to a boogie beat. The Sound of Philadelphia’s in-house songwriters Gene McFadden and John Whitehead wrote many of producers Gamble & Huff’s big hits, but one of the label’s biggest came directly from them. This song is like the anthem of Philadelphia, and became even more so in late 1980 when they re-cut it to coincide with the Phillies’ first World Series win. I dusted it off this October for the Phillies’ second World Series win and let it coast all the way though the election the week after.
Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s Damn Right I Am Somebody (People 1974)
This record was recorded during the same sessions as James Brown’s album The Payback and it’s just as potent. The title track, along with “Blow Your Head,” “I’m Payin’ Taxes, What Am I Buyin’” and the ultimate escapists fantasy theme song, “If You Don’t Get It The First Time, Back Up & Try It Again, Party” all bubble with the sound of The Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk. Dig the message that’s written over and over again on the back of the jacket: “Positive Thinking, Positive Thinking, Positive Thinking, Think That You’re Somebody And You’ll Be Somebody.”
Archie Whitewater Archie Whitewater (Cadet Concept 1970)
On November 3rd, 2004, I woke up filled with dread and not sure what I was going to do for the next four years. November 5th, 2008 was the exact opposite. I felt like the whole fucking world had changed and there was infinite possibility. Just mad happy. It’s the same way I feel when I listen to this Archie Whitewater album (not a real dude, just the name of the band). This jazz/funk/soul/rock hybrid is made for those days when shit is sweet. Sample fodder for sure on this record, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Dark Sun Riders “Time to Build” 12-inch (Island 1996)
This slept on mid-’90s hip-hop track is a private mind garden classic for sure. Dark Sun Riders were the second incarnation of X-Clan, with Brother J (one of the best rappers ever) dropping his unique brand of knowledge over dark and moody beats instead of P-Funk loops. It’s even better than itsounds, and check for the remix by Ali Shaheed Muhammad. We need a petition to bring this type of conscious rap back.
Leon’s Creation This Is the Beginning (Studio 10 1970)
A privately pressed record out of San Francisco, this is a great example of some groovy psychedelic soul. I don’t know much about this record other than it’s banging and makes me feel on top of the world. At the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about? Viva Obama! Viva America!