Q+A: Oliver Wang

April 25, 2007

We recently caught up with hip-hop scholar, professor, DJ and Soul Sides patriarch Oliver Wang to ask him about the second of his Soul Sides compilations Volume Two: The Covers, about his inspirations and favorites, and a little bit about snitching. Volume Two is out May 22nd on Zealous Records where you can already grab Volume One. For a tracklisting, cover image and full Q+A with O-Dub, make the jump.

Track Listing:

1. "Fever" Sharon Cash

2. "Feelin' Alright" West Coast Revival

3. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" Al Green

4. "Home Is Where the Hatred Is" Esther Phillips

5. "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" Marcia Griffiths

6. "Che Che Cole" Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

7. "Kissing My Love" Spanky Wilson

8. "Let's Straighten It Out" O.V. Wright

9. "It's Your Thing" Cold Grits

10. "Express Yourself" Byron Lee and the Dragonaires

11. "Walk On By" El Michaels Affair

12. "Viva Tirado" Los Mozambiques

13. "Be Thankful For What You Got" Donovan Carless

Bonus Track

"What A Man" Laura Lee

What made you decide to do the Soul Sides compilations in the first place?

Kevin Drost at Zealous Records approached me with the idea. I had been planning on creating some Soul Sides-related mixtapes but his suggestion was to put out a formal anthology and then test to see if people who are fans of music vis a vis audioblogs could be similarly enticed to pay for an album vs. being used to getting those tunes for free. Music For Robots had already tested the waters with that instead and Drost thought it'd be an interesting opportunity to see where viral marketing and old-fashioned album-making might come together.

How did you go about choosing the theme for Volume Two and then the tracks?

Given the theme (covers), I started with a master list of my favorites - a "shoot the moon" list, so to say, which was focused more on quality than rarity though, of course, you want to balance between the two. Then Kevin figured out which of those songs were actually clear-able and based on the remainder, we whittled it down to the final playlist.

How did you initially become interested in soul music?

Like most in my generation, it began with hip-hop and samples. Once I became curious about what folks like Marley Marl, A Tribe Called Quest, Prince Paul and Pete Rock were looping from, it very quickly lead to just an interest in soul/funk/jazz across the board, regardless of sampling. But it definitely began with a love for hip-hop.

What are your thoughts on the use of soul music in hip hop now? Is it still as exciting as when you first became interested in it?

Absolutely - something like UGK/Three 6 using Willie Hutch sounds as good, if not better than what Rza was doing a decade ago. I think hip-hop and soul will always be intimately joined.

Is hip hop, in general, as interesting to you now as it was then?

It's as interesting...just not as compelling, if that makes sense. I'm not a 16 year old, discovering hip-hop for the first time anymore. I have broader tastes in music but I do know that hip-hop is as exciting for many 16 year olds today as it was for me, way back when. For that reason, I don't buy into the whole "hip hop is dead" argument. Clearly, for many people, it's not. So long as they're into it, whatever my opinion is of the matter is rather inconsequential.

Other than what you've put on the compilations, do you have any all time favorite soul/funk jams?

Rather than suggest songs–since these are always changing–let me offer a few albums that I would consider essential...

Eddie Kendricks, People...Hold On

The Sylvers, II

Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, Together

Aretha Franklin, I've Never Loved a Man

Who are some of the artists now that are recreating this sound/heavily influenced by this sound that you're into?

Definitlely Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators, Mark Ronson (surprisingly enough), and Quantic Soul Orchestra are all folks I'd keep an ear on.

Will there be any shows or events tied into the release of Volume Two?

We're still in the process of putting together a few release parties - we'll definitely do one in Los Angeles, hopefully one in San Francisco and New York and we're also inviting other DJs to host their own (even though I personally won't be able to "tour" with this, not now at least).

Any plans for a third volume? If so, what are you thinking of for the theme?

It obviously depends on how well Volume Two does but for me personally, I definitely want to keep on putting out comps and/or mixtapes. Theme-wise, I'd still like to put together a comp of all female artists though it might be fun to go back to the theme-less format of Vol. 1 and be able to pick from across a wider spectrum.

Where can people buy the Soul Sides comps?

All the major online retailers will definitely have it and I'll be selling copies through Soul-Sides.com, most likely with some kind of bonus disc thrown in.

Outside of the Soul Sides stuff, do you have any thoughts on Cam'ron's comments on snitching?

At least Cam was candid. I find it rather incredible that he wouldn't turn in a mass murderer living next door to him, just to maintain cred. Talk about an incredible act of selfishness. I wonder if Cam, watching that segment on TV, thought to himself, "maybe that was a dumb thing to say." But I'm glad he said it because it really does draw the veil back on how much rappers like these are posing - they're too afraid of what the streets might say to actually act with integrity. They better watch out for karma, just saying.

Posted: April 25, 2007
Q+A: Oliver Wang