Throwback Thursday gets an extra-special installment today, taking our nostalgic neurons back to a richly groovy and criminally under-recognized chapter of primordial hip-hop. Follow us down to the District (of Columbia, that is), wherein local artists laid down some of the best ’60s and ’70s r&b ever made–material that was later sampled and sprinkled into some of your favorite hip-hop cuts.
It’s no secret that D.C. blessed us with r&b legends like Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack and Peaches & Herb. But on a more local level, amongst all the capital’s money and power a boiling-hot collective of local artists was busy gigging and recording. The work put in by The Blackbyrds, The Soul Searchers, Black Heat and Skull Snaps predated the rise of go-go stylistics and is timeless in its own right. The snares are tight, the guitars are gritty and the organs swirl like money in the K Street breeze. Producers have been hip to this retro D.C. gold for decades and you can hear evidence in the sampling work of Pete Rock, Outkast, The Pharcyde, Wiz Khalifa, Ludacris and KRS-One to name a “few”.
Thanks to the brilliant work of D.C.-based photographer Eli Meir Kaplan we now have a comprehensive photographic record of the surviving members of the D.C. funk and soul scene . His Soul51 Project is a mission to photograph 51 artists who have gone on to be sampled by the producers of hip-hop, r&b and pop. Okayplayer is extremely hyped to bring you a collection of his work in this Throwback Thursday portfolio (see gallery above).
For your listening pleasure we’ve also crafted a handy 8tracks playlist of the classic D.C. soul cuts the creators created, each one followed by the hip-hop joint that sampled it. What a thing of beauty: a syncopated sonic history lesson that pays homage to the players who made it all possible. Ever wondered about those mighty, Matrix-making drums on “Passin’ Me By,” or the chopped up organ on Outkast‘s “Mighty ‘O'”? All will be revealed thanks to the diligent digging that Kaplan has put in. Learning the sampled lineage of a classic track is always a pleasure, but discovering just how much grade-A material came out of just Washington D.C. alone is a whole ‘nother kind of high. Scroll through the gallery, read Eli’s artist’s statement below, listen and enjoy (and hit the link for more).
“Beyond iconic monuments and grand government buildings, Washington, DC is home to a flourishing music scene. Aided by a prestigious music program at Howard University, producers Van McCoy and Al Johnson, and the coveted Howard Theatre stage, the capital of the United States produced an astonishing amount of talented soul and funk musicians in the 1960s and 70s. Soul51 is my effort to find out where many of those artists are now and to help recognize the music they created in their youth.”–Eli Meir Kaplan