by Ann Marie Collymore
Last month, Beyoncé had fellow artists and fans alike in a tizzy because of her performance of her twangy “Daddy Lessons” at the 2016 Country Music Awards. Around her appearance swirled various controversial perspectives about why she shouldn’t have been allowed to perform. Incidentally, the song was rejected by the Grammys for consideration in the Country category, yet she was nominated for a rock performance award for her Jack White collabo “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Go figure.
“Daddy Lessons” stands on its own as a cautionary tale for many who tend to conveniently forget their music history. Or, perhaps don’t know it at all. While country is deeply rooted in the blues, other genres respectively found themselves being birthed out of, or dipping into, many other musical styles. Without getting into a history lesson on an epic scope, it can clearly be stated that soul, R&B, and hip hop--with their sound and musical properties, lyrical prowess and instrumentation/sampling--are all related. And the recent beat-tape project #PregameVL1 from Daru Jones and Marcus Machado is an ideal example of how various genres come together on a body of work that could easily fall into the precarious abyss of being pigeonholed.
Hot off the heels of the Marcus Machado and Friends sold-out show at Apollo Music Cafe where the entire venue was brought to their feet with guest artists like Carmen Rodgers, Pharoah Monch, Angela Johnson and more, the atmosphere certainly gave the attendees something to talk about covering different styles of music.
“It was like worlds colliding.” said Jones. “We're all friends with each other but it was just good to have that platform. 2016 was a rough year with all the different passings. We did a tribute to Prince, we did a tribute to David Bowie, we did a tribute to Maurice White, so it was just a good match of the perfect people to be able to convey that.”
Jones, who coincidentally has a place of dwelling in and also works from Nashville, and Machado are a pair of artists who individually foster a distinct sound, yet merge to create arrangements and compositions that cover all of their respective influences.
The #PregrameVL1 beattape, brought to you by Daru, Marcus and their band The Royal Pharaohs, is a praiseworthy project of hip hop, funk, soul, R&B and rock influences delivered in a 33 minute instrumental takeover of your senses. They cover tunes from Q-Tip, Prince, D’Angelo, Jimi Hendrix and more with mad vibrancy.
Over the years, renowned and acclaimed drummer and producer Jones (Jack White, Slum Village, Pete Rock) has branded his own artistic ventures and sound as ‘soul-hop’ by blending the influences of jazz, hip hop and soul in his production. Additionally, hearing Machado play is like listening to someone anointed by Jimi Hendrix himself, even when laying down a Dilla track. It really wouldn’t be fair to simply cram their work in a proverbial box, label it and send it off to the masses. With this in mind, overall, both artists are staunch believers in understanding the roots of musical genres.
“It’s very important for me to respect the musical genres because without knowing the history and where it came from, it’s a major loss.” said Machado. “Everything you listen to now these days was already created. It’s just that they add their spin to it.” Jones adds, “When I got exposed to Jazz, I went and I studied who were the top dudes. Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Tony Williams. I went and studied so that way I could learn my history. Same with R&B and all of the different genres that I was exposed to. I went back and I got every CD or cassette. I went and did my studies. At that time it wasn't on YouTube, we had to transcribe what we heard just through ear. For me, I think it gave me an advantage that forced me to really be creative."
The duo met through DJ Spinna and have maintained a kinship to this day. Since their friendship blossomed, doors have opened for them to work together on various upcoming projects — most recently, Pete Rock’s recent release with Smoke DZA titled Don’t Smoke Rock (where Pete rock hired The Royal Pharaohs to recreate track samples) and the upcoming collaboration with rock icon Living Colour alum Doug Wimbish called DMD. Musically, you can hear the synergy between Daru and Marcus. When asked about their take on their fellow bredren, both actually responded along the same lines — it all comes down to the energy. “We go off of each other, it’s like having a conversation. Anytime we play together, we’re always creating on the spot. And what Daru brings out in the drums is unbelievable. He is a human drum machine and there is no one like him.” said Machado. While Daru states, “You know what's crazy? I feel like my steps and my journey is ordered. You know when something feels right. And this feels right, because ever since we've been together, it's been like the walls of heaven (laughs). Marcus is way ahead of his time. This cat has been playing since he was two...that boy is bad! I’m so honored to be playing beside him.”
You can download #PregameVL1 on Daru’s independent label, Rusic Records.