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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

February 8, 2010 at 10:18 AM

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Music Monday: Sabzi (Blue Scholars) vs. Tay Sean (Helladope) in the curious case of "Just So You Know"

Posted by Andrew Matson

strickly sabzi.jpg
Sabzi, Jerm, Tay Sean (L-R)

"Just So You Know" by Helladope (Beacon Hill Slumlord remix) [Sabzi remix]

"Just So You Know" by Helladope (Vinyl Toy remix) [Sabzi remix]

"Just So You Know" by Helladope (instrumental)

These tracks are from "Strickly 4 My DJz," a freely downloadable online-only release from Seattle rap/R&B group Helladope. The zipped folder came out last fall with little fanfare, and includes tracks from "Return to Planet Rock," the soon-to-be-released debut album from producer/rapper/singer Tay Sean and rapper/singer Jerm.

"Strickly 4 My DJz" consists of one tweaked-out trip with local psychedelic space rap/jazz group THEESatisfaction ("Cosmic Voyage"), two unstoppable R&B/rap jams ("Shine On" and "Rainwater") and multiple versions of "Just So You Know," a low-key titan of a track that blends R&B, rap, and house music into a smooth, bass-heavy emulsion. It's a lifestyle jam about drinking, smoking, and trying to get with women in Seattle's South End, and has a natural vibe, like all these guys want to do is have a good time and feel the beat.

And what a beat it is. Accented with slippery electric pianos and trebly synthesizer pinpricks, the instrumental side of "Just So You Know" occupies a netherworldly space between genres without sounding like a forced novelty. It moves fast (around 130 beats per minute, I'm guessing) but also slow, half-time if you want to hear it that way. It's similar to Southern American rap in that one can choose to bounce to it or slide. For the same reason, it's ideal for remixing, something "Strickly 4 My DJz" encourages by giving it away in swearing, swearing-free, instrumental, and a capella versions.

So far, the reigning king of the "Just So You Know" remix is Renton's own 10-4 Roger, who focused on slowness and flipped it into a fading-away dub banger right after "Strickly 4 my DJz" came out (listen here). The song is still inspiring attempts. Recently, Seattle transplant DashEXP tried a dubstep take with mixed results (listen here).

I didn't listen to "Strickly 4 My DJz" when it came out. I already had mp3s of the original songs, and for whatever reason wasn't checking for the remixes on it. Maybe I didn't know they were there. I shouldn't have been so careless.

Turns out the "Beacon Hill Slumlord" and "Vinyl Toy" remixes of "Just So You Know" on "Strickly 4 My DJz" are by Sabzi, producer/DJ for Blue Scholars, still Seattle's most popular contemporary hiphop group. I listened last night and this morning and have this to report:

Both remixes are radical melodic reworkings of the song, a bold move because "Just So You Know" is already quite hummable. The "Beacon Hill Slumlord" remix is a major success, anchored by a beat made from drum sticks clacking together and a weird, wet-sounding snap/clap that reminds me of the percussion on Darkstar's dubstep monster "Aidy's Girl's a Computer." Smooth organ runs through the verse, slow-burning and gently minor-key, while the keyboard and synthesizer sounds of the original's chorus are revised, playing their same rhythmic roles but with different notes. It's a great remix. Almost as good as Roger's.

The "Vinyl Toy" remix sounds like it should be an Akon song, the way it blasts synthesizer brightness out of speakers, busy and cutesy. It's not my flavor, but I appreciate the craftsmanship.

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