Researching the Blues, WHEN you have been grinding in the game as long as Churchill’s original rapper, John Smith, it’s not surprising he is as comfortable hanging out trading stories with tough blue collar workers up north as he is dropping rhymes to eager urban hip hop crowds. Joseph Winter has never been your typical hip-hop artist, while he writes songs about fleeting love, getting old, booze and the ups and downs of life; he never glamorizes the struggles or the lifestyle he has chosen — he just doesn’t care what you think about his choices. Partying too hard, never-ending bills, dead-end jobs, relationships that come and go from your life, Big Smitty writes about what he and so many disenchanted 20- and 30-somethings can relate to.
This isn’t about being flashy, although he has style and a way withh wordsd thath tipsi hihis hhat to the street, while making you think. Life may get in the way of songs sometimes, but Smith has never really slowed down since the ’90s, getting better with every release. Backed by production from Brandon/Winnipeg ex-pat mcenroe, who deals Big Smitty a winning hand with beats perfectly crafted for his style behind the mike, letting the MC flex his skills over a bed of slow winding bass, quirky, playful drums, cheap Casio synths and even some simple guitar hooks. Smith may be a veteran MC, but Ol’ Man Winter proves he hasn’t lost a step.
John Smith performs on Saturday at Grippin Grains’ free BBQ and later hosts their Three Year Anniversary party at The Pyramid. best, together. Kiko is the kind of album that showcases everyone in the band and then some, and there is no shortage of fireworks here. Steve Berlin, Cesar Rosas, David Hidalgo, Conrad Lozano, Louie Perez and drummer Cougar Estrada pull out all the stops bringing the album’s creative vibe, from Tex-Mex polkas to smooth ballads and outright blues rockers, to full realization here.
The concert songs are interspersed with interesting interviews with each member, and their views on the album, the unique recording process and much else and is both engaging and enlightening. By 1992 Los Lobos was becoming the superior “jam” band it is today, so some of the songs do wander off into a near-psychedelic hot zone at times making this more than a mechanical replay of the album, in a good way. All considered this DVD, along with companion CD and 20th Anniversary Edition of the original album newly remastered will definitely please anyone who loves authentic, American music. the soul. The 15-track set is the kind of record that oozes confidence yet plays around the edges of experimentation while making it’s way to informing you of what Jal has experienced in life and his views on world politics.
Hardcore hip-hop fans will find plenty to dig in tracks like Ghetto and We Want Peace and She Likes Me while the reggae righteous will vibe instantly with Kush and the sunshiny sweet Nyam Nyam. There are a few repeated vocal mannerisms and keyboard effects that are a bit crazy making but all told See Me Mama is a world beat fest that will please any fan of the style. Worth a listen. ½
It’s a great disc by a musician with terrific skills and a clear vision of his jazz.