New Music: Baby Elephant – Turn My Teeth Up!

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Baby ElephantIn light of the recent kerfuffle between myself and other Mother Jones staffers on whether offensive hip-hop can be good hip-hop, I thought I’d extend an olive branch with some progressive, jazzy grooves from Baby Elephant. Made up of De La Soul producer Prince Paul, vocalist Don Newkirk, and Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, their new album is understandably more in tune with classic funk than the current styles causing government entities (and supposedly liberal bloggers) to have fits. Lead single “Plainfield” features Digital Underground vocalist Shock G, but its mellow organ solo separates it from “Humpty Dance” by about a light year; track 6, “If You Don’t Wanna Dance,” with its wandering bass line and insistent chorus, could be straight out of the ’70s.

Anybody who remembers (or, say, still gets out and dances around the room to) De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising will remember the goofy skits between the songs; Prince Paul kind of invented this concept, we get even more elaborate mini-sketches here. What’s fun is that since iTunes gives you 30 second previews of songs, any track shorter than 30 seconds is, well, free; that means you can listen to most of the skits in their entirety without paying a dime, ladies and gentlemen! Check out how the “Funk Master,” on track 5, mistakes our heroes for cable repairmen!

The trio team up with David Byrne for “How Does My Brain Wave,” which sounds, understandably, like P-Funk meets Talking Heads, in the best possible sense. The album occasionally sinks into silliness: “Cool Runnins,” a kind of jokey reggae number, sounds a little like something from a Disney movie; and ballad “Crack Addicts in Love” is funny, but not really worth multiple listens. But the updated psychedelia of “Skippin Stonze,” with its filtered vocals and loping beat, has more in common with J Dilla than a comedy routine.

Grab an mp3 of “How Does the Brain Wave” at Spin.com or listen at their MySpace; Turn My Teeth Up! is out now on Godforsaken Music. Why didn’t I think of that name for a label?

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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