After years of giving great beats and huge hits to some of the finest hip-hop and R&B acts, Jay Dee has finally been given the free rein his creative genius deserves. Easily one of the greatest, most open-minded and free moments in all of Detroit hip hop, Jay Dee’s new LP, Welcome to Detroit, may just be his masterpiece. So far, this fantastic work is the album of the year. At times sounding unfinished, but always rough, rugged and raw, the LP stumbles upon greatness through the casualness of a basement jam. Taking the open environment of a casual hook-up, with different vocal collaborators stopping by, blazing and boozing, it features such future all-stars as Frank ’n’ Dank, Phat Kat and Beej.
From the inebriation comes the innovation of grooves. Ranging from a tribute to Fela’s drummer, Tony Allen, to an Earth, Wind and Fire cover and Brazilian rhythms, this man has a taste for the best of rhythm itself. There are no barriers here. The rhythms come from everywhere: live musicians in the studio, sampled records and Dee’s patented SP-1200 beats. Choosing to take on everything from the obscure to the most common, he states, “I like to freak shit that’s been abused, just to see if I can do something different with it.”
The lyrics are just as inventive and very Detroit-focused, referencing everything from Michigan weather to the Wizard and Mojo. With the future classic “Pause,” featuring Frank ‘n’ Dank, and the techno wizardry of “Big Booty Express,” this album cannot be overlooked. This is the first release in BBE’s Beat Generation series — next is Pete Rock. (Other people making records include Marly Marl, Jazzy Jeff, King Britt and more to be announced.)
After years of anticipation, the Wizard finally returned to Detroit at the State Theatre on Thursday, March 1 for an event called “Mecca 2001.” The show began at 9 p.m. with Jeff Mills appearing in front of a monolith and proceeding to play a thematically programmed set going from era to era. He began with electro and the early-’80s breakdancing vibe, complete with screens showing some of the best breakers from that time. He quickly moved through periods, heading on to showcase the best of ’80s gay club music, and on through techno bits of his own creation to his trademark live 909 workouts. Then it was back through hip-hop classics, forgotten techno and rave gems — giving the audience the best of every dance style from the early ’80s until now. Highlights included “Stings of Life,” followed by “Changes of Life” and closing with his own classic, “Step to Enchantment,” from the Mecca EP on Axis. Jeff played well, but was not at his absolute best, probably due to issues with the sound quality that the audience was hearing.
Having played a live Wizard set prime-time on WJLB the night before, Mills was able to pull in a great crowd. The audience was one of the most diverse I’ve seen at any Detroit show, with electronic music fans of all eras (from Shari Vari through to the present) and just about every significant Detroit producer from Carl Craig to Eminem. If anybody is looking to give back to the Wizard and send him copies of his old radio mixes (he never archived them and really wants them), send old Wizard tapes to: The Wizard c/o Axis Records, 28 E. Jackson, Suite 1910, Chicago, IL 60604.
In other news
After a short hiatus, the Transmat Thursdays at Temple are back, every other Thursday. Having just kicked the night off again with Derrick May, the series continues on March 22 with Alton Miller vs. Theo Parrish. $5 cover, 21+ at Temple, 344 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale. Call 248-414-7400.
For all those curious, DEMF 2001 will be held May 26-28, from noon to midnight each day in Hart Plaza. The performing artists will be announced sometime this month. Expect this year to be even bigger, with far more people coming in from around the globe to witness the best free electronic music festival in the world. This could turn the DEMF into a healthy alternative to overblown dance music conventions such as the Winter Music Conference. Also expect far more after-parties competing in the evenings for the crowd’s energy. Watch the DEMF 2001 Web site for more info at www.electronicmusicfest.com. They’re taking volunteers to work the fest via their Web page.E-mail Pitch’d at firstname.lastname@example.org