John Morrison's Philly Top 5: Positive birthday vibes and magnificent lunch breaks with Tuff Crew, DJ Jazzy Jeff and more - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

This November marks my 43rd year on planet earth. For 25 of those 43 years, I’ve worked as a music writer and the more things stay the same, the more I desperately try to change them. Last month, in this column, I talked about the challenges facing music journalists today, but I’m saying all of this from a place of optimism. In recent years, I’ve been blessed to be able to parlay music knowledge and experience as a music writer into other areas of media. Despite having a pretty clear vision of the future for myself, I’m still writing, and at its core, the work that I do remains the same. My approach to writing is broad in regard to era and genre and it is all fueled by the joy of discovery. I don’t know exactly what the next few years will bring, but I know that no matter what I’m doing, I’ll do it from the same place of enthusiasm where I started. In that spirit, here are five Philly-related things that caught my ear during my 43rd birthday month…

The Black Science Orchestra – “Philadelphia

For more than three decades, British DJ/Producer, Hallam Ashley Beedle has been lighting up dance floors with his rich house music tracks. Working under the aliases Black Sunshine and Daddy Ash as well as groups like The East Village Loft Society and Black Jazz Chronicles, Beedle’s tunes draw a connective line between dance music’s history and its present. Some of Beedle’s finest work has come under the name The Black Science Orchestra and 1994’s “Philadelphia” is one of his best moments. With its lush keys, brass and driving beat, “Philadelphia” pays loving homage to the sound of Philadelphia’s soul and disco sound. Despite being released two decades after Gamble & Huff’s height, “Philadelphia” is a proper 90s update of the 70s sound.

The Black Science Orchestra - Philadelphia [1994]

Tuff Crew – “My Part Of Town”

In the cannon of Philly hip-hop classics, Tuff Crew’s “My Part Of Town” sits at the top. From its distinctive guitar intro to DJ Too Tuff’s lightning-fast scratches, “My Part Of Town” remains a staple at block parties and in DJ sets city-wide. This month, Tuff Crew released an updated version of the song with a brand new video. Tone Love, Ice Dog, L.A. Kid, and Too Tuff all rock it and I’m looking forward to their new album, Back By Dope Demand which is slated to come out soon.

Tuff Crew - My Part Of Town - New Video 2023

Charles Earland – Charles III

With luminaries like Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Mcgriff, Trudy Pitts and Shirley Scott, Philadelphia has been the home of some of the best organists in jazz history. One Philly-born titan of the Hammond B3 organ was the great jazz virtuoso, Charles Earland. His records always pop up in thrift stores and vinyl shops and are all relatively inexpensive. One of my favorites from his catalog is 1973’s Charles III. With tunes ranging from the funky b-boy jam, “Girl You Need a Change of Mind” to the blistering psychedelic jazz jam “Lowdown,” Charles III is packed with funky grooves, fuzz guitars and Earland’s supple organ sound.

Charles Earland - Charles III

Rahsheed & Ill Advised – Internal Affairs

Rahsheed & Ill Advised were one of the best groups to come out of Philly’s underground rap scene in the 90s. Internal Affairs is a previously unreleased collection of their old recordings and it contains some heavy hitting tracks. DJ Jazz, The LG Experience and Alchemist handle production duties and Black Thought and Malik B of The Roots make an appearance on the remix “,” a cut that got a lot of burn back in ’98. This is one of the strongest unreleased rap albums of the era that I’ve heard.

Jazzy Jeff – Magnificent Lunch Break (11/22/2023)

During the COVID lockdowns, DJ Jazzy Jeff’s live streams offered a little slice of the club when all of us were confined to our homes and needing an escape from the pandemic. Jeff has since kept these live streams going with special events, sets from guest DJs and his daily Magnificent Lunch Break. On the afternoon of November 22nd, I tuned into Jeff’s Lunch Break and his set provided the musical score for part of my workday. From Omar Lye-fook’s groovy bossa nova jam “Crazy” and Hiroshi Suzuk’s “Romance,” to R&B classics from SWV and Guy, Jeff’s selection was on point as always and the stream was a nice, warm highlight of my day.

DJ Jazzy Jeff - Magnificent Lunch Break (Live From The Defected Basement)
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