Local Grooves

Various artists
War (If It Feels Good, Do It!) (Hip Hop Slam)

I prefer artful noise to agitprop, and I'll take grizzled gangsta rap over bombastic edutainment any day. In fact, I'm probably the hardest sale for Hip Hop Slam's socially conscious compilation, War (If It Feels Good, Do It!).

To Hip Hop Slam's credit, though, many of the tracks on War have a lasting impact, in both their political and artistic dimensions. Highlights include DJ Stoic's "Land Mine" – which splices Ralph Stanley's doleful "Oh Death" with a sample from Digable Planets' "Femme Fatale" – and Shing02's tersely lyrical "Since by Man Came Death." On the title track, DJs of Mass Destruction expose the ugly underside of U.S. foreign policy by intercutting sound bites from President George W. Bush with jagged record scratches. Halfway through the song, Bush announces, with perfect aplomb, "And tonight I have a message for the people of Iraq: go home and die."

Not every song is that effective: some artists simply mishmash sinister quotes from Bush, or assail us with platitudes about government corruption. The interlude "Emcee Dubya vs. Guvna Aaarnold" sounds facile, as does Aya de Leon's spoken word piece "Thin Line/Stop the War."

Granted, Hip Hop Slam may be preaching to the initiated, but War is definitely worth checking out. Overall, the album is technically robust and seamlessly put together – laced with enough dope beats and studio effects to appeal to hip-hop heads and electronica fans alike. (Rachel Swan)

E.C. Scott
The Other Side of Me (Black Bud)

E.C. Scott is a thoroughly modern, take-charge blueswoman. When she goes shopping, the East Bay vocalist brags, all she has to tell her man is "that one, please." At other times Scott is vulnerable, but at least she knows it. "I'm just an open-minded fool / Trying to make my dreams come true with one night with you," she admits in another original tune from her fourth CD, The Other Side of Me, dropping the names of porn stars along the way.

Scott writes some of the smartest lyrics in contemporary blues – many in collaboration with producing partner Larry Batiste – and uses her husky contralto to deliver them in a straightforward, often sassy manner. Besides the dozen originals on The Other Side of Me, Scott offers a gripping reading of the Johnnie Taylor hit "Doin' My Own Thing" and reaches back to her West Oakland church roots to transform Curtis Mayfield's quasi-gospel "People Get Ready" into a full-fledged salute to Jesus Christ. Venerable blues singer-guitarist Little Milton duets with Scott on two numbers, and guitarists Bill Ireton, Vernon Black, and Chris Cobb also make notable contributions. Ireton is especially scorching on "This Ain't Yo Daddy's Kind of Blues," a high-octane mix of blues, soul, and rock that exemplifies Scott's 21st-century approach to the genre.

E.C. Scott performs Sat/29, Biscuits and Blues, S.F. (415) 292-2583. (Lee Hildebrand)

November 26, 2003