I guess I listen to music for lots of reasons. For a long time I thought I'd be a musician rather than artist, and the music I listen to has profoundly influenced my approach to making art. It was listening to the RZA's production with the Wu-Tang Clan that showed me a way forward with my art, taking the cut and paste aesthetic, a series of quotes creating this new thing. And emotional content is very important for me, to create things that are more than just academic exercises, and the soul music has had a lot to do with that. Analysing my relationship to the music I love is something I keep going back to as a way of thinking about our relationship to culture. Why do I love this music, and not other genres? How can I, a British white geek, have an authentic relationship with this American black music? 

Eric B and Rakim – Follow The Leader

This is great for getting me going in the morning. A driving bassline, ferocious lyrics that just go on and on, and it becomes a journey out into space with the R. "And remember- you're not a slave. Cos we was put here to be much more than that,"   


Mobb Deep – Shook Ones Part 2    


Another "let off steam" track, with one of the finest breaks ever used. "Stab your brain with your nosebone" indeed...

GZA – 4th Chamber  

From the golden age of the Wu, when every album was outstanding and unique, and the RZA was still on permanent production duty, this track gets me every time. The dirty bass intro, the classical imagery... It was through this Album, "Liquid Swords", that I got into all the Lone Wolf and Cub films, as the weird westernised version "Shogun Assassin" is sampled throughout. 


Madvillain – ALL CAPS


I'm more of an album person really, and this could have been pretty much any track from Madvillainy. MF DOOM's lyrics are awesome, raw but poetic, tightly constructed yet like a stream of consciousness. Just remember to use ALL CAPS when you spell his name. Great "comicstrip" video too. 


Donny Hathaway – Little Ghetto Boy

Donny's voice. That is all. ‬

Sam Cook – A Change Is Gonna Come  

"I was born by the river, in a little tent, and just like the river I've been running ever since..." I read a great book which took it's title from this track, a history of Black American music, which eccentrically divided the music into the Blues, Jazz, and Gospel instincts. But this track is incredible, huge and heartbreaking. 

Otis Redding – Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay  

Another political soul tune, albeit more subtlety expressed. That's how I read it anyway. That idea that you're constantly trying to change things, but everything remains the same. ‬

David Axelrod – Urizen  

Like a lot of people, I found out about David Axelrod from DJ Shadow sampling him. Really liked his concept-based approach; tackling Blake's Innocence and Experience, environmental collapse (Earthrot), slavery (The Auction). The sound and most of all, the beats. ‬


NWA – Express Yourself


A bolt of positivity on "Straight outta Compton", with Dre rapping Ice Cube's lyrics (which explains the "don't smoke weed or cess" lyric when Dre went on to record a whole album dedicated to Chronic). 

KRS-One – Health, Wealth, Self  

I've loved this song for a long time. It's the final song on KRS-One's 1995 eponymous album, a kind of comeback, with DJ Premier providing awesome beats. But this is where KRS lays out his rules for longevity in the rap game, which apply pretty well for any creative enterprise. Lesson One: If it ain't fun, you're done. Lesson Two: MC's should have other ways of making money... and so it goes on. 


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