The Popstream: Menahan Street Band, "Make the Road By Walking"


Old-school funk revival's turned out to be one of this decade's most rewarding genres, one of those rare Brooklyn-based music scenes that hasn't actually wound up getting all self-indulgently smirky on its way to disappearing up its own coke-strewn nostril. And if you asked me which five groups best represented this scene, I'd rattle off four: the '60s-soul reconstructionist Dap-Kings, who've backed up Sharon Jones and other, lesser lights like that Amy Whatserfacehouse; the El Michels Affair, who take a hip hop cratedigger's approach to vintage soul stylings (their spring releases include tribute albums devoted to both Isaac Hayes and the Wu-Tang Clan); Antibalas, who play their own punchy, high-energy update of Fela Kuti's Afrobeat sound; and the Staten-by-birth/Brooklyn-by-proxy Budos Band, who cover all those bases and throw in a bit of Latin soul for flavoring. As for the fifth, I'm not entirely sure the Menahan Street Band counts -- primarily because they're comprised of musicians from those other four bands. When Daptone first gathered together this gigantic Afro-Latin-soul-funk-b-boy supergroup, the result was a knockout 7" (yes, this is the kind of label that still presses 45s): "Make the Road By Walking" b/w "Karina," which came out in 2006 and eventually somehow found its way into the hands of the biggest musician to claim Brooklyn as his turf.

If you've heard Jay-Z's "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is...)," you'll recognize that horn riff, even if you have to wait a bit for it to actually show up. I am still a bit amazed at the fact that this sample source was spotted by none other than Sean "Diddy" Combs and his team, though probably not as amazed as the people who only know him as the dude who ganked "Kashmir" and "Every Breath You Take" and don't realize what a free pass the dude deserves just for turning Herb fucking Alpert into one of the all-time great player's anthems for "Hypnotize". But I digress: you can hear why Hova chose this song as the backbone for the most triumphant and celebratory track on American Gangster, because it's filled with shadowboxing brass and slinky-spined wah-wah guitar and smoothly loping percussion.

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