I got in to a rather heated debate with a man named Mayhem.
We were in the smoking area standing drenched and wet in the early morning hours of the DJ Premier show at the Forum in London. The conversation was about who has had the most influential impact on female vocals, ever.
This guy Mayhem and myself were heated in a debate over Etta James and Aretha Franklin. Our conversation started as he was pushing a CD on us he was slinging to the hip-hop crowd in attendance. I couldn’t tell you how the exact moment came about, but we both knew there was no real right or wrong here after about 20 minutes of solid arguments for both.
I argued for the point of Etta James. It was one of the first times a female vocalist reached the populous of music. She sang about being sad and making it sound beautiful, like a pain we all live with that is somehow turned in to something lovely even when it bleeds from the lyrics and bounds in her powerful vocals. She is a healer, a visionary.
Mayhem was dead set on Aretha Franklin. His argument is she was empowering with her bravado. She demands respect. She did it in a way you sung along with her as you gave it up, not that you had a choice. She was a symbol for all women to unite under. She is a karaoke anthem, a female battle cry. She was, I dare say, the first “Yonce” figure. She made it sexy to be powerful and feminine.
The best is subjective, as always, in music. Aside from DJ Premier, he is the best. The show had DJ Premier playing with a live band which as a follower and fan, was an experience to see a trumpet and trombone in harmony with drums, a base, and Preemo on stage. The layers of the most iconic hip-hop sounds on stage with one of the most iconic producers in hip-hop.
The argument felt right to have on that rainy, wet, early night as I needed a reminder that the best is in the taste of whoever is consuming it. And I was getting a chance to consumer this night and this music and that rhythm.