Jazz runs deep through the music of A Tribe Called Quest. It’s as Q-Tip infamously puts it in Excursions, the opening track of their sophomore album: “Don’t you know that things go in cycles? The way that Bobby Brown is just ampin’ like Michael.” A new 45 record by Amsterdam-based, Jerusalem-born keyboardist, DJ & producer Soul Supreme is in its own way a reflection of that. The record features homages to “Check The Rhime” & “Lyrics To Go” from a jazz perspective.
“It’s kinda ironic: these tracks are interpretations, but almost everything is different,” says Soul Supreme. “The harmony, the melodies, the instruments that are used for each part, the structure… I want to take the listener on a trip to overlook a track they know, but from a different perspective. I try to go ‘in and out’ of the A Tribe Called Quest tracks so the listener never knows what’s going to happen next.”
For example, in ‘Lyrics To Go’ he maintained the guitar melody, but completely changed the harmony underneath. Something else incorporated in the way Soul Supreme plays the keys—especially in the solo parts—are rhythmic elements that appear in the flows of Phife and Tip. Listen closely to the solo of ‘Check The Rhime’ near the 30-second mark: the Rhodes are reminiscent of Phife telling about “back in days on the boulevard of Linden…” Soul Supreme: “That way the listener doesn’t necessarily understand it. But it does sound somewhat familiar and related to the original. My overall goal is to give existing music my own twist. I don’t want to sound like a rehash of something listeners have heard before.”
“I try to go ‘in and out’ of the A Tribe Called Quest tracks so the listener never knows what’s going to happen next.”
The characteristic guitar line on ‘Lyrics To Go’ is an example of that. In Soul Supreme’s version, the guitar melody is actually a Moog in disguise. Emulating guitar bends with his synth by adding lots of distortion. But to Soul Supreme, that’s far from science. He doesn’t sit down with a pad & pen to think of ways to switch things up. It happens through improvisation on his Moog Sub37, DSI Ob6, Rhodes MK1, or on his now new Yamaha piano. In that sense, it’s A Tribe Called Quest’s hip-hop he loves, but a jazz influence that prevails. Obsessively studying the work of pianists such as Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, Weldon Irvine for over fifteen years now.
This 7” follows the line of Soul Supreme’s The Message / Umi Says release on Chicago-based imprint Star Creature Universal Vibrations last year. The 7” taking on tracks by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and Mos Def was sold out in a matter of days. But Soul Supreme covers more ground than solely doing reinterpretations. All-new and all own compositions are currently in the works, slated for a release later this year.
This Check The Rhime b/w Lyrics To Go 7” is Soul Supreme’s last stop before he takes a left turn into his own path of rhythm.
“It’s like that y’all, check it now…”