A Stoners Guide to Rare Groove
By Aja West & Cheeba
It has not been easy narrowing this list down to just ten songs. We’ve tried to choose tracks which are not so rare that only the most serious diggers can find them, but not so common that you've seen them repeatedly on others lists. By choosing less obvious tracks, many of our favourite artists don’t make an appearance (i.e., Herbie Hancock, Lonnie Liston Smith, Kool & The Gang, Ohio Players, P-Funk). We’re assuming that the average HEADS reader is already hip to these groups. Hopefully, we can highlight some songs and artists that may have slipped through the cracks.
For all the hip hop heads out there, many of the following tracks have been sampled and looped to make hits by the Beastie Boys, EPMD, Junior MAFIA, Casual, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and Spice 1. We’re not gonna get any more specific about which group sampled which track; that’s for y’all to discover.
Rien Ne Va Plus (1975)
With a band name this blatant, there is no doubt as to what sort of music you’re about to get served. Luckily, this factory doesn’t churn out any generic product, just some of the most unique and inspired, funk-soaked grooves. We’ve thrown this track on during many smoke breaks and it never disappoints.
It's Over Now (1978)
Manzel Bush was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army when he released his one and only album Midnight Theme, an instrumental funk masterpiece. With synth lines as expressive as a human voice, It’s Over Now is a powerful, upbeat groove with drums heavy in the mix—the way we like ‘em!
You Can't Turn Me Away (1980)
The bouncy bassline is what makes this one of the stoniest grooves ever. The track never strays, no bridges, breakdowns or solos, just a solid-as-hell groove with great vocals by Striplin. Production credits go to Roy Ayers (see below).
Brawling Broads (1973)
Vibraphone master Roy Ayers has got to be one of the most prolific funk/soul artists of all time, having released hundreds of consistently dope tracks. This particular one is off his score to Coffy, the classic blaxploitation film starring Pam Grier. The badass bassline anchors this cut deep in the pocket and never lets it out, providing the perfect bed for Ayers’ beautiful vibe melodies.
Celestial Blues (1974)
This is a super laid-back, slinky groove, heavy in wah-wah guitar and slappin’ bass. Bey’s vocals are powerful and direct: “we must get closer to the essence of life…expand your mind, don’t let it wither and die.”
‘T’ Plays It Cool (1972)
This track from Gaye’s score to blaxploitation flick Trouble Man has long been a staple in any rare groove DJ’s crate. The vibe is a melancholy one, with choice sax lines over unrelenting drums and juicy analogue synth.
This deep funk fusion groove finds electric violinist Pointer being backed by the tightest studio musicians of the 70s, showcasing his funkdafied and phazed out violin licks over an energetic bed of electric piano, rhythm guitar, bass and drums.
Riding High (1977)
You may have heard this laid-back groove in the background of a plethora of movies focused on pimping. A West Coast player’s anthem for years, you know this track has been put to the test with the best. Bonus points for the title.
Light of the Universe (1979)
This is a great track to throw on if your high is turning a little too dark. It has a real positive, Earth, Wind & Fire type vibe, all about rejoicing in the beauty of the universe.
River People (1978)
A fusion band that never neglected the groove, Weather Report featured some of the finest musicians in any genre. Jaco Pastorius maintains the bass groove on this track while synth genius Joe Zawinul adds multiple layers of his distinctive keyboard sounds. It takes a couple minutes for the groove to hit full steam, but the anticipation is half the pleasure.
Avid collectors of funk, soul and rare groove records, brothers Aja West & Cheeba are the masterminds behind the Mackrosoft label and its extensive catalogue of funk-infused releases. Featured players and contributors on Mackrosoft albums include such luminaries as Mike Clark and Paul Jackson (Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters), Fred Wesley (James Brown, P-Funk), Reggie Watts, Money Mark (Beastie Boys), Skerik (Critters Buggin), and Mike Porcaro (Toto). Their most recent release, Snakerhythms, is a funky jazz album filled with lush instrumentals, snaky percussion and world class drumming. Snakerhythms was born at an L.A. home studio party, hosted by the legendary Porcaro family of drummers and percussionists, with the idea of making a cacophony of percussive tracks. Inspired by the music of Sun Ra and Miles Davis’ “On the Corner”, Snakerhythms is Aja West’s most ‘free jazz’ album, unique in his large portfolio of musical compositions. https://
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