Early on when I started seriously collecting breaks around 2002, I met Tantrum who just moved to Atlanta from the Bay Area. He hipped me to a lot of songs that got a lot of play at west coast jams; Funky Nassau – Beginning of the End, Life of the Party – Jackson Five and Across 110th St. by Bobby Womack to name a few. I went to a few record stores to track down the 110th St. Soundtrack and found a copy at More Dusty Than Digital record store, the predecessor to BeATLab. A copy was on the wall and I paid 40 bucks for it without thinking twice.
I fell in love with Womack’s writing and JJ Johnson’s arrangement on all three versions on the album. Maybe a year later I found out that the copy I bought was sold to More Dusty by DJ Magic, who was holding it down in the early aughts Florida B-boy scene.
In 2003, I went to my first out of state jam in Chattanooga. After the jam we drove to our hotel and on the way we saw this poster on a telephone pole. Our crew mate in Unnatural Causes, Sikwit/Yusef hopped out and grabbed it for me. It’s been on the wall of every Unnatural Causes and RftA practice session for 11 years.
Two weeks ago, thanks to Cro and Brett Rock’s recommendation, I was able to attend Bonnaroo and see one of Bobby Womack’s last performances with Doeboi, Marcus, Yoni and my other southern b-boy family members.
Saturday Night at Memphis Heat 2, if you want to know what I played in the b-boy finals, it was the Instrumental version of Across 110th St., the original JJ Johnson recording into the Cecil Holmes’ cover from his album of Blaxploitation theme covers. After the battles I played Bobby Womack’s vocal version and “Part 2″ that has a different arrangement. I know there were a lot of young b-boys there, so do your research now that you know the name.
Music’s important and can lead to a thousand memories and connections that you’re going to value for a long time. If you’re a b-boy, it shouldn’t just be background noise or a random mp3 labeled “AudioTrack 01″. I’m not preaching that you have to do anything, just letting you know that there’s a big world worth researching even if it doesn’t seem to directly impact how you execute a ’90 or win a battle.
There are names that you should know. Names that never got credit (sometimes literally) for their work. Names that impacted the culture, dance and music you devote so much time to in ways you don’t realize. Names outside of just James Brown and Kool Herc; Otis Redding, Duck Dunn, Bob Babbit, Rufus Thomas, Roger Hawkins, Steve Cropper, Dennis Coffey, Wilson Pickett, Memphis, Augusta, Muscle Shoals, Macon, Stax, King, Fame Studios, Sound Pit Studios, Bobby Womack.
The general community at large might know some names like Redding, Pickett or Womack for their hits but I’m always surprised when b-boys don’t even know them for that. Bobby Womack passed last week. When an artist passes, the biggest fear for DJs who are responsible for curating music and educating their audiences, is that the artist’s contributions will be remembered as footnotes and wiki pages disconnected from the art they created. So when we lose a soul artist, and we have lost many recently, there will always be a slew of tribute mixes to remind people what was left behind for us. I just want to remind you that you don’t have to wait till we lose another one before you get caught up. Someone once did me the favor of telling me about Bobby Womack and I want to do the same.
RIP Bobby Womack, 1941-2014