P.M. Dawn

Following on from Shara Nelson and kinda linked is one of my favourite hip hop groups, P.M.Dawn.

P.M. Dawn are an American hip hop/R&B group, formed by brothers Attrell Cordes (a.k.a. Prince Be, sometimes credited as Prince Be the Nocturnal) and Jarrett Cordes (a.k.a DJ Minutemix or J.C. the Eternal) in in 1988 in  New Jersey. Such spiritual names.

They were raised by their mother and their stepfather George Brown, a founding member of Kool & the Gang. Hence the funk I guess.

Prince Be began DJing at parties and composing songs in ninth grade. Within a few years, he had determined to make a demo tape of some of those pieces with the $600 he had set aside from his after school job as a security guard at a homeless shelter. By then, he and his brother were putting in studio time as P.M. Dawn.

They first approached Tommy Boy Records, with their demo, but they were told that they were too much like De La Soul, and not hardcore enough, and were turned away. Eventually, Warlock, an independent record label, issued a debut single, “Ode to a Forgetful Mind”, in 1989, but it went unnoticed.  In the United Kingdom, Gee Street Records, found greater success with it. Gee Street mixed and marketed the song so that it earned considerable attention from music reviewers, and P.M. Dawn found themselves courted by most of the major record labels in England. Gee Street brought the brothers to London in 1990 to record tracks for an album, however, the label found itself facing bankruptcy during the recording. The entire Gee Street operation—along with P.M. Dawn’s contract—was sold to the highest bidder, Island Records. Island issued a few more singles in the United Kingdom before releasing their, totally magical, debut album, Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience.[1]

The big hit Set Adrift on Memory Bliss reached #1 the week of November 30, 1991, and holds the distinction of being the first #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart following the introduction of Nielsen SoundScan to the singles charts. The song also reached #3 in the United Kingdom. It smoothly and heavily samples Spandau Ballet’s True, perhaps that’s a key to its success?

Another favourite from the Bliss album is Looking Through Patient Eyes which featured backing vocals by Cathy Dennis and sampled George Michael‘s hit “Father Figure“. The music video for the song was shot in a church, and featured Christian images throughout — most notably, Prince Be wore a T-shirt with “Thank you, Jesus” written across it in big black letters—further separating them from their hardcore colleagues. I hanker for an instrumental although I wonder if its just that Father Figure sample that gets me.

I only have the first two albums which I return to every now and then to remind me of the hip-hop I love – peaceful, thoughtful, insightful. This often leads me to De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest which leads me back to the funk then off I go.

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