Posts Tagged ‘Come to My Garden’

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November 1969 was a seminal month in U.S. history. The Vietnam War unrest was in full swing with over 200,000 protestors descending on Washington, D.C. for the “March Against Death.” The second manned mission to the moon was a success via NASA’s Apollo 12 program. Sesame Street aired their first episode. And one of the greatest voices in music history, Minnie Riperton, was beginning the first steps of what would become a remarkable solo career.

At 22 years old, Riperton has spent the last two years as the lead singer of the psychedelic soul/rock band Rotary Connection. While the group’s experimental sound never found huge commercial success, their eclectic approach spawned a devoted a following and a 1968 Grammy nomination. But Riperton was ambitious and eager to retry a solo career, having previously released records as a teen under aliases. This time, she had the backing of multi-talented producer Charles Stepney, also a member of Rotary Connection and already acclaimed for his work on albums with Muddy Waters, Marlena Shaw and Howlin’ Wolf.

Riperton_Stepney

Over the span of a mere two days, Riperton and Stepney would record the 10 tracks that comprise Come To My Garden. Listeners will immediately notice the drastic sound difference from Riperton’s 70s LPs. Come To My Garden is marked sprawling orchestral sounds that weave seamlessly with her otherworldly octave range. A master arranger, Stepney enlisted Ramsey Lewis, bassist Cleveland Eaton, guitarist Phil Upchurch, and Maurice White to round out a sound that is at times jazzy, dreamy and neo-classical, but always subordinate to Riperton’s towering vocals.

“This chick,” he told Downbeat magazine in 1970, “has a soprano range of about four octaves, a whole lot of soul, she’s good-looking and she’s got the experience of Rotary behind her.”

Come To My Garden is considered a masterpiece today. However, it hasn’t been an album that lends itself to easy sampling like Riperton’s later works. The arrangements are multi-layered, making loops and chops difficult in most cases.

But there are notable exceptions. On the “Rainy Day in Centerville,” Minnie sings of being in solitude and lost in her thoughts under the persistent rainfall. Stepney crafts the arrangements to hit like crashing tidal waves around Minnie’s subdued vocals. When we arrive at the eye of the storm/song, a brooding peace comes from the chords of Lewis’ piano keys and Eaton’s bass.

1:52-2:07 mark

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There have been two persistent criticisms of Nas’s albums in the latter part of his career. One is the beats never live up to the potency of his lyrics (debatable). The second is the cutting room floor is littered with tracks of much higher quality than what made the albums (not debatable). A strong argument for the latter is “Where Y’all At,” released in 2006 during the Hip Hop Is Dead era. Admittedly, this song was released early on as a “street single,” to promote the project, but still one that was so dope it deserved inclusion on the album.

Produced by Salaam Remi, the piano-driven sample from Minnie and Stepney is perfect for Nas’s lyrical wheelhouse.


For more samples from Minnie’s career, check out Know Your Samples: Minnie Riperton.

 

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For many casual listeners, Minnie Riperton is remembered as a one hit wonder of sorts for her classic 1975 single “Loving You.” That is truly a shame because Minnie has, in my opinion, of the greatest voices and octave ranges in music history. Over 30 years after her tragic early death, I take a look back on how Riperton’s music has blessed Hip-Hop culture.

Minnie Julia Riperton was born in Chicago on November 8, 1947, the youngest of 8 children. Her parents recognized her predeliction to music early on, and enrolled her in operatic training at the Lincoln Center. While she would retain her opera influences, Riperton later dropped out of college to pursue soul and rock music.

After bumping around in the mid 60s singing backup with assorted girl groups, Riperton recorded her first solo songs (“Lonely Girl,” “You Gave Me Soul”) under the pseudonym Andrea Davis, which was in honor of her producer/mentor Billy Davis. The tracks drew the attention of the psychedelic rock band Rotary Connection, and she joined the collective to release their 1967 self-titled debut.

The group released 6 albums through 1970. With wild concepts like the marijunana-themed Christmas album Peace, Minnie got to experiment with her voice over rock, soul, and R&B rhythms. Little did Minnie know that she would also be making her first contributions to Hip-Hop.

The song “Memory Band” features Riperton engaging in an angelic chant over the group’s funky yet airy production. This would later become the sounds that introduced A Tribe Called Quest into my life on “Bonita Applebum.”

Rotary Connection “Memory Band”

In other cases, it was just short clips of the group’s drum patterns that supplied the foundation for emcees.

(Drums start at 3:14)

Eric B & Rakim “Rest Assured”

Kanye West got a hold of their last album Hey Love and crafted a production gem for Common and Lily Allen off “Love Has Fallen On Me.”

(SAMPLE STARTS AT 1:23 MARK)

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Minnie Goes Solo

When  Minnie Riperton struck out on her own in 1970, she hooked up with legendary producer Charles Stepney to oversee every aspect of her debut. The result was Come to My Garden, a stunning mix of classical and jazz arrangements with soaring operatic vocals from Minnie. The sound is very unique even today, and although not a hit then, it stands as my favorite Minnie Riperton album. Stepney’s work gives the LP a whimsical, fantasy-like element that she would never have again in her later works.

Even today, only a few Hip-Hop producers have delved into this album.

MINNER RIPERTON “RAINY DAY IN CENTERVILLE” (SAMPLE BEGINS AT 1:54 MARK)

Nas “Where Y’all At”

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Minnie Riperton “Only When I’m Dreaming”

Smif N Wessun “Hellucination”

Will.i.am feat. Phife “Nah Mean”

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It would be 4 years before Minnie dropped her sophomore LP Perfect Angel. It started off slow until “Lovin’ You” was released. It turned out to be her biggest single and pushed the album to gold status. Stevie Wonder produced two very underrated tracks in “Take a Little Trip” and “Perfect Angel,” which were perfect sample tracks for Hip-Hop producers with a discerning ear.

Minnie Riperton “Perfect Angel”

Fabe “Des Durs Des Boss”

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Minnie Riperton “Take a Little Trip”

No ID “Pray for the Sinners”

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Minnie came right back in 1975 with Adventures in Paradise. It didn’t match the success of Perfect Angel, but it was an epic offering for beatmakers courtesy of one of my favorite Riperton tunes, “Inside My Love.” Everyone from the late J Dilla to Tribe tackled the track, most notably reworking her famous song-ending long note.

Minnie Riperton “Inside My Love”

A Tribe Called Quest “Lyrics to Go”

Kenny Dope “Get On Down”

Slum Village “The Look of Love Remix”

Nas “Everyday Thing”

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Other producers focused on the rest of the album and pulled samples from “Baby, this Love I Have” and “Adventures in Paradise.”

Minnie Riperton “Adventures in Paraside”

Eminem- “Anyman”

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Minnie Riperton “Baby This Love I Have”

A Tribe Called Quest “Check the Rhime”

Soul IV Real “Candy Rain”

Minnie Riperton “Minne’s Lament”

Xzibit “Eyes May Shine”

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Minnie Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer in1976. She was only given six months to live, but kept the terminal prognosis a secret and kept touring until she passed away in 1979 at the age of 31. She died in the arms of her husband at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, while a tape Stevie Wonder made for her played in the background.

Her posthumous 1980 album Love Lives Forever featured the Peabo Bryson duet “Here We Go.” This song’s lush beginning instrumentation provided a great foundation for several Hip-Hop tracks.

Minnie Riperton “Here We Go”

AZ feat. Nas “Gimme Yours”

 Make no mistake, this entry just barely scratched the surface of the Hip-Hop songs that sample Minnie Riperton. A part 2 and even 3 are warranted. If you enjoy great music, make it a point to dig into her catalogue.

Rotary Connection

Rotary Connection (1967)

Aladdin (1968)

Peace (1968)

Songs (1969)

Dinner Music (1970)

Hey Love (1971)

Minnie Riperton

Come to My Garden (1970)

Perfect Angel (1974)

Adventures in Paradise (1975)

Stay in Love (1977)

Minnie (1979)

Love Lives Forever (1980)