Adrian Younge: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Adrian Younge: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Adrian Younge is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, renowned composer, recording engineer, label owner, producer – and soul man extraordinaire “aspiring to be the modern day Quincy Jones” in his own words.

On his path of revisiting the sound of classic soul, funk and R&B, the L.A.-based Younge has carved out a place for himself at the very center of the new soul renaissance, working with artists like Delfonics, Souls of Mischief and Ghostface Killah, and being sampled by the likes of JAY Z, DJ Premier and Royce The 5’9″.

With several albums already under his belt, including various film scores (most notably the soundtrack to the blaxploitation movie Black Dynamite in 2009) and various collaborations, Younge just released the sequel to his critically hailed Something About April (2012).

Something About April II enlists guest artists like Bilal, Raphael Saadiq, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier and John Henrdon (Tortoise), and is another psychedelic and cinematic soul stunner from this renaissance man, constantly pushing boundaries and finding new ways in well-threaded territories.

For Adrian Younge it’s about having the knowledge of history, the soul of music and the ability the actually knock down good songs. As he stated in an interview with a while back: “I try to make classics. I don’t try to make things that aren’t good.”

We were privileged enough to have Adrian Younge write about five albums that changed his life.

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Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the 36 Chambers

This Wu-Tang album changed my life completely.  It was the first hip-hop album that, compositionally, felt so raw to me. RZA’s production was the perfect amalgamation of soulfully psychedelic music and syncopated rhythms; his ability to combine new production techniques, with some of New York’s finest, put New York hip-hop back on the map.

When Enter the 36 Chambers was released, the West Coast was taking over the culture by storm with gangster rap. With this album, he not only reinforced the impact of hip-hop music on society, he also created a long lasting brand that still impacts me to this day. If it weren’t for RZA, I would never have created a Ghostface album. Also, many don’t know that RZA played instruments over the samples as well, at a time where a lot of the producers were using exclusively samples.


Portishead: Portishead

Portishead is one of the best albums I’ve ever owned. I remember having this on CD and on vinyl. This album, released in ’97, felt like Wu-Tang on cinematic steroids. With Geoff Barrow on production, and Beth Gibbons on the vocals, they synthesized classic rock, European cinema and hip-hop for the masses.

There was a time in my life where I would literally judge a person on how they felt about Portishead. The reason being is that Portishead pushed the boundaries very far; if an artist didn’t understand why they created in this unique fashion, I felt as though it exposed their inability to understand classic material.

Portishead made an indelible impression on my music as well as my live show. I saw them live, twice, in ’97.  Two of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed.  They had the craziest analog gear and they performed with class.  Portishead is one of the best groups ever, period.


Ennio Morricone: Revolver OST

Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to the movie Revolver is, in my opinion, one of his best scores. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Ennio Morricone fan, and this album was my first Morricone purchase.

I became enthralled by the way he blended soulful chords with classical instruments. I felt it was somewhat analogous to what Thom Bell (legendary producer of the Delfonics, Stylistics, and more) brought to Philly soul; only with more production value and less of a pop format.  This album actually made me want to score.  It’s so well made and provided the audiovisual enhancement that the film benefited from.


A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory

A Tribe Called Quest released this album in ’91.  It was far ahead of the then, current state of hip-hop. Essentially, it was the first hip-hop album that uniquely intertwined great jazz music with hip-hop; like RZA, they intertwined samples and live instruments to create new compositions. It served as the blueprint for many other great artists to come (Pharcyde, Digable Planets, etc.) as well.

To many, this is the best hip-hop album ever made.  I wouldn’t argue with that.  I still remember the first week that this album was released. I was on my way to play basketball, and my friend said, “Yo! I got that new Tribe album.” My exuberant feeling was analogous to the feeling I had when Michael Jackson released the Thriller album. I always tell Ali Shaheed Muhammad (member of A Tribe Called Quest) that I strive to create music that excites people in that way.


King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King

King Crimson released this progressive rock record in ’69. It’s a psychedelic masterpiece that takes itself very seriously, as it should. It’s one of the best albums of the psychedelic era, and is a very “complete” album.  Their earnest approach to creating epic records showed me that it is okay to take your sensationalized art very seriously. If you don’t, why would anyone else? Sonically, this album is raw and soulful; it’s been sampled by plenty of hip-hop producers.

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