If you’ve read any of my previous posts you may know that British DJ Gilles Peterson is a bit of a God in my book – the guy just has great taste. You’ll also know that his annual All Winners chart is a great place to find good tunes, and 2001 was no different when this fantastic remix featured highly.
The original version of Umi Says by Mos Def, from the album Black on Both Sides, is a thing of beauty in itself. British chill-out masters Zero 7 manage to build on this to create something truly epic – a rush of strings and a crescendo of beats that truly blew me away when I first heard it (and still does now).
Some people have dismissed Zero 7 for ripping off Air‘s mix of strings and lush vocals – personally I think they took that formula and did it a whole lot better (and as this excellent article argues, Zero 7 are almost more of an accoustic than electronic band). If you need further proof, this remix of Umi Says and their version of Up With People by Lambchop should be more than enough.
Anyway, I heard this when it was in the top 20 tracks for 2001, but as with a lot of songs played on Gilles Peterson it was only available on a white label. I spent a lot of time over the next couple of years trying to track it down.
According to rumour Mos Def’s record label (the ever so masculine Rawkus – co-founded by Rupert Murdoch’s son James) felt that it was too feminine for Mos Def’s image and refused to release it. I really hope that this wasn’t the case, as surely Mos’ biggest selling point was that he was a rapper who didn’t feel that spouting sexism and homophobia was the only way to prove his worth. Or at least it was until recently.
Luckily for the rest of us, someone saw sense and the track finally saw the light in 2004 as a bootleg release backed with Jamie Cullum’s version of Frontin’. I noticed it behind the counter at my favourite record store Sounds of the Universe in London (home of the excellent Soul Jazz records). I was queueing to buy a couple of other things at the time and was so happy when I noticed it – obviously I bought it immediately (for Â¬Â£5 if my memory serves).
When I got back to my desk, I had a look for it on eBay – sure enough it was going for far more than I had just paid for it. Just goes to show that those running record labels are often the ones with the least idea of what people want to listen to….
Check out the beauty of the original version of Umi Says by Mos Def below..