Studio Campfire Stories: ‘Tales From the Land Of Milk and Honey’ Edition – “Body”

11884630_10152951463815653_8360653270937916393_oYou now how you can get on a music “kick” and listen to a certain artist’s catalog, or maybe even specific eras of music for extended periods of time? Well, I’m like that with producers. I may go on a Timbaland streak for a minute, then switch over and listen to the Mizell Brothers for a week or so, cut over to Quincy, to Leon Sylvers III, etc… One particular week back in the summer of 2014, I was listening to a lot of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis-produced stuff. There was one night I ran S.O.S. Band’s “Sands Of Time” (one of my favorite songs of all-time, by the way) about 25 times in a row, that joint was obviously hitting me differently that night for whatever reason. Anyway, at some point, I moved on to their work on 1991’s Mo’ Money Soundtrack – in particular that damn “Money Can’t Buy You Love” by Ralph Tresvant (which MURDERS “Sensitivity” and anything else he has put out solo ….in my humble opinion, of course). I was 13 when I first got my hands on this song and I loved it then, so the appreciation my ears have NOW for what they were doing musically is kinda through the roof. I sat myself down at the keyboard to figure the song out as it was playing and one thing I noticed in particular was the first chord of Ralph’s verses was a major chord with a flattened fifth… Now, had this been a jazz or blues tune, I would have understood that chord choice… But VERY rarely do you hear a jazz-influenced chord starting the progression for an R&B/Soul joint, particularly one that received radio play. The thing is, it sounds DOPE where it is… Especially with the background vocals following the chords faintly. With that influence, I decided to write my own progression and see if I could start it off with kind of an “unexpected” chord of my own… So, I chose an F#13 and built on. From there, the third and final joint from what would become Tales From the Land Of Milk and Honey that wasn’t created as a result from the two studio sessions that Nicolay and I went in on was born.

The original instrumental version that I created was titled, “Bookit” (I always name my instrumentals based on whatever the hell is happening in my life. At the time, I was booking a good number of plane tickets for shows. Obvious title, but it’s much better than numbering my music as “Instrumental #1”, etc). Once I had a basic chord progression, then came the drums, which wound up becoming a mix of programmed drums and parts that I had played live all the way through, including the snare and a cabasa. Initially, I recorded a demo version with full out and finished drums + me playing the entire chord progression and changes out on the piano (this is similar to what I’ve done in the past for songs like, “Africa”). Since I was on the road a great deal last summer with The Foreign Exchange, the “Bookit” instrumental sat for a couple of months. I can remember coming back home from +FE’s European Tour in October 2014 and going back through some of the music to see how everything sounded and I came back across “Bookit”. At first, I was mad at myself for not writing all those damn chords and changes out as soon as I recorded them (I am terrible with that, I always have to re-learn my own music when it’s time to play it live), but I quickly got over it because I loved the piece so much. I ended up taking some time to write all of the chords out and practice the song on the keys… then the bass guitar. Since the demoed piano was already recorded, I laid down my bass guitar parts first. Once that was done, I then muted the demo piano and recorded some Rhodes, then layered it with another pass of just piano. At that point even with all of the chord changes, it was a pretty simple sounding recording, but the idea was now firmly in place. Thinking back, I honestly cannot remember where we were when I let Phonte hear this joint for the first time, but I do remember him hitting me up on more than a couple of occasions with, “Man, let me know when you finish up that “Bookit” joint.” I would have wanted to send him more of a complete song, instead on February 4, 2015 I sent him a super rough draft in an email that said:

“Bass, drums, keys… Rough joint”

Fast forward to April 3rd, The DAY I got back home from the second studio marathon in Wilmington, NC with Nic, I got an email from Phonte that said, “BANG.” My response after hearing it:

“MAAAAAAAAAAAAAN. Send me a two track of these vocals….. ASAP”

This was something that he and Carmen Rodgers wrote and recorded together while she was in Raleigh, NC. The first thing that I remembered thinking was, “We’ve just made a ‘cuffing season’ ANTHEM.” A song with that hook? It’s OVER.
“I don’t wanna go out to no club tonight, i just want your body…”
Sheeeeeeeeeeiiiiit… Them’s tusslin’ words!! I knew from the jump that whenever this was released it would be a fan favorite simply because so many would be able to relate to it. Once I imported those vocals into my Pro Tools session, it became FUN to add on to it. I recorded a string part on the intro and hooks, a Moog synth line, and crashes to make the different sections more dynamic and dramatic. But what set the song OFF, was a rhythm guitar part that I added to the intro and hooks. Funny enough, I would “hear” that part when riding around in the car with the song, so to have added it and have it sound exactly the way it did in my head??! Incredible feeling, always is.
Not too long after he sent the song back to me, Phonte let me know that he and Nic decided to make this collection of music we had all been working on an official The Foreign Exchange album (as opposed to it being an +FE “crew” album like we planned). With that being said, the original version of “Body” would probably have to be redone because it sounded more like a Zo!/Phonte song rather than something from +FE, which I agreed. The original version of the song would have really stuck out and not fit the flow of the material we had for Tales… at that time. As a result, Nic went into the studio and redid the song. While sticking to and staying true to all of the original chords and changes, the new version was heavily dipped in his style – a four-to-the-floor stepper’s jam that fully embodied the +FE “sound” and more importantly, it fit perfectly within the sequence of songs. I remember hearing the new version and saying, “Oh yeah, that joint is Nic as hell.” If there is one thing I know about my brothers, I know their distinctive musical styles like the back of my own hand. Phonte hit me up to redo my rhythm guitar parts on the new version, which I recorded once again on the intro and the hooks… Oh… and that killin’ ass percussion and pulsating bass-driven breakdown at the end (probably my favorite part of the song, that shit goes IN). Of course, Tamisha Waden added on to those background vocals just for good measure and we had ourselves a gem on our hands.
“Ahhhoooooooooooo  …….OoooooooooohooooooohoooYEEEEEAAAAHHHH!!!!”
Uhhh, quick question, how many of you have already sent a text to your significant other using the words to that hook???

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