Heat Rocks

Hosted by Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes, every episode of Heat Rocks invites a special guest to talk about a heat rock - a hot album, a scorching record. These are in-depth conversations about the albums that shape our lives.

Our guests include musicians, writers, and scholars and though we don't exclusively focus on any one genre, expect to hear about albums from the worlds of soul, hip-hop, funk, jazz, Latin and more.

New episodes every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts or whatever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe to our website updates for exclusive bonus content (including extra interview segments, mini-episodes, etc.)

Meanwhile, you can also follow us at any of the following:

EP34: Cole Kuchna on Kayne West's "Yeezus"

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Coke Kuchna

The album: Kanye West: Yeezus (2013)

Comprehensive analysis. Two words that describe Cole Cuchna's extraordinary podcast, DISSECT, which dedicates a season to unpacking one album, one song (per episode) at a time. His subterranean exploration of Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of the reasons we were thrilled to have him join us to discuss Kanye West's 6th album, Yeezus.
We covered Yeezy the persona vs. Kanye the person, problematic lyrics, ego reckoning, and the 2009 VMA's - a turning point in his career and a moment that will forever be a part of pop culture history. We also spent some time delving into the mindset of Yeezy, but full disclaimer: we taped this episode before Kanye's infamous twitter torrent and TMZ brouhaha.

About Cole Kuchna:

Cole's socials: IG: turangalila_ TW: @dissectpodcast

About Dissect:

More on Yeezus

Yeezy on Yeezus:

Show Tracklist (all songs from Yeezus unless indicated otherwise):

  • “On Sight”
  • “Hold My Liquor”
  • “Guilt Trip”
  • “Blood on the Leaves”
  • “Bound 2”
  • “New Slaves”
  • “I Am A God”
  • Nina Simone: Pastel Blues “Strange Fruit”
  • “Black Skinhead”
  • “I’m In It”
  • Daniel Caesar: Pilgrim’s Paradise “Streetcar”

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP33: Fredara Hadley on Anita Baker's "Compositions" (1990)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Fredara Hadley

The album: Anita Baker: Compositions (1990)

Ethnomusicologist Fredara Hadley had been on our wish list for a while and as luck would have it, she came to Los Angeles earlier this spring and things lined up nicely. For our episode, Fredara wanted to get into the queen of the quiet storm from the 1980s and early ‘90s: Anita Baker and her platinum-selling 1990 album, Compositions. During our conversation, we got into the nuances of Baker’s voice and how she compelled your full attention, how she fit (or didn’t) with the sound of R&B in the early ‘90s and how, as successful as she was, she could have thrived even better in an era where jazz and R&B overlap is better embraced.

More on Compositions

More on Fredara Hadley

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Compositions unless indicated otherwise):

  • “Talk To Me”
  • Anita Baker: Rapture “Sweet Love”
  • “Fairy Tales”
  • Peabo Bryson: Crosswinds “Crosswinds”
  • “More Thank You Know”
  • Mariah Carey: Mariah Carey “Vision of Love”
  • Lisa Stansfeild: Been Around The World “Been Around The World”
  • En Vogue:Born To Sing “Hold On To Your Love”
  • “Look What I Got”
  • Drake: Comeback Season “Think Good Thoughts Feat. Phonte and Elzhi”
  • Perri: “Airstream”
  • “Perfect Love Affair”
  • “Love You To The Letter”
  • “Feel The Need”
  • “Whatever It Takes”
  • “No One To Blame”
  • Jill Scott: The Light of the Sun “Hear My Call”
  • “Lonely”

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP32: Justin Simien on Michael Jackson's "HIStory" (1995)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Justin Simien

The album: Michael Jackson: HIStory: Past, Present and Future: Book 1 (1995)

Justin Simien, whose Dear White People is just beginning its second season on Netflix, came through to join us live for another Voyager Institute collaboration. By sheer coincidence, our last VI event took on Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation and here we are again, working our way through another Jackson family LP. (Can LaToya be too far behind?)

HIStory, as our crew points out, is an odd duck in the vaunted Jackson discography. Though it was enormously successful – the best selling double album of all time (especially since disc one was a "Greatest Hits" anthology) – it tends to have been overlooked given all the controversy swirling around MJ in that era. He had already been tried and acquitted on child molestation charges but his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley was still tabloid catnip and all this resulted in him recording, to quote Morgan: his most "pissed" off album, ever. This, and more, was all fodder for our conversation. But before you even listen, you have to watch the trailer for HIStory:

Meanwhile, don't forget to listen to last week's episode, about Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, featuring Martin Perna!

More on HIStory

More on Justin Simien

Show Tracklisting (all songs from HIStory unless indicated otherwise):

  • “Money”
  • “Scream”
  • Janet Jackson: Got Till It’s Gone “Got Till It’s Gone”
  • “This Time Around Feat. Biggie Smalls”
  • “You Are Not Alone”
  • “Stranger In Moscow”
  • “Childhood”
  • Michael Jackson: Bad “Leave Me Alone”
  • “They Don’t Really Care About Us”
  • “Tabloid Junkie”
  • Michael Jackson: Thriller “Someone In The Dark”

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

Bonus Beats: Martin Perna and the Heat Rocks crew on "Off the Wall" vs. "Thriller"

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Taken from our original taping with Martin Perna regarding Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall," we got into a short discussion of whether "Off the Wall" or "Thriller" is better aka "the debate to divide MJ fans now and forever."

Episode 31, Bonus Beats: Off the Wall vs. Thriller

EP31: Martín Perna on Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" (1980)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Martín Perna

The album: Michael Jackson: Off The Wall (1979)

Martín Perna of Antibalas wanted to revisit one of the formative albums of his childhood: Michael Jackson's Off The Wall. For many MJ fans, this is the king of pop's greatest work, a clear statement that he was now fully out of the shadow of the Jackson 5 and, along with super-producer Quincy Jones, ready to remake American pop music as we know it.

Perna not only brought his memories of growing up, mesmerized by the cover of the album, but his multi-instrumentalist also broke down some of the secrets behind the production on the album. Even for deep fans, there's something to learn, and for everyone else, you get to hear from one of the great pop albums of all time. (And if you haven't heard it before, check out this incredible demo version of "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough")

Next week's episode is also about Michael Jackson as director Justin Simien (Dear White People) joins us to talk about MJ's HIStory (1995).

And look for a bonus beats episode to post soon that features Perna and us talking about the never-ending "Off the Wall vs. Thrillerdebate.

More on Off the Wall

More on Martín Perna

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Off the Wall unless indicated otherwise):

  • “Off The Wall”
  • Antibalas: Antibalas “Dirty Money”
  • The Wiz “You Can’t Win”
  • “She’s Out of my Life”
  • Jackson 5: ABC “ABC”
  • “Get On The Floor”
  • “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”
  • “I Can’t Help It”
  • Fela Kuti: Upside Down “Upside Down”
  • “Rock With You”
  • “Burn This Disco Out”
  • “It’a The Falling In Love”
  • “Girlfriend”

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP30: Egyptian Lover on Cameo's "Cameosis" (1980)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Egyptian Lover

The album: Cameo: Cameosis (1980)

Egyptian Lover is one of the pivotal figures in shaping the sound of Los Angeles funk and hip-hop beginning in the 1980s. As a teen, he became a core member of the all-powerful Uncle Jamm's Army party crew and by the mid-80s, he was an artist in his own right, releasing a series of key electro albums that would help pave the way for the emergence of other L.A. groups like the Dream Team and N.W.A.

For our episode, Egyptian Lover wanted to take us back to the formative moment before all that had happened, when he was still in high school, hustling pause tapes of the latest funk jams to his classmates. Cameo's Cameosis was the group's fourth album in three years, the first to finally hit #1 on the charts, and the source of the monster hit, "Shake Your Pants."

During our discussion, we got into everything from the genius of Cameo's Larry Blackmon to what made the group different from other funk outfits (hint: the horns) to how one properly programs a slow jam within a mix of party funk songs.

More on Cameosis

More on Egyptian Lover

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Cameosis unless indicated otherwise):

  • "Cameosis"
  • Egyptian Lover: On the Nile "Egypt, Egypt"
  • "Why Have I Lost You"
  • Rick James: Come Get It! "Mary Jane"
  • "Shake Your Pants"
  • "We're Goin' Out Tonight"
  • Diana Ross: Diana "Upside Down"
  • George Benson: Give Me the Night "Give Me the Night"
  • Zapp & Roger: Zapp "More Bounce to the Ounce"
  • One Way: Who's Foolin' Who "Cutie Pie"
  • Cameo: Secret Omen "I Just Want to Be"
  • "Shake Your Pants"
  • Cameo: Secret Omen "I Just Want to Be"
  • "On the One"
  • Parliament: Mothership Connection "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)"
  • "Why Have I Lost You"
  • "I Care for You"
  • The Sugarhill Gang: Sugarhill Gang "Rapper's Delight"
  • Cameo: Word Up! "Word Up"
  • "Please You"
  • Egyptian Lover: Back from the Tomb "I Need a Freak"

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP29: Nite Jewel on Kraftwerk's "Computer World" (1981)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Nite Jewel

The album: Kraftwerk: Computer World (1981)

When we invited L.A.'s own Nite Jewel to join us, it probably shouldn't have been a surprise that she picked Kraftwerk's Computer World; after all, she's toured the world performing the albumIn sitting down with us, NJ (aka Ramona Gonzalez) broke down how she first became obsessed with the album, walking the streets of Berkeley, thinking about German philosophy (no, really!) and why the LP is such a masterpiece of fusing a variety of musical elements all colliding in the early 1980s.

More on Computer World

More on Nite Jewel

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Computer World unless indicated otherwise):

  • ”Computer Love”
  • Nite Jewel: Real High “2 Good 2 Be True”
  • Roger Troutman: The New Zapp IV U “Computer Love”
  • ”The Dance”
  • Derrick May: “The Dance”
  • Moodyman: Forevernevermore “(logo)”
  • The Egyptian Lover: Electro Pharaoh “Electro Pharaoh“
  • 20 Fingers: 20 Fingers “Short Dick Man”
  • Afro-Rican: “Give It All You Got”
  • ”It’s More Fun To Compute”
  • ”Numbers”
  • ”Artificial Intelligence”
  • ”Home Computer”
  • ”Pocket Calculator”

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP28: Brother Ali on Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life"

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Brother Ali

The album: Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

As part of the two week MaxFun Drive, we wanted to save two of our best shows to share with you. This first week, it's rapper Brother Ali, a long time MaxFun favorite, and he picked one of the greatest albums of all time: Stevie Wonder's majestic Songs in the Key of Life, recorded when the artist was still in his 20s(!).
Brother Ali, of course, has his own string of modern classics, including Shadows on the Sun (2003), The Undisputed Truth (2007) and most recently, last year's All the Beauty In This Whole Life. In choosing Stevie's masterpiece, Brother Ali took us back to his childhood, growing up with listening to Stevie in the house, and then later, as a teenager, buying Stevie albums to bring home and study. During our conversation with him, we got into the musical, social and cultural threads that Songs In the Key of Life  has helped unwind over the years.
More on Songs In the Key of Life

More on Brother Ali

Show Tracklist (all songs fromSongs in the Key of Life unless indicated otherwise):

  • ”Isn’t She Lovely”
  • Brother Ali: All The Beauty In This Whole Life “Own Light (What Hearts are For)”
  • ”Summer Soft”
  • ”I Wish”
  • ”Black Man”
  • ”Pastime Paradise”
  • ”Village Ghettholand”
  • ”Love Is In Need of Love Today”
  • ”Sir Duke”
  • ”Knocks Me Off My Feet”
  • ”Saturn”
  • ”Another Star”
  • ”As”
  • George Michael:  Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael “As Feat Mary J. Blidge”
  • Coolio: Gangsta’s Paradise “Dangerous Minds”
  • Jay-Z: 4:44 “Smile”
  • ”Isn’t She Lovely”

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP27: P.J. Morton on Brandy's "Full Moon"

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
P.J. Morton

The album: Brandy's Full Moon (2002)

Grammy winning singer/songwriter and producer PJ Morton knows production. A keyboardist and vocalist for Maroon 5, PJ Morton also knows lyrics. And vocals. PJ Morton joined us to share what he knows about Brandy's 2002 Full Moon and why it is for him, a certifiable heat rock.

We talked about the brilliance of producer Rodney Jerkins and what he created on this project, Brandy's prodigious talent as a child actress and singer, the evolution of her voice over time and the respect she rightfully deserves and has earned as a premiere vocalist.
PJ Morton, knows a good album when he hears one.  Check out this week's episode to find out more and also check out Gumbo Unplugged, his latest album.

More on Full Moon

More on P.J. Morton

Show Tracklist (all songs from Full Moon unless indicated otherwise):

  • “Full Moon”
  • PJ Morton: Emotions “How We Were (Remix)”
  • PJ Morton: Gumbo “Religion”
  • Ashanti: Ashanti “Foolish”
  • Truth Hurts: Truthfully Speaking “Addictive”
  • Usher: 8701 “U Don’t Have To Call”
  • Glenn Lewis: World Outside My Window “Don’t You Forget It”
  • Amerie: All I Have “Why Don’t We Fall In Love”
  • Kim Burrell: Everlasting Life “I’ll Keep Holding On”
  • Brandy: Brandy “Brokenhearted”
  • Brandy: Never Say Never “Top of the World Feat. Mase”
  • “It’s Not Worth It”
  • “What About Us”
  • Aaliyah: One In A Million “One In A Million”
  • “He Is”
  • “When You Touch Me”
  • “What About Us”
  • “Die Without You Feat. Ray-J”
  • PM Dawn: Boomerang “Die Without You”
  • “It’s Not Worth It”
  • “Full Moon”
  • “Like This”
  • SWV: It’s About Time “It’s About Time”

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP26: Jack Davey on Digable Planets' "Reachin'"

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Jack Davey

The album: Digable Planets: Reachin' (1993)

Miss Jack Davey's contribution to LA's alternative soul scene began over a decade ago with her work as one half of the group J*Davey. Their debut project, "The Beauty In Distortion" a mix of punk, funk, synth and soul, was a must have for tastemakers and made a splash both in Los Angeles and around the world. When she's not writing songs and producing, she can be found at a myriad of cool spots around the city, spreading the good news of good music as a DJ and selector.
Davey wanted to get into Digable Planets' debut album, now celebrating its 25th anniversaryReachin' (a new refutation of time and space). Coming out at the height of hip-hop's love affair with jazz, Reachin' has been lauded as "an album about freedom—from convention, from oppression, from the limits imposed by the space-time continuum."
We had a chance to talk with Davey about Digable Planets' "Rebirth of Slick" and its cool factor, Brooklyn and its relationship to the album, Ladybug Mecca's butter voice, and what's it's like to be cool and not know it.

More on Reachin'

More on Jack Davey and J*Davey

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Reachin' unless indicated otherwise):

  • “Rebirth of Slick”
  • Georgia Anne Muldrow: Olesi: Fragments of an Earth “Wrong Way”
  • Sy Smith: The Syberspace Social “Aquarius Rising”
  • Sa-Ra: The Hollywood Recordings “Glorious”
  • Flying Lotus: Los Angeles “Roberta Flack (Feat Dolly)”
  • Dam-Funk: Toeachizown “Searching 4 Funk’s Future”
  • J*Davey: The Beauty in Distortion / The Land of the Lost “No More”
  • “La Femme Fetal”
  • Guru: Jazzmatazz “Loungin’”
  • Young Deciples: Road To Freedom “As We Come (To Be)”
  • “Jimmi Diggin Cats”
  • Digable Planets: Blowout Comb “Graffiti”
  • “Where I’m From”
  • Fugees: The Score “Fu-Gee-La”
  • UTD: Manifest Destiny “Manifest Destiny”
  • “What Cool Breezes Do”
  • “Last of the Spiddyocks”
  • “Swoon Units”
  • “Escapism (Getting Free)”
  • “Nickel Bags”
  • E-40: My Ghetto Report Card “Yay Area”
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!