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 Thursday on Apple Podcasts or whatever you get your podcasts.

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EP60: Chris Molanphy on George Michael's "Faith" (1987)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Chris Molanphy

The Album: George Michael: Faith (1987)

In the fall of 1987, it wasn't a foregone conclusion that George Michael's solo debut, Faith, would be a hit. As successful as Michael had been as half of the Wham! duo, going solo was always going to be a risk but as it turns out, it was one worth taking. Faith turned out to be a runaway hit, not simply a #1 album but spawning four different #1 singles, including the lively title song which became the best-selling song of 1988 in the U.S.

It wasn't without controversy however, especially with conservative outcries against the song, "I Want Your Sex," and its video for being too racy or explicit, all the while Michael, as we learned later, was insinuating hints about his own changing sexual identity into different verses. These were all topics of discussion that came up with our guest, Chris Molanphy, creator and host of the Hit Parade podcast which analyzes chart histories to provide incredibly in-depth discussions about pop music. Chris takes on the sometimes arcane peculiarities of music charts and uses them as a way to jump into far broader discussions about pop trends, figures and transformations. Chris had previous taped an episode of Hit Parade devoted to the parallel careers of Michael and Elton John and he brought that wealth of knowledge to our conversation.

More on Chris Molanphy

More on Faith

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

  • I Want Your Sex (Parts I & II)
  • Wham!: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
  • George Michael: Careless Whisper
  • Hard Day
  • Father Figure
  • I Want Your Sex (Parts I & II)
  • Sinead O'Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U
  • One More Try
  • Hard Day (Shep Pettibone Remix)
  • Hard Day
  • Kissing A Fool
  • Father Figure
  • Hand to Mouth
  • Limp Bizkit: Faith
  • Faith
  • Estelle: No Substitute Love
  • Kissing A Fool

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there

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

EP59, Women Behaving Badly #6. Evelyn McDonnell on Janelle Monae's "Dirty Computer" (2018)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Evelyn McDonnell

The Album: Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer (2018)

To close out our Women Behaving Boldly mini-series, we brought things all the way up to the present by tackling a 2018 album. Our guest, music writer and journalism professor Evelyn McDonnell wanted to talk about Atlanta's Janelle Monae and her recent LP, Dirty Computer.

Between her various alter egos and concept-driven albums, Monae's been a critic's darling since she first broke out ten years ago and the intervening decade hasn't dimmed her creative appeal a bit. Dirty Computer, and its accompany mini-movie of music videos, touches on many of Monae's favorite themes: sci-fi futures (some good, some not so good), fluid identities (including her own evolving sexuality), and some of the most soul/funk/rock/pop concoctions you can imagine.

If Monae's recent gem was a perfect capstone to our six weeks of Women Behaving Boldly, it was perfectly matched by the guest who chose it. McDonnell is one of the most accomplished music journalists of her generation, having previously written the books Queens of Noise, about the Runaways, Army of She, which is about Bjork, and Mamarama, which is about Evelyn herself.  Her latest is the massive anthology, Women Who Rock, a 400 page edited anthology that focuses on over 100 of the most important women in pop music history, written by many of our favorite writers including both Lynnee Denise and Ann Powers, both of whom also contributed to our Women Behaving Boldly series.

More on Evelyn McDonnell

More on Dirty Computer

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

  • Make Me Feel
  • Janelle Monae: Sincerely, Jane
  • Janelle Monae: Tightrope
  • Pynk
  • I Like That
  • So Afraid
  • I Like That
  • Pynk
  • Aerosmith: Pink
  • Django Jane
  • Screwed
  • Make Me Feel
  • Americans
  • Don't Judge Me
  • The RH Factory: Poetry

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there

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

EP58, Women Behaving Badly #5: Lauryn Hill's "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill"

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Joan Morgan

The Album: Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
On August 25, 1998, Lauryn Hill, the breakout rapping/singing star from The Fugees released her first (and only) solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. On August 25, 2018, exactly 20 years later, the Heat Rocks crew invited author Joan Morgan to join us to talk about that album and her new book about that album, She Begat ThisCall it a happy coincidence, call it kismet but either way, call it an amazing conversation. 
It's difficult to overstate the singular importance of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. This was a generation before artists like Drake made singing + rapping into a popular form; Lauryn was wading into unknown waters when she put this together. As we discuss, her own label had to be pushed to even put the album out but once they did, it became an instant smash: multi-platinum sales, the first "Best Album" Grammy award for a hip-hop album, and it elevated, for better or for worse, Lauryn - still in her early 20s - to becoming one of hip-hop and R&B's most important figures. Of course, in the years since, controversy has dogged her, especially regarding her live shows and two decades later, her legacy is a complicated one, as we get into. Joan Morgan would have been an ideal guest even if she hadn't written a book about the album; her bonafides as one of the great cultural critics to emerge in the 1990s were already well-established, least of all in her 1999 collection of essays, When Chickenheads Come Home to RoostJoan's based in New York, finishing up a PhD at NYU, but she happened to be in town on that fateful 20th anniversary day to come chat with us.
More on Joan Morgan

More on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
 unless indicated otherwise):
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP 57: Women Behaving Boldly #4: Ann Powers on Madonna's "Like A Prayer" (1989)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Ann Powers

For the fourth installment in our Women Behaving Boldly mini-series, we spin the clock back to an episode we first aired a year ago: Ann Powers, talking about Madonna’s Like a Prayer from 1989. From the beginning, we knew this episode in particular would make a perfect fit with the WBB series. After all, few pop artists, female or male, have done more to transform the pop landscape since the 1980s than Madonna, often times inviting scrutiny and criticism in the process for pushing the proverbial envelope on what people found acceptable by musical artists in that era. And to have Ann Powers, one of the country’s premier music critics, here to break down Madonna’s import was a gift unto itself. If you missed this the first time, we’re excited for you to hear it now. And if you heard it before, revisit this gem from our vaults.

The album: Madonna: Like a Prayer (Sire, 1989)

This week, Morgan and Oliver are joined by Ann Powers of NPR Music and author of the new book, Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music. Together, the three dug into Like a Prayer, Madonna's critical breakout album form 1989. As Ann lays out, Madonna had already established herself as an MTV-era mega-star with her previous albums but Like a Prayer, with its then-controversial sexual politics and surprising personal candor, marked a new level of artistic ambition.

More on Madonna and Like a Prayer

More on Ann Powers:

Tracklisting (all songs from Like a Prayer unless indicated otherwise):

  • Like a Prayer
  • Madonna: Like a Virgin
  • Till Death Do Us Part
  • Express Yourself
  • Act of Contrition
  • Love Song
  • Cherish
  • Keep it Together
  • Like a Prayer

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP 56: Women Behaving Boldly #3: Joi on Betty Davis' "They Say I'm Different" (1974)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Joi Gilliam

The album: Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different (1974)

As part of our "Women Behaving Boldly" series, we decided to re-air the episode that launched Heat Rocks: our interview with future soul trailblazer and architect, Joi Gilliam.

This was one the pilot episodes we recorded in the spring of 2017 and when we left the taping, we turned to one another and knew this show had potential.

The pairing of artist and album came from Morgan and it was inspired: the undersung Betty Davis, one of the most original and fascinating figures of the 1970s, being feted by future soul artist and Dungeon Family-affiliate Joi, an artist very much cut from Betty's cloth but a generation later. We had a fantastic conversation about the importance and uniqueness of Betty and what she's meant, especially, to waves of Black women artists who've followed in her path in the 40+ years since.

On a personal note, this also meant a lot to Oliver because he's written three sets of liner notes on Betty Davis albums (including They Say I'm Different) and interviewed her extensively as part of that. He forever holds a torch for her.

More on Betty Davis:

More on Joi:

Tracklisting(all songs from They Say I'm Different unless indicated otherwise):

  • They Say I'm Different
  • Joi: Sunshine & The Rain
  • Bone Crusher: Never Scared
  • Joi: Fatal Lovesick Journey
  • Don't Call Her No Tramp
  • Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him
  • Ice Cube: Once Upon a Time in the Projects
  • They Say I'm Different
  • 70's Blues
  • Special People
  • Joi: If I'm in Luck I Just Might Get Picked Up
  • Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him
  • He Was a Big Freak

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there.

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

EP55: Women Behaving Boldly #2: Aretha Franklin Retrospective feat. Lynnée Denise

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lynnée Denise

The Albums:

  • Aretha Franklin: Young, Gifted, and Black (1974)
  • Aretha Franklin: Jazz to Soul (1994)
  • Aretha Franklin: Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul (2007)

Heat Rocks had always planned to sit down with DJ Lynnée Denise, an LA-based DJ and music scholar, but when Aretha Franklin passed on August 16th, we invited her to come talk with us about the Queen's life and legacy as part two of our series Women Behaving Boldly.

What a fantastic decision!

Admittedly, Queen Aretha's discography is too vast and too fire to be discussed on just one show so we cherry picked our favorite heat rocks: Oliver (The Queen in Waiting - The Columbia Years), Morgan (Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul) and DJ Lynnée Denise (Young, Gifted and Black).

The three of us, brought together by a shared love and reverence for the Queen talked about her incredible voice and gift of interpretation and DJ Lynnée unpacked the Aretha's relationship with the church, with Detroit, with her instrument(s), with black folks and of course, her place in the canon of music.

Heat Rocks is thankful for an opportunity to spend an hour talking about the undisputed Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, with DJ Lynnée Denise who dropped some nuggets of wisdom on us.

More on Lynnée Denise

Our favorite Aretha performances

More on Aretha

Additional Aretha Links

Show Tracklisting (all songs by Aretha Franklin unless indicated otherwise):

  • I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
  • Rock Steady
  • EPMD: I'm Housin'
  • Rock Steady
  • Young, Gifted and Black
  • Soulville
  • Border Song (Holy Moses)
  • The Long and Winding Road
  • At Last (Let Me In Your Life Outtake)
  • Nina Simone: To Be Young, Gifted and Black
  • Young, Gifted and Black
  • Elton John: Young, Gifted and Black
  • The Heptones: Young, Gifted and Black
  • Bob and Marcia: To Be Young Gifted and Black
  • I've Been Loving You Too Long
  • Day Dreaming
  • Just for a Thrill
  • Drinking Again
  • This Bitter Earth
  • Jump To It
  • One Step Ahead
  • Mos Def: Ms. Fat Booty
  • Ain't But the One
  • I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) [Demo]
  • At Last (Let Me In Your Life Outtake)
  • So Soon
  • Rock Steady (Alternate Mix)
  • Are You Leaving Me [Demo]

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there.
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP 54: Women Behaving Boldly #1: Oliver & Morgan on Millie Jackson's Caught Up (1974)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks

The Album: Millie Jackson Caught Up (1974)

Some months ago, Oliver and Morgan kicked around the idea of celebrating women over the course of a few Heat Rocks episodes. We decided we'd package it as a series and Oliver came up with the name "Women Behaving Boldly". Gotta love it.

To kick off the series, we chose the incomparable, ahead-of-her-time, OG provocateur Mildred Virginia Jackson known professionally as MILLIE JACKSON.

Millie Jackson is the Queen of Raunchy Rap. She spent much of the seventies singing about relationships and situationships. Her lyrics and conversations in the interludes of songs talked about complicated adult dramas like infidelity and divorce. Her words were raw and honest but also grown and sexy.

1974's Caught Up, her fourth release was a concept album which dealt with the before during and aftermath of an affair told from varying perspectives. Oliver and Morgan sat down to talk about all the elements that make this album fire - a heat rock.

More on Millie Jackson

More on Caught Up

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Caught Up unless indicated otherwise):

  • So Easy Going, So Hard Coming Back
  • Rihanna: Needed Me
  • Millie Jackson: Phuck U Symphony
  • Millie Jackson: All the Way Lover
  • The Rap
  • Millie Jackson: Gospel Truth
  • The Rap
  • All I Want is a Fighting Chance
  • It's All Over but the Shouting
  • A House for Sale
  • Gladys Knight and the Pips: Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye)
  • I'm Tired of Hiding
  • The Rap
  • The First Time
  • I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love to You
  • A House for Sale

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP53: Chris Ryan on the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street" (1972)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Chris Ryan

The Album: The Rolling Stones: Exile On Main Street (1972)

In 1972, The Rolling Stones were at the peak of their success...and excess. In order to flee British tax collectors, Keith, Mick and the crew fled to France where, over the course of many months - and a ton of drugs - the group pieced together what would become an epic double album. It would take Mick dragging the tapes to Hollywood to complete production but once finished, Exile On Main Street would become embrace as one of the group's greatest albums and for some, it marked the end of the group's "golden era," in terms of how it blended together rock, soul, and blues together in a mish-mash of styles that still invoke awe - and controversy - today.

The album pick came to us via Chris Ryan, executive editor at The Ringer, where he contributes or hosts a number of podcasts himself, including the pop culture show, The Watch, and the site's movie discussion show, The Rewatchables. Before that, Chris was a long-time music writer, based out of New York, and one of the funniest and smartest critics Oliver's ever met.

More on Chris Ryan

More on Exile On Main Street

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Exile On Main Street unless indicated otherwise):

  • Rocks Off
  • Casino Boogie
  • Ventilator Blues
  • Sweet Black Angel
  • Shake Your Hips
  • Sweet Virginia
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Turd on the Run
  • Rocks Off
  • Happy
  • The Rolling Stones: Miss You

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP52: Aurora Guerrero on the "Mosquita Y Mari" soundtrack (2012)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Aurora Guerrero

The Album: "Mosquita Y Mari" soundtrack (2012)

Aurora Guerrero is a Chicana filmmaker whose 2012 sweet coming-of-age story about two young Chicanas falling in love in Huntington Park was hit at Sundance that year. The Hollywood Reporter called it "...a robust work of self-discovery for two girls at the most awkward and confusing years of their young lives, and a testament to Aurora Guerrero's storytelling prowess." Traditions and emotions merge as the Yolanda and Mari's relationship grows intensely over time.

The narrative is underscored by a gorgeous soundtrack - the sound of East Los Angeles' eclectic underground music scene featuring indie artists across genres: ska, punk and hip hop with bands like Mexico 72, Pistolero, Viernes 13 and La Pobreska.

We sat with Aurora to talk about her curation process, the music vibe of Huntington Park, what falling in love sounds like when you're 15 and how Mosquita Y Mari put Southeast L.A. on the map in a new way.

More on Aurora Guerrero

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

  • Mosquita Y Mari - Main Title
  • Yoli On the Rooftop
  • Ponle Frenos
  • Las Cruces de Tijuana
  • Esta Soledad
  • Pierdete Chica
  • El Dia Previo
  • Mi Corazon Es Para Ti

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many song as we can find there.
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP51: James Spooner on Minor Threat's "Minor Threat" (1983)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
James Spooner

The Album: Minor Threat: Minor Threat (1984)

In 2003, James Spooner released Afropunk, a personal love letter/manifesto dedicated to people like him: punk fans of a different shade whose acceptance in the scene was often hard-fought and tenuous. That became a movement, with annual afropunk festivals becoming entities unto themselves, across the world. Spooner is now a tattoo artist and graphic novelist, living in Los Angeles.

For our episode, Spooner joined us to talk about Minor Threat's self-titled compilation of their early singles, one through which he discovered the ethos of straight-edge (no drugs, drinking, etc.) and a wider world of possibilities within punk rock. Minor Threat, the short-lived but heavily-influential group out of Washington D.C., fronted by Ian MacKaye is legendary and this compilation was one of the first ways in which listeners could discover the group, their sound and their philosophy.  During our episode, we discussed how what about straight-edge appealed to him, the racial politics of punk and how a kid from the high desert of California came across this music and culture to begin with.

More on James Spooner

More on Minor Threat

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Minor Threat unless indicated otherwise):

  • Minor Threat
  • Straight Edge
  • Screaming at the Wall
  • Guilty of Being White
  • Black Flag: White Minority
  • Patti Smith: Rock N Roll N--
  • The Monkees: (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
  • Steppin' Stone
  • Bottled Violence
  • I Don't Wanna Hear It
  • The Murder City Devils: Boom Swagger Boom

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there.
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!