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.

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

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EP82: Sy Smith on Meshell Ndgeocello's Plantation Lullabies (1993)

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Guests: 
Sy Smith

The Album: Meshell Ndgeocello Plantation Lullabies (1993)

When Plantation Lullabies first hit the scene back in 1993, there wasn't anything really like it. Meshell Ndgeocello was a bald, badass, and bold woman with bars talking about sexuality, racism, and gender relations while paving the way for neo-soul music and artists.
Plantation Lullabies gave us many, many things, and Sy Smith (who has played alongside Meshell for years) came by the studio to talk to us about it. We discuss the impact it had on neo-soul, the shades of funk and go-go throughout the record, and the freedom it offered to black America.
Settle in, because this episode and this album are essential to any Heat Rocker.

More on Sy Smith

More on Plantation Lullabies

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Plantation Lullabies unless indicated otherwise):

  • Soul On Ice
  • Sy Smith: Sometimes A Rose Will Grow In Concrete
  • Dred Loc
  • If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)
  • Picture Show
  • Shoot'n Up and Gett'n High
  • If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)
  • Plantation Lullabies
  • I'm Diggin' You - Like An Old Soul Record
  • Dred Loc
  • Call Me
  • Untitled
  • Meshell Ndegeocello: Nocturnal Sunshine
  • Meshell Ndegeocello: Rush Over
  • If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)
  • Soul On Ice

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!

Heat Rocks EP81: Bhi Bhiman on Sly and the Family Stone's "Stand!" (1969)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Bhi Bhiman

The Album: Sly and the Family Stone: Stand! (1969)
When San Francisco’s Sylvester Stewart and his Family Stone released Stand! in the spring of the 1969, it further cemented the group’s reputation as the definitive pop act of the era, whose multiracial makeup mirrored the band’s multi-musical fluency in rock, pop, soul and funk. They captured the post-summer of love optimism of the times in songs like “Everyday People” and “You Can Make It If You Try” and though those good times wouldn’t last in the years to follow, for that brief, shining moment, Stand! thrust Sly and the Family Stone into the spotlight as avatars for a national feeling of possibility and positivity. Can it be it was all so simple then? 
Stand! was the pick of guest Bhi Bhiman, the singer/songwriter from Los Angeles (by way of St. Louis). Armed with an eclectic set of influences, Bhiman's dabbled in everything from songwriting with The Coup's Boots Riley to collaborating with comedian Keegan-Michael Key to releasing his most recent album, 2019's Peace of Mind, as a podcast. Together, we discuss how Stand! reflected the soon-to-be-dashed optimism of its time, how the Family Stone doesn't get enough credit for Sly's sound and ponder how Ike and Tina Turner managed to rip off "Sing a Simple Song" without catching heat. 
More on Bhi Bhiman

More on Stand!

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Stand! unless indicated otherwise):

  • Soul Clappin' II
  • Jimi Hendrix: We Gotta Live Together
  • Sing A Simple Song
  • Stand!
  • Tremaine Hawkins: Change
  • Stand!
  • Sex Machine
  • Don't Call Me N****, Whitey
  • Sing A Simple Song
  • You Can Make It If You Try
  • Bold Soul Sister
  • Everyday People
  • I Want To Take You Higher

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

Heat Rocks EP80: The Art of Sampling #1, James Brown's "In the Jungle Groove" (1984)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks

The Album: James Brown: In the Jungle Groove (1986)
This is the first of what will eventually be four episodes, released quarterly, that focus on the art of sampling. As Morgan explains in this episode, sampling isn't simply a key aesthetic within pop music styles, especially hip-hop, it's also an important way through which the past becomes present, allowing us to rediscover artists of yore. No artist in the 1980s benefitted more from this than James Brown.
By the end of the decade, Brown's long funk discography had seemingly been mined thousands of ways over but if you had to trace things back to a ground zero, you'd find In the Jungle Groove, the 1986 compilation from Polydor that practically felt designed for sampling, especially by highlighting some of Brown's fiercest and funkiest tracks, complete with new edits and remixes, none more far-reaching than "Funky Drummer," a former 45-only jam that the comp not only released in its full form but also took Clyde Stubblefield's iconic breakbeat and looped it into its own standalone track. 
For our inaugural Art of Sampling episode, we revisit In the Jungle Groove and talk about both our favorite songs off the comp as well as our favorite uses of those various tracks. Listen to how we give it up and turn it loose.  
More on In the Jungle Groove

Show Tracklisting (all songs from In the Jungle Groove unless indicated otherwise):

  • Funky Drummer
  • Digable Planets: Where I'm From
  • N.W.A.: Fuck Tha Police
  • Public Enemy: Fight the Power
  • Funky Drummer
  • Nas: Get Down
  • The Incredible Bongo Band: Apache
  • Nas: Made You Look
  • Masta Ace Incorporated: Boom Bashin'
  • George Michael: Waiting For That Day
  • Skull Snaps: It's A New Day
  • The Winstons: Amen Brother
  • Public Enemy: Bring the Noise
  • Funky Drummer
  • Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose
  • Talkin' Loud And Sayin' Nothing
  • Keek and Qagee: Don't Say It, Sing It
  • Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose
  • Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved
  • Gang Starr: Gotch U
  • CeCe Peniston: Finally (Remix)
  • Full Force: Ain't My Type of Hype
  • Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved
  • Hot Pants
  • I Got To Move
  • Showbiz and AG: Diggin' In The Crates
  • Cypress Hill: How I Can Just Kill A Man (Blunted Remix)
  • Funky Drummer

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!

Heat Rocks EP79: Joey Dosik on Bill Withers's "+Justments" (1974)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Joey Dosik

The Album: Bill Withers: +Justments (1974)
Despite the massive success of Withers's first two albums, Just As I Am and Still Bill, label problems prevented +Justments (his fourth LP) from being released on CD until 2010. As such, it's been a sleeper of an album despite how good it is. Withers was never the most confessional of artists but this album, which came about during the dissolution of Withers's marriage to Denise Nicholas (amidst accusations of abuse), is about as close to he gets to talking about his personal life via song. Meanwhile, scoring all this were former members of the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, as good a rhythm section that any artist in L.A. could hope to be hooked up with. 
+Justments was the pick by L.A. soulster Joey Dosik, who's recorded extensively with Vulfpeck but has recently branched into his solo career with his debut album from last year, Inside Voice, which includes a cover of "Stories" from Withers's album. Amongst other things, we discussed how Dosik discovered this slept-on album in his ex-girlfriend's crates, how he learned his own singing voice by studying Withers's, and how drumming great James Gadson is supernaturally clean in the pocket. 
Note: the first half of our episode was taped in the MaxFun kitchen on a remote rig because the power had gone out in our building. We were able to get back into the studio properly for the second half but we apologize for the uneven sound quality of the first half. 
More on Joey Dosik

More on +Justments

Show Tracklisting (all songs from +Justments unless indicated otherwise):

  • Ruby Lee
  • Joey Dosik: Game Winner
  • Stories
  • Bill Withers: Ain't No Sunshine
  • Can We Pretend
  • Heartbreak Road
  • Can We Pretend
  • Heartbreak Road
  • Stories
  • Joey Dosik: Stories (Live)
  • Joey Dosik: Stories
  • Railroad Man
  • You
  • Green Grass
  • Shuggie Otis: Inspiration Information
  • Stevie Wonder: Visions

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

Heat Rocks EP78: Heartbreak Radio on the "Chungking Express" soundtrack (1994)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lady Imix
Guests: 
DJ Phatrick

The Album: Chungking Express Soundtrack (1994)
Legendary Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai has long been known for how he integrates pop songs into his films and soundtracks. Chungking Express, Wong's breakout international hit, was no exception as he worked  in everything from '60s folk pop to '70s reggae to '90s alternative in the mix, alongside an original score by longtime composer partners Roel Garcia and Frankie Chan. To discuss the melding of sound, image and story in Wong's fanciful tale of two cops and the women who (may or may not) love them, we brought in the hosts of Heartbreak Radio, Lady Imix and DJ Phatrick.
Heartbreak Radio which began as an internet show devoted to the sounds of "beautiful sadness" and now it broadcasts every two weeks on KQBH LP, 101.5 FM, a micro-transmitter station out of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Imix (aka Sol) and Phatrick (aka Patrick) are now old hands at the sounds of love and longing and it was obvious why they'd want to muse on the music of Chungking Express. Together we talked about how Wong Kar Wai's movies use pop, how the right song can enhance a character and whether or not Oliver is bugging out when he says that he can't stand to hear "California Dreamin'" anymore.
The MaxFunDrive is in full swing! If you like what we do, please consider becoming a monthly supporter. We love making this show and we are able to make it because of your support! Head over to maximumfun.org/donate now!

More on Lady Imix and DJ Phatrick

More on the music of Chungking Express

Show Tracklisting (all songs from the soundtrack of Chungking Express unless indicated otherwise):

  • Fornication in Space
  • Things in Life
  • Heartbreak Interlude
  • Flying Pickets: Only You
  • Los Indios Tabajara: Always in My Heart
  • Nat King Cole: Quizas, Quizas, Quizas
  • What A Difference A Day Makes
  • Urge Overkill: Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon
  • California Dreamin'
  • Lee Moses: California Dreamin'
  • Fornication in Space
  • Things in Life
  • Dreams
  • What A Difference A Day Makes
  • Dreams

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

Heat Rocks EP77: Illa J on Prince's "Dirty Mind" (1980)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Illa J

The Album: Prince Dirty Mind (1980)

Dirty Mind, Prince's third album, arrived on the scene in the late fall of 1980, and brought with it a salaciousness we hadn't known heretofore. The album, a mix of punk, funk and disco allowed Prince to play with gender and genre as well as sexual innuendo and double entendre.

Beatmaker and producer Illa J sat down with us to talk about why Dirty Mind for him is an all time heatrock, what makes the album impossible to stop bumping and how Prince was on time and ahead of his time all at the same time.

This episode was short and sweet - just like Dirty Mind. Check it.

More on Illa J

More on Dirty Mind

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

  • Uptown
  • Illa J: Enjoy the Ride
  • Partyup
  • Dirty Mind
  • Prince: Controversy
  • Dirty Mind
  • When You Were Mine
  • The Bangles" Manic Monday
  • Sister
  • Partyup
  • When You Were Mine
  • Head
  • Gotta Broken Heart Again
  • Vanity 6: Nasty Girl
  • Britney Spears: I'm A Slave 4 U
  • Uptown

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

*updated EP76: Nick Waterhouse on Jackie Shane's Any Other Way (2017)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Nick Waterhouse

Dear Heatrockers,

On a recent episode, our deep dive into Jackie Shane's "Any Other Way", we unintentionally misgendered Ms. Shane and the late Wilmer Broadnax. Although some of this was addressed at the start of the episode, we'd like to take the opportunity to apologize to members of the transgender community and anyone who found our choice of words offensive and insensitive. We have re-cut the episode to remove the discussion of Broadnax and we pledge for the future to do a more thoughtful job in choosing our language in a respectful and accurate manner. Thanks to all of you who sent us feedback on this; we appreciate your input and support.

The Album: Jackie Shane Any Other Way (2017)

This week's episode focuses on the life, career and resurgence of soul singing trans pioneer Jackie Shane, who spent much of the 50's and 60's alongside Frank Motley and the Motley Crew band enthralling Toronto audiences with her voice, her presence and her realism.

We were thrilled to be joined by another old soul, singer Nick Waterhouse, a cool kid from the best coast whose sonic leanings hearken back to a time and type of rhythm and blues. He came to share the Jackie Shane's influence on him as a singer, the splendor that was her life and the songs that moved him from her seminal 2017 compilation album, Any Other Way.

This one's too good to miss!

And be sure to check out Nick Waterhouse's new self-titled record releasing 03/08.

More on Nick Waterhouse

More on Any Other Way

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Any Other Way unless indicated otherwise):

  • New Way of Loving
  • Nick Waterhouse: Wreck the Rod
  • Stand Up Straight and Tall
  • Walking the Dog
  • Any Other Way
  • Frank Motley and the Hitchhikers: Hook & Sling
  • Money (That's What I Want)
  • Dual Trumpet Bounce - Live
  • Papa's Got A Brand New Bag - Live
  • Comin' Down
  • Money (That's What I Want)
  • Violent Femmes: Blister in the Sun
  • Stand Up Straight and Tall
  • Money (That's What I Want) - Live
  • Walking the Dog
  • Shotgun - Live

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

EP75: Tall Black Guy on D'Angelo's "Voodoo" (2000)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Tall Black Guy

The Album: D'Angelo Voodoo (2000)

Tall Black Guy, AKA Terrel Wallace, has been making beats and remixing artists like 79.5, Stro Elliot, and Moonchild, for a long time. Listen to any one of his songs and you'll understand why he's one of the best producers out there and why we were so excited to talk to him. It's no surprise that his personal heat rock (and ours) was "Voodoo" by D'Angelo.

Making the album was no small feat. D'Angelo took a long break between albums to learn more about playing the guitar, and linked up with the Soulquarians to lay down some of the funkiest, most eclectic, and just plain hottest tracks of all-time. It took nearly 5 years to make, but the wait was worth it.

Morgan is flying solo and talked to TBG about the wide range of D'Angelo's influences, the shift from "Brown Sugar" to "Voodoo," and D'Angelo's personal shift from neo soul darling to full-on sex symbol.

More on Tall Black Guy

More on Voodoo

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

  • Send It On
  • Tall Black Guy: O Fim da Viagem
  • Playa Playa
  • Snoop Dogg: Gin and Juice
  • Chicken Grease
  • Maimouna Youssef: Say My Name
  • Spanish Joint
  • The Line
  • Spanish Joint
  • Greatdayndamornin'/Booty - Medley
  • Left and Right
  • Red Astaire: Follow Me
  • Untitled (How Does It Feel)
  • Prince: She's Always In My Hair
  • D'Angelo: She's Always In My Hair
  • 14KT: She's Always In My Hair
  • Africa
  • Devil's Pie

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!

EP74: Garth Trinidad on the Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band's "The Serpent's Mouth" (2018)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Garth Trinidad

The Album: The Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band: The Serpent's Mouth (2018)
Steel pan/drum music emerged out of Trinidad and Tobago over the course of the 1950s. Its tinny yet melodious timbre was unique and it soon became a signature style within the diverse soundscape of Afro-Caribbean music. The tourism industry compelled steel drum bands to adapt pop hits into their repertoire and by the late '60s and early '70s, it was common to hear soul and funk tunes being given a steel pan makeover. Even Morgan's stepfather, Bob Sharpe, got in the action as part of the Salt N' Pepper Steel Band, whose lone album includes covers of the Jackson 5 and Johnny Nash (and Oklahoma too!). 
The Bacao Rhythm and Steel Band, formed by Germany's Bjorn Wagner after a few years living in Trinidad & Tobago, is directly influenced by that earlier era. Across their two albums, 55 (2016) and last year's The Serpent's Mouth, Bacao tackle any number of surprising hits, many of them drawn from hip-hop as well as soul/funk, plus their own original compositions. If you ever wanted to hear Gang Starr deep cuts get the steel pan makeover, you came to the right place. 
The Serpent's Mouth was the album pick of DJ Garth Trinidad, whose been a radio fixture in Los Angeles since the mid-90s, when he first started at  KCRW and rose to fame on his weeknight Chocolate City show. He continues to hold down a 8-10pm slot when he's not busy music supervising or hosting concerts at the Hollywood Bowl
More on Garth Trinidad

More on The Serpent's Mouth

Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Serpent's Mouth unless indicated otherwise):

  • Xxplosive
  • The Original Trinidad Steel Band: Cissy Strut
  • Salt n' Pepper Band: My Way
  • Bacao Steel and Rhythm Band: Round & Round
  • 1 Thing
  • Jake Shimabukuro: Dragon
  • 79.5: Terrorize My Heart
  • The Poets of Rhythm: What You Doin'
  • Bacao Steel and Rhythm Band: Dog Was A Doughnut
  • Burn
  • All for the Cash
  • Burn
  • Crockett Theme
  • I Love You
  • Maracas Bay Boogie
  • Hoola-Hoop
  • The Katzenjammers

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!

EP73: Tre'vell Anderson on the "Dreamgirls" soundtrack (2006)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Tre'vell Anderson

The Album: Dreamgirls soundtrack (2006)

Former LA Times Editor and Out Magazine's Director of Culture and Entertainment Tre'vell Anderson, joined us to talk Jennifer Hudson and the Dreamgirls OST.

Dreamgirls won two Academy Awards - one for Best Sound Mixing, the other, Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Hudson's star-making portrayal of Effie White.
The single disc-version of the soundtrack spent two weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album. One of the songs, "Love You I Do" won the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture or Television. The soundtrack, a certified banger, and Tre'vell's personal heat rock, was certified platinum.

A fan of Jennifer Hudson's since American Idol Season 3 (his favorite), the film and soundtrack resonated with him because of the all too familiar narrative of the most talented person in the room having to contend with implicit bias preventing them from living their best life.

We talked about the glory of Jennifer's journey from losing American Idol to winning at the Oscars, the difference between singers and sangers, Detroit vs. Chicago as a backdrop for the film, and what it sounds like when a Cadillac commercial get's "Pat Booned" (an Oliver Wang original saying).

Why did the film propel Jennifer Hudson to the stardom possibly meant for Beyonce (AT THAT TIME). Who knew Eddie Murphy had this sort of vocal range? Who's version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" was better: the original J.H. or the new J.H.?

Tre'vell helped us answer those questions and more!

More on Tre'vell Anderson

More on the Dreamgirls OST

Show Tracklisting (all songs from the Dreamgirls OST unless indicated otherwise):

  • Move
  • Jennifer Holliday: And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
  • Cadillac Car
  • Eddie Murphy: Party All The Time
  • I Meant You No Harm/Jimmy's Rap
  • Move
  • Fake Your Way to the Top
  • Patience
  • One Night Only (Disco)
  • And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
  • Jennifer Holliday: And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
  • Family
  • Steppin' to the Bad Side

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!