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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EP112: Saul Williams on Portishead's "Dummy" (1994)

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Guests: 
Saul Williams
Saul Williams is super talented.  The multi-hyphenate artist not only has a way with words, he has an ear for heat rocks.  And apparently kept a fire starting five in his CD changer.  We were fortunate enough to have him bring his ear and words to the booth to discuss Portishead's debut album "Dummy" on Heat Rocks.
Brooklyn meets Bristol in Atlanta, at a time when Saul was discovering global sounds, immersing himself in culture and scholarship - in other words, he and the album were both in the right place at the right time. We spoke about Beth Ortons haunting vocals, the rise of the trip hop genre, sampling as an aesthetic, lyrical ingenuity and why Atlanta’s club scene was unmatched in the 90s.
 
More on Saul Williams
More on Dummy
Show Tracklisting (all songs from Dummy unless indicated otherwise):
  • Sour Times
  • Saul Williams: Fight Everything
  • Mysterons
  • Gang Starr: No Shame In My Game
  • Young Disciples: As We Come (To Be)
  • Cleveland Watkiss: Project 23
  • Omar: Need You Bad
  • Mysterons
  • Numb
  • Glory Box
  • Tricky: Hell is Round the Corner
  • Glory Box
  • It Could Be Sweet
  • Sade: No Ordinary Love
  • It Could Be Sweet
  • Sour Times
  • Lalo Schifrim: Danube Incident
  • Isaac Hayes: Ike's Rap II
  • Glory Box
  • Strangers
  • It's A Fire
  • Pedestal
  • It Could Be Sweet
  • Esthero: Superheroes
  • Isaac Hayes: Walk On By
  • Nearly God: Poems
  • Goldie: Mother
  • Soho: Hot Music
  • Fela Kuti: Lady
 

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!

EP111: Tisa Bryant on The Emotions' "Rejoice" (1977)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Tisa Bryant

The Emotions started out singing gospel as The Hutchinson Sunbeams, but when they signed a deal with Stax/Volt, they changed their name and switched to soul/R&B. They enjoyed modest success during those years, charting on the Hot 100, but Stax was going bankrupt, and The Emotions were left stranded. 

The group moved to Columbia Records and met Maurice White, who helped produce the biggest hits in their careers. "The Best of My Love" rocketed up the charts and reached the top spot on Billboard Pop and R&B and their album Rejoice went Platinum. 

Critic and professor Tisa Bryant talks to Oliver and guest co-host Ernest Hardy about the change in sound between the Stax/Volt and Columbia Records years, the role Maurice and Charles Stepney played in the production of this album, and The Emotions' place in the vast world of girl groups.  

More on Tisa

More on The Emotions

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

  • Best of My Love
  • The Emotions: Peace Be Still
  • The Emotions: Flowers
  • A Long Way to Go
  • Bebe and Cece Winans: Heaven
  • Blessed
  • Deniece Williams: Free
  • Blessed
  • Key to My Heart
  • Don't Ask My Neighbors
  • A Feeling Is
  • Best of My Love
  • Don't Ask My Neighbors
  • Best of My Love
  • Don't Ask My Neighbors
  • A Long Way to Go
  • Rejoice
  • The Emotions: Blind Alley
  • The Emotions: Show Me How
  • The Emotions: Peace Be Still (Live at Wattstax)
  • The Emotions: We Go Through Changes
  • Love Unlimited: If You Want Me, Say It

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!

EP110: Jason Concepcion on Herbie Hancock's "Thrust"

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Jason Concepcion

Album: Herbie Hancock: Thrust (1974)
 
Thrust followed on the heels of Herbie Hancock’s genre-altering best-seller Head Hunters album, one in which the gifted keyboardist and composer played with new conceptions of fusion jazz and synthesizer technology. Thrust, in many ways, could be considered a second half to Head Hunters; recorded within months of its predecessors with almost all the same players. Once again, Hancock and his team plumbed the possibilities of mixing funk rhythms with jazz improvisation, resulting in four tracks of fusion fire that, to our guest Jason Concepcion, marked a high point before a onslaught of “smooth jazz” would dial everything down. 
 
Concepcion is perhaps best known to people as a basketball savant as a staff writer for The Ringer and Emmy-winning producer behind their NBA Desktop segment. I first discovered him via Twitter, thanks to his expert, witty writing as @netw3rk. However, for all his sports acumen, Concepcion is also Berkelee School-trained, having once attended there with the ambition of going into film composition. Thrust was a revelatory way in which he engaged with the possibilities of jazz, soul and funk experimentations. During our conversation, we discussed Hancock’s penchant for innovation in that era, the highs and lows of 1970s fusion jazz plus we took a side trip into the current state of the 365 day NBA “season.”
 
More on Jason Concepcion

More on Thrust

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

  • Palm Grease
  • Spank-A-Lee
  • Butterfly
  • Actual Proof
  • Van Halen: Cathedral
  • Spank-A-Lee
  • Palm Grease
  • Herbie Hancock: Watermelon Man
  • Herbie Hancock: Rockit
  • Palm Grease
  • Weather Report: Young and Fine
  • Rusty Bryant: Fire Eater
  • Grover Washington Jr.: Hydra
  • Actual Proof
  • Rhodes Piano Demo
  • Actual Proof
  • Butterfly
  • toe: two moons
  • Palm Grease
  • Gil Scott Heron & Brian Jackson: Peace Go With You Brother
  • Herbie Hancock: Chameleon

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!
 

EP109: Gabrielle Civil on Prince's "Parade" (1986)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Gabrielle Civil

No single artist has come up on this show more than The Purple One and it's not hard to see why. His enormous discography is filled to the brim with timeless records and undeniable fire. 

Parade came at an interesting time in Prince's career; it would be the last album he recorded with The Revolution and was, ostensibly, the soundtrack to Prince's film Under the Cherry Moon, a critical and commercial flop. Parade endured and became one of his best selling albums, garnering near universal praise and launched his already successful career into the stratosphere. 

Writer and artist Gabrielle Civil joins Oliver and guest co-host Ernest Hardy in the studio to discuss Under the Cherry Moon, the chances Prince took with the production of Parade, and the role of women in his world. 

More on Gabrielle Civil

More on Parade

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Parade unless indicated otherwise)

  • Do U Lie
  • Life Can Be So Nice
  • Venus De Milo
  • Christopher Tracy's Parade
  • I Wonder U
  • Under the Cherry Moon
  • Girls & Boys
  • I Wonder U
  • Prince: Old Friends 4 Sale
  • Sometimes It Snows in April
  • Meshell Ndegeocello: Sometimes It Snows in April
  • Sometimes It Snows in April
  • Life Can Be So Nice
  • Anotherloverholenyohead
  • Kiss
  • Prince: When Doves Cry
  • I Wonder U
  • Under the Cherry Moon
  • Kiss 
  • Anotherloverholenyohead
  • Christopher Tracy's Parade
  • New Position
  • Sometimes It Snows in April
  • Stevie Wonder: Send One Your Love
  • Aretha Franklin: Something He Can Feel
  • Camille: 1,2,3

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!

EP108: Luis Xtravaganza on the “Grease” soundtrack (1978)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Luis Xtravaganza

Although Grease was originally a somewhat raunchy Broadway musical, the film and the soundtrack (released 2 months ahead of the film's release) has left a lasting impact on millions of young adults the world over. Its relatable themes and catchy tunes have stuck with audiences, even 40 years after its initial release. The soundtrack contained numbers performed by the cast and more than a few songs by 1950s revivalist band, Sha Na Na. It went on to top the Billboard music charts, selling over 8 million copies, and helped launch Olivia Newton-John's career into a completely different direction. It also spawned a sequel, a recent live television special, and just this year, a Rydell High spinoff was just ordered by HBO.

Dancer and choreographer Luis Xtravaganza joins Oliver and guest co-host Ernest Hardy to discuss his love of the soundtrack, the influence it had on his career, and why you just can't not dance to so many of these earworms. Grease is the word.

More on Luis Xtravaganza

More on the Grease OST

Show Tracklisting (all songs from the Grease soundtrack unless indicated otherwise)

  • You're the One That I Want
  • Greased Lightnin'
  • Grease
  • Summer Nights
  • There Are Worse Things I Can Do
  • Alone At A Drive In Movie
  • Michelle Pfeiffer: Cool Rider
  • Alison Moyet: There Are Worse Things I Can Do
  • Hopelessly Devoted to You
  • Olivia Newton-John: I Honestly Love You
  • Born to Hand Jive
  • Summer Nights
  • Born to Hand Jive
  • Grease
  • We Go Together
  • Blondie: Tide Is High
  • We Go Together
  • The Shirelles: Tonight's the Night
  • Jennifer Hudson: And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
  • Yvonne Elliman: If I Can't Have You

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!

EP107: Gerrick Kennedy on Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love" (1998)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Gerrick Kennedy

The Album: Whitney Houston My Love Is Your Love (1998)

What was initially supposed to be a greatest hits compilation ended up being a full-on album. Whitney got everyone on this record. Babyface, Kelly Price, Faith Evans, Missy, and even Mariah Carey, all came into the studio to help create a true heat rock; four times platinum, six Grammy nominations, and the Oscar for Best Original Song/

Writer and critic Gerrick Kennedy joins Oliver and Morgan in the studio to talk about Whitney's move to hip-hop, her growth as an artist from her last studio album, and how this record helped celebrate black womanhood in a way that was so rarely heard at that time.

More on Gerrick Kennedy

More on My Love Is Your Love

Show Tracklisting (all songs from My Love Is Your Love unless otherwise stated)

  • My Love Is Your Love
  • It's Not Right But It's Okay
  • Lauryn Hill: Ex-Factor
  • It's Not Right But It's Okay (Remix)
  • Aaliyah: Are You That Somebody
  • Brandy: Never Say Never
  • Brandy: The Boy Is Mine
  • If I Told You That
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • Heartbreak Hotel (Live)
  • Get It Back
  • Total: Trippin'
  • Deborah Cox: Nobody's Supposed to Be Here
  • Whitney Houston: Tell Me No
  • Oh Yes
  • In My Business
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • I Learned From The Best
  • When You Believe
  • My Love Is Your Love
  • If I Told You That
  • Oh Yes
  • Get It Back
  • When You Believe
  • I Learned From The Best
  • Kelly Price: Secret Love
  • Deborah Cox: 2 Good 2 Be True
  • Missy Elliot: All N My Grill

 

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!

EP106: Luz Mendoza on Nina Simone's "To Love Somebody" (1969)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Luz Mendoza

The Album: Nina Simone To Love Somebody (1969)

Nina Simone's discography is vast and full of true fire, but To Love Somebody often gets overlooked. Perhaps it's because it was released right after 'Nuff Said and Nina Simone and Piano, both fantastic albums in their own right. And although the album contained almost all covers (Revolution 1 and 2 were credited to Simone and Weldon Irvine), she found a way to make every single song truly her own.

Luz Mendoza of Y La Bamba joins Oliver and Morgan in the studio to discuss the chances Nina took on this album, the smaller, quieter moments in the music, and what Nina told us about herself throughout this LP. This is an episode you definitely do not want to miss.

More on Y La Bamba

More on To Love Somebody

Show Tracklisting (all songs from To Love unless indicated otherwise)

  • I Can't See Nobody
  • Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Released
  • I Shall Be Released
  • I Can't See Nobody
  • Y La Bamba: Octavio
  • The Times They Are A-Changin'
  • The Byrds: Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)
  • Turn, Turn, Turn, (To Everything There is a Season)
  • Revolution (Pt. 2)
  • Revolution (Pt. 1)
  • Revolution (Pt. 2)
  • Suzanne
  • Leonard Cohen: Suzanne
  • Bob Dylan: Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
  • Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
  • Bee Gees: To Love Somebody
  • To Love Somebody
  • Cosi Ti Amo
  • The Glory of Love
  • I Shall Be Released
  • Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
  • James Brown: September Song
  • Meshell Ndegeocello: Nite and Day
  • La Lupe: Fever

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!

EP105: Jason Woodbury on Karen Dalton's "In My Own Time" (1971)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Jason Woodbury

The Album: Karen Dalton In My Own Time (1971)

In My Own Time was the second and final studio album by Karen Dalton, a musician who preferred to stay out of the spotlight. She didn't enjoy much commercial success when she was here with us, but the impact she left on the world is immeasurable. Artists like Joanna Newsom, Nick Cave, and Bob Dylan have cited her as an influence (Dylan would even back her up on harmonica in live performances). Her unique voice, often compared to Billie Holiday, was a blend of bluesy, world-weary, and haunting, but warm.

Music writer James Woodbury joins Oliver and Morgan to discuss Karen's voice in the world of strangely captivating voices, the value of reissue labels, and Karen's interpretations of popular songs. Join us as we leave for the country and take a deep dive into this forgotten classic.

More on Jason Woodbury

More on In My Own Time

Show Tracklisting (all songs from In My Own Time unless indicated otherwise):

  • Take Me
  • Joanna Newsom: Sadie
  • Wall: Something on Your Mind
  • When a Man Loves a Woman
  • Laura Nyro & Labelle: Jimmy Mack
  • In My Own Dream
  • Esther Phillips: Home is Where the Hatred Is
  • Angela McCluskey: It's Been Done
  • Tiny Tim: Tiptoe Through the Tulips with Me
  • In A Station
  • Something On Your Mind
  • Take Me
  • George Jones & Tammy Wynette: Take Me
  • Something On Your Mind
  • One Night of Love
  • Same Old Man
  • Are You Leaving for the Country
  • When a Man Loves a Woman
  • Judee Still: Jesus was a Cross Maker
  • Valerie June: Workin' Woman Blues
  • Big Mama Thornton: Sweet Little Angel

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!

EP104: Jeff Chang on the "Wild Style" soundtrack (1983)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Jeff Chang

The Album: Wild Style soundtrack(1983)

Wild Style began as a low budget but ambitious film project, centered around Zoro, a young graffiti writer swashbuckling his way through the style wars of early ‘80s New York. Directed by Charlie Ahearn and starring Lee Quinones as Zoro, Wild Style would become more of a quasi-documentary of hip-hop’s on its cusp from South Bronx street culture into the global phenomenon we know today. Filled with MC, graffiti, DJ and b-boy performances from a host of now legends, Wild Style would inadvertently spread the hip-hop gospel to a generation of youth around the world, enraptured with how it depictions of an explosive, impossibly colorful subculture that few had laid eyes on outside of the five boroughs. Its soundtrack, overseen by Fab Five Freddy and Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, was largely built off an exclusive disc of original breakbeats that became the sound bed for various live performance scenes throughout the movie. Electric, dynamic and fly as hell, the Wild Style soundtrack helped capture the sound of early hip-hop’s energy and flair from A to motherf—-ng Z.

For a young Jeff Chang, growing up far away from the Bronx in Honolulu, Wild Style was like a secret cypher that he and his friends could pass around and decrypt. Long before the days of streaming video, if you didn’t catch a theatrical screening of this tiny, indie flick, you had to rely on nth generation bootleg dubs on VHS but as crappy as the images might have been, the inspiration was no less dimmed. This put Chang on the path to eventually become one of the most accomplished hip-hop critics in the formative ‘90s era, eventually culminating in his award winning Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (2005), which, among other things, digs deep into hip-hop’s earliest days preceding even the Wild Style era. He’s since followed that up with Who We Be: The Colorization of America (2014) and most recently, We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation (2016) which became the inspiration behind the digital video series of the same name which just debuted this year.

More on Jeff Chang

More on The Wild Style soundtrack

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

  • Stoop Rap
  • Stoop Rap - Film Version
  • Cuckoo Clocking
  • Military Cut
  • Nas: The Genesis
  • Stoop Rap
  • Gang Star: DJ Premier In Deep Concentration
  • Gangbusters
  • Common: Gettin' Down At The Amphitheater
  • MC Battle at the Dixie
  • A Tribe Called Quest: Sucka N****
  • Fantastic Freaks at the Dixie
  • Public Enemy: Raise the Roof
  • Wild Style Lesson
  • MC Battle at the Dixie
  • Down By Law
  • Grandmaster Flash: Flash it to the Beat (Live)
  • Lisa Lee Wild Style deleted scene
  • T's Limo Ride
  • Double Trouble at the Amphitheater
  • Basketball Throwdown
  • Gangbusters
  • South Bronx Subway Rap
  • Subway Theme

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!

EP103: Lee Fields on Sam Cooke's "Portrait Of A Legend" (2003)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lee Fields

The Album: Sam Cooke Portrait Of A Legend (2003)

Legendary soul singer Lee Fields (Daptone, Truth & Soul, Big Crown Records) stopped by Heat Rocks to discuss the 30 tracks compiled by ABKCO records on Sam Cooke, Portrait of A Legend, released in the summer of 2003. The album covers multi-genres including gospel, pop and soul - Sam's hits, during his storied 15 year career which ended tragically with his untimely death at 33. Referred to as, "the man who invented soul" Sam Cooke hummed and crooned his way into soul music's canon starting with three words: You Send Me .

Lee Fields' career began 50 years ago with the release of his first single on the Bedford label "Bewildered". Since then he's released dance tracks, recorded with The Expressions, had his music placed in shows like Atlanta and Dear White People, toured the country and has his songs remixed by some of the best.

He and Morgan discussed the gospel according to Sam Cooke, symbolism in A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke as a lyricist, Sam Cooke as a storyteller. A veteran soul singer in conversation about one of the architects of soul music It gets no better.

More on Lee Fields

More on Sam Cooke

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Portrait Of A Legend unless indicated otherwise):

  • Nothing Can Change This Love
  • Lee Fields & The Expressions: Honey Dove
  • Touch The Hem of His Garment
  • You Send Me
  • You Were Made For Me
  • Only Sixteen
  • Soul
  • Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers: The Last Mile of the Way
  • Little Red Rooster
  • Chain Gang
  • Cupid
  • Bring It On Home To Me
  • Nothing Can Change This Love
  • (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
  • Summertime
  • You Send Me
  • Sugar Dumpling
  • Muhammad Ali: The Gang's All Here
  • A Change Is Gonna Come
  • Aretha Franklin: A Change Is Gonna Come
  • Otis Redding: A Change Is Gonna Come
  • Touch The Hem Of His Garment
  • You Were Made For Me

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!