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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EP94: Gavin Turek on Carole King's "Tapestry" (1971)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Gavin Turek

The Album: Carole King Tapestry (1971)

LA singer songwriter Gavin Turek's relationship with Carole King's Tapestry album began in her childhood, listening to her father play virtually every song featured on the piano. He taught her the notes, the chords, the vocals until the earth moved under her feet and made her a die hard fan.

She joined Heat Rocks to discuss what made this album fire, the west coast leanings of Tapestry, Carole's lyrical approach to the realness of relationships and why having a cat featured on your cover art is lit and progressive.

There are so many heaters on this album, she had four favorites. Listen in and you'll understand why.

More on Gavin Turek

More on Tapestry

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

  • Way Over Yonder
  • Gavin Turek: Frontline (TOKiMONSTA Remix)
  • I Feel the Earth Move
  • (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  • Aretha Franklin: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  • So Far Away
  • Smackwater Jack
  • Tapestry
  • It's Too Late
  • Carole King: Locomotion
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow
  • The Shirelles: Will You Love Me Tomorrow
  • Donny Hathaway: You've Got A Friend
  • Aretha Franklin: Medley: Precious Lord, Take My Hand/ You've Got A Friend
  • So Far Away
  • Gary Portnoy: Cheers Theme
  • Where You Lead
  • Where You Lead (Gilmore Girls version)
  • Joni Mitchell: California
  • Tracy Chapman: Fast Cars

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!

EP93: Art of Sampling #2 with Thes One on Nas's Illmatic (1994)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Thes One

The Album: Nas Illmatic (1994)

In our first episode from our four-part Art of Sampling series, we focused on one of the classic sources of samples from the mid-80s: the James Brown anthology, In the Jungle Groove. For #2, we wanted to turn our attention to an album whose use of samples helped influences sampling culture and for that, we went with a giant celebrating its 25th anniversary this year: Nas's debut album, Illmatic.

So much has been said about this LP over the years, we shouldn’t need to make a case for it but here’s the short version: it’s not simply considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time but it’s universally lauded as one of the greatest debut albums in any genre, least of all given the intense hype around Nas leading up to it. Befitting that anticipation, Illmatic drew, really for the first time, a Dream Team-esque assemblage of some of New York’s finest producers including Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor and L.E.S. Their production decisions, including the samples that powered their now iconic tracks, marked one peak in hip-hop’s golden era of sample-based production.

To help us break all this down, we invited one of Los Angeles’s finest: Thes One, half of People Under the Stairs (and composer of our theme song!) While Thes generally doesn’t like talking about other producers’ work, as a 16 year old hip-hop head hyped for Illmatic when it dropped in ’94, Thes brought his insights as both a producer and fan, and we touched on everything from the use of nostalgia in sample choices, how Nas’s flow worked with different beats, and why DJ Premier’s “bubba chip” drum programming was a game changer.

More on Thes One

More on Illmatic

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

  • The Genesis
  • N.Y. State of Mind
  • Michael Jackson: Human Nature
  • It Ain't Hard to Tell
  • It Ain't Hard to Tell (Demo)
  • DJ Day: It Ain't Hard to Tell (Remix)
  • Large Professor: It Ain't Hard to Tell (Remix)
  • Common: Resurrection
  • Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)
  • Parliament: Come in Out of the Rain
  • One Love
  • One Time 4 Your Mind
  • The Gap Band: Yearning for Your Love
  • Life's a Bitch
  • A Tribe Called Quest: Lyrics to Go
  • Represent
  • Lee Erwin: Thief of Bagdad
  • Represent
  • Cameo: Hanging Downtown
  • Group Home: Supa Star
  • The Heath Brothers: Smilin' Billy Suite Pt. II
  • One Love
  • The World Is Yours
  • Ahmad Jamal: I Love Music
  • The World Is Yours
  • Monty Alexander: Love and Happiness
  • Apache: Gangsta Bitch
  • The Beatnuts: Let Off A Couple
  • Reuben Wilson: We're In Love
  • Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)
  • N.Y. State of Mind
  • Halftime
  • Milly and Silly: Gettin' Down for Xmas
  • Long Red: Mountain (Live)
  • Pete Rock and CL Smooth: Good Life
  • Represent
  • Jay-Z: Feelin' It
  • Main Source: Looking at the Front Door

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!

EP92: Kier Lehman on Steely Dan's Aja (1977)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Kier Lehman

The Album: Steely Dan Aja (1977)

If you love the music on Insecure, you'll love the fact that Heat Rocks had an opportunity to sit down with the brainchild behind in. Kier Lehman, well known for his work on Insecure, Spiderman Spiderverse, Being Mary Jane, Entourage, Love Is, sat down with us to talk about the seminal 1977 album that is a tastemakers dream and beloved across generations.

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen and 36 of the best and brightest musicians and vocalists in the business assembled on the west coast to produce seven tracks which dripped with jazz, rock, punk, soul and fire!

Music writers and critics across publication and decades all agree that Aja is a masterpiece and belongs in the canon of great albums.

What happens when two music supes sit down to unpack it? Tune in to find out.

More on Kier Lehman

More on Aja

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

  • I Got The News
  • Aja
  • Peg
  • Home At Last
  • Black Cow
  • Deacon Blues
  • Aja
  • Josie
  • Wiz Khalifa: Old Chanel
  • Peg
  • De La Soul: Eye Know
  • Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz: Uptown Baby
  • Black Cow
  • MF DOOM: Gas Drawls
  • Steely Dan: Kid Charlamagne
  • Kanye West: Champion
  • Aja
  • Home at Last
  • I Got The News
  • Peg

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!

EP91: Comeback Albums and Mailbag Special

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Show: 
Heat Rocks

We here at Heat Rocks took a break from recording episodes in order to recharge our batteries. We thought we'd celebrate our return with an episode partly dedicated to our favorite comeback albums.
In the second half, we rummage through the Heat Rocks mailbag and answer listener questions about great debut albums, summer jams, the weirdest record sleeve finds, and more!

Show Tracklisting:

  • Mariah Carey: Butterfly
  • Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band: Cherchez la Femme/ Se Si Bon
  • Mariah Carey: Breakdown
  • LL Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out
  • LL Cool J: Milky Cereal
  • Jay-Z: December 4th
  • Jay-Z: Dirt Off Your Shoulders
  • A Tribe Called Quest: Black Spasmodic
  • A Tribe Called Quest: We The People...
  • A Tribe Called Quest: Solid Wall of Sound
  • D'Angelo: Send It On
  • D'Angelo: Devil's Pie
  • Brandy: Brokenhearted
  • Joe Budden: Pump It Up
  • Young Gunz: Friday Night
  • Jay-Z: Show Me What You Got
  • The Rebirth: This Journey In
  • The Internet: Wanna Be
  • Missy Elliott: Sock It 2 Me
  • Digable Planets: Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
  • Digable Planets: Black Ego
  • Prince: Diamond and Pearls
  • Cissy Houston: Warning - Danger
  • Floyd Anckle: Hey Pocky A-Way
  • Johnny Nash: Cupid
  • Chaka Khan: Caught in the Act
  • Skye: Aint No Need

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!

EP90: Prince Special

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Anil Dash
Guests: 
Meshell Ndegeocello
Guests: 
Illa J

The Albums: 

Hard to believe but Prince's landmark album Purple Rain turns 35 years this week (and the Purple One himself would have just celebrated his 61st birthday last week). In honor of these milestones and the fact that Prince is one of Heat Rocks' Triple Crown winners (i.e. his albums have been featured three times so far), we decided to offer you a "Best of Prince" episode that splices together highlights from our previous three Prince eps:

Show Tracklisting (all songs by Prince unless indicated otherwise):

  • When You Were Mine
  • Dirty Mind
  • Controversy
  • Sister
  • Partyup
  • Sister
  • Dirty Mind
  • When You Were Mine
  • Head
  • D'Angelo: She's Always In My Hair
  • Gotta Broken Heart Again
  • D.M.S.R.
  • Little Red Corvette
  • Let's Pretend We're Married
  • 1999
  • Little Red Corvette
  • Lady Cab Driver
  • All The Critics Love U in New York
  • Lady Cab Driver
  • Let's Go Crazy
  • For You
  • When Doves Cry
  • I Would Die 4 U
  • Let's Go Crazy
  • Computer Blue
  • The Beautiful Ones
  • When Doves Cry
  • Purple Rain
  • Housequake
  • Let's Go Crazy

Shout out to our Producer Supreme, Christian Duenas, for doing the edit work on this episode and if you enjoyed the highlights, be sure to download and listen to the entire episodes!

EP89: Hua Hsu on Depeche Mode's "Violator" (1990)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Hua Hsu

The Album: Depeche Mode: Violator (1990)
By the time Depeche Mode released Violator in 1990, they had already become one of the giants of the modern rock world but Violator took the group to new heights of global success. Dark and moody yet intimately dance-able, the group and their album marked a height of synth-pop’s growth across the 1980s, a zenith that would soon be eclipsed by the on-rush of grunge and competing forms of so-called “alternative” rock.
Violator was the pick of guest Hua Hsu, staff writer at the New Yorker and English professor at Vassar College. For him, Violator was part of a soundscape of growing up in the Bay Area, least of all as an Asian American. As he and Oliver (flying solo this week) discuss, modern rock became a soundtrack for a generation of Asian American youth, at least those growing up in West Coast suburbs for whom songs centered on alienation and otherness felt all too familiar. Besides, as Hsu notes, we all had piano lessons so a music built around synthesizers was an easy sell.
More on Hua Hsu

More on Violator

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

  • Clean
  • Depeche Mode: Blasphemous Rumours
  • Clean
  • New Order: Bizarre Love Triangle
  • Personal Jesus
  • Policy of Truth
  • Halo
  • Blue Dress
  • Somebody
  • Personal Jesus
  • Depeche Mode: Route 66
  • Depeche Mode: Behind the Wheel
  • Enjoy the Silence
  • Depeche Mode: Just Can't Get Enough
  • Johnny Cash: Personal Jesus
  • Tori Amos: Enjoy the Silence
  • Jazzystics: Personal Jesus
  • St. Petersburg Ska Jazz Review: Policy of Truth

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!

EP88: Guy Branum on Ani DiFranco's "Plastic Little Castle" (1998)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Guy Branum

The Album: Ani DiFranco: Little Plastic Castle (1998)
Ani DiFranco has never been a pop star by conventional measure but Little Plastic Castle was her dealing with the costs of stardom within her niche of alternative pop/rock world. The result is what's considered one of her best albums ever — it ended up being her best-selling at the very least — one where she tries to work through what happens when public scrutiny and fan indignity begin to feel invasive and you wonder what it's all for. For DiFranco though, she reminds us: she's got better things to do than survive.  
Little Plastic Castle was the pick of our guest, comedian Guy Branum who, until very recently, was the host of the Maximum Fun pop culture panel podcast Pop Rocket (alas, recently cancelled, RIP!). Pre-Heat Rocks, Oliver was on Pop Rocket for two years and got to see, first hand, Guy's pop polymath skills in action. Taped earlier in the spring, live in front of an audience as part of the Voyager Institute series, the three of us discussed DiFranco's album within the context of Lilith Fair-era female artists, the politics of queer authenticity and how her invocation of cherry bombs probably doesn't refer to firecrackers.  
More on Guy Branum

More on Little Plastic Castle

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Little Plastic Castle unless indicated otherwise):

  • Little Plastic Castle
  • Swan Dive
  • Ani DiFranco: 32 Flavors
  • Two Little Girls
  • Glass House
  • Fuel
  • Swan Dive
  • Gravel
  • Independence Day
  • Dizraeli: Bomb Tesco
  • Pulse

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!

EP87: Vikki Tobak and Joseph Patel on Gang Starr's "Hard to Earn" (1994)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Vikkie Tobak
Guests: 
Joseph Patel

The Album: Gang Starr: Hard to Earn (1994)
Gang Starr's Hard to Earn dropped in the pivotal year of 1994, arguably the height of the Golden Era as it came alongside everything from Biggie's Ready to Die to Nas's Illmatic to OutKast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Unlike those other debut albums, this was Gang Starr's fourth LP and by '94, they had established themselves as the (no pun intended) premier rap duo, avatars of a boom bap/braggadocio style that would help define an entire era. For DJ Premier, Hard to Earn marked the beginning of his imperial era, where the telltale sound of a Primo scratch was a mark of quality. Meanwhile, G.U.R.U.'s lyrical craft stepped up another notch (even if it was still "mostly tha voice" that got folks up). Fans will debate whether this was Gang Starr's best album but for Morgan and Oliver, it happened to be their favorite by the group. Aight? Chill.
Hard to Earn was the pick of a dynamic duo of guests. First up: Vikki Tobak, author of the astounding new book, Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, quite possibly the best rap photography book ever created. She was in town as part of the new Contact High exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography (which is up through August, come catch it!). As part of the exhibit, there's a wonderful documentary video that accompanies, assembled by other other guest: Joseph "Jazzbo" Patel. He and Oliver go back to the '90s when both were young writers at URB Magazine and by the '00s, Patel had moved into video content, becoming one of the most influential behind-the-scenes talents at places like Vice TV, MTV, The Fader and Vevo. (He and Vikki are now working on a docu-series based on Contact High). In tackling this album, the four of us discussed everything from the highs and lows of the jazz-hip-hop era of the early '90s to why we need to bring back answering machine/voicemail skits to how to properly pronounce "DWYCK."
More on Vikki Tobak and Joseph Patel

More on Hard to Earn

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Hard to Earn unless indicated otherwise):

  • The Planet
  • Gang Starr: Manifest
  • Speak Ya Clout
  • Intro (The First Step)
  • Gang Starr: Jazz Thing
  • Guru: Loungin'
  • Code of the Streets
  • Mass Appeal
  • DWYCK
  • Aiight Chill
  • Tonz 'O' Gunz
  • Coming for Datazz
  • Speak Ya Clout
  • Crooklyn Dodgers: Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers
  • Suckas Need Bodyguards
  • Gang Starr: The ? Remainz
  • The Planet
  • Tonz 'O' Gunz
  • The Planet
  • Mass Appeal

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!

EP86: DJ Rashida on OutKast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
DJ Rashida

The Album: OutKast Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)

Antwan (Big Boi) Patton and Andre (Dre) Benjamin began collaborating in 1992 and paired their genuis presenting it for the world to see on their debut project SouthernPlayalisticadillacmuzik which released on LaFace records in the spring of 1994.

LA’s own DJ Rashida sat with us to talk southern charm, the musicality of this album, black consciousness through the lyrics, what made the interludes so compelling and why this album stands the real test of time.

More on DJ Rashida

More on Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

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

  • Hootie Hoo
  • Arrested Development: Tennessee
  • Call of da Wild
  • True Dat (Interlude)
  • Welcome to Atlanta (Interlude)
  • Ain't No Thang
  • Funky Ride
  • Ain't No Thang
  • Claimin' True
  • Crumblin' Erb
  • Myintrotoletuknow
  • Flim Flam
  • Git Up, Git Out
  • Player's Ball
  • Player's Ball (Reprise)
  • The Roots: Proceed
  • Society of Soul: E.M.B.R.A.C.E.

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!

EP85: Moby on Joy Division's "Closer" (1980)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Moby

The Album: Joy Division Closer (1980)

Moby has been in the game for over three decades, making punk, electronic, alt-rock, dance, and everything in between. When we heard he was coming on Heat Rocks, we had no idea what album he'd pick, but we knew it was going to be some absolute fire.

Joy Division were pioneers, blending genres and helping create and popularize the sound that would become post-punk. Unfortunately, Closer would be Joy Division's final album. On May 18th 1980, just weeks before Joy Division's first tour in America, lead singer Ian Curtis took his own life. Factory Records released the album a few months later, and the remaining members would go on to form New Order.

We sat down with Moby to talk about post-punk, the wildly varied music scene on the East coast in the 80s, and the shift from Joy Division to New Order. We chat about Ian's deteriorating mental wellness and Moby's own experiences playing with New Order and covering Joy Division songs. Grab a chair, this conversation goes deep.

Moby's new book, "Then It Fell Apart" is out now. Cop it at your local bookstore.

More on Moby

More on Closer

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

  • Twenty Four Hours
  • Moby: Natural Blues
  • Heart and Soul
  • Joy Division: Wilderness
  • Decades
  • Atrocity Exhibition
  • Nolan Porter: Keep On Keepin' On
  • Joy Division: Interzone
  • The Eternal
  • Moby: New Dawn Fades
  • Atrocity Exhibition
  • Twenty Four Hours
  • Isolation
  • Atrocity Exhibition
  • The Nonce: Mix Tapes
  • Elliott Smith: No Name No. 5

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!