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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EP69: Open Mike Eagle on Ol Dirty Bastard's "Return to the 36 Chambers" (1995)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Open Mike Eagle

The Album: Ol Dirty Bastard: Return to the 36 Chambers (1995)

"Ain't no father to his style." That's how Ol Dirty Bastard was introduced to the world on 1993's Enter the 36 Chambers by hip-hop's posse supreme, the Wu Tang Clan. At the time, we got an inkling of ODB's eccentricity but on that first Wu album, so overloaded with personalities, it was hard to pluck him out of the stream and think "he might be the Clan's most memorable talent" but two years later, sandwiched between a stream of solo efforts by Method Man, the GZA, Raekwon and Ghostface, ODB put the world on notice with Return to the 36 Chambers. Here was Big Baby Jesus aka Dirt McGirt in all his weird, wonderful glory, with a raspy, rumbling voice that was like no other, singing and rapping in a way that was either wholly unhinged, creatively brilliant or perhaps, both.

These are the part of the mysteries that we tried to unpack with the help of Open Mike Eagle. He's no stranger to Max Fun listeners as OME is half the team behind Tights and Fights, when he's not also helping host the Secret Skin or Conversation Parade podcasts. He also, of course, is a prolific MC himself, with well over a dozen EPs and LPs to his name including last year's What Happens When I Try to RelaxAs you'll hear, Return to the 36 Chambers wasn't just OME's intro to Dirt Dog, it was how he discovered the Wu and he, and hip-hop, would forever be changed.

More on Open Mike Eagle

More on Return to the 36 Chambers

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Return to the 36 Chambers unless indicated otherwise):

  • Shimmy Shimmy Ya
  • Intro
  • Brooklyn Zoo
  • GZA: Investigative Reports
  • Hippa to da Hoppa
  • Thelonius Monk: Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are
  • Cuttin' Headz
  • Raw Hide
  • Brooklyn Zoo
  • Shimmy Shimmy Ya
  • Goin' Down

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!

EP68: Chani Nicholas on Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusual" (1983)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Chani Nicholas

The Album: Cyndi Lauper She's So Unsual (1983)

She's So Unusual dropped October 14th, 1983, and introduced much of the world to Queens' pop punk tough girl Cyndi Lauper. She presented as a colorful character with colorful hair and colorful homies and charmed her way into pop culture with ten tracks recorded for CBS at the Record Plant, NYC.

The former front woman for rockabilly band Blue Angel took a demo written by Philly rocker Robert Hazard and retooled it to become an anthem for her and the Eighties. "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was the hit single that launched She's So Unusual and Cyndi Lauper into fame and led the album to platinum success, with six singles, two Grammy Awards, and critical acclaim for days.

She's So Unusual was the pick of astrologer/activist Chani Nicholas, who joined us to break down the relevance and resonance of the album in her life, Cyndi's star appeal, the queer gaze present on the album, Cyndi's quirky Cancerian coolness, and the her impact on music and the masses.

More on Chani Nicholas

More on She's So Unsual

Show Tracklisting (all songs from She's So Unsual unless indicated otherwise):

  • Time After Time
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • Money Changes Everything
  • She Bop
  • Divinyls: I Touch Myself
  • When You Were Mine
  • Prince: When You Were Mine
  • When You Were Mine
  • Money Changes Everything
  • The Brains: Money Changes Everything
  • Time After Time
  • Money Changes Everything
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Early Guitar Demo
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Demo
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun

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!

EP67: Mayer Hawthorne on Parliament's "The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein" (1976)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Mayer Hawthorne

The Album: Parliament: The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein (1976)

In the 1970s, no single artist was as influential in transforming the sound of funk as George Clinton. If the funk of the late '60s was embodied in the sparse, frenetic rhythms of James Brown, Clinton filled out and polished the sound across the '70s, with beefy banks of horns and raucous guitars. By the time The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein came out in the mid 1970s, the P-Funk sound was in full flower and that's when a young DJ from outside Detroit crossed paths with The P.

Mayer Hawthorne, back when, was still known as DJ Haircut but a move to Los Angeles in the 2000s lead to a transformation into the smooth crooner we know of him today.  Besides the four solo studio albums he’s recorded, he’s also one-half of the retro boogie team known Tuxedo (alongside Jake One) as well as half of the post-punk n’ funk duo, Jaded Incorporated, (alongside 14KT). Fun fact: Jaded Inc’s 2014 album The Big Knock was released by Casablanca Records, long-long time home to Parliament’s recordings, including The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein.

More on Mayer Hawthorne

More on The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein

Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein unless indicated otherwise):

  • Prelude
  • Parliament: Body Language
  • Digital Underground: The Humpty Dance
  • Dr. Funkenstein
  • Ice Cube: Steady Mobbin
  • Parliament: P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up
  • NWA: 1-900-2-COMPTON - Interlude
  • Disco D: Ghettotronics
  • Funkin For Fun
  • OutKast: Funky Ride
  • OutKast: Liberation
  • The Parliaments: All Your Goodies Are Gone
  • Parliament: All Your Goodies Are Gone
  • Rose Williams and George Clinton: Whatever Makes My Baby Feel Good
  • Parliament: Whatever Makes Baby Feel Good
  • Gamin on Ya
  • Dr. Funkenstein
  • The Ohio Players: Funky Worm
  • Mayer Hawthorne: Lingerie and Candlewax
  • Do That Stuff
  • Yo-Yo: Mackstress
  • I've Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy Body)
  • Getten to Know You
  • Children of Production
  • Funkin for Fun

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!

EP66: Lynell George on David Bowie's "Young Americans" (1975)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Lynell George

The Album: David Bowie Young Americans (1975)

Super cool Grammy winning writer and archivist Lynell George came to know David Bowie's music through celebrated Los Angeles radio station KGFJ. KGFJ blasted the sounds and she received them courtesy of a wrap around Panasonic radio. (Salute!)

She was attracted to the Philly soul sound ever present on David Bowie's Young Americans because Philly soul was in her DNA as she is the daughter of a Philadelphia Native. David Bowie's desire to pay homage to both the black soul music he was fond of and Aretha Franklin, was a shift that most critics weren't prepared for.

We talked about the title track as an ahead-of-its-time commentary on gentrification, UK artists and their love affair with R&B music and the thin line between festishization and fascination.

Sax solos, guitar solos, soulful arrangement galore, Young Americans was the sound of Philadelphia and the sounds of blackness.

Best quote EVER, "you feel like you're walking through humidity" (Lynell George)

She wooed us and schooled us. We'd expect nothing less from a historian and an OG member of David Bowie's fan club.

More on Lynell George

More on Young Americans

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Young Americans unless indicated otherwise):

  • Young Americans
  • Fame
  • David Bowie: Let's Dance
  • David Bowie: TVC15
  • Young Americans
  • Right
  • Across the Universe
  • Young Americans
  • Can You Hear Me
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me
  • The Flares: Foot Stomping (Part 1)
  • David Bowie: Footstompin'
  • Fascination
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me
  • Fascination
  • Fame

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!

EP65: Holiday Music Special with Alonso Duralde

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Alonso Duralde

The Albums:
Vince Guraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Andy Williams' The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963)
Stax Records' Christmas in Soulsville (2007)

Heat Rocks was hyped to have film critic Alonso Duralde (The Wrap), one of the hosts of Maximum Fun's movie podcast Who Shot Ya? guest with us to talk about our favorite Christmas songs, holiday fare, songs that should play when it's cold outside, baby.

We visit the canon of Christmas music over the years (Andy Williams 1963 The Christmas Album, Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas and Stax Record's 2007 compilation Christmas In Soulsville and across genres and styles - crooners, sweeping orchestral cinematic pieces, summer songs vs. winter songs, modern Christmas traditions, etc.

Alonso broke down the power of nostalgia as it relates to Christmas music and how our tastes in music are informed by tradition.

Don't be a grinch. Listen to this wintery wonderland of an episode about favorite Christmas tracks.

More on Alonso Duralde

Show Tracklisting

  • Booker T and the MG's: Winter Wonderland (Take 2)
  • The Waitresses: Wrapping Paper
  • Ella Fitzgerald: The Christmas Song
  • The Shins: Wonderful Christmastime
  • Michael Jackson: Little Christmas Tree
  • Wild Man Fischer: I'm A Christmas Tree
  • Brian McKnight: Let It Snow
  • Frank Sinatra: White
  • Andy Williams: Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells
  • Andy Williams: Happy Holiday/ The Holiday Season
  • Andy Williams: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  • Andy Williams: Sweet Little Jesus Boy
  • Mariah Carey: All I Want for Christmas is You
  • Vince Guraldi: Christmas Time is Here (Vocal)
  • Vince Guraldi: Christmas Time is Here (Instrumental)
  • Vince Guraldi: Skating
  • Vince Guraldi: O Tannenbaum
  • Vince Guraldi: The Christmas Song
  • Otis Redding: Merry Christmas, Baby
  • The Staple Singers: Who Took the Merry out of Christmas
  • Albert King: Santa Claus Wants Some Loving
  • The Emotions: Black Christmas
  • Isaac Hayes: The Mistletoe and Me
  • Booker T and the MG's: Winter Wonderland (Take 2)
  • Nate Dogg: Be Thankful
  • Little Johnny Taylor: Please Come Home for Christmas
  • Juice Crew: Cold Chillin' Christmas
  • The Free Design: Close Your Mouth It's Christmas
  • Kenny Bobien: Let Us Adore Him (Come O Ye Faithful)

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!

Macy Gray on Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" (2010)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Macy Gray

The Album: Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

2018 has been a tough year for Kanye West and Kanye West fans. He's showed up in unlikely places and waxed problematic about virtually everything , earned the ire of some of the West Coast's most loyal representatives, inspired critical analysis , all the while releasing Ye, his eighth solo album, an album as part of a group, and executive producing albums for Teyana Taylor, Pusha T and Nas.

Sure, he's been booked and busy, but also the center of controversy and speculation.

In 2010, he embraced his controversy, on the thirteen track My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.'

Macy Gray joined us to talk about her fanship and hardcore love of this album, why she bumped one song all the way to Vegas, what caused her to rock a "MAKE KANYE GREAT AGAIN" hat for the 'gram and Kanye's impressive production on the album. We talked about Kanye's choice of samples, what can be learned about Kanye via MBDTF and why this album is great, but not his greatest.

Ironically, we recorded this episode before Kanye's SNL appearance.

Eavesdrop. Please.

More on Macy Gray

More on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Show Tracklisting (all songs from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy unless indicated otherwise):

  • Power
  • Macy Gray: I've Committed Murder
  • Macy Gray: Shinanigins
  • Kanye West: Jesus Walks
  • Lost in the World
  • Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Aphex Twin: Avril 14th
  • Blame Game
  • Gil Scott-Heron: Comment 1
  • Who Will Survive in America
  • Bon Iver: Woods
  • Lost in the World
  • Monster
  • Runaway
  • Power
  • Devil in a New Dress
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Runaway

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!

EP63: G Yamazawa on Kanye West's "The College Dropout" (2004)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
G Yamazawa

The Album: Kanye West: College Dropout (2004)

Kanye has had a...not great year. From a public relations standpoint, it's been nothing short of a disaster. And yet...'Ye remains one of the most intriguing (if not also infuriating) pop acts we have, evinced to us by the fact that two different guests - rapper G Yamazawa and R&B legend Macy Gray - both asked to talk about Kanye West albums when they came on our show. By further coincidence, they came on the same day to tape which also happened to be the day of West's now-infamous Saturday Night Live appearance. West was also supposed to drop a new album that evening, Yandhi (spoiler alert: he didn't). Sufficed to say, all things pointed West that day, so much so that we were a little worried about releasing these episodes lest our listeners were suffering from too much Kanye fatigue.

And yet...both conversations (the Macy Gray episode, about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will drop next week) were so compelling that we couldn't help ourselves. This one, with Yamazawa, was especially great in revisiting the old Kanye, chop-up-the-soul Kanye of College Dropout, where the young producer-turned-rapper came firing out the gate, putting the hip-hop world on notice that "oh sh---, Kanye raps too?" For G Yamazawa, then a young'un growing up in Durham "North Cack," West made a huge impression with his humor, sly politics and of course, the beats. Yamazawa, now relocated to L.A., knows something about sliding between worlds as a former champion spoken word poet turned MC (peep his new Money Is Time album) and together, we discussed what it was like for all of us to discover West's new persona back then, his taste in samples, and what era of West we gravitate towards.

More on G Yamazawa

More on College Dropout

Show Tracklisting (all songs from College Dropout unless indicated otherwise):

  • The New Workout Plan
  • G Yamazawa: Drumma Some
  • Chaka Khan: Through the Fire
  • Through the Wire
  • Last Call
  • All Falls Down
  • Slow Jamz
  • Lil Jimmy Skit
  • Workout Plan
  • Spaceship
  • Little Brother: Slow it Down
  • Luther Vandross: A House Is Not A Home
  • Slow Jamz
  • Marvin Gaye: Distant Lover
  • Spaceship
  • The ARC Choir: Walk With Me
  • Jesus Walks
  • All Falls Down (Demo)
  • All Falls Down
  • Intro
  • Kanye West: Wake Up Mr. West
  • Breathe In Breathe Out
  • Jesus Walks
  • I'll Fly Away
  • Get Em High
  • Last Call
  • All Falls Down

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!

EP62: Iman Omari on J*DaVeY's The Beauty in Distortion (2008)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Iman Omari

The Album: J*DaVeY The Beauty in Distortion (2008)

Heat Rocks co-host Morgan Rhodes is a huge fan of J*Davey and a huge fan of Iman Omari. Naturally she was beyond thrilled when Iman accepted an invitation to come on Heat Rocks and chose J*Davey's 2008 brilliant debut album "The Beauty In Distortion" to discuss.

J*Davey's breakout project was one of the jewels in LA's emerging future soul scene a decade ago. Their sound, a fusion of soul, synth, funk and pop gained a million fans and caught the ear of tastemakers everywhere.

This album had a profound influence on his production choices pushing him in the direction of avant-garde soul.

More on Iman Omari

More on The Beauty in Distortion

Show Tracklisting (all songs from The Beauty in Distortion unless indicated otherwise):

  • Division of Joy
  • Everybody Touch It
  • Iman Omari: Midnight
  • Mr. Mister (Future Screw Remix)
  • Cowboys and Indians
  • Finer Things
  • Private Parts
  • Might as Well
  • Everybody Touch It
  • Kim Burrell: Prayer Changes Things
  • Kim Burrell: Holy Ghost
  • Private Parts
  • Cowboys and Indians
  • Division of Joy
  • Everybody Touch It
  • Private Parts
  • Finer Things
  • No More
  • Enterception
  • Camera (Gangsta)

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!

EP61: Jeff Weiss on Drakeo the Ruler's "Cold Devil" (2017)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Jeff Weiss

The Album: Drakeo the Ruler: Cold Devil (2017)

When we invited L.A. music writer Jeff Weiss to join us, he was adamant that there was only one release he wanted to talk about: Cold Devil, the full-length, acclaimed mixtape that the upstart Los Angeles rapper, Drakeo the Ruler, dropped nearly a year ago. Drakeo is part of the Stinc Team and is helping lead a wave of emergent talents that also includes 03 Greedo, Ketchy the Great and Ralfy the Plug.

The longtime writer behind The Passion of the Weiss music blog, Jeff has been championing Drakeo for several years now and in particular, he's written extensively on the rapper's tumultuous legal challenges, including first interviewing Drakeo when he was locked up. Our conversation touched on Drakeo's legal situation, the rapper's gift of slanguistic gab and the current state of West Coast rap music.

More on Jeff Weiss

More on Cold Devil

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Cold Devil unless indicated otherwise):

  • Out the Slums
  • Drakeo the Ruler: Mr. Get Dough
  • Big Banc Uchies
  • Flu Flamming
  • Ion Rap Beef
  • Red Tape, Yellow Tape
  • Flu Flamming
  • Neiman and Marcus Don't Know You
  • Flu Flamming
  • Out the Slums
  • Blamped

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!

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!