“Shake Your Hoodie”

So…I’m not a hip-hop guy. Retro-pop/rock, yes. Even funk. But hip-hop, with rapping?

And yet…

“Shake Your Hoodie” was a song I was especially self-challenged to create. As I’ve said before, working for Vermont Teddy Bear Company gave me an excuse to come up with goofy tunes in support of some of its whimsical and fun products, and by the time I left I had contributed no fewer than five tunes just promoting Hoodie-Footie Snuggle Suit alone (PajamaGram is part of the company).

So there I was at my job, and out of nowhere this little faux rap sprang into my head: “Shake your Hoodie if you love me / Shake your Hoodie if you {something something some-} above me”. The words didn’t matter as much as the fact that the vocal rhythms felt realistic for the idiom. I wrote the lines down as carefully as possible (in this weird hybrid notation I use) and said to myself, “Nato, you’re going to do your first, honest-to-God hip-top tune.”

First, just to make sure I wouldn’t stray too far off target, I took a little trip to Billboard’s Top Hip-Hop and R&B list (for August 2, 2011) to get a sense of what the current tunes sounded like. Regardless, I knew right off that I couldn’t get too electronic-sounding, as I didn’t have any sampling or autotune software, so my song was going to have to have a smoother, more old-school R&B sound.

Here’s three songs from that week’s top-10 that suggested ideas:

Artist: Big Sean
Song: “My Last”
Idea: Jazzy chords on piano
Impact on song: Fairly big

Artist: Nicki Minaj
Song: “Super Bass”
Idea: Backwards crash cymbals
Impact on song: Minor, but a nice addition

Artist: Lil Wayne
Song: “How to Love”
Idea: Slower “Back To Life”-ish drums
Impact on song: Substantial

Speaking of Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life”, a couple of decades ago that song was actually a big deal for me, and I seem to have logged quite a few hours dancing to its smooth “boom, ba-smack boom, boom smack” beat. Hey, as long as we’re looking at videos…

So once I got a sense of what might make for plausible hip-hop (again, it’s not what I usually do!), from there on out it was a ton of fun to make, including:

  • Coming up with the faux-hip-hop lyrics. Sample line: “Shake your Hoodie like a playa / Set it up on Foursquare, be your own mayor {‘may-ya’}”
  • Doing the rap. Oh, man, that took a lot of takes with all kinds of different styles. I tried it in my lowest Barry White, my whiniest Beastie Boys, and finally settled on something closer to my natural voice which, surprisingly, reminds me a little of Snoop Dogg. Totally unintentional, but, hopefully, adds to the funny.
  • Doing the multi-voice chorus. After I was done, I realized I seemed to have channeled 70s-era Michael McDonald for the high parts. Luckily, I’m a fan.

I hope you enjoy “Shake Your Hoodie”, but honestly? Don’t try dancing in one during the summer months. What use is looking so hot if you die of heatstroke?

Oh yeah. Lyrics!

Shake your Hoodie

Shake your Hoodie for the DJ
Shake your Hoodie so you show ’em there’s a party in your PJs
Shake your Hoodie on the dance floor
Show ’em somethin’ you don’t need a degree in finance for

Shake your Hoodie with ya homies
Shake your Hoodie if you want another somethin’ cold ‘n’ foamy
Shake your Hoodie on the weekend
Hoodie-Footie inna house, and we’re goin’ off the deep end

Shake your Hoodie, Hoodie-Footie, Baby

Shake your Hoodie like a swinger
Shake your Hoodie with the thumb holes, wagglin’ ya fingers
Shake your Hoodie, take a picture
Hoodie-Footie is the paint, and you’re the paint mixer

Shake your Hoodie onna freeway
When you wanna make ’em look, Hoodie-Footie is THE way
Shake your Hoodie like a player
Set it up on Foursquare, be your own Mayor

Shake your Hoodie, Hoodie-Footie, Baby

Shake your Hoodie, Hoodie-Footie

Shake your Hoodie on the street, now
If you wanna get down, just zip off the feet, now
Shake your Hoodie when ya rock it
Go and stash all your cash in the kangaroo pocket

Shake your Hoodie for my vocal
Shake your Hoodie even if they’re sayin’, “Es un loco”
Shake your Hoodie for ya home crew
‘Cuz Hoodie-Footie Nation is the one ya comin’ home to

© 2011 Nate Orshan

The Mirocialites Rock “Let’s Go Miro”

It was truly an honor to be able to play “Let’s Go Miro”, the song I wrote extolling his candidacy for Burlington Mayor, at Miro Weinberger’s victory party at Nectar’s on March 6, 2012. What made it even more marvelous was the work of three singers and dancers: Julia, Amelia, and Ella, a/k/a “The Mirocialites”. If elections were decided by joie de vivre, this cheerful trio could have bounced Miro to US Senate.

(Video: Copyright © 2012 Dave Gibson)

What’s with the headband? The Mirocialites were definitely not going on stage without theirs, and they insisted that I follow suit. Each headband featured a circular “Miro for Mayor” sticker, making it as functional as it was fashionable.

Here’s a big cheer for Dave Gibson’s steady hand on the videocam. Most of all, my eternal gratitude goes to Julia, Amelia, and Ella for taking a chance on an unknown musician like me.

“Bom-Bom”

You can guess where this song is going by its first line: “Were you around? Were you in line? / When Mom lit up for the very first time?” But first…the music.

I owe so much of my music education to WRUV-FM, the student-run station at University of Vermont. I used to obsessively record shows when I was in high school, and later as a student at UVM I was lucky enough to become at long last a DJ. Brothers and sisters, believe me when I tell you that I could have died right there and been perfectly happy. In the pre-Internet days, if you wanted to learn about non-mainstream music, college radio was a precious resource without peer.

It was during that time that I came across Parisian zouk megastars Kassav’ and their 1985 hit, “Zouk la Sé Sél Médikaman Nou Ni”. There’s something riveting about its wonderfully spiky rhythms, especially its pedal point bass, a rock-solid anchor keeping all the jittering boats from bouncing out of the marina. That pedal point bass idea stuck with me, and when my song began to take shape, I worked with it, slathered on some soca drums and horns, et voilà, le “Bom-Bom”.

As for the lyrics…Heh. What can I say? I was going for something cheeky and satiric, but, y’know what?, these days, if I really wanted to maximize the shock value, I’d have to change it all around and make it not about Mom but about Grandma.

I hope the song inspires a smile.