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Kanye West Samples San Antonio Band On Latest Album 

  • Facebook, The Royal Jesters

I’ll admit it – on my first listen to Kanye’s new record ye, I was a little underwhelmed. Especially after the masterpieces he constructed on My Dark Twisted Fantasy, I expected something different, I guess. And, look, I realize that artists grow, evolve and express themselves differently as they mature, so it’s not like I was even expecting another Yeezus, just something that was gonna hit a little bit ... harder.

However, my attitude towards the album changed after it was brought to my attention that Mr. West dipped into a stream from San Antonio’s musical past and sampled a song from none other than The Royal Jesters, a Chicano soul group that rose to regional fame in the ‘60s.

Traveling back to that era in the Alamo City, you’ll find groups like Little Jr. Jesse and His Teardrops, The Commands, The Royal Jesters, and Sunny & The Sunliners. Those bands were influenced by the sounds of R&B, ’50s jazz and rock ‘n’ roll from listening to the radio and sneaking into places like Eastwood Country Club and Bel-Air Club to catch the popular black acts of the day like James Brown and B.B. King. The mixture, influence and imitation of these artists created a sound that was eventually dubbed Chicano Soul.

First popular at teen dances – many of the acts, including The Royal Jesters were either in or barely out of high school – the Chicano Soul sound (a rock ‘n’ roll reaction to the traditional norm of Mexican ranchera, norteño and conjunto) reverberated over dance floors at places later like Patio Andaluz, the Keyhole, the Tiffany Lounge and the Northside Lounge, gaining a loyal following.

So when a piece of San Antonio’s history shows up on the new album of one of biggest rappers of all time, it’s sort of a big deal.

The track sampled was the Royal Jesters’ “Take Me For A Little While,” released on the group’s own label Jester in the late '60s. It appears on Kanye's track “Ghost Town.” “Take Me For A Little While,” was written by Trade Martin and, while other artists like Dave Edmunds, Dusty Springfield and Jackie Ross released their own version of the song, it’s probably best known as Long Island rock ‘n’ roll group Vanilla Fudge’s biggest hits.

“There’s an official connection now to San Antonio from Kanye, and I think that’s super cool how far music from the ’60s in San Antonio has gone into the rap/pop stardom world,” Rae Cabello told the Current.

For about a decade, Cabello has worked with Chicago’s Numero Group, an archival record label that has acquired the song licenses from many-a-throwback track and re-released them via compilations.

As an archivist, Cabello has helped Numero Group sort and collect many of the Chicano Soul acts from that era – many of which appear on the Numero compilation (which Cabello constructed) The Southwest Side Story Vol. 19, which features The Royal Jesters and The Dreamliners, an all-female group from San Antonio whose music was featured on the show Riverdale. Cabello also compiled English Oldies, a compendium of the Royal Jesters songs released on Numero Group back in 2015.

“San Antonio was like a gold mine for [undiscovered albums] in my opinion. I think it rivals with cities like Chicago and Miami, [cities] that released so much [music].”

JJ Lopez, a DJ who's spun a Chicano Soul track or two in his day and who also manages Trinity’s KRTU 91.7, told the Current that it’s validating to have an artist of Kanye’s caliber acknowledge San Antonio and our music.

“This is an instance when an international pop figure from hip-hop has gotten access to this recording," Lopez said, "and is now hearing this and seeing the importance of it and the depth of the music and acknowledging it, and that is a major, major feat – I think it’s amazing.”

Lopez also said he’s optimistic that people will discover the sample and dive deeper into San Antonio’s rich musical history.

“You know how many people are going to be turned on to that sample? It’s one of these instances by way of the sample – a lot of eyes might look at San Antonio and San Antonio music. Not that we need the validation, but it’s certainly an acknowledgment.”

Listen to Kanye's track below:
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