This song, produced by Mark Ronson as part of the “Re:Generation” project, is like a neutral-ground hang, a crawfish boil, and a Saints tailgating afternoon rolled into one. That legendary drummer Zigaboo Modeliste is at the center of things should come as no surprise.
But producer Ronson, best known for his work with Adele and Amy Winehouse? How does he cross paths with Modeliste? Credit “Re:Generation” — a new documentary about collaborations between artists from different eras and genres — as the catalyst that brought Ronson together with the backbeat (and the heartbeat) of funk-forefathers the Meters. The same project has already delivered the so-weird-it’s-good mash up of Skrillex and the surviving members of the Doors; it will also feature DJ Premier creating a Nas track with the Berklee School of Music Orchestra, and the Crystal Method working with legendary Motown singer Martha Reeves.
“A la Modeliste” finds Modeliste laying down a shotgun shack-rattling rhythm, playing with all of the style, ferocity and substance found on the New Orleans-born drummer’s best old sides. Then Trombone Shorty starts blurting out a squalling, circular figure, joining members of the Dap Kings to build this trance-like intensity that provides a center-point groove, even as Erykah Badu leaps into the proceedings with deliciously fun vocal.
So, what’s it about? Good food, good times — and good put downs. By the time Badu begins a fun call-and-response around the phrase “your mama don’t wear no draws,” Mos Def has joined the proceedings.
If you’re wondering how Badu fits into this party-hearty atmosphere, don’t. Before her more recent successes as a mysterioso next-gen R&B singer, Badu attended college at Louisiana’s Grambling State University. So, she knows how to shimmy and shake her way through this kind of playfully rambunctious second-line parade of a song.
When “A la Modeliste” finally comes to a crashing halt, the reverberations still echo in the studio — so loud, so complete and so memorable was this kaleidoscopic blast of bead-tossing joy. Already, it feels like a Mardi Gras anthem for a new age.