Towa Tei - “Siesta” (Big Fun, 2009)

Towa Tei is one of those names you’ve never heard, but whose music you’re definitely familiar with. Moving to the United States in 1986 to study graphic design, Tei became a fixture of the New York house/dance club scene as a member of Deee-Lite. Their 1990 hit single “Groove is in the Heart” peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

While he is most famous in hip-hop circles for providing J Dilla with the chops necessary to create a Tribe Called Quest’s masterpiece “Find A Way,” “Siesta” is one of many unrecognized masterpieces from Tei. It’s an entire island adventure packed into 8 minutes and 23 seconds, anchored by an addicting djembe and log drum groove. But it’s not just the instrumentation and the ambience of the track that makes it noteworthy.

If you’re a hip-hop producer looking for samples, this song might be a nightmare. It runs a 3/2 time signature, which means 3 bars per measure, two counts per bar; both of which are atypical for hip-hop tracks. But if you must, your first roadblock may be just trying to find a copy of the song itself. It’s not on YouTube and only recently popped up on the streaming services.