Nov 30, 2019
"These evil streets don't sleep..."
Here's an idea I've been holding for a while - an episode showcasing Hip-Hop tracks that took a rock sample or influence! I thought it'd be an interesting one to select and mix without reaching for the most obvious standby picks, and we've got tracks spanning almost thirty years at the extreme ends. Don't worry, the guitars come along with plenty of bars and beats!
Links for the month...
Michelle Grace Hunder - wicked music photographer!
Twitter : @airadam13
Ice-T ft. Jello Biafra : Shut Up, Be Happy
One of those tracks that seems more relevant now than ever, this was the opener on Ice-T's underrated 1989 album "The Iceberg". A great marrying of elements, as Jello Biafra of the punk band Dead Kennedys delivers a totalitarian announcement (based on his own "Message From Our Sponsor" over a Black Sabbath loop. I couldn't put this anywhere but as the intro to the episode!
Camp Lo : 82 Afros
Kicking the pace up a touch, we move straight into a killer Camp Lo cut from the "Black Hollywood" LP, with Ski cooking up a banging rock-based beat. The kick and snare are straight boom-bap, but the toms add an unexpected extra element on top of the distorted guitar and vocal sample. Cheeba and Geechi might be known for their smooth styles, but this is just one demonstration of the fact that they can get busy over any kind of beat.
J-Zone : Moonwalk / Gel N' Weave Remix (Instrumental)
I was struggling to find just the right instrumental for this spot, but went back to "The Headband Years" to find this beat from a producer who could make a beat our of almost anything. He's full-time on his funk drumming now, but has a great catalogue of Hip-Hop that can't be fronted on.
Kobaine : Ko.Bain
This is an artist I know very little about, as as far as I'm aware this is his only release to date, a nice little contribution to the 2002 "Subway Series Vol.1" compilation on Major League Entertainment. I got this on digital release which had no credits included, so I'm not sure who produced it - I can imagine it being a Nick Wiz or Tribeca track though.
Agallah : Ag Season
Brownsville's Agallah has often channelled the rockstar vibes in his career, and this woozy-guitared track from "Bo : The Legend of the Water Dragon" sounds entirely natural for him. Self-produced as always, it's short, rock solid, and to the point.
Fabolous : Breathe
Fifteen years old, already? This was a huge single for Fabolous, taken from his "Real Talk" album, and is one of his best-known tracks even after all these years. Just Blaze laced him with a beat based around Supertramp's "Crime of the Century", and got a surprise when Fab told him he'd written his lyrics around the "breathe" vocal sample on the track...because that's not what it said! However, on hearing the bars, Just went back and made some changes to align the audio with what Fab thought he heard!
Ras Kass ft. Killah Priest : Milli Vanilli
Ras Kass' "Quarterly" was collection of tracks he released once a week, finally brought together in late 2009 - and there are some great cuts in there. Here's one, with Veterano's beat sounding like a cybernetic heavy metal group trying to destroy the speaker stack! Ras cuts through it regardless, and special guest Killah Priest (fellow member of THE HRSMN) matches him bar for bar as always. The hook of course channels the then-recent Lil Wayne track "A Milli", which was a heavily-used beat for freestyles around this time.
Body Count : C-Note
This was one of the shorter and gentler tracks on the debut Body Count album, but was always one of my favourites - Ernie C makes that guitar cry for real. Ice-T's metal project was waved off by some doubters in the beginning, but the music was solid from their first appearance on the "OG: Original Gangster" album and they're still killing it to this day.
Bumpy Knuckles : Swazzee
This one is so aggro, you have to love it. Seriously, you'd better. Bumpy Knuckles is in fine form on this guaranteed weight-training motivational track from "Konexion", taking out sucker MCs, snitches, haters, and pretty much everyone else. The hook is reminiscent of an old Sly Stone cut, and Knockout's beat is ferocious - precise, measured drums with the harsh guitar over the top. Bumpy might be the king of the third verse but a track like this lets you know he can handle the first two just fine!
Public Enemy : Go Cat Go
The "He Got Game" soundtrack was unfairly overlooked by too many heads, but is an absolutely worthy entry in Public Enemy's long and storied discography. Chuck D's political awareness and love of sports (he actually wanted to be a sportscaster at one point) combined for a really interesting listen. Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto and Danny Saber of Black Grape cover this one in heavy guitars which would drown out most MCs, but not Chuck! As the album subtitle says, this one is about the game behind the game...
Boogie Down Productions : Ya Slippin
It's hard to think now of BDP being a crew with a future in doubt, but this is how it was back in 1988 as "By All Means Necessary" was released, not long after the murder of founding DJ Scott La Rock. KRS might be young here but he rhymes with the confidence of someone who left home as a child to become an MC, survived homelessness, and achieved his goal. He scolds weak MCs like "The Teacha" he is, and gets down on the production too - the rock heads will recognise this guitar sample a mile off!
Pharoahe Monch : Got You
Shout out to Vicky T for reminding me of this tune! The lead single from the "Training Day" soundtrack is one where I think the radio version (as heard here) surpasses the original. Monch perfectly encapsulates the essence of Denzel Washington's character, who is one of the classic movie villains of modern times - and strikingly, is based on real police.
[J-Zone] Boss Hog Barbarians : Celph Destruction (Instrumental)
Zone again, and while it one didn't come to mind immediately, the aggressive sonics of this instrumental get it the nod here. The Boss Hog Barbarians (J-Zone and Celph Titled) album is an absolute tribute to ignorance (intentionally), but if you can deal with that then it's an excellent addition to your collection.
LL Cool J : Go Cut Creator Go
Another 80s classic hard rocking track, from LL's "Bigger And Deffer" album. It's the kind of track we don't get now - the MC just bigging up the DJ. DJ Cut Creator was with LL from the very beginning, and was the one who actually helped him to get him name known, so it's nice to hear the appreciation. The scratches still stand up today and cut through even the loudest of the guitar samples on the track!
Sly Boogy : Fatal Mistake
Sly may not have put anything out for a while, but the San Bernadino native did drop a few nice tracks in the early 2000s. This one has him totally disregarding the common standards of Hip-Hop song structure, opening up with a thirty-two bar first verse just to show he's not playing. DJ Revolution provides the cuts, and production is courtesy of a then-emerging Jake One. This actually doesn't have a rock influence, but is here because of how well it goes with the next instrumental...
[Rick Rubin] Jay-Z : 99 Problems (Instrumental)
The combination of this and "Fatal Mistake" is one I discovered while doing a mix years and years ago, and wanted to bring out again when the opportunity arose! You probably all know the vocal version of this track, which appeared on Jay-Z's "The Black Album". While working with the legendary Def Jam co-founder and producer Rubin, Jay said he wanted something like the flavour he used to give to the Beastie Boys and this was the result - a meshing of several ideas that came together perfectly.
Public Enemy : She Watch Channel Zero?!
Let's be real - the sexism is heavy on this track! It'd be entirely reasonable to argue that spending all day watching sports on TV isn't any better than soap operas, but that's just my opinion :) 1988's "...Nation of Millions..." yields this song which had an interesting connection - sampling the group Slayer, who were produced by Def Jam founder and major PE supporter Rick Rubin.
Lacuna Coil : The Game
Going pure rock on this selection from this veteran Milanese gothic metal band! I actually learned about this group from "Guitar Hero" of all places, and "Our Truth" led me to the 2006 "Karmacode" album that included this track. It always reminded me a little of "Channel Zero", and while the guitar riffs are definitely fire and the drums bang, it's the combined and contrasting vocals of Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro that can't fail to grab your ear.
RJD2 : Exotic Talk
Prog rock meets Hip-Hop sensibilities as RJD2 twists and turns, chilling things out in parts before bringing the thunder crashing back in. Definite standout from 2004's "Since We Last Spoke".
Z-Trip : Rockstar
We close with a standout track from the "Return of the DJ, Volume II" compilation, with Phoenix's Z-Trip putting together a masterpiece of DJ/producer song construction. The sample list is long, and since I don't know what was and wasn't cleared, I won't give anything away here!
Please remember to support the artists you like! The purpose of putting the podcast out and providing the full tracklist is to try and give some light, so do use the songs on each episode as a starting point to search out more material. If you have Spotify in your country it's a great way to explore, but otherwise there's always Youtube and the like. Seeing your favourite artists live is the best way to put money in their pockets, and buy the vinyl/CDs/downloads of the stuff you like the most!