Aug 31, 2023
"Let me say it again, and say it with feeling..."
- Jay Dee
A big episode this month - both in importance and in number of tracks - as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Kool Herc party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave, Bronx, NY, that arguably sparked Hip-Hop! The format is slightly different from the usual, and the episode is centred around three records which have been sampled, references, and homaged throughout Hip-Hop history - echoing through time. The influences manifest differently as they encounter each artist, so even within the set of tracks that have a common root, there are wide variations of style, subject, and sound. I think you'll enjoy the hour I've put together for you!
Twitch : @airadam13
Twitter : @airadam13
Westside Gunn, 緑, and Kool Herc : Kool Herc Intro
Big up to Westside Gunn for going back to the source and allowing us to hear from Kool Herc himself on this intro to "FLYGOD Is Good...All The Time".
KRS-ONE and Marley Marl : Hip Hop Lives
KRS is one of the greatest MCs of all time - and as Bomani Jones said, maybe the one person you'd pick if there was no music, no anything, and they just had to go on stage and command it. Marley Marl is often overlooked by those not necessarily in the know, but the man behind the Juice Crew (who famously battled KRS in the Bridge Wars) was a revolutionary in the field of production, with his approach to cutting up samples being the grandfather of most of what you would have heard afterwards. Together, they released a 2007 album "Hip Hop Lives", of which this is of course the title track, and a rallying cry for the culture.
[Buckwild] Meyhem Lauren : Love and Loyalty (Instrumental)
Buckwild never wavers from the path of putting in the honest effort that his talent deserves to deliver quality material. If you want popcorn, microwave beats, go elsewhere! This is a great beat from his 2014 "Silk Pyramids" project with Meyhem.
Fred Wesley & The J.B.s : Blow Your Head
A funk classic that must have sounded positively UFO-like when it was released in 1974 on the "Damn Right I Am Somebody" album, and there's a reason for that that I only just learned; the crazy synth wasn't even on the track to begin with. The original was recorded in 1973, and only after that did James Brown, playing with his newly-bought synthesizer, doodle all over the track before adding it to the album! Apparently Fred Wesley was not impressed...
The D.O.C. : Portrait Of A Master Piece
The "Blow Your Head" sample here is relatively backgrounded, definitely not the focus of the instrumental - but as good as the Dre-produced beat is, the star here is without question the MC. This track comes from his first LP "No One Can Do It Better", which had people tipping him for big things, before he was cruelly and ironically deprived of a critical attribute - his voice - when his larynx was crushed in a car accident only five months after its release. He later returned to recording with a changed voice, and has written classics for several artists, but it's a huge shame that he never got to follow his debut up on his own terms.
Hijack : Style Wars
When Brixton's legendary Hijack got a single deal with Music of Life, none of them knew how to create a record as such. The three-man inner core was made up of DJs Supreme and Undercover alongside the MC Kamanchi Sly, and it was actually the latter who suggested using the Fred Wesley sample. Supreme was unconvinced, believing that it would make their track too much of an imitation of the then-recent "Public Enemy No.1", but relented on the basis that the rhymes and cuts would be so good that they'd make up for any deficiency on the beat side. As it turned out, "Style Wars" turned out to be an absolutely classic single in its own right, and in my opinion, never came off as a bite.
Public Enemy : Public Enemy No. 1
One of the first records ever to sample "Blow Your Head", this is arguably the inspiration that all the others you might hear draw from. While it became known to most of us as a track on 1987's "Yo! Bum Rush The Show", the original demo is from all the way back in 1984, and was the track that had Def Jam chasing PE to sign with them. You can tell it wasn't produced with modern equipment, with some likely-unintentional looseness in the timing on the loops, but that in no way prevented it from being a classic.
Digable Planets ft. DJ Jazzy Joyce : 9th Wonder (Blacktolism)
The famous sample is a lot more chaotic at the very start of this cut, before settling into a near-monotone that comes in at various points throughout. Great self-produced track from the "Blowout Comb" LP, the Planets' second, with the lyrical vibes matching perfectly (Ladybug Mecca bringing it home with the best verse in my opinion), topped off by Jazzy Joyce, a veteran Bronx DJ who first played in a club at thirteen, blessing the end of the track with her cuts. I almost defy anyone not to enjoy this one.
Ta'Raach : Bea2ful
Still my favourite beat from the instrumental version of the "Re:Lacks Vol. 1: With The World" LP ("Re:Lacks Vol.1 Instrumentals") - all you can say is that it lives up to its name. Warm, inviting, beautiful indeed.
Eric B & Rakim : Paid In Full
A track that needs no introduction, but that would be a poor excuse for not writing anything here 🙂 The title track of the first Eric B & Rakim LP, it was somehow only the fifth single, but a classic that, as you will hear in the following tracks, has been referenced over and over again in Hip-Hop history - a true standard, arguably in the jazz sense.
Marco Polo and Torae ft. Masta Ace and Sean Price : Hold Up
You hear Rakim's voice telling of his stickup days cut up here amongst others by DJ Linx for the hectic hook of this no-pretence track from the "Double Barrel" LP, which somehow is already fourteen years old! Marco Polo's beat gives off serious 70s crime movie chase scene energy, and all the MCs lean into it. Sean P's James Earl Ray line is a little bit ouch, but throwing in the occasional extreme reference was always part of his style.
Jay Dee : The $
Raw, heavy, destructive sound from the MPC of the great Jay Dee/J Dilla from the "Ruff Draft" EP, and easily my favourite cut on there - highlighted by the quote from this month's epigram. Of course, the "Paid In Full" reference comes with the opening of the first verse, perfectly appropriate for a track all about getting that cash. It's yet another example proving that those who grouped Slum Village in with "conscious/boho" rap were simply not paying attention, backed up by beats that - played through the right car system - would simply level any coffee house!
Le$ : Paid In Full
Finally in this section, we go with a heavy tribute from Houston's Le$. From the 2014 "ACE" release, Cookin Soul is on production, giving us a drastically slowed, spaced out take on the original beat. Replaying the original bassline, the rest is synth and programmed drums, with the occasional flash of the original record being dropped in along with Rakim's voice. You half expect him to open up with "thinking of a masterplan", but he instead starts his first verse paying tribute to a classic from his own hometown, DJ DMD's "25 Lighters", another "get money" anthem.
The Alchemist : Imperius Rex
You can get this heavyweight instrumental on the "Rapper's Best Friend 5: An Instrumental Series" collection of beats, but if you want to hear someone pick up the mic and slay it, the clue is in the title. This was the beat for the title track of the late great Sean Price's posthumous album, "Imperius Rex", and sounds suitable weighty to bear the name.
Run-DMC : King Of Rock
The video for this 1985 track, the title cut from their second LP, saw Run-DMC storming the "Museum of Rock 'n' Roll" - and so it was beautifully fitting when they were eventually, and rightfully, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. The group is often taken as the defining line between the true "old skool" and everything that came after, as they broke with many of the stylistic elements that had marked Hip-Hop records up to that point. No disco sounds, no outlandish costuming, but hard-as-nails beats and an aggressive lyrical delivery that indeed aligned them with as much with rock as anything else - hence the title. This track has been sampled countless times, and interestingly, almost always for the lyrics rather than the beat. On production, Run programmed the drums, and Larry Smith took care of the rest - the group were actually not in favour of the guitars, but they worked!
Oh No ft. Roc 'C' and J Dilla : Move
It's not obvious unless you're paying attention, but it's here - check the start of the second verse, where Roc 'C' works his MC name into the Run-DMC reference! The track as a whole channels some kind of vampire film vibe more than anything, if Dracula was banging on the MPC at any rate... However, this is a rare call for outside production by Oh No, who is a beast on production in his own right but pulls in J Dilla here on this tune from his debut LP, "The Disrupt".
PRhyme ft. Schoolboy Q and Killer Mike : Underground Kings
The most recent of the tracks in this section, this one comes from the 2014 "PRhyme" LP, the debut release from the group made up of DJ Premier and Royce the 5' 9". There are actually several Run-DMC samples here, and the reference to "Kings" in the title fits not only those kings from Queens but also Pimp C (RIP) and Bun B, who made up UGK (Underground Kingz) and are both given tons of respect here. Detroit (Royce), Los Angeles (Q), and Atlanta (Killer Mike) come together here for some cross-continental mic wreckage on top of a heavy beat from the production pride of Houston/Brooklyn.
Pete Rock : 'Till I Retire
As you'll pick up on immediately, it's the first and fourth bars of "King Of Rock" that get an outing here, with a clever splicing to declare "I'm the king, 'til I retire"! Don't forget that as much as a producer, Pete Rock is a DJ, and Hip-Hop DJs absolutely hear these snippets and connections and store them upstairs for later use. The track itself isn't otherwise rock-influenced, but just a dope, straightahead canvas for Pete to rhyme on all the way through with no guests. This is a 2008 track from Pete Rock's "NY's Finest" LP - and fifteen years later, his work rate is probably even higher now than it was then!
Z-Trip : Rockstar II
The original "Rockstar" was one of the most popular tracks on the second volume of Bomb Hip-Hop's groundbreaking "Return Of The DJ" series, and so on the third volume, Phoenix's own Z-Trip came back for a second variation on the same theme. Absolutely packed with rock samples and cut-ups, you hear the "king of rock" right next to perfectly placed cutting up of "back again" from Kool G Rap & Polo's "Poison", denoting the sequel status of this track.
Fat Jon The Ample Soul Physician : Automated Life Machines
If I say so myself, this was a great pick for this spot - the raw, discordant sound at the very start actually sounds a little like a continuation of "Rockstar II", before it transitions into its own thing, a great bit of boom-bap on the drums with subtle accompanying bass and chilled sounds in the midrange, leading us towards the end of the show. Cincinatti's Fat Jon released this on his "Dyslexic" instrumental EP back in 2000, another bit of wax that made it into my computer recently as part of the Great Digitising, and he's still active to this day. Oh yes - and he can rhyme too!
Ultramagnetic MCs : Bust The Facts
We finish up by going back - I was originally going to being the episode with this, but I think this works out better. This is from the 1992 "Funk Your Head Up" LP by the Ultramagnetics, and while it's nowadays an old track, even then, it was looking back to the early days of Hip-Hop - giving you a flavour of the excitement of the time, and mentioning many of the foundational artists and crews. The only diversion is a few shots thrown at Kool Moe Dee, who Kool Keith clearly had issues with, but apart from that the whole thing is an ode to a period and a vibe that could never be repeated. Our job is to preserve the culture and take it forward.
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!