Monty Alexander – ‘Love & Happiness’
taken from Rass! (MPS, 1974)
[Note: Thanks to reader ‘jaycee’ it is clear that my ears did not deceive me. The drum loop in question is Little Feat’s ‘Fool Yourself’ as made famous by ‘Bonita Applebum’, although it remains a possibility that the sax sample comes from ‘Spinning Wheel’. If you know, I’d appreciate the info.]
Lack of inspiration and a heavy workload have kept me admirably occupied over the last week or so: apologies for the lack of activity here at FDB. I’ve had this post in the vault for a while, but it is the magnificent series of recent drops over at Soul-Sides that has finally lit a fire under my arse and inspired me to roll it out. If you’ve missed out on the ‘Who Flipped It Better?’ series that Oliver Wang has been churning out at a rate that puts this here blogspot to shame then make sure you check it out: O-Dub is indisputably one of the kings of the blog scene. Tuesday’s installment covered the Monty Alexander break ‘Love & Happiness’ and contrasted the way in which it had been used by both The Beatnuts and Q-Tip, and with my ongoing analysis of The Abstract’s deft production style, it feels fitting to finally get around to his work on the Apache track ‘Gangsta Bitch’. Let the proceedings commence…
Originally released as a 7 inch by Tommy Boy in 1992, ‘Gangsta Bitch’ eventually found its place on Apache’s release from ‘93, the humourously titled Apache Ain’t Shit. To be honest with you this particular album has always left me a little cold: all the ingredients seem to be in place for something of quality (decent production roster, Flavor Unit affiliations etc.), but as a whole it lacks something that means it has not received a massive amount of airplay from me. Of course, there are still some treats here to savour, no less so than with the aforementioned cut that features Tip on the boards. I believe that Ego Trip rates this song as one of the best single tracks of the year, and although I feel this is an over-exaggeration, it is without a doubt a solid jam whose success relies on the beat as opposed to Apache’s lyrical ode to the fly, street-savvy honeys of the ghetto which for me occupies the realms of the mediocre. It’s not that the rhymes are bad by any means, but the chorus hook in particular grates, and the result is a tarnishing of the track in its entirety that I struggle to get over.
Tip turns to Monty Alexander’s cover of ‘Love & Happiness’ for the main groove here, yet another example of an artist and song who I have only very recently stumbled across as a result of virtual digging and who I know very little about (oh, to be a genuine, dusty-fingered crate-digger!). The section of the song to focus on arrives at the 4.06 mark with a stripped-down two bars of percussion, electric piano and guitar tracks, although it is really only the electric piano part that survives Tip’s use of filters to draw out the main groove for ‘Gangsta Bitch’. The Breaks also notes the use of ‘Spinning Wheel’ by Lonnie Smith, a sample source that Tribe mined on two separate occasions with both ‘Can I Kick It?’ and ‘Buggin’ Out’ to great effect, but I can’t hear it myself: answers on a postcard folks.
There are other subtleties to the composition that fill the beat out, giving it a plush, melodic feel. The echoing horn stabs (perhaps taken from ‘Spinning Wheel’?) that appear intermittently throughout the cut provide an extra layer of sound that works very well nestled in between the other samples, and scratches at the chorus add a necessary interest to what is essentially a simplistic piece of production work. What particularly interests me about this song is that although it contains many trademark Q-Tip production touches, it is by no means instantly recognisable as a piece of his work, thereby serving as yet another demonstration of his ability to modify his production style in subtle ways that really affirms his skill and versatility behind the boards during his most prolific period of beat-making.
I’m going to try and sort my priorities out this week (read: I’m going to ignore the responsibilities of the rest of my life in favour of some committed internet time), so stay tuned this week for an increased frequency of posts (just don’t hold me to it). Sunday afternoon lazin’ awaits: I’ll catch you later.