Why Showbiz Is The Man
March 16, 2008, 4:43 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Producers

Although I have little doubt that the majority of people reading this post will have a similar appreciation of the wonders of Show’s production style as I do, it strikes me as a gross oversight that he is rarely mentioned in the inevitable and never-ending G.O.A.T. conversations that relentlessly crop up amongst the online hip hop community. For me Show’s back catalogue is not only one of the strongest in the game, but it also demonstrates an ear for samples and breaks that is both devastatingly effective and truly unique. Need proof? Look no further than the following deconstructions that attempt to argue that the Bronx bomber should without doubt be considered a part of the elite group that are more widely acknowledged as the best to ever do it behind the boards.

Ear For A Groove – ‘Sally Got a One Track Mind (Showbiz Remix)’

Diamond D – ‘Sally Got A One Track Mind’ (Showbiz Remix)
taken from ‘Sally Got A One Track Mind’ 12” (Chemistry, 1992)

Jack Bruce – ‘Born To Be Blue’
taken from Things We Like (Polydor, 1970)

Given that ‘Sally…’ in its original incarnation is one of the standouts from Diamond D’s rightfully celebrated solo debut Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop, Show’s achievement in producing a remix that gives the track a different twist whilst keeping the slammin’ vibe that made Diamond D’s version so successful is nothing short of sensational. Backed by a forceful drum track of relentlessly pounding kicks and multiple snare hits, the secret to Show’s success here is in the pairing up of the brutal percussion with a decidedly mellow loop, a characteristic juxtaposition that permeates many of his finest beats.

The loop is sourced from Jack Bruce’s Things We Like, a record that has been spliced up and rearranged on multiple occasions by the genre’s more discerning diggers. Most widely known for his role in legendary ’60s outfit Cream, the album was his chance to break away from the group and pursue his lifelong interests in jazz in greater depth. Interestingly, the whole LP took its inspiration from songs that Bruce himself had written when he was as young as twelve, and it features performances by John McLaughlin and a host of other musicians who took part in the emerging jazz fusion boom of the early ’70s. I actually find the record itself a little hard to take, my untrained ears unable to pick apart the subtleties of what can fairly be described as an experimental piece of work. Having said this, ‘Born To Be Blue’ is one of the most cohesive songs to be found on the album for a non-jazz specialist (read: me), and it is here that Show, amongst many others, finds his inspiration.

The moment to look out for drops at the 1.19 mark, a seemingly innocuous couple of seconds from the song that is masterfully plucked by the hands of Show and placed into the ‘Sally…’ remix. It’s really his ear for a groove that impresses me most here, with the majority of other producers focusing on the opening sax solo or more obvious two bar loops such as the section jacked by Da Beatminerz for the Smif-N-Wessun banger ‘Bucktown’ that appears just before the three minute mark. I’m not sure where Show sourced the screeching horns that are added into the chorus sections of the remix, but when combined with this sample from Bruce’s original composition and the slammin’ drum track the result is undoubtedly one of his finest moments ever committed to wax.

Flippin’ Styles – ‘Next Level’

Show & A.G. – ‘Next Level’
taken from Goodfellas (Payday/ffrr, 1995)

Wes Montgomery – ‘Angel’
taken from A Day In The Life (A&M, 1967)

Although I imagine most people favour Premier’s remix of this cut from the sophomore drop by Show & A.G.Goodfellas, this particular hip hop geek gravitates towards the original as the better of the two versions. Featuring a more uptempo and sumptuous quality than the highly revered remix, Show’s production work on the cut is brilliantly executed and stands as a prime example of his deft ability to rearrange sample material into his grimy yet melodic aesthetic with seamless ingenuity.

The guitar sample used in the original version of ‘Next Level’ can be found on Wes Montgomery’s track ‘Angel’ from his 1967 album A Day In The Life, recorded towards the tail-end of his career. I imagine it’s a record that would have appalled purists at the time given its blatant attempt to crossover to a more commercial market, but there are enough enjoyable moments to warrant picking it up if you are interested in the smoother side of jazz from the era (although the covers of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘When a Man Loves A Woman’ are perhaps best avoided).

Show actually jacks two separate sections from ‘Angel’ in putting together ‘Next Level’, taking both the two bars that end in a flurry of strings found at the very beginning of the song for the verse sections and the gradually descending chords that introduce the first verse for the choruses. The tempo is slowed down somewhat from the Montgomery original and it seems as though there must have been some subtle chopping involved to get the sample to sit right over the drum track. Whereas his use of Bruce’s ‘Born To Be Blue’ demonstrates Show’s ability to choose samples that would have passed the less discerning producer by, the way in which he flips the Montgomery break provides us with another perspective on his technique, displaying his proficiency at incorporating elements into his work that are not immediately and easily transferable into a hip hop context.

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