FROM DA BRICKS


The World Is Fallin’ – ‘Up Against Tha Wall’ Beat Deconstruction
May 12, 2008, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Breaks, Producers

Group Home – ‘Up Against Tha Wall (Getaway Car Mix)’
taken from Livin’ Proof (Payday/ffrr, 1995)

Young Holt Trio – ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’
taken from Wack Wack/On Stage Reissue (Diablo, 2000)

It stands as a relatively obvious point, but delving into the world of sample sources now stands for me as the only way in which one can truly appreciate the producer’s craft. Sure, I always loved a Dilla banger or appreciated the multiple layers of sound carved together by Pete Rock, but it’s only now that I’m at a stage in my listening habits where I am able to more clearly define what constitutes a specific individual’s or group’s style in greater depth: Da Beatminerz were all about sourcing loops and lacing them over thumping drum breaks during their heyday in the mid to late ’90s; the aforementioned Soul Brother continues to have a knack for drawing together samples from a diverse range of sources and amalgamating them cohesively; Showbiz was flippin’ material like no-one else back in the day and playfully manipulating the structure of the classic hip hop jam. The list goes on. But for all my recent discoveries it really is DJ Premier who begins to endure for me as the genre’s most consistent and genuinely original beatmaker. Here’s one reason why.

‘Up Against Tha Wall (Getaway Car Mix)’ has long been for me one of the finest cuts that Premier has ever put together. Haunting, simple and richly textured, the beat possesses a more melancholy edge than the other cuts that can be found on the lyrically dubious crew’s debut LP, Livin’ Proof (besides perhaps the almost equally fantastic ‘Suspended In Time’). Having found out via the usual means the sample source, I’ve actually been on the hunt for the Young Holt Trio’s ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’ for a while and was lucky to stumble across the reissued Wack Wack/On Stage double release in my local second hand CD shop a month or so ago. Given the clarity of the piano groove in the Group Home joint, I was left astonished upon hearing the source material for the first time: Premier knocks it out the park with this one.

In order to spot the sample you’re going to have to listen relatively hard, as Preem’s ability to isolate the piano from the rest of the Young-Holt groove mean that its essence is altered significantly when placed in its new context. The point to listen out for crops up at the 0.43 mark, with a single piano note followed by a slow trill lifted from the rest of the track and restructured. It’s difficult to know if Premier perhaps pitch shifted the first note to provide him with the eventual pattern found in the Group Home composition, but it seems plausible given that the higher note cannot be easily discerned elsewhere in the Young-Holt original. It’s both this rearrangement of the sample and the expertly executed filtering of double bass and percussive elements from the break that testify to the man’s genius here and there remains little doubt for me that no other producer in the game is quite as adept at sourcing and chopping up a groove. The result is the perfect combination of bang and beauty, a masterfully realised musical equilibrium between a deeply soulful sentiment and the harsh realities of life on the street.

Before I get lost too deeply in Premier’s figurative rectal passage, I’d also like to make note that Young-Holt Unlimited (the name they adopted after the first album) are emerging for me as the suppliers as some of the finest loops and grooves that hip hop has ever seen. The overview for the group on The Breaks speaks volumes about the calibre of beatmaker who has mined their material (you may have missed my previous post on theircover of ‘Light My Fire’ over at Oh Word), and although Young-Holt’s output is varied in quality when considered apart from its affiliation with hip hop, I would recommend getting the relatively cheap reissues as a means of understanding why Premo in particular has tended to use their work so frequently.

It seems all too easy to fall back on analysis of the indisputable greats’ back catalogues as fodder for content at this here corner of the internet, but when it sounds this good and is so indicative of a particular individual’s production processes then I don’t feel like I even need to make an attempt at justifying why this remains relevant. Open your ears and appreciate: DJ Premier’s unquestionable genius rules supreme.

 

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