Filed under: Beat Deconstructions
Black Moon – ‘Enta Da Stage’
taken from Enta Da Stage (Nervous, 1993)
Onyx – ‘Shifftee’
taken from Bacdafucup (JMJ, 1992)
Cannonball Adderley – ‘Eye Of The Cosmos’
taken from Black Messiah (Capitol, 1971)
James Brown – ‘It’s A New Day (Live)’
taken from Revolution Of The Mind (Polydor, 1971)
Lonnie Smith – ‘Spinning Wheel’
taken from Drives (Blue Note, 1970)
Alice Coltrane – ‘Journey In Satchidananda’
taken from Journey In Satchidananda (Impulse, 1970)
Shouts to my man Beeboy from the Pete Rock Forum for sourcing this last one.
When I’ve discussed Da Beatminerz’ production in the past, I’ve tended to focus on their employment of loops, a feature of their aesthetic that applies to both drums and grooves during their most treasured period of productivity in the mid ’90s. In some ways I’m concerned that this almost comes across as derogatory because what I’ve perhaps failed to emphasise in these instances is that their work is so much more than a simple cut and paste job: their dense and brooding soundscapes are highly sophisticated demonstrations of the power of a measured, multi-layered and subtle approach to the art of beatmaking. Enta Da Stage must go down as their magnum opus, and today’s deconstruction shines some light on the album cut that shares the LP’s name and emphatically demonstrates this particular facet of their craft.
Even the opening section of the cut is laced with material from no less than three separate sources, and that’s before we even get onto the drums and main groove. The rather aggressive cries of “Buckshot!” bolstered by the rumble of a rowdy entourage come care of Sticky Fingaz and crew on the skit that follows Onyx’s excellent ‘Shiftee’ from their debut LP Bacdafucup, although I think I might be right in guessing that in its original form it was intended as a relatively frightening call to arms as opposed to a nod to Black Moon’s lead emcee (what exactly did 5ft ever do?). Next up is the voice of jazz legend Cannonball Adderley who explains that what’s about to happen “has nothing to do with an arranged piece of music or a set-up as far as our attitude is concerned,” which achieves its purpose of sounding ridiculously cool despite not necessarily making a great deal of a sense… but then when was cool ever particularly coherent? Finally, the panned shouts of “soul” come from the introduction to James Brown’s live rendition of ‘It’s A New Day’, throwing another layer of interest into the mix before Buckshot’s triumphant command to “jump up!” kicks off the lyrical wizardry: woe betide the man that resists the temptation to follow suit immediately.
What these elements ultimately provide the track is a gradually shifting texture in the intro section but it is of course the bass and drums that give the track its ferocious momentum. Percussion is lifted from the ubiquitous Lonnie Smith ‘Spinning Wheel’ break that also crops up on ‘Black Smif-N-Wessun’, its clean and hard-hitting construction at the 4.42 mark making it perfect for transposition into a rugged hip hop jam. Low pass filters have of course always been a speciality of the Dewgarde brothers, and their use of Alice Coltrane’s ‘Journey In Satchidananda’ is a prime example of their love for all things low-end. It’s the first couple of cars here that are of note, sped up and then fed through a filter to develop the rumbling bass line that establishes the ear-warbling thrust of ‘Enta Da Stage’.
What’s incredible is that even with this relatively detailed exploration of the various components that go into the making of the track, there’s still several stones left unturned. The prominence of the bass is balanced perfectly by the higher pitch of the other key sample that crops up halfway through the first bar of every two bar sequence, but trying to identify what instrument it is proves hard enough, let alone the source from which it came. There’s also a single, siren-like note that runs intermittently throughout the song that first crops up during the Adderley vocal snippet, adding yet another layer to what is a deceptively complex piece of production work. Ultimately, it’s the way in which these various elements sink into each other that demonstrates the artistic genius behind the track.
Whilst you finish up taking your notes, the final thing I’d like to say about ‘Enta Da Stage’ is that it seems to me a gross oversight to not have made this the first song on the album, the crew instead burying it halfway through the second half of the LP. Whilst ‘Powaful Impak!’ can hardly constitute a poor introduction to the album as a whole, the semantic suitability of this song and its bangin’ vibe seem to scream album opener. Still, this is a minor quibble for an album that is otherwise faultless, and certainly doesn’t detract from the quality of ‘Enta Da Stage’ itself. Need reminding why the brothers from Brooklyn are considered amongst the best that ever did it? Indulge yourself in a nugget of Beatminerz’ gold: ‘Enta Da Stage’ is as good as they come.